THE ZIKA VIRUS is now present in much of the tropics, to the chagrin of many travelers looking for a beach escape. But there are still many amazing Zika-free beach destinations that will appeal to couples and young families, as well as remain safe for pregnant women. Here are 10 of the world’s best.
1. San Diego, United States
Unlike parts of the southeastern US, California has remained Zika-free and San Diego offers warm sunny weather and swimmable beaches year-round. Coronado and Mission beaches are two of the most popular with families, while Moonlight State Beach, north of the city, is quieter. Besides the beaches, San Diego has something for all ages, from great Mexican food to vivacious nightlife.
2. Singing Sands Beach (Prince Edward Island), Canada
Looking for squeaky sand and some of the warmest waters north of Florida? In summer, head to Singing Sands Beach in the province of Prince Edward Island, Canada. The 9-mile white sand beach in Basin Head Provincial Park is often called the best beach in the country. Backed by iconic dunes, the beach lends itself to long walks, beach combing, and solitude, but there are facilities and lifeguards. Canada’s smallest province also offers 22 other beaches that may strike your fancy.
3. Piriápolis, Uruguay
Uruguay is one of only two South American countries not affected by Zika. Its southern coast is lined with subtropical beaches from Montevideo all the way to the Brazilian border. A particularly family-friendly stretch of sand is found in the town of Piriápolis, one of the country’s earliest resorts. Characterized by its belle-époque style buildings, the town exudes old-school charm. If you find the white sand beach too crowded, follow the waterfront promenade to quieter San Francisco beach, a leisurely one-hour walk away. A chairlift can take you up San Antonio hill with its small chapel and lookout point.
4. Elafonisi Beach (Crete), Greece
Greece has hundreds of beautiful islands and thousands of glorious beaches, but Elafonisi in the southwestern corner of Crete is extra special. The white-pinkish sand and shallow warm turquoise waters are stunning. It’s the perfect place for young children learning to swim. You can walk from the mainland beach across the water to the island, which is home to a protected nature reserve. Elafonisi has often been voted one of the best beaches in Greece and even the world, so it can get pretty crowded in summer.
5. The Blue Lagoon (Comino), Malta
Another European site that looks like something out of the Caribbean, Malta’s Blue Lagoon is located on the small island of Comino, a 25-minute boat ride from the main island of Malta. The small bay has shallow azure waters where you can swim, snorkel, or just spend the day relaxing and enjoying the landscape. The “beach” is mostly rocky and you access the water from a short staircase. It is very popular on mid-summer days.
6. Praia da Marinha (Algarve), Portugal
The Algarve in southern Portugal is a year-round destination. Among its more than 150 beaches, one of the most scenic has to be Praia da Marinha, 5 miles southeast of Lagoa. Here, the limestone rock stacks typical of the region are especially photogenic, forming a series of pinnacles, crevasses, and caves that kids will enjoy exploring. Having no facilities and accessible only via some steep steps, this small sandy beach is less crowded than other Algarve locations.
7. Manly Beach, Australia
A 30-minute ferry ride from Sydney harbor, Manly is a resort town with a long golden sand beach. During the Australian summer this is a great place for kids learning to surf, as the waves aren’t too strong and the beach is well patrolled. Take a walk along the Norfolk pine-shaded promenade, or relax at cafés, bars, and restaurants just a few steps from the beach.
8. Paihia (Bay of Islands), New Zealand
Paihia, in the far north of New Zealand, is one of the warmest places in the country to enjoy a Zika-free beach holiday. The area is popular for water-based activities such as kayaking, fishing, boating, or swimming with dolphins. You will also find Maori culture, historical buildings and villages, easy nature walks, and seafood galore, giving the whole family something to enjoy.
9. Bentota Beach, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is currently the only Zika-free country within South and Southeast Asia. Tropical beaches ring the small island country, and Bentota is one of the best, located only a couple of hours from the capital, Colombo (and accessible by train). This long and wide golden beach offers activities such as snorkeling, diving, canoeing, windsurfing, water-skiing, and deep-sea fishing. You can also take a boat trip on the nearby lagoon to spot wildlife. In addition, the Bentota area is known for its Ayurveda centers.
10. Nosy Be, Madagascar
The south of Africa has somehow escaped the Zika onslaught. Out in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, Madagascar offers unique flora and fauna, and a French-influenced culture. At its northern tip, Nosy Be is an island with several beaches where you can spot the rare Omura whale. Despite being the most popular beach destination in the country, it is still fairly low-key. You can dive, snorkel, swim, sail — and for the landlubbers in the family — hike along miles of dirt tracks into the scenic hinterland.
All information was correct at time of publication but travelers should be sure to check the latest CDC Zika advisories before booking.