If you’re stuck in your office and staring down into your cup of coffee, paperwork, and computer screen, then it’s likely you’ve been dreaming of the perfect getaway for your next vacation. While some fantastic beach resorts look absolutely perfect, you know that staying on an island for a week would run your bank account to zero, and those all-inclusive deals usually come with some sort of catch that makes them not as great as you originally would think. If a tropical paradise vacation complete with rolling waves and warm sand sounds like your idea of heaven, then there’s good news for you — you don’t have to break the bank to experience the island bliss you’ve been dreaming of. You may have to go a little off the beaten path to find an affordable paradise vacation, but it’s still doable on any budget. Check out these five budget-friendly islands that won’t rob you of all of your savings.
1. Curacao, the Caribbean
If you’re looking to do a Caribbean vacation without breaking the bank, there’s no better place than Curacao for a budget-friendly island stay. This island is a bit more industrialized than others, and it isn’t as popular as its neighbors, Aruba and Bonaire. Curacao comes with all of the features you want out of an island — the beach is a huge draw for tourists, as are the reefs that have tons of marine life and the weather that hovers around 80 degrees year-round. Willemstad, Curacao’s main port, has bright Dutch colonial buildings that look exactly like what you would find in an old European city, explains U.S. News, so you’ll experience a very diverse culture on Curacao as well.
The New York Times explains that Willemstad is expensive, so when you’re on a budget, it’s best to get out of this main area. Try visiting the Lagun Blou Dive & Beach Resort, which is about 25 miles outside of Willemstad and offers very low prices for rooms. And, as far as food is concerned, always go local, as that’s how you’ll get the best deals. If the beach is what you’re after, you’ll be happy to know that many of the beaches are free, too.
2. Lucia, Eastern Caribbean
St. Lucia is an island with everything you could ever want — and you won’t be breaking the bank to stay here, either. This island is for the adventurous outdoorsy types, as you’re sure to get more than just white beaches and turquoise water when you’re here. St. Lucia is home to miles of rainforest, and you’ll have the Piton Mountains as a backdrop for you during your stay. If you go for a hike or ride via horseback, you’re sure to find natural waterfalls, lush scenery, and natural beauty, and this is all part of why a fun and exciting trip to St. Lucia won’t run you dry of money. Many of the activities here are free, as they involve nature and experiencing the elements.
About Travel explains that while other places in the Eastern Caribbean are more about the nightlife and party scene, St. Lucia is a peaceful spot away from this, where you’ll experience a place where you can rest and relax. The island has a huge selection of affordable resorts, and if you go in the off-season between May and October, you’ll find even better deals. If you stay in the Castries harbor area, expect to only pay around $50 a night for a hotel room, and if you’re looking for more of an upscale resort feel, you can visit the Coco Palm Resort for under $150 a night.
3. Dominica, the Caribbean
This mountainous, beautiful island is another one that should be on your list when you’re looking for financially feasible island vacations. According to Planet Ware, Dominica is known for being “The Nature Island of the Caribbean,” and it’s the perfect place for outdoor adventurers to go scuba diving, hiking, and exploring the natural landscapes. You’ll see a mix of mountainous volcanoes and rainforests if you choose to stay here, and the fusion of British, French, and West Indian cultures also creates a unique atmosphere that you’ll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. There are only two small airports that are located on the island, so it’s tough to find big tourism packages that will take you here, but you can still travel to this island with money in your pocket to spare.
Whether you’re taking a day trip cruise here from another island or you plan on spending your whole vacation in Dominica, you can find food here for cheap when you’re going with local vendors. When looking for accommodations, you won’t find huge mega-resorts, but you will find simple inns and cottages that suit your needs for half the price of pricey hotels. Brooke Morton for Islands says that staying at Tia’s Bamboo Cottages will cost you about $65 a night, and the Hibiscus Valley Inn that comes complete with an open-air dining room starts at $45 a night.
4. Cancun, Mexico
Though not technically an island, there are few better places to stay (and easier places to get to if you’re in the U.S.) than Cancun, which feels a lot like an island because of its location on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. If traveling to the Caribbean is out of the question because of the cost of airfare, then treat yourself to a vacation in Cancun, where you’ll still get the sun, beautiful beaches, and cultural experience that you would get if you were traveling halfway across the world. If you do visit Cancun, then you can experience a wide range of cultural experiences like the Chichen Itza, a Mayan archaeological site that’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll also have to check out the various beaches that are both near your hotel and a little further away. Just remember: The further you get from the crowded resorts, the less people will be at the beaches that you visit. And, in terms of budget, the beach is the most budget-friendly activity here.
The Yucatan Times explains that as far as lodging goes, you can get a hotel room for as little as $20 if you do your research and avoid some of the pricier areas. And, if you take the time to learn a bit of their public transit, you’ll be able to get to many historic sites by bus instead of taxi, which will save you a lot of money. As for food, ask your hotel for authentic Mexican cuisine to get the most bang for your buck — the further you stray from the resort areas, the more money you’ll save.
5. Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
This province in the Dominican Republic is known for its big, beautiful beaches and tropical paradise that you’re looking for in an island vacation. Though many people typically think of Punta Cana as being the go-to spot for vacationers in the Dominican, Puerto Plata offers more affordable all-inclusive packages that can include snorkeling, ziplining through the forests, or horseback riding. You can enjoy the sunshine and visit the waterfalls for very little money here, and though some of the activities aren’t necessarily the best that money can buy, you will be paying a greatly reduced price for what you’re getting, making this piece of paradise perfect for budget vacationers.
Frugal Traveler, a New York Times blog, recommends traveling anywhere in the Dominican Republic during the winter, as prices will be lowest during this time. Lodging is also cheap here — Hotel La Catalina, which is right next to beautiful beaches on the coast, has rooms for under $80 a night, and if you go with an all-inclusive deal, it’s likely you can find a package for under $100 a night, and that’s including food and drinks, too. You won’t find better deals in the Caribbean, so jump on this while you have the chance.