ZIKA is prevalent across much of the Caribbean.
But according to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), there are three Caribbean islands that are currently free of the Zika-carrying mosquitoes: Guadeloupe, Martinique, and St. Barthélemy (St. Barts), all French territories.
Although not technically in the Caribbean, nearby Bermuda is also currently free of Zika-transmitting mosquitoes.
These getaways could offer a good alternative for travelers to the Caribbean who are worried about Zika, particularly honeymooners, and couples planning a pregnancy.
What Caribbean islands do not have Zika?
Guadeloupe is listed by the CDC has an “area with interrupted Zika transmission.” The virus was previously present on the island but has since been determined Zika-free. This makes it a safe bet for pregnant women and other higher-risk travelers.
Guadeloupe is composed of two main islands connected by bridges across a narrow strait. The two sides present great contrasts, but share a blend of French, East Indian, and African cultures. Many consider Guadeloupe the culinary capital of the Caribbean, with a few hundred restaurants in all price ranges.
Grande-Terre, to the East, is a beach-ringed coral atoll, home to most of the resorts and large hotels, especially along its reef-protected southern coast. Spend half-a-day in Pointe-à-Pitre (the largest city), checking out the market, people watching while sipping a café au lait, and visiting Mémorial ACTe, a new museum dedicated to slavery and colonialism. Leaving the crowds behind, go rum tasting, visit a coffee plantation, take in the views from Pointe des Châteaux, or surf the enormous waves on the Atlantic Coast.
Basse-Terre, to the West, owes its green and lush heart to the Parc National de la Guadeloupe. You can drive through the park, stopping along the way to hike to waterfalls, swimming holes, or picnic spots, or explore its more rugged southern part on tougher guided hikes that even include a volcano. With a few intimate restaurants and inns, Basse-Terre is a calmer, greener alternative that should appeal to nature lovers, hikers, and families.
To really get off the beaten path, take a ferry to one of Guadeloupe’s offshore islands: Les Saintes, La Désirade, or Marie-Galante.
St. Barthélemy (St. Barts)
Like Guadeloupe, St. Barts is also listed as an area of interrupted Zika transmission, so is currently safe for all visitors.
With an area of only eight square miles and 9,300 inhabitants, what it lacks in size, it makes up for in exclusivity and luxury.
Because the mountainous rocky terrain is unsuitable for growing sugar cane, slaves were never brought over. French fishermen and farmers came from Brittany and Normandy in the 18th century, resulting in a mostly European population. The customs and traditions are still heavily influenced by French culture, even though the island was in Swedish hands for over a century.
Following early visits by the Rockefellers and Rothschilds, the island became a magnet for celebrities and well-heeled tourists seeking fine French dining, shopping, and white-sand beaches. Its French sophistication and chic casual atmosphere have earned St. Barts the moniker, “Caribbean St Tropez”.
The best swimming beaches lie along the sheltered north coast. Gustavia, the pretty little capital with its yacht-filled harbor, lets you shop at designer boutiques, or while away hours around a fine meal, French-style.
St. Barts doesn’t have casinos, golf courses, or much nightlife, making it a safe and quiet island. No big resorts or tall buildings mar the landscape, and most of the visitor accommodation is found in private villas. With its unabashed commitment to romance and wealth, it could make a unique destination for a honeymoon or special anniversary.
Martinique is the third Caribbean island listed as previously affected by Zika, but currently free of the virus.
Another French territory, this is a gorgeous island with something for everyone. The colorful capital and main city Fort-de-France, is the place to go for duty-free shopping of French designer brands, Creole jewelry, and rum. Excellent restaurants in town serve a fusion of French and West Indian fare, and when night falls, a number of clubs feature West Indian music. The Grand Ballet de Martinique, a dance ensemble in traditional costumes, performs in various hotels.
Because the island is relatively small, you could drive around its northern or southern part in a day.
The North offers spectacular landscapes of rainforests and mountains (including the Montagne Pelée volcano). You can stop at several small and fascinating museums dedicated to topics such as Paul Gauguin’s stay on the island, the history of rum production, and the destruction of the former capital St-Pierre by the volcanic eruption of 1902.
The South offers several bays and miles of gorgeous beaches. Plage des Salines, at the southeastern tip, is one of the most spectacular. This is also where you will find the childhood home of Empress Joséphine (Napoleon’s wife), which now houses a small museum. A few miles away, relatively undiscovered Les Anses d’Arlet is a string of seaside villages along a steep and winding coastal road, with wonderful beaches and gorgeous views.
According to the CDC, a few cases of imported Zika have been reported on Bermuda but the island is free of the Zika-carrying mosquito.
Located in the North Atlantic, at about the same latitude as South Carolina, Bermuda is not technically part of the Caribbean. However, its balmy water, lush greenery, and laid-back vibe are popular with vacationers in search of sun and sea.
As a British Overseas Territory, Bermuda combines the gentility of rural England with the temperate climate of the subtropics, adding to the mix North-American, African, Portuguese and West-Indian influences. It is known for its pastel-colored houses, striking pink-sand beaches, and top diving sites.
The Town of St. George, the oldest permanent English settlement in the New World, and now a designated UNESCO World Heritage site, is a joy to explore on foot. At the opposite end of the island, don’t miss the Royal Naval Dockyard, the largest of Bermuda’s many forts. Besides the historical buildings, it features the National Museum of Bermuda, craft markets, restaurants, a man-made beach and snorkel park, and a water-sports center.
May to October is high season, the busiest and most expensive time of year when the water is warm enough for swimming and snorkeling. Spring is the driest season, and some consider it the best time to visit. You can golf, hike, mountain bike, and laze on the beach year-round. Since Bermuda has no mountains, hiking is mostly on level ground, suitable for the whole family.
You cannot rent a car in Bermuda, so you will have to rely on public transportation and taxis, or rent a scooter.
All information was correct at time of publication but travelers should be sure to check the latest CDC Zika advisories before booking.