Cheap Caribbean Vacations—the Ultimate Guide to the Best Islands for Less

Couple enjoying a splash in the ocean.

Paradise isn't overpriced if you know what to look for. With endless ways to enjoy the Caribbean islands, it can be an overwhelming research process. The region's soft sands, crystal blue waters, and diverse cultures help make it one of the most popular travel destinations. Get the most bang for your buck when you pick these ten destinations for cheap Caribbean vacations!

Tourists can pick from popular destinations, like Jamaica, with inclusive resorts and popular attractions. Or choose from a lesser-known island, like Martinique, to escape the crowds and commercial resorts. Either way you like to travel, there's a budget-conscious option for saving money.

Best Islands for Cheap Caribbean Vacations

Virgin Islands
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Airfares vary by season, travel day, time, demand, and other factors, so it takes time to pinpoint a cheaper flight option. When comparing island resort rates, check for hidden fees, taxes, and other add-ons that can inflate the price. Compare the hotel prices of booking directly through them vs. a 3rd-party website.

Once you've researched airfare, any of these islands below are great cheap Caribbean vacations that'll allow you to soak up paradise without breaking the bank.

Jamaica

Beach in Jamaica
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Jamaica has been a prime destination for years, with laid-back vibes and shorter flight times from most U.S. cities. It's packed with impressive scenery, attractions, and value-packed inclusive resorts. If you're willing to travel during hurricane season and put up with increased temperatures, you can score even more.

Negril is a busy beach town, but it's scattered with competing all-inclusive resorts. In the southern region of Jamaica, Treasure Beach offers comfort in an authentic Jamaican fishing village with rental options.

It's also a fantastic island if you want adventurous excursions. Raft down a river, leap into a blue swimming hole, or race down a mountainside on a bobsled. Local tour operators compete for tourists and love showcasing the island's most enchanting spots.

Puerto Rico

Coastal beach, Crash Boat Beach in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico
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Passports aren't required, and Puerto Rico is a great nearby destination for U.S. travelers. It's a dream island for foodies and nightlife lovers. Go from cityscapes like Old San Juan to the lush El Yunque Rainforest in a short drive.

Lodging will be your most significant expense, and taxes don't help. Avoid staying in San Juan and commute into the city for its attractions. Instead, consider staying at a paradores, a family-owned guesthouse. Being hosted by a local would be a fun adventure, and there are many paradores between the beautiful beaches of Rincón and Ponce.

Beaches are public land in Puerto Rico and are always free. Be cautious that many beaches don't have bathrooms or lifeguards. For a smoother beach experience, seek out the beaches known as balnearios. Boquerón in Cabo Rojo and Seven Seas in Fajardo are the most popular. They're designated state parks and offer parking facilities, restrooms, and picnic tables. 

Grenada

Port in Grenada.
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Located in the East Caribbean, Grenada offers lower crowds, secluded waterfalls, and gorgeous pink sand beaches. Since it's a smaller island, attractions are within a short distance of each other. Spice markets, plantations, and rainforests are just a few of the most sought-after Grenada attractions.

There are numerous Grenada hotels, but there are hostels and beach camping options if you want to stick to a budget. Additionally, AirBnB offers cheap options starting at USD 30 per night.

Different than other Caribbean islands, Grenada stands out by offering low-priced food options. Street vendors are famous for BBQ pork, chicken, and fish. There's also “waters soup,” made with lambi (conch), seasoning, onions, and other vegetables. For lunch or dinner, seek out Grenada “roti,” a curried chicken with potatoes and vegetables wrapped in a heavy flour-based roti “skin.” Budget foodies should consider Grenada one of the best cheap Caribbean vacations. 

The Dominican Republic

Beaches are public in Punta Cana.
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Punta Cana and Puerto Plata are two of the Caribbean's cheapest cities to visit. The Dominican Republic offers over 78-thousand hotel rooms on their island, so the competition helps your wallet. Plus, these hotel rooms are typically part of all-inclusive resorts. 

If you're a history buff, there are many intriguing historical attractions to explore that cost almost nothing. The Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación is a Gothic cathedral built in 1541. Since it's a functioning church, donations are requested upon visiting but not required. There's also The Pantheon of the Fatherland, a Jesuit church built in 1746. Today, visitors can tour the building to see the neoclassical Renaissance-style architecture.

Beaches in the Dominican Republic are also free. Playa Macao is a 35-minute drive to the north of downtown Punta Cana. It offers ideal surfing conditions, white sands, and beachfront vendors. People watch, relax, and enjoy being a beach bum for no cost.

Trinidad & Tobago

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Trinidad & Tobago is a twin-island country. There's a defined contrast between the two islands: Trinidad is bustling with culture and local people, while Tobago is serene and offers preserved nature. In Trinidad, you'll discover city markets, waterfalls, isolated beaches, giant leatherback turtles, and tropical rainforests. Tobago is known for white sand beaches and coral reefs full of fish and manta rays. Traveling to this country is ideal for the mix of Caribbean vibes.

The wet season on both islands is from late May to November, with the heaviest rainfall usually occurring from August to October. That's when it's cheapest to travel to Trinidad & Tobago. The good news is it's typically an afternoon shower. The islands are outside the hurricane belt, so they don't have a typical hurricane season to plan around.

Guest houses are easier to find in Trinidad & Tobago than resorts. The islands don't offer many hotels, which is refreshing if you want to experience life like a local. Be aware that lodging options book quickly for carnival season and can come with higher prices. Avoid carnival season or know you will have to lower your budget elsewhere on your trip.

St. Lucia

Saint Lucia Beach
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The posh St. Lucia resorts have lured honeymooners to the island for years, but there are ways to experience the beauty of the Pitons on a dime. There are numerous ways to save money on St. Lucia attractions, dining, and transportation. That offsets the hotel costs that tend to be higher in St. Lucia. 

Start your research at the St. Lucia Tourism Board. They are one of the most well-established tourism boards in the Caribbean. They showcase seasonal discounts, duty-free shopping locations, and free things to do.

If you aren't interested in paying for St. Lucia resorts, check out couchsurfing, which is popular on the island. Couchsurfing allows locals to host tourists in their homes. It costs a fraction of what you'd pay at a resort, and you get a genuine island experience. It's more than just a couch to sleep on and is perfect for social and open-minded tourists.

Barbados

Barbados
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Barbados is a well-known playground for the rich and famous, but you can still visit on a shoestring budget. Surprisingly, there are bed and breakfast options scattered throughout the island, and they offer perks like their counterpart resorts. Find one near a free public beach, take advantage of breakfast already paid for, and ask if you can use the kitchen facilities to stock up on food from local markets.

To see the natural side of Barbados and stay on a budget, the Animal Flower Cave is a fun and affordable thing to do. It's a natural cave made of hard coral and has a hidden pool of water for swimming. With epic ocean views, this exotic location will score you drool-worthy Instagram photos for only USD 20 per person (which includes a tour guide). 

If peace and tranquility are your ideal afternoon, head to Hunte's Botanical Gardens in Barbados. It's an enchanting garden open to the public and only USD 20 per person. Keep an eye out for local monkeys and relax in the gardens.

U. S. Virgin Islands

The U.S. Virgin Islands
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Believe it or not, there's a way to visit the U.S. Virgin Islands on a budget. The key is to avoid the ports of call, which are popular stopping points for cruises, and prices around the docks are inflated. There are three U.S. Virgin Islands: St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix. Hop between the three islands for the best deals.

St. Thomas is your best bet if you're looking for savings on hotels. While it's home to many high-end and luxurious resorts, its popularity with travelers has also created a demand for more affordable stays. Plus, tourists can take advantage of the amenities included in the hotel's cost.

While visiting, take advantage of the U.S. Virgin Islands's many free outdoor attractions, like the Virgin Islands National Park on St. John. Virgin Islands National Park consists of 7,259 acres of terrestrial habitat, which is about 60% of the island's land mass. It's an amazing way to see the island's history and natural side. 

Curaçao

Curacao beach view.
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Curaçao is one of the three Lesser Antilles islands in the Caribbean. The island's capital, Willemstad, is a bustling city with brightly colored Dutch architecture and attracts young tourists. It's a colorful island that's diverse in the most unexpected ways.

Hostels, AirBnB, and select hotels are the most budget-friendly lodging options in Curaçao. Be aware that amenities like free Wi-Fi are common but not included everywhere. The hostels in Curaçao are known for having pools, which is a nice bonus.

Some of the best ways to save money in Curaçao are to avoid taxis, rent a car, or use public transportation. Visit the free public beaches, dine with street vendors, and plan your stay during the shoulder season. May to November is the shoulder season. Temperatures are still hot and pleasant in July and August, but the beach crowds have disappeared by then.

Cuba

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Travelers planning cheap Caribbean vacations should look no further than Havana. It's a vibrant city in Cuba that's none for its parks and plazas. These green spaces are where Habaneros, as its residents are called, gather day and night under the sprawling trees of these many green areas.

It's a great city to explore on foot, and walking tours are commonly found for cheap prices. With cruise ships docking regularly, Havana is continually updating its offerings. Begin a day with a cafe Cubano, dine alfresco in one of the plazas, then salsa dance with the crowds after the sun sets. It's easy to avoid tourist traps because there aren't many.

Cathedrals, street art, and plazas are the most popular free things to see in Cuba; after that would be the beach! Varadero is one of the most popular Cuba beaches and offers stunning views. It's the perfect place for snorkeling and fishing, too. Former American gangster Al Capone made Varadero his playground before the revolution. Don't miss the chance to see his old home, now a restaurant in Varadero.

Author: Kimberly Stroh

Bio:

Based in Atlanta, Kimberly Stroh is an established family travel writer. She owns Savvy Mama Lifestyle and contributes to Wealth of Geeks. She travels with her three children and enjoys exploring the SouthEast. Kimberly has been featured in People Magazine, Today Parents, Red Tricycle, and Baby Center. She's a firm believer that adventures in your own backyard can be just as exciting as extravagant trips. It's who you travel with that matters most.