I must admit — the thought of traveling internationally during a pandemic initially had me extremely anxious. With COVID cases beginning to spike back up, I often considered delaying my return to international travel, and keeping things local like I had been doing for most of the year.
But I knew that after months of isolation, socially distancing and spending lots of lots of time in my one bedroom apartment, I wanted an opportunity to just be free, and naturally, I feel my most free when I’m near a large body of ocean, sipping a beautiful cocktail.
So, Jamaica was soon on my itinerary.
Why Jamaica? Besides its beautiful beaches, luxury hotels, and socially distant island adventures, Jamaica has kept its COVID-19 rates well below the global average, primarily because it has also adopted a sensible approach to reopening.
Before my trip, there were many things that I needed to plan in order for things to go smoothly: when/where to get my COVID-19 test (which is required within 10 days of travel), submitting my online travel authorization form (which needs to be submitted up to five days before departure), where I planned to visit in Jamaica, deciding which property had the best sanitation policies, and of course, with limited availability to travel around the island, and of course, what hotel would have the best amenities, food and friendly staff since I’d mostly be you are confined to the hotel property.
After I’d crossed items one and two off the list, I was set on my hotel destination: Sandals South Coast, a beautiful resort set on a 2-mile stretch of Jamaica’s south coast’s most pristine white-sand beach and nestled within a 500-acre nature preserve.
I’d typically visited Montego Bay, Negril and Kingston during my trips to the island and wanted to explore a new region, while also staying secluded and apart from other guests. Most hotels are only operating at between 15% to 35% capacity, which makes that requirement even easier.
What struck me the most was Sandals “Platinum Protocols of Cleanliness,” which include several pre-emptive cleanliness measures that safeguard the guest journey from arrival to departure, including additional health and well-being requirements across all points of contact on resort.
Before you know it, the day finally arrived. I’d taken my COVID test, and my travel authorization form was approved, so I was off to Jamaica! I landed at Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport, and was escorted through a screening area where we had our temperatures taken, were asked to sanitize our hands several times and were required to answer a few basic health questions before signing an affidavit promising to abide by Jamaica’s COVID-19 regulations.
All U.S. travelers must bring along negative results of a COVID-19 test, so I made sure I had this printed, because there are several points that you must present this upon landing (including the airport and hotel).I’d read reports that earlier in the pandemic they required guests to also take a COVID test upon arrival at the airport, but thankfully that is no longer the case.
From there, we collected our checked luggage, and made our way to the Sandals lounge where we were able to enjoy a few snacks and amenities before our private transfer to the resort.
The process in itself was pretty seamless, and if you’re a Sandals guest, they coordinate your transfer, making it a stress-free process without the hassle of trying to negotiate taxis out front. Not to mention, in terms of safety I appreciated that we were in a private transfer vs. sharing a shuttle with a bunch of other resort guests.
The ride was about an hour and a half, and they provided more snacks for us to enjoy in the meanwhile.
Upon arrival and after passing all health screenings, healthy tourists must remain within the “COVID-19 resiliency corridor” spanning the northern coastline between Negril and Portland.
Sandals South Coast, of course, was included within this tourism region. When we arrived, we were in awe of how beautiful the resort was — the photos truly don’t do it justice. The staff was there to cater to our every need, and it was just the amount of luxury we needed after cooking, cleaning and having to fend for ourselves for so many months prior to the trip.
We opted for the over-the-water bungalows since Sandals was the first property to bring this first-of-its-kind experience to the Caribbean, and it was everything we dreamed of and more.
While we spent our days eating, drinking and enjoying the amenities of this all-inclusive treasure, we also sought a few days of adventure to explore, which included a day trip to YS Falls and a tour of the Appleton Estate rum distillery.
Because travel within the corridor is only permissible as long as you use authorized transportation, we used Island Routes as our tour guides, but it’s important to do your research before you arrive, or check with your hotel concierge to coordinate.
After a week of rest, relaxation (and of courses, lots of drinks and beach time), our trip was over. Most of our time was spent on property, but we did get an opportunity to sneak off a few times before curfew set at 9PM.
If you’re thinking about a visit to Jamaica, and want to plan a visit to Sandals South Coast, not only is it perfect for social distancing, but there are exciting updates on the horizon.
Guests can expect a new era for the resort company with the addition of the world’s first-ever Swim-up Rondoval Suites, positioned on a 17,040 sq. ft. pool oasis. Guests will also revel in a completely reimagined 112-room Dutch Village with direct access to two new expansive swim-up pools.
If you do decide to go, remember, everything is based on your own comfort level. And if you still don’t feel comfortable traveling, that’s totally fine too!
Essence Editor’s note: Due to COVID-19, there are restrictions on international travel, and some areas are still under lockdown. Travel at your own level of comfortability and always follow local health advice. A regularly updated list of available accommodation, sights, and transport can be found on the Visit Jamaica website.