The lightning-fast spread of the Zika virus has many travelers concerned as they contemplate beach vacations for spring break and the summertime. While it was barely a concern last summer, 34 countries and territories have now confirmed active Zika virus transmission, and a study conducted by the travel risk-management company, On Call International, found that over 60 percent of Americans polled claimed they would cancel a trip to an affected area. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 2 Travel Alert for pregnant women visiting Zika-affected areas, and on February 8, increased the response-focused Emergency Operations Center (EOC) activation to the highest level, Level 1. So clearly, Zika is not something to take lightly.
However, you don’t necessarily have to shelve your beachy vacation dreams. While the CDC warns that the virus will continue to spread over time, plenty of destinations in the Caribbean have yet to be affected, and some beach locales in the U.S. will likely not see a locally-acquired case at all. So we’ve come up with a list of 10 beach destinations where you don’t have to worry about the Zika virus yet.
With 28 cases, Florida is certainly the most “concerning” destination in the U.S. However, neither Florida—nor any states for that matter—have reported any locally acquired cases; all cases have been travel-associated. The CDC has not issued travel alerts for any states (only U.S. territories Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands), and while the most likely mosquito species to carry the virus, Aedes aegypti, can be found in Miami, the likelihood of a visitor contracting it is slim—and much less likely than in affected areas such as Aruba and Barbados.
Hotel Pick: The Miami Beach EDITION
If you want to play it super-safe (and don’t mind waiting till the weather warms up), New Jersey’s Cape May is a great option for the summer. After all, the Aedes aegypti mosquito has only ever been discovered as far north as Washington, D.C. and the entire state has only reported one travel-associated Zika case. Technically the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, (which can be found as far north as New York in the summer) has transmitted the disease in the past, but it appears to be much less efficiently so, though, than the Aedes aegypti. Plus, Cape May is a budget-friendly destination, particularly for East Coasters who can drive there, and its Victorian history adds a nice dose of culture.
Hotel Pick: Sea Crest Inn
The West Coast may be one of the safest bets in the U.S. as far as avoiding the Zika virus. California has only reported six travel-associated cases of the virus, and the virus-transmitting mosquito has never been detected along the coast’s popular beach destinations, like San Diego. With average monthly temperatures never dipping below 57 degrees (and hovering around a balmy 70 to 75 degrees come summer), the laid-back surfer town (known for its delicious tacos!) is a diverse destination with something for all types of travelers.
Hotel Pick: Tower 23 Hotel
As far as the Caribbean goes, Turks and Caicos is a solid pick. In fact, technically, these islands are in the North Atlantic Ocean, about 500 miles south of Florida. Haiti is the closest island with active Zika virus transmission, and it’s about an hour’s plane ride away. This 37-mile chain of islands radiates a particular Caribbean-ness, with dreamy blue waters, golden beaches, excellent snorkeling, and bioluminescent glow worms lighting up the water at night.
Hotel Pick: Sibonne Beach Hotel Grace Bay
The CDC has issued a travel warning for the U.S. Virgin Islands (the first case was reported in St. Croix), but their British counterparts have yet to report any cases, travel-associated or otherwise—despite being just east of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Known as a sailor’s destination, the BVI’s waters are dotted with sailboats and yachts, and it’s a top Caribbean pick for those looking to scuba dive.
Hotel Pick: Bitter End Yacht Club
The Cayman Islands have also remained report-free, even though the Aedes aegypti mosquito populates the islands. The local Mosquito Research and Control Unit (MRCU) has been reinforced, and so far the Caribbean destination is a safe bet for travelers who are wary of the virus. Not far from Cuba (another Caribbean spot that has yet to report any Zika cases), this destination is made up of three islands, with Grand Cayman being the largest and most popular among tourists. It is perhaps best known for its beautiful Seven Mile Beach, and Stingray City, where visitors can feed and pet stingrays.
Hotel Pick: Villas of the Galleon
Come Memorial Day weekend, North Carolina’s Outer Banks (lovingly dubbed “OBX” by those who summer there) is the spot to be for East Coast sun-and-surf seekers. The only state on our list to have no suspected Zika virus cases, North Carolina is home to this beautiful chain of barrier islands. Once September rolls around, the area can be pummeled by hurricanes, but during the summer, OBX is a great destination for tourists looking to surf, fish, and pick up a few beers at the infamous Brew Thru.
Hotel Pick: Sanderling Resort
Another destination better suited for the summertime, the Hamptons is a wonderful beachy locale for East Coasters (of the Northern variety, this time)—and it’s Zika-free (and Aedes aegypti mosquito-free, too). New York as a state has reported 17 travel-associated cases, but none in this tony Long Island destination. Each town out here has a slightly different vibe (varying from more low-key surfer to see-and-be-seen socialite), but all have great restaurants, shops, bars, and beaches.
Hotel Pick: Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa
The Zika virus is technically common in Africa and Asia, but the recent epidemic hasn’t been affecting these areas, and the CDC has only issued a Level 2 Travel Alert for those visiting Africa’s Cape Verde. So sure, heading to Asia instead of the Caribbean certainly hikes up your travel expenses, but you can rest easy that you almost definitely will not have to worry about the Zika virus while in Phuket. Also, even luxury beach resorts in Phuket come pretty cheap, and the beaches here have an exotic, other-worldly feel that you won’t find closer to home.
Hotel Pick: Beyond Resort Karon
Isolated in the Indian Ocean, the stunning Maldives are also a choice beach destination—whether you’re looking to avoid the Zika virus or have a once-in-a-lifetime experience (or both). This romantic cluster of atolls, known for resorts with over-the-water bungalows, has some of the most beautiful waters in the world, making it a great spot for snorkeling and diving. A popular choice among honeymooners, there are also plenty of ways to relax, whether that be getting a spa treatment, lying on the beach, taking a boat cruise, or enjoying dinner while the sun sets.
Hotel Pick: Gili Lankanfushi Maldives
More from Oyster.com:
- 6 Things You Have to Know About the Zika Virus, and How It Affects Travel
- 2016’s 11 Most Budget-Friendly Beach Destinations in the U.S.
- The 10 Best Chinatowns in the World (Outside of Asia)
This article was originally published by Oyster.com under the headline 10 Beach Destinations Where You Don’t Have to Worry About the Zika Virus. It is reprinted here with permission.
The CDC suggests that travelers who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant consider delaying travel to areas where the Zika virus is spreading. All travelers going to affected areas should consult with a doctor before departure, and should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites while traveling.