Options are expanding for exotic getaways not far from home

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Jeri Clausing
Jeri Clausing

Americans looking for exotic luxury escapes relatively close to home have a few new options.

Both Panama and Belize are reopening their borders, with some restrictions. And resorts there are eager to welcome visitors back.

Panama last week said it would reopen to international visitors from all countries on Oct. 12.

Among the options for luxury travelers seeking a secluded vacation there is the private island resort of Sweet Bocas, which has always operated on a buyout-only option.

Situated on the Unesco World Heritage Site archipelago known as Bocas del Toro in northwest of Panama, the resort says they haven't had any Covid cases. And founder Annick Belanger says all 22 staff members have quarantined on site for more than six months.

To enter Panama ,visitors must provide proof of a negative Covid-19 PCR or antigen test taken within 48 hours of arrival or pay $30 for a rapid test on arrival. Surgical masks are required at Tocumen Airport, and face coverings are required in all public places in Panama.

Belize, meanwhile, reopened the Philip Goldson Airport, but only to the international tourists traveling to hotels or with tour operators that have met the country's Tourism Gold Standard health and safety certification.

Visitors also must provide proof of a negative Covid test within 72 hours of entry.

"We're confident the Tourism Gold Standard Recognition Program and Gold Standard Seal of Approval will allow travelers and the tourism industry to operate safely as Covid-19 restrictions are eased," said the Belize Tourism Board's director of tourism, Karen Bevans. "While visitors will need to adhere to our 'new normal' entry requirements and safety protocols, their experience will remain authentic to Belize's adventurous spirit."

Approved properties, which include a number of the country's favored luxe getaways, can be found at  belizetourismboard.org/industry-sectors/gold-standard-approved/, while entry requirements are listed at www.travelbelize.org/health-safety.

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