Sometimes, you just need a beach vacation — but what about Zika? The mosquito-born illness has terrorized some of the most popular tropical destinations, including Mexico, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and most of Asia. The presence of Zika may not bother most people. But for many — such as pregnant women, or both men and women who are planning to conceive in the near future — it’s a dealbreaker. After all, Zika has been known to cause major birth defects. Fortunately, there are still plenty of beaches that are Zika free. Though one should always verify with the CDC before booking (after all, diseases can travel quickly), the getaways below are 2018’s 25 best Zika-free beach destinations.
The Algarve, Portugal
The Algarve is Portugal’s southernmost coast, and it’s lined with picturesque beach towns characterized by golden-sand beaches and emerald views as far as the eye can see. Portugal’s coast is uniquely rocky and jagged, making it a great place to explore via boat or kayak. Snorkel in natural sea caves or in one of the many coves, then find a hidden beach to spend a few peaceful hours in the sun. Once you’ve had enough of the water, meander through the small towns of Lagos or Faro and awe at the whitewashed buildings, narrow cobblestone streets, and family-owned restaurants serving fresh seafood at every meal.
Fortunately, The Bahamas were recently removed from the CDC’s list of Zika-affected countries. This is good news for the thousands of Americans who make the easy trip from the United States each year. To enjoy both beach and local culture, book a hotel right in Nassau or nearby Paradise Island. We like the British Colonial or Atlantis, both of which have pools, bars, and their own private beach. From there, you can spend the morning visiting the straw market or taking a local rum tour, then lounging on the beach in the afternoon. If it’s privacy you’re after, look into the many private rentals on other Bahamian islands, big and small.
Though Zika has made favorite Caribbean getaways like Jamaica and the Virgin Islands off limits to many, Bermuda has fortunately been spared! This stunning archipelago boasts crystal clear turquoise waters, a vibrant culture, and beaches made up of shiny pink sand — seriously! Plus, it’s easy to get to, as it’s located less than 700 miles from the Carolinas on the East Coast.
Canary Islands, Spain
Though they’re officially part of Spain, the Canary Islands are actually located off the coast of West Africa. Like other popular island destinations, each island in the Canaries is known for a different type of experience. For example, the most popular island, Tenerife, is known for its pristine beaches, small villages, and a national park boasting the highest mountain in Spain. Gran Canaria, on the other hand, has great beaches, an historical quarter worth exploring, and a lively party scene. Finally, Fuerteventura is the place to go for extreme water sports, as it is often the windiest.
Cape Town, South Africa
No matter what it is you want to do while on vacation, Cape Town has it. Spend a morning hiking up the iconic Table Mountain (don’t worry, there’s a tram, too) to enjoy incredible views of the entire city’s stunning landscape. Then cool down by taking a dip in the ocean at Camp’s Bay. Though it might just be impossible to get enough of Cape Town’s beaches, you’ll want to tear yourself away for at least a little while to enjoy all that the city has to offer: touring nearby Robben Island, wine tasting through the valley, and even cage diving with great white sharks in nearby Gaansbai.
Chile is one of only two South American countries that remains Zika-free, and fortunately, it’s a good one. With more than 2,600 miles of coastline, Chile is chock-full of charming little beach towns and pristine beaches. If you prefer the laid-back life while traveling, look into the beach town of Bahía Inglesa, where charming hotels and resorts look out onto white-sand beaches and crystal clear waters. Bahía Inglesa is also the place to go for water sports. Sailing, kayaking, surfing, and windsurfing are all popular pastimes here. For a more rugged experience, with lots of options for hiking and other adventure sports, head to Playa La Virgen near the town of Puerto Viejo. Universally known as one of Chile’s best beaches, this beach with its cobalt waters gets its name from a nearby rock formation that is said to resemble the Virgin Mary.
Dubrovnik has wildly picturesque historical sites, incredible views, one of the most beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean, and absolutely no reports of Zika. What more could we ask for? There is a ton to do in Dubrovnik, but spend a morning walking along the walls of the Old Town. You’ll want to stop at nearly every turn to take photographs of the stunning ocean views and glimpses of nearby islands, but that’s okay. Working up a sweat while exploring will make the experience of wading into those crystal-clear turquoise waters of Banje Beach even sweeter.
If you like a little bit of a party to go with your beach getaway, then Ibiza is the place to go. As one of Spain’s Balearic islands, Ibiza is often nicknamed the “White Isle” in recognition of its charming whitewashed houses. If you intend to hit the techno-fueled party scene until the wee hours of the morning, you’re going to need to know about the perfect beaches where you can relax and snooze during the day. Cala Xuclar, Cala Salada, and Cala D’Hort all promise few crowds, pretty views, and postcard-perfect waters to swim and snorkel.
Jekyll Island, Georgia
With Florida ineligible for our list now that it’s had a few reportings of Zika, the islands off the coast of Georgia take the spotlight. Specifically, the charming getaway island of Jekyll. This quaint island has lots of interesting history, which visitors can learn all about with trips to places like the Jekyll Island Museum, the ruins of Horton House, and the architecturally impressive Faith Chapel. When you’re ready to get your blood flowing, rent a kayak and paddle through the wildlife-rich marshes bordering the island. Finally, don’t forget to leave plenty of time for lazing on the beach.
Known as the “Garden Isle,” Kauai makes for a stunning island getaway with lots to see and do. First and foremost, as long as there is sand and water, you can’t really go wrong with choosing a beach in Kauai. Tunnels Beach, where the movie South Pacific was filmed, is ideal for sunbathing and wave watching, while the beach at Poipu has unbeatable snorkeling. For a little more adventure, trek a bit of the Na Pali coast trail, book a zip-lining adventure, ride horses to a secluded waterfall, or take a leisurely tubing trip down an old sugar plantation ditch.
Lake Tahoe, California
Lake Tahoe is the only lake destination to make our list of the best Zika-free beach getaways, but the difference will be the last thing on your mind as you’re sunning on the golden-sand beaches and listening to the gentle lapping of the waves. Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and a great Zika-free destination. Head to the south shore for great beaches and large casino resorts. For a quieter, mountain-retreat feel, look no further than the north shore, where beaches like Meeks Bay or little Tahoe City ensure visitors have plenty of things to see and do.
A Mediterranean island located between Sicily and North Africa, Malta is a destination that’s rapidly on the rise. And since it’s Zika-free, it makes a perfect getaway for anyone who enjoys a strong local culture, good food, and of course, welcoming blue waters. Speaking of blue waters, you won’t want to miss Malta’s famous Blue Lagoon, a tiny bay with waters so clear it almost feels like a swimming pool.
Manhattan Beach, California
Manhattan Beach is one of Southern California’s most inviting and laid-back beach towns. And with no Zika in sight, Manhattan Beach makes for the perfect coastal getaway. Rent a house right on the water or book a room at one of the town’s boutique hotels. Then explore the “Pearl of South Bay” at your leisure. Stroll down the Manhattan Beach Pier, people watch from the sidewalk cafés, and sunbathe on the golden-sand beach.
The town of Marbella on Spain’s Costa del Sol is a favorite getaway spot for Spaniards, Europeans, and even Saudi Arabian royalty. Marbella’s historic downtown, Plaza de los Naranjos, area is delightful. It gets its name from the fragrant orange trees for which this region is so famous. Though the surrounding history is fascinating and certainly worth some of your time, the big draw here is the beach. Stake your claim on the soft sand, then spend your day sunbathing, swimming in the warm Mediterranean, and feasting on paella at the shoreside restaurants.
Located only 20 miles from the large resort town of Biarritz, San Juan de Luz is a small coastal town known for its welcoming vibe and unique mix of Basque and French cultures. Book a room at one of the many resorts with a view of the water. Then spend your time lounging on the beach, strolling the boardwalk, and people watching at the many outdoor cafes (it is France, after all). Save some time to meander around the picturesque historical downtown, a window shopper’s paradise.
San Diego, California
There’s no need to travel halfway around the world for a fun, Zika-free beach destination. Head to La Jolla near San Diego for a picture-perfect beach ideal for sunbathing, surfing, or exploring the entire ecosystems that exist in the many tidepools. And of course, no trip to San Diego is complete without visiting some of the city’s many attractions, including the San Diego Wild Animal Park, Stone Brewing, and downtown’s Gaslamp Quarter.
San Sebastian, Spain
San Sebastian, located in Spain’s charming Basque country, is an often-overlooked beach getaway that rivals any of the country’s more famous beach destinations. Stay as close to the coastline as you can, as this fun locale promises lots of lively activities ranging from pintxo (the Basque version of tapas) tastings to surf competitions. Spend a morning making the mild hike to the top of either Monte Urgull or Monte Igueldo. Both of which offer stunning views of the surrounding Spanish scenery. Then cool off on the sandy shores of La Concha Beach.
You know those stunning pictures of a full hillside of whitewashed buildings and blue accents? That’s Santorini, and it’s as glorious in real life as it is in those pictures. Best of all, Santorini is Zika free. Sunbathe on the unique molten-colored Kamari Beach and swim in the turquoise waters. Continue your relaxation by taking a boat cruise to witness the sunset, or experiencing a romantic al fresco meal with a water view. If you’re up for something a little more challenging, consider local wine tasting, a hike, or a tour of ancient ruins.
The Seychelles are quite a trek from the United States, but this stunning Zika-free destination is worth it! Head to the main island of Mahé, where you’ll have your fair share of hotels and resorts both lively and intimate. The beaches in The Seychelles are almost absurdly picturesque, with white-sand beaches and crystal-clear blue waters. Local Mahé businesses also offer day tours ranging from deep sea fishing to island hopping, ensuring visitors are available to have whatever type of island getaway they crave.
Considering Sicily is a favorite beach destination of Italians, it’s worth serious consideration if you’re looking for a Zika-free getaway. Sure, there are plenty of postcard-perfect beaches to enjoy, but be sure to save some time for some of Sicily’s other sites as well. Tour the Valley of the Temples, the seven Greek temples that are remarkably well preserved. Wander through the historic neighborhoods, enjoy the many authentic restaurants, and take a leisurely hike around the infamous Mount Etna.
Barcelona may be the more famous destination, but we suggest skipping the big city’s man-made beaches and heading to nearby Sitges. This whitewashed town is the typical Spanish beach town. Wander through the narrow cobblestoned streets (without a map!), and pop into whatever little shops interest you. Grab a drink at one of the many restaurants along the boardwalk, then find your spot on the beach to enjoy the warm Spanish waters and even warmer Spanish sun.
In recent years, Croatia has solidified itself as the go-to destination, with Dubrovnik standing out as the go-to city. But to ignore Split, located north of Dubrovnik on the coast, would be a terrible shame. Split was once the chosen home of the Roman emperor Diocletian, and today his palace is one of the city’s coolest attractions. Besides its historical sites, Split has maze-like streets perfect for a wander, restaurants serving fresh seafood caught that morning, and world-class beaches. If island hopping is on your itinerary, Split is also a convenient launching point to islands like Hvar and Korçula.
While most of Asia is highlighted on the map of Zika-affected countries, the island nation of Sri Lanka is an exception. This delightful island nation has something to satisfy just about any interest. When you’re not enjoying the postcard-perfect beaches, take a temple tour, visit the ancient rock city of Sigiriya, or try your hand at spotting elephants and leopards at Yala National Park.
Australia is a place one could spend months exploring, but if you’re just looking for a beach getaway, then look no further than Sydney. With lots of urban sights, including the famous bridge and Sydney Opera House, there is a ton to see and do before you hit the beach. Once you’re ready to hit the waves, consider Sydney’s well-known Bondi Beach, with lots of beautiful sand area, postcard-perfect waters, and a line of restaurants right on the water.
Like Chile, Uruguay is only one of two South American countries that remain free of the Zika virus. This is especially good news for those who enjoy beach getaways, as this country loves the beach. After all, Uruguay’s capital city happens to be located right on the water, and boasts a massive beach. When visitors aren’t enjoying the water, Uruguay is home to a unique vibe, friendly population, and lots of interesting historical and cultural sights.