As countries around the world emerge from quarantine, flights are resuming and museums, restaurants, and attractions are reopening – just in time for a last-minute getaway. In many waterfront destinations, ferry systems are up and running, with preventative health protocols firmly in place, and private charters are returning to action – a tempting option for travelers still squeamish at the thought of crowds. Whether you choose to join the queue or set sail in a boat of your own, here are six picturesque places to take to the seas this summer.
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For the time being, countries in the European Union are open to EU citizens and residents from over a dozen other approved countries. Still, the Greek islands are welcoming visitors, and the ferry system is running on all cylinders, with temperature checks and health questionnaires required before boarding. On the other hand, a charter lets you set your own schedule, and Valef Yachts – a long-time favorite of celebrities and dignitaries alike – is a luxe-level choice. (Not to fear, the islands are overflowing with down-to-earth operators as well.)
Croatia’s borders are also opened EU nationals and residents of approved countries, and most self-isolation and quarantine restrictions have been lifted. Private yachts, boats, and other nautical vessels are operating from the mainland and between the islands, and Virtuoso’s private, eight-day Essence of the Dalmatian Coast tour is the ultimate extravagance, covering Split, Hvar, and Dubrovnik with stops on Korcula and around the Pakleni and Elaphiti Islands.
For something more low-key, Croatia’s easy-to-navigate network of buses and ferries makes it a breeze to create a personalized itinerary and island-hop around the Kvarner Gulf or the Istrian Peninsula. Or you can opt to rent your own vessel (and bring on a captain if you need) with a boatshare service like Boatsetter.
For centuries, Italy’s Amalfi Coast has drawn crowds for its natural beauty and cultural cachet, especially during the peak summer months. This year, of course, things are slightly different, and a country that was once swarming with tourists is now desperate to see them return.
See Amalfi's coastal towns and idyllic islands via its extensive ferry system, or charter a reasonably priced rental via Banana Sport, located at Marina Grande. Viator (a Lonely Planet partner) also runs private excursions to Capri, Ischia, and Procida, explorations of the sea grottoes along the coast, and customizable day trips from Salerno, Positano, and more.
4. The Caribbean
File under good news: the Caribbean is beginning to reopen, and suffice it to say those white-sand beaches and clear-blue waters will make a welcome change of scenery for anyone who’s spent the past few months self-isolating indoors. While there’s a network of ferries connecting some countries, it’s by no means comprehensive, so take the logistics into account when planning your route. If you’re going with a yacht – either crewed or bareboat – the region’s charter companies are eager to get things up and running again, with some, like Horizon Yacht Charters, offering flexible bookings, low-season rates, and even free sailing days for trips scheduled through October.
5. The Galápagos Islands
Historically, Ecuador’s Galápagos Islands have thrived in isolation, but during the pandemic, that very seclusion has had disastrous effects on the local economy. According to reports, the volcanic islands reopened on July 1 – a boon for those eager to forgo lush tropical scenery in favor of diverse wildlife and otherworldly landscapes.
Because travel within the Galápagaos is heavily regulated, it’s usually recommended to book well in advance, but this is a far from normal summer, and even at this late hour, you may be able to land a charter with one of the Galapagos Conservancy’s travel partners. AdventureSmith Explorations has a roster of catamarans and historic vessels, while Wilderness Travel offers private journeys on a refurbished 14-person yacht. There’s also ferry service between some of the islands, courtesy of private speedboats called lanchas, and each trip will just set you back $30 or so.
While the weather in French Polynesia tends to be reliably balmy year-round, it’s best during the dry season – which also happens to coincide with the height of summer, when travel to Tahiti is at its peak. From July 15, when the island collective’s borders are set to reopen to international visitors, you can charter a boat to Marlon Brando's former home of Tetiaroa, hire a catamaran or monohull in Ra'iatea, or book a guide to help you explore the Fenua Aihere, from Vaipoiri Cave to the Te Pari Cliffs.
Budget options are harder to come by, as it’s much more common to island-hop here by plane, but within the Society Islands, you can catch a high-speed ferry between Tahiti and Mo’orea or Bora Bora and Maupiti; other destinations are accessible via cargo ship, speedboat, or shuttle.
This article was originally published on June 25, 2020 and was most recently updated on August 7, 2020.