“It sounds so simple I just got to go,” James Taylor sang of Mexico. He was spot-on at any time, but particularly now when it’s one of the few places Americans can travel without taking a COVID-19 test first or quarantining on arrival. That’s not to say safety isn’t a priority, as enhanced airport protocols have masks, sanitizer and social distancing ubiquitous. Visitors do fill out a health questionnaire on arrival and temperatures are taken. It’s that Mexico is just a quick flight away for most of us, and our neighbor to the south has been a favorite destination for decades.
There are so many layers to Mexico, you can go time and again and never have the same journey twice. Even the familiar areas are always adapting with the times, with new resorts that blend in with natural surroundings and emphasize quality, service and wellness. Though entry is simple, hotels and resorts are at reduced capacity and have safeguards everywhere. Fortunately, there are so many Virtuoso-preferred accommodations in Mexico that you can travel throughout the country in style and safety.
Cancun/Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos tend to see the most visitors and are probably the areas you’re most familiar with. What you may not realize is the sheer variety of the resorts there means there’s a lot more to them than the cookie-cutter all-inclusives swarmed by college-aged spring breakers you might imagine.
Just minutes away from the Cancun airport is NIZUC Resort & Spa on grounds that once served as a getaway for Mexico’s president. Given the tranquility you’ll find there, you’d scarcely believe how close you are to the busy hotel zone. Down the coast, resorts such as Chable Maroma, which offers a Mayan rebirth ceremony, and Rosewood Mayakoba, which preserves the mangrove ecosystem around the resort, deliver authenticity as well as a great beach. Overwater bungalows along the Riviera Maya can satisfy your desire for the lagoon experience without venturing all the way to the South Pacifc. Just inland in the Yucatan, Merida is a base for exploring a land of cenotes and Mayan ruins.
Just outside Puerto Vallarta, resorts such as Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, Four Seasons Punta Mita and One&Only Mandarina are oases of exclusivity with secluded settings, culinary delights and endless activities for families and couples. There are resorts aplenty in Los Cabos at the end of Baja California. Given the area’s geography, there aren’t swimmable beaches aplenty. One of the few can be found at One&Only Palmilla, where every room has a view of the dazzling Sea of Cortez.
From Costalegre to Zihuatanejo, Mexico’s Pacific coast is dotted with secluded coves and pristine beaches. All along that stretch, you’ll find Virtuoso-preferred boutique hotels and resorts to put your feet up and take a load off. Be it the 16-suite Las Alamandas spread out over 1,500 acres of tropical paradise, the Cuixmala private estate on 32,000 acres of biosphere reserve or the romantic retreat of 59-room Cala del Mar, you’ll be far away from cares and crowds. The 56-room Thompson Zihuatanejo is close enough to town for day exploration before you retire to your private beachfront oasis. No wonder Red and Andy were so eager to get down there after they left Shawshank.
We love the beach as much as anyone. We’d be remiss to leave out the wonderful cultural experiences in Mexico’s colonial interior, however. Mexico City is one of the culinary capitals of the world, and three Virtuoso-preferred hotels there put you in the heart of the restaurant scene and the posh neighborhoods of Roma, Condesa and Polanco. The magnificent ruins of Tenochtitlan are just outside the city, and the centro contains the city’s well-preserved Spanish architecture.
Puebla’s entire downtown is an open-air UNESCO World Heritage site, as is Oaxaca, which preserves key components of pre-Spanish cultures, passed down today in artisan villages where time-honored traditions produce handmade textiles from natural materials. San Miguel de Allende, another World Heritage site, is about as close to heaven as you can get on Earth and an artist’s dream. The service and accommodations at Rosewood San Miguel de Allende and Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada keep that heavenly feeling instilled all through the night.
If you want to eat, drink and be merry in 2020, there may be no better place than colonial Mexico. Just like James Taylor, you might forget to go home.
The list of countries we can visit is slowly but surely expanding. But it’s not as simple as booking a plane ticket and showing up. Good thing for you, you have a travel advisor who is constantly staying on top of the latest opening and requirements.
Most openings are in the Caribbean, and pretty much all the islands have testing and health declaration requirements. You might also be subject to additional screening on arrival. Anguilla actually requires hopeful travelers to apply for a spot. The island is COVID-free and would like to keep it that way. Should you be approved for your dates, you’ll need a negative test taken three to five days before travel. Antigua requires a negative test taken within 48 hours. Anguilla is also requiring a donation of $1,000 for individuals or $1,500 for families of up to four, with an additional $250 for each family member beyond four. Aruba’s testing window is 72 hours, though it only applies to residents of certain hotspot states. Barbados’ is also 72 hours, or you can take a test on arrival and quarantine until results are back. Bermuda requires a negative test taken within seven days, and the health declaration comes with a $75 fee. Dominica’s test window is 24-72 hours before travel, and the Dominican Republic’s is five days. To go to Jamaica, you’ll need a negative test and application approval if you live in one of a few hotspot states; otherwise, Americans have a temperature check on arrival. Turks & Caicos and St. Vincent & the Grenadines require a negative test taken within five days, while St. Lucia’s window is seven days and St. Maarten/St. Martin’s is 72 hours.
Expanding our net a bit into Latin America, Costa Rica will open Sept. 1 to residents of New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and Connecticut who have a valid driver’s license from one of those states and a negative test taken within 48 hours of arrival. While the land border with Mexico remains closed for at least another month, the main tourist areas are open with no entry requirements; resorts are capped at 50% capacity. In South America, Ecuador requires a negative test taken within 10 days (rules differ for the Galapagos, where Silversea’s 100-passenger Silver Origin will begin sailing in September). Brazil requires travelers to present proof of health insurance but no test or quarantine.
If you have safari on your mind, Kenya is open to those who have a negative test taken within seven days of arrival, and Tanzania has no testing requirement but a health declaration to fill out before landing. Rwanda’s testing window is five days, and arriving travelers will quarantine for 24 hours before taking a second test. Egypt requires a negative test within 72 hours along with a visa and health insurance.
Despite European Union rules, some European countries are accepting Americans. Croatia doesn’t require a quarantine for travelers presenting a negative test taken within 48 hours of arrival, though it does require proof of accommodation. Albania has no test or quarantine requirements, nor does Serbia—unless you’re entering Serbia from neighbors Bulgaria, Croatia, North Macedonia or Romania, in which case you’ll need a negative test taken within 48 hours. North Macedonia has a screening on arrival but no test requirement. Visitors to Ukraine will take a test on arrival and quarantine for 24 hours while awaiting the results.
In Asia, Turkey has no testing requirements. The UAE allows visitors to enter Dubai with a negative test taken within four days of arrival and travel insurance, or to Ras Al Khaimah with those same protocols plus proof of accommodation. Cambodia requires a negative test taken within 72 hours of arrival, travel insurance with at least $50,000 of coverage and a $3,000 deposit in case you’re hospitalized.
French Polynesia is once again welcoming visitors, provided they present a negative test taken within 72 hours of arrival and travel insurance. The Maldives require proof of accommodation and a health declaration.
Technically you can travel to the Bahamas, St. Barths, Ireland, the UK and Ethiopia, but they all require 14-day quarantines so you’d better have a lot of time. No matter where you’re going, be sure to bring your mask because it’s required in public spaces almost everywhere.
Confirm specific requirements for your destination with Stefany Di Manno Ceccato, she can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org and or email@example.com.
Cleanliness and privacy have always been luxuries, but they are certainly at the forefront for travelers now. As they reopen, hotels and resorts are going the extra mile to help guests feel comfortable and welcomed as the COVID-19 era enters a new phase. Your vacation is a precious investment of time and money, and the last thing you want is more worry.
To ease guests’ minds, Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort in Aruba is cleaning with environmentally safe hospital grade hydrogen peroxide, ionizer treatment, ultraviolet air and surface sanitizer and installing HEPA air cleaners. After cleaning, rooms are sealed, with a sticker letting arriving guests know that no one has been inside since. Electrostatic guns will apply sanitizer in all public areas, including at the beach.
Chable Maroma and Chable Yucatan on Mexican’s Yucatan Peninsula have added ozone generators for deep sanitation of guest rooms. Sheets, towels and linens are disinfected using steam-based and biodegradable processes, and hygiene stations featuring hand sanitizer are spread throughout the resorts. The sprawling nature of the resorts provides natural social distancing, as freestanding casitas and villas are separated by at least 30 feet from the next.
Marriott’s global cleanliness council continues to introduce innovations at the chain’s more than 7,300 hotels worldwide, including the Ritz-Carlton brand. Electrostatic sprayers and the highest classification of disinfectants are used to clean guest rooms. Hand sanitizing stations are set up throughout hotels and resort grounds. Disinfectant wipes are placed in each room as an amenity. At more than 3,000 Marriott properties, contactless check-in, key card access and room service ordering are available via smartphone. Single-use plastic cups are made from plant material in Ritz-Carlton properties.
In collaboration with Johns Hopkins Medicine International, Four Seasons hotels and resorts are implementing the Lead With Care program that includes a hygiene officer at each property, blacklight inspection after cleaning and hourly sanitizing of common areas. Room amenities include face masks, sanitizer spray and wipes. The Four Seasons app and chat feature allow contactless communication with staff. Contactless in-room dining delivery comes in sustainable, single-use packaging.
Restaurants and pool areas will offer limited seating to ensure social distancing, so planning ahead is crucial. Things sure are different, but there are still wonderful places in this world worth exploring. What hasn’t changed is that our partners will go the extra mile to ensure you can enjoy your getaway safely and have a home away from home.
Wellness is about so much more than a trip to the spa. As we emerge from our shelters and begin traveling again, we will all have some feelings to work through after such a profound change to outlook and way of life. As part of our Travel Dreaming series, Largay president Amanda Klimak spoke with Dora Karanikas of Hidden Doorways, Rebecca Soloff of Six Senses and Janine Cifelli of Janine Cifelli Representation about the comprehensive wellness programs offered at destinations they represent.
“It’s about well-being. It’s about the mind, the body and the spirit, not just about the spa and getting a massage in a beautiful spot–which we do believe in,” Soloff said, explaining the Six Senses ethos. “We believe it’s much more than that.”
Each visit to a Six Senses property is an immersive experience that focuses on the totality of a person. For example, if you’re having trouble with sleep, as many of us have been during self-isolation measures, Six Senses can do a sleep analysis and assessment at many of its resorts. While you can’t travel there now, the At Home with Six Senses program offers live meditation and yoga, cooking classes utilizing Eat With Six Senses philosophy and tips for staying connected with other people.
Cifelli represents JL Bar Ranch in Texas’ Hill Country, which is scheduled to reopen May 20. The horse program there helps visitors find a peace within themselves.
“Horses in general are a direct reflection of you,” she related. “If you’re a mess, the horse is a mess.” If you’re trying to mount a horse and you’re tense, the horse senses that and tenses up as well. So, in earning the horse’s trust, you have to find a place of calm in your own mind. That ability to achieve that inner peace carries forward long after you leave the ranch.
At Clayoquot Wilderness Resort in British Columbia, there is no cell service, so those of who can’t put our phones down are forced to let go and enjoy their surroundings. Don’t worry, you can still make calls over the internet in case of emergencies, but otherwise you’ll be too busy immersing yourself in wilderness.
“We can take the most Type A personality and actually calm them down,” Cifelli said. “It’s a very spiritual experience.”
In their efforts to redefine wellness, Chablé Maroma and Chablé Resort in Mexico’s Yucatan provide temazcal ceremonies with shamans. “Everyone who’s ever done it comes out totally changed,” after two hours of steam and gratitude, Karanikas said.
The physical experience of wellness is very much tied in with the culture of the destination, making each experience unique. Meanwhile, it’s your vacation, so do wellness your way. If that means relaxing with a cocktail, so be it. At BodyHoliday in St. Lucia, there are dozens of options for classes and treatments, but there’s also no pressure to take part in any of them. That’s one of the qualities that makes it a great place to get into wellness travel, and with Six Senses Douro Valley in Portugal.
“Wellness is what you make of it,” Karanikas said. “So many people have turned to focusing on themselves and their wellness at home. Know that you can take that with you when you travel if you want to.”
These destinations offer flexible change and cancellation policies, so you can plan your wellness getaway with the peace of mind knowing you won’t be on the hook if the pandemic wreaks more havoc on plans.
“Our health, both physical and mental, is everything,” Klimak said. “Without our health we have nothing.”
Travel is easier than ever before, and as a result, we are becoming incredibly well-traveled. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, working with a trusted advisor can open up new regions and territories you haven’t thought about to expand your horizons even further. Maybe you saw the major places on your visit trip or two to a country or region, and now you want to go even more in-depth. These places are for you.
Most of the major cities Down Under are located on the eastern and southern coasts. There’s a whole lot of Outback separating Adelaide in South Australia from Perth, the capital of Western Australia. Perth, the fourth-largest city in Australia with about 2 million inhabitants, is the gateway to the Margaret River wine region, succulent seafood and black truffles just as good as any you’ll find in Europe. These factors contribute to Perth having the most restaurants per capita of any Australian capital and a great bar scene.
You’ve gone on safari. You’ve climbed Kilimanjaro. You’ve even gone gorilla trekking. Well, Africa has a lot more to offer than that. The world’s fourth largest island, Madagascar lies east of Mozambique and is home to 5 percent of the world’s wildlife and vegetation. While the beaches are great, there is a diversity of terrain from rain forest to desert, and much of the flora and fauna are unique to the island. Of the more than 200 bird species, about half are found only on Madagascar, which has almost 20,000 plant species, including seven types of baobab tree. Lemurs leap from tree to tree, while chameleons cling to the branches, making for an entirely different kind of safari experience.
Who doesn’t love France? The glamor of Paris, the glitz of the Riviera, the chateaux in the Loire Valley, the beaches of Normandy, the wines of Bordeaux, the food in Lyon. When you think you’ve done it all in France, head to Brittany. Tucked in the northwest corner of the country, it’s one of the last bastions of Celtic culture. The region only came under the control of France in the 1500s and only fully integrated during the French Revolution. You’ll see street signs in Breton and French and experience an entirely different culture and cuisine.
Don’t get us wrong, we love a beach vacation as much as anyone. But with great food, great places and an exchange rate of nearly 20 pesos to the dollar, colonial Mexico is worth a visit. Mexico City is home to the world’s 11th- and 13th-ranked restaurants (plus another in the top 100) and the beautiful Soumaya Museum. San Miguel de Allende is an artist’s or art lover’s dream you should see before it gets too popular, and Puebla is culinary capital with a downtown that is one big World Heritage site. Queretaro’s baroque architecture is a thing of beauty, and Oaxaca preserves key components of pre-Spanish cultures.
Southeast Asia has become exceedingly popular. The beaches of Thailand are known the world over, and river cruises have introduced many people to the wonders of Vietnam and Cambodia. Erase modern borders, and you’ll see that Luang Prabang has all the charms of Chiang Mai without all the crowds. Laos contains elements of traditional Buddhist culture alongside traces of its French colonial past. As with the rest of Southeast Asia, the food scene is hard to beat. The night market in Luang Prabang and street food in Vientiane will have your mouth watering, and you can wash everything down with a Laotian mulberry tea.
Each year, cities around the world are chosen as capitals of culture to be highlighted and celebrated throughout the year. The European Union began the tradition in 1985 and elects two cities in member states annually. The American Capital of Culture Organization was created to follow suit, and UNESCO chooses an Arab Capital of Culture. The International Organization of Turkic Culture also makes an annual appointment, while the UK picks a City of Culture to serve for four years. This week, we spotlight cities recognized for 2019.
Matera is serving alongside Plovdiv, Bulgaria, this year as a European capital of Culture. In Southern Italy’s Basilicata region, Matera has been steadily gaining popularity in recent years as travelers branch out from the usual Italian haunts. It’s one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, with traces of civilization dating back thousands of years. Matera’s old town, the Sassi, was carved from cliffside caves on the edge of a ravine. Over the years, more and more buildings have been stacked on top of each other, creating a striking scene that has caught the eye of filmmakers using it as a substitute for the ancient Holy Land and travelers seeking new adventures in Italy.
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
This colonial hill town 150 miles from Mexico City is this year’s capital of culture for the Americas. A colorful city full of colorful people, San Miguel has attracted expatriates from the world over for its lively arts and gastronomic scenes. Artisans’ markets and galleries seem to pack every street, and the scenery itself is straight out of a painting. The weather is just about perfect at all times, with average temperatures in the 60s and an elevation of around 6,000 feet. Outside the city is a pyramid complex at La Canada de la Virgen, and the entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Dubai and Abu Dhabi get all the publicity, but there are five other emirates rounding out the UAE. Sharjah is widely considered the cultural capital of the Emirates, home to a museum of Islamic art and architecture, Al Noor Mosque and a large aquarium. The Emirates Fine Arts Society is located in Sharjah, as is a museum of calligraphy. While Abu Dhabi and Dubai have embraced the ultramodern, Sharjah seeks to preserve Emirati heritage. That isn’t to say that’s it all stodgy all the time, as there are picturesque beaches on both the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, plus deserts and mountains to satisfy any outdoor thrill-seeker.
Osh made a name for itself producing fine silks for traders traversing the Silk Road, and in 2019 it’s Turkic capital of culture. The city remains a crossroads of cultures, with 80 or so ethnicities represented in the population. Sulayman Mountain, the only World Heritage site located entirely within Kyrgyzstan, supplies magnificent views of the city and its surroundings. There are traces of history commemorating pre-Islamic times, the Silk Road and Russian occupation. The mountaintop is considered sacred, and there are ancient petroglyphs at its base. Peruse the traditional bazaar and you’ll see more spices than you can count, another mark of the many cultures that have passed through.
Better known simply as Hull, this city on the east coast of northern England has been the UK city of culture since 2017 and will be replaced by Coventry in 2021. Hull’s Museum Quarter contains the Wilberforce House, home of William Wilberforce, who led the movement to stop the British involvement in the slave trade. The Deep is an aquarium at the confluence of two rivers with more than 5,000 sea creatures and a whopping 660,000 gallons of water inside. The city has a renowned theater culture, and the Hull City Tigers soccer team has enjoyed several seasons in the English Premier League in the last decade, reaching the FA Cup final in 2014.