Before 2020, the remote islands of the South Pacific were more accessible to leisure travelers than ever before. Thanks to affordable global air travel, little-known places such as Tonga, Vanuatu and the Cook Islands welcomed thousands of visitors annually from all over the world — up until the coronavirus pandemic hit.
Now those islands are some of the only remaining corners of the globe where the coronavirus doesn’t exist, thanks to their total suspension of inbound tourism and other nonessential travel.
The islands of Samoa, which include the U.S. territory of American Samoa, closed to nonessential travel in March and have not recorded any confirmed coronavirus cases. To enter, U.S. citizens must hold permanent residency and request permission from the Samoan Health Ministry to travel on a commercial flight to Samoa through Auckland, New Zealand, before quarantining for 14 days.
Despite recent reports of a sailor testing positive for the virus in quarantine before then testing negative, the World Health Organization categorizes Samoa and American Samoa as covid-free.
According to the U.S. Embassy in American Samoa, masks are not required in public.
The tiny island nation of Tuvalu has no reported coronavirus cases and does not allow visitors who have been in any countries where the coronavirus is present within five days before their arrival. Travelers from a high-risk country must get medical clearance from Tuvalu’s government to enter, according to the U.S. Embassy in Tuvalu.
Only citizens of Tonga “returning by special arrangement” are allowed to enter the string of islands, which has had zero confirmed coronavirus cases. One weekly flight is available from New Zealand, which requires strict quarantines. Cruise ships and yacht sailings to the nation have been banned “until further notice,” according to the U.S. Embassy in Tonga.
The little-known archipelago of Palau has not reported any coronavirus cases and closed off international travel in March when the pandemic began. Since April, a mandatory 14-day quarantine has been required for “all travelers with a travel history from or through COVID-19 affected geographical areas,” according to the U.S. Embassy in Palau.
In October, the Cook Islands, which are accessible via air from New Zealand, announced a continuation of its air-travel border closure “until further notice.” Only residents can leave and enter the islands, and they are required to quarantine in New Zealand before reentering with a negative coronavirus test result.
“If you have already booked your travel to the Cook Islands, it is recommended that you contact your travel agent/ airline and/or insurance company to advise them of the unforeseen changes to your travel,” the Cook Islands tourism board says on its website, which declared the islands “a covid-19 free zone.”
The island nation of Niue has required strict 14-day quarantines since April, according to its tourism board, and has no reported coronavirus