Traveling to the Caribbean can get expensive, between the airfare and lodging, food and souvenirs, and seeing the sites the islands have to offer. But there are still several islands that offer great travel deals without compromising the beautiful views, wonderful beaches and water activities all the islands offer.
Though more expensive than other islands on this list, parts of Jamaica still offer a quiet and laid-back style reminiscent of the true Jamaican lifestyle. Treasure Beach, in particular, is one such area where resorts and tourist traps have not yet touched the locals. Guest houses, small hotels, and cottages are the only places to lodge, and open-air restaurants serve up local dishes made mostly of seafood. The beaches along Treasure Beach remain mostly uncrowded. The dirt roads make for great exploring, and if that’s not enough adventure, hire a charter captain for a day of fishing or for a trip out to the Pelican Bar, a shack out on a sandbar with good drink and food specials.
The Dominican Republic has turned into one big resort in the last decade, something that isn’t great for budget travelers or those who want a taste of the real Dominican. And while many of the authentic beach villages can only be reached via semi-passable dirt paths, there are still a couple of places within easy access of an airport. Sosúa, for example, offers visitors inexpensive lodging, great restaurants, and a beautiful beach. The little village is a haven for snorkelers and scuba divers with numerous reefs and dive charters available for a day in the water. Cabarete is another good choice for the budget-minded. This village is the country’s windsurfing capital and like Sosúa offers many great deals in lodging and dining options.
The island is actually comprised of two islands, larger Bonaire and its smaller uninhabited sister, Klein Bonaire. Both islands are completely surrounded by a fringe reef, making this a diver’s paradise. In addition, the entire coastline of Bonaire has been declared a marine sanctuary. The island is also home to a huge flamingo population. Bonaire has a number of top-notch resorts but also a number of budget-friendly (under $75 USD per night) apartments and hotels as well. The official tourism website does, however, warn visitors to be wary of accommodations that do not mention the lodging tax of US$5.50 to $6.50 per person per night.
A relaxed, laid-back attitude evident throughout the island, Grenada does have some resorts but they are mostly small and still affordable. The capital city of St. George’s is often called the most beautiful city in the Caribbean, for good reason. The city is nestled between the hillside of a volcanic crater and a horseshoe-shaped crater. Despite a thriving tourist trade, St. George’s has retained the area’s natural beauty, historical relics, and cultural sites. Carriacou, an island dependency of Grenada, is a less-visited location with the true laid-back island atmosphere that many travelers crave when visiting the Caribbean.
Trinidad’s dowdy twin isn’t as popular as its sister, nor as expensive. Whereas Trinidad is a playground for cruise guests and the well-heeled, Tobago caters to the weekend crowd from Trinidad. The island is a birder’s paradise with over 240 species of birds, many of them rare or endangered. Beachgoers may be disappointed by the beach quality of the popular (and often crowded) beaches, but there are secluded options for those who don’t mind driving further and taking a little hike. Case in point, Pirate’s Bay where scenes from the 1952 movie, “Robinson Crusoe”, were filmed. As for dining and lodging, seafood is plentiful which is to be expected. Beers still cost less that $3 USD. And 3-bedroom guest homes can still be found for under $100 USD per night.
Even traveling to these islands, there are ways to further save money when visiting. For example, many hotels and resorts offer deep discounts during off-season and the peak months of hurricane season in September and October. Don’t want to risk a hurricane in the Caribbean? Some of the islands lie outside the traditional hurricane belt. Bonaire, for example, lies far enough south to stay out of the path of most tropical systems.
Shopping around can also yield significant savings. Guest houses, hostels, and all-inclusive resorts may offer better deals, especially those that are located more to the interior of the island rather than beachfront. And getting away from the touristy areas where the pricier hotels and restaurants tend to crop up will also yield more authentic dining and shopping options as well as better prices.
Traveling to the Caribbean can be a trip of a lifetime but does not necessarily have to break the bank. With so many islands to choose from, budget-minded travelers can save money by traveling to one of the less developed islands and will likely come home with memories of a more authentic Caribbean than those people who choose the tourist route. Planning well and keeping the options open for destination, lodging, activities and dining open up tropical adventures that can be affordable too.