Travel

Playing Solitaire: 5 Socially Distant Spots to Visit

21 January 2022By Kate Lardy
British Virgin Islands National Park

Written by

Kate Lardy

Based in Fort Lauderdale, freelance writer Kate Lardy got her start in the yachting industry working as crew. She spent five years cruising the Bahamas, Caribbean, New England, and Central America, then segued that experience into a career in marine journalism, which has included stints as editor of Dockwalk and ShowBoats International.

While activities shoreside may not be as common as they were before the pandemic, there are still outdoor options for guests to visit and explore. Consider some of the following socially distant spots to take guests:

iStock/williamhc

Looe Key Marine Sanctuary

Offering some of the best snorkeling and diving in the Florida Keys, this reef, about six miles from Big Pine Key in the Lower Keys, is a mini marine-protected area that attracts some not-so-mini marine life, like goliath grouper, reef sharks, and eagle rays. In good conditions, visibility can stretch 100 feet. While it’s named for the British Navy warship that ran aground and sank here in 1744, the more recent wreck (intentional this time) of the Adolphus Busch gives divers a 210-foot freighter to explore. Also nearby is the American Shoal Lighthouse, built in 1880, under which fish and snorkelers congregate.

Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas National Park
iStock/Jeffrey K Collins

Dry Tortugas National Park

Sixty nautical miles west of Key West, this group of seven isolated islands is crowned by the impressive 19th century Fort Jefferson, constructed after the War of 1812 to defend the U.S. southern coast and used as a prison during the Civil War. Nowadays, more peaceful endeavors include day snorkeling or night diving along its moat walls, where you’re likely to spot an octopus, basket starfish, and, naturally, tortugas (turtles). Part of the beauty of the islands is the utter lack of resources, including freshwater — hence the name “dry” — so only self-sufficient boats and campers can overnight in this hard-to-reach U.S. national park.

Pavones
iStock/ianmcdonnell

Pavones

It’s the classic tropical surfing paradise where a strip of sand separates the thick jungle from the mighty Pacific on Costa Rica’s west coast. Renowned for having the second longest left-hand wave in the world, it attracts surfers from around the world, yet it remains blessedly laidback, shielded from chaotic tourism by its remote location near the Panama border. Yachts, though, will find it conveniently close to Marina Bahia Golfito. Even beginner surfers can give it a go since the winter months from December to February offer optimal conditions for newbies, while the more hardcore will want to make this a late-season stopover.

Cocos Island National Park
iStock/Divepic

Cocos Island National Park

Widely regarded as the inspiration for Jurassic Park’s Isla Nublar, Isla del Coco has a wild abundance of nature protected by the roughly 300 nautical miles that separate it from mainland Costa Rica. Fraser charter broker Katy Carter recommends making the trip for the chance to get up close to its world-famous underwater wildlife. “There’s a local outfitter that I can work with to get my clients really unusual experiences. (For instance they) will locate a pod of thousands of spinner dolphins, give you a SEABOB, and put you in the water with them along with someone to film you with a GoPro,” she says.

iStock/Michael Winter

Virgin Islands National Park

Guests into hiking and birding will appreciate the labyrinth of walking trails maintained by the U.S. National Park Service that cover two-thirds of St. John. Under the cover of the tropical rainforest, shady paths like the Reef Bay Trail take walkers past ancient petroglyphs and sugar plantation ruins, depositing them at a secluded beach — and if you fetch them by tender here they can skip the more strenuous walk back uphill. Or those desiring a challenge will be rewarded with superb views on Johnny Horn Trail. Best for birdwatchers, the Francis Bay Salt Pond Trail all but guarantees a glimpse of at least a dozen species of forest, shore, and sea birds.

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