Social Distancing In Style: Central America’s Secluded Hotels

Social distancing and “socially distant” living are the new normal in all aspects of life right now. And when the coronavirus crisis abates, this probably won’t change for a while, even in travel. Here, we list some of the best hotels in Central America ready to accommodate this new trend when travel comes back.

Today I saw a request on HARO (Help a Reporter Out) from a journalist writing a story, asking about hotels in the United States that offer “socially distant” travel.

Wow, that’s a sign of the times, I thought. Socially distant travel. That’s gonna be big. Is there any such thing?

I suppose, when you think about it, there is. The ultra-wealthy have been socially distancing themselves for years. Those yachts, private jets, and private islands aren’t only for status. They’re to keep the likes of you and me away. It’s only now that coronavirus has put a name to this concept. Social distancing. Socially distant. Take your pick.

The likes of you and I have also been traveling to “get away from it all” for years.                                            

It’s all too often how the travel business markets a destination. How often have you seen or heard that phrase? Even though “getting away from it all” less to do with social distancing, it still implies a place where *I’m* going and *you’re* not. Which I suppose means I’m distancing myself from you, the “all”.

But when this pandemic ends, the concept of socially distant travel won’t. It’ll become a powerful buzzword. Maybe not as powerful as “getting away from it all”, but certainly something.

Sure, some of us will jump onto cruise ships again, or flock to massive resorts or party towns around the world. But I reckon many more of us will tread a little more gingerly in the future, at least to start with. A lot of us will start to travel like the one percent have always been doing. Except, you know, in cheaper places. 

We’ll want to travel again asap, but we’ll want to do it safely. Those massive swimming pools and all-you-can-eat buffets will repel a lot of people for a long time after coronavirus. It’ll be a different world.

It’s going to be about finding a place to heal, not just our bodies, but also our minds. We’re all going through some major trauma right now and we’re going to look for places to chill out in.

So where will be the best place for safe, socially distant travel once this thing is over? Call me biased, but I think it’ll be Central America.

Central America has never seen the floods of tourists typical in other parts of the world, largely because of geopolitics over the past decades that scared all but the most hardcore tourists away for years. Even Costa Rica, exempt from the geopolitical turmoil that plagued the region, was affected by it. It’s one of the reasons why it differentiated itself from its neighbors and went all out on the eco-tourism thing.

And it’s that eco-tourism thing that will save Costa Rica, and Central America, after coronavirus.

Because Costa Rica is already full of the smaller, more intimate hotels that make socially distant travel much easier. And the rest of the region has followed Costa Rica.

Sure, there are a few massive “parked cruise ship” resorts in the region. But not nearly as many as there could be. And it might well be that in the new tourism business that picks itself up and dusts itself down after this crisis, massive resorts might find themselves struggling longer than smaller places. 

It won’t be difficult at all for many hotels around Central America to offer what the journalist I saw today was asking for. And I’m sure we’ll start seeing many doing it, even before the travel bans are lifted.

Below are ten hotels in Central America that already offer some concept of socially distant travel. These are places where it’s difficult NOT to stay at least two meters away from other people:

Villa Buena Onda
Set in the hills above Playas del Coco in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, Villa Buena Onda is close enough to Liberia International Airport to make it a convenient getaway and small and secluded enough to social distance in style. With only eight rooms, you can even hire the whole place for total lockdown.

 

 
 
 
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Jicaro Island Ecolodge
The nine casitas on this private island in Lake Nicaragua provide proper seclusion. Although you’re on an island, the way it’s set means you can spend hours or days here without being near another soul.

 

 
 
 
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Nayara Tented Camp
18 luxury tents set in the rainforests of Costa Rica’s Arenal Volcano National Park, each with their own private pools and stunning jungle views. You can stay here and never leave your tent. In fact, you won’t want to leave your tent.

 

 
 
 
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Isla Palenque
This 400-acre tropical island in Panama’s Gulf of Chiriqui comes with eight casitas and a villa. That means, when full, each casita has 44.44 acres of land each. And with seven beaches on the island, the chances of seeing someone else in close proximity to you are slim to nil. Actually, the chances of seeing someone else at all are slim to nil.

 

 
 
 
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Punta Caracol
Five suites, accessible only by boat, set over the waters of the Caribbean Sea in Panama’s Bocas del Toros islands. This place was made for social distancing.

 

 
 
 
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Utopia Village
Another place more easily accessed by boat, Utopia Village is a small diving resort on the Honduran island of Utila. Set on a perfect beach, Utopia Village has 14 suites and plenty of social distancing space.

 

 
 
 
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Mikiterio Lake Retreat
This five-room boutique property on the shores of Lake Coatepeque, El Salvador is all about unwinding in a secluded, natural setting. Guests can socially distance themselves from the world (and each other) with plenty of space to spare.

 

 
 
 
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Villas B’Alam Ya
Four luxurious self-catering villas on the shores of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Bring your own food for cooking if you seek pure, unadulterated social distancing on the shores of the world’s most beautiful lake.

 

 
 
 
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Coco Plum Island Resort
18 stand-alone cabanas on a private island in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Dangriga, Belize. This is proper Robinson Crusoe territory here. Worth noting that Coco Plum Caye is 16 acres, which gives each room… well, you do the math. A lot of space, anyway.

 

 
 
 
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Ray Caye
Another private Belizean Caribbean island, off the coast of Placencia, Ray Caye won’t fit any more than 26 people. And even if the place is full to the max, you’ll have a hard time knowing it. This is an easy place for social distancing.

 

 
 
 
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So if you’re here in Central America, weathering the coronastorm, the above hotels are perfect for a mid-crisis getaway (current in-country travel restrictions permitting.

And if you’re waiting for the travel restrictions to lift, then you know there are havens to escape to with your name on them in Central America. Lots of havens. In fact, for each of the places mentioned above, I can think of two or more perfect places.

Socially distant travel might well become a real thing and Central America is in a prime position to offer it.

James Dyde is the editor of centralamerica.com. He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.