With gorgeous beaches and crystal blue seas, the Caribbean has long since been one of the world’s most appealing travel destinations. However finding a way to visit on a budget can be a real challenge with accommodation costs typically quite high. If you’re travelling with a group of friends, luxury Caribbean vacations can become relatively affordable by sharing the costs of renting a villa.
If you really want to keep costs down though, you have to be a bit selective when choosing your destination. Here we list five places where you can experience a touch of Caribbean luxury whilst keeping costs relatively low.
Five Budget Friendly Caribbean Destinations
Bay Islands, Honduras
The Bay Islands still remain something of a secret gem. Travellers either have never heard of them or are simply put off by the dangerous reputation that Honduras undoubtedly has. Some of its cities may be rough, crime-ridden places but the Bay Islands are as close as it really comes to a budget friendly Caribbean paradise.
The clear waters and abundant marine life makes this a great snorkelling and diving destination and it is a popular stop for backpackers in Central America. Unlike most other Caribbean islands, you don’t need to fly to get in with ferries leaving the Honduran mainland city of La Ceiba, twice a day. With dorm beds, cheap food and inexpensive activities, this is probably the cheapest of our five budget friendly Caribbean destinations.
Jamaica is one of the few islands that attracts backpackers and budget-minded travellers in any sort of quantity. Some of the towns and beach destinations are wising up to this and you can find budget accommodation from around $15/night in Ocho Rios or Kingston for example and with everything else fairly affordable, you ought to be able to get by on $40/day if you are on a tight budget.
With regular flights into either Kingston or Montego Bay from Europe and North America, it’s one of the most accessible countries in the Caribbean too. While like almost everywhere in the region, beaches are a big attraction, Jamaica has a strong cultural identity and for a nation of just 3 million people, it has achieved great international success in fields such as sport and music. Just travelling around the island and visiting different places is a unique experience and helps you to develop a greater understanding of what makes Jamaica tick.
Check out our Jamaica backpacking route for a two week itinerary.
There has scarcely been a better time to visit Cuba, with travel restrictions having been eased considerably in recent years. As the largest island in the Caribbean, you have real choice in where to go and it’s perhaps the only country in the region, where you could potentially spend several weeks travelling around with numerous towns of cultural and historical significance.
The best beaches are found by heading East from its fascinating capital Havana and the whole Northern Coast is dotted with great beaches and idyllic islets. Although typical backpacker style accommodation is limited in Cuba, there are reasonably priced homestays and small guesthouses all over the island and the cost of eating/drinking out and transport again is relatively inexpensive.
According to our Cuba shoestring budget, you can get by on as little as $35/day if you are savvy and perhaps less if you’re travelling with a friend and sharing a room.
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is the 2nd largest and 3rd most populous Caribbean country after Cuba and neighbouring Haiti. Unlike poverty-stricken Haiti, which takes up the other side of the island of Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic has managed to build a thriving travel industry.
Mostly this is geared towards package holidaymakers, who come to one of its many fantastic beach resorts but in Punta Cana at least, it’s very possible to enjoy its golden sands and crystal clear waters on a budget. Dorm beds can be found on Uvero Alto beach from $10/night and although many visit on all-inclusive deals, there is a growing selection of restaurants with cuisine from around the world, so you won’t be stuck for finding somewhere to eat.
There is more than just beach-life to the Dominican Republic though and if you fancy an adventure, head to the Rio Yaque, the longest river in the Caribbean and particularly the town of Jarabacoa, which is a popular rafting destination, home to some impressive waterfalls and cascades.
San Andres, Colombia
Although closer to the Central American nations of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, San Andres is a small island owned by Colombia. It lacks the five-star facilities of many other Caribbean islands but that helps to keep prices low and most visitors are Colombians looking for a taste of Caribbean luxury on the cheap.
There are many flights in from the main cities in Colombia as well as Panama City and San Jose (Costa Rica). Therefore it’s a very feasible option for anyone travelling in Central or South America and it’s a long way from the mainland or any other islands, which gives it a real isolated, desert island feel.
Scuba diving and snorkelling are both popular activities, and there are many dirt cheap Colombian restaurants that serve set-meals for the equivalent of only a few dollars so once on the island, it’s possible to get by on a very small budget.
This article was published in March 2017.