A week of sun and sand may be priceless for your mental health (and your tan), but you don’t need to pay a fortune to get it. I’ve gathered data on airfare, hotel rates and package deals to unearth the cheapest Caribbean islands to visit, along with reasonably priced places to stay on each one.
This small island off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is known for white-sand beaches, colorful marine life and the Maya ruins of San Gervasio. While you can fly directly to Cozumel from a handful of U.S. airports, including Dallas and Charlotte, you can often save hundreds of dollars by flying to Cancun instead and then taking a ferry to Cozumel from nearby Playa del Carmen.
“Regularly under the $300 mark, nonstops to Cancun can be found from most major U.S. airports at any time throughout the year,” advises Tracy Stewart, content editor at Airfarewatchdog, SmarterTravel’s sister site.
According to Kayak, the median hotel rate in 2019 is about $205 a night, with even cheaper options if you’re willing to travel between August and November. (Note that this falls within Caribbean hurricane season.)
Where to stay: Past guests rave about the friendly service and quiet, homey vibe at Casita de Maya Boutique Hotel, where rates are regularly below $75 a night. If you’re looking for a beachfront resort experience, try the Blue Angel Resort, where you’ll usually pay less than $150 a night.
Eco-adventurers will find plenty to do in Jamaica, from swimming in waterfalls to zip lining through the rainforest. Only-in-Jamaica spots to visit include the Bob Marley Museum and the Rastafari Indigenous Village. And, of course, there are plenty of beaches to relax on between excursions.
According to data from CheapOair, fares to Kingston this winter are averaging just $366 round-trip. Montego Bay is another local airport to try, where you’ll often find rates nearly as low.
Hotels won’t set you back too much either: Oyster.com, SmarterTravel’s sister site, found that the average hotel rate in Jamaica was $155 a night, with plenty of options on the cheaper end. Travel between May and October for the lowest rates, recommends Kayak.
Where to stay: Marblue Villa Suites offers clean, colorful rooms and a beachfront location at rates under $125 a night on the dates I checked. Or try the budget-priced Westender Inn, where you can look out over the ocean from an infinity pool.
In Puerto Rico, you can split your vacation between the lush El Yunque rainforest, the island’s wide sandy beaches and the vibrant colonial streets of Old San Juan. A boat trip into one of the island’s bioluminescent bays is another must-do.
According to CheapOair, the average round-trip flight to San Juan is $336, while flights to Aguadilla are even cheaper at $293. “If departing from most East Coast major cities, San Juan is consistently low (under $300) and [has] plenty of flight options,” says Stewart of Airfarewatchdog.
It’s easy to budget for expenses in Puerto Rico, as the local currency is the U.S. dollar. Bonus: You don’t need to pay for a passport to get there. And with a variety of hotel options all over the island, it’s not hard to find one in your price range.
Where to stay: The laid-back, beachfront Luquillo Sunrise Beach Inn is a convenient jumping-off point for trips to El Yunque or San Juan, at rates typically under $150 a night. Even cheaper are the clean, no-frills rooms at Dreams Hotel Puerto Rico in the outskirts of San Juan.
The Dominican Republic is probably the cheapest Caribbean island to visit if you’re looking for affordable all-inclusive deals. On a recent visit to CheapCaribbean.com, I spotted dozens of packages in Punta Cana, the most popular resort area, starting at just $599 per person for air and four nights’ accommodations. Activities in the area include snorkeling, zip lining and off-road ATV tours through the jungle. You can also go hiking and swim in clear lagoons at the Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park & Reserve.
The average round-trip fare to Santo Domingo is $402, according to CheapOair data, and Oyster pegs the average hotel rate at $184 a night. Other popular resort areas in the Dominican Republic include La Romana and Puerto Plata.
Where to stay: The Punta Cana Princess All Suites Resort & Spa offers a beachfront all-inclusive experience for less than $200 a night on the dates I checked. If you’re not up for a big resort, consider the NH Punta Cana, a boutique hotel with breakfast included and a beach within walking distance.
This Caribbean-adjacent strand of tropical islands is a popular getaway just an hour-long flight from Miami. Most visitors fly into Nassau (on New Providence Island) or Freeport (on Grand Bahama Island); it’s worth checking fares to both airports to see which is cheaper. Consider Grand Bahama Island for a quieter, more laid-back vacation, while high-energy Nassau suits travelers looking for lots of activities and nightlife.
One of Kayak’s trending beach destinations for 2019, the Bahamas are served by multiple discount airlines (JetBlue, Southwest) as well as the major carriers, with a median airfare of $455 round-trip. Fly during January, September or October for the lowest fares, according to Kayak data.
The average hotel rate is $199 a night, according to Oyster. One way to save money is by looking into packages from sites such as CheapCaribbean.com or Expedia.
Where to stay: The Bell Channel Inn in Freeport offers basic but comfortable rooms within walking distance of the beach. Bay View Suites Paradise Island is a modestly priced option near Nassau.
With its lushly forested mountains, sweeping sand beaches and colorful villages, Martinique offers a variety of landscapes along with a taste of French flair. Between beach days, visitors can stroll through the Jardin de Balata, tour lovely cathedrals or hike to one of the island’s many waterfalls.
Martinique didn’t have a reputation as one of the cheapest Caribbean islands until a European discount airline started flying there from the East Coast, making fares more reasonable. “Norwegian’s nonstop service to the French Caribbean island of Martinique hovers under $300 round-trip from the Northeast,” says Stewart. Norwegian flies to Martinique from New York (JFK) and Fort Lauderdale.
There are hundreds of places to stay around the island at a wide range of price points. To find lower rates, try to avoid peak season, which runs roughly from December through April.
Where to stay: Residence du Village Creole is a reasonably priced three-star hotel located in the village of Trois-Ilets, within walking distance of a beach. Or pay even less for a cozy stay at Tante Arlette, located in a restored historic building in the northern part of the island.
The largest but also most overlooked of the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Croix quietly offers a variety of attractions for visitors. You can tour Fort Christiansvaern, built by the Danes and now a national historic site; go snorkeling at Buck Island Reef National Monument; or hike to the Carambola Tide Pools, where you can take a dip to cool off.
“Since Spirit Airlines recently launched service, fares to St. Croix have dropped quite a bit to the under-$300 range,” says Stewart. Spirit currently offers direct flights between St. Croix and Fort Lauderdale, with connections to numerous other cities in its network.
As with Puerto Rico, the fact that St. Croix is a U.S. island means that you don’t have to worry about currency exchange fees or paying for a passport.
Where to stay: The moderately priced Hotel on the Cay sits on a small island in Christiansted Harbor and even has its own beach. Or try the Hotel Caravelle on St. Croix, which has an attached casino and is located near the boardwalk in downtown Christiansted.
This story originally appeared on SmarterTravel.com.
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