Known for their powdery sands, history, and stunning nature and wildlife, the islands of the Caribbean are a paradise on earth. And, provided you choose the right destination, a trip here doesn’t have to break the bank.
There are plenty of ways to keep costs down. For example, checking Skyscanner or joining Jack’s Flight Club to find the cheapest flights, taking advantage of package deals, staying in guesthouses, and indulging in delicious street food.
The other great thing about the Caribbean is that there’s no shortage of stunning white sand beaches and turquoise waters, which don’t cost a thing to enjoy. Plus, there are endless opportunities to go hiking, enjoy beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and wander around awe-inspiring architecture in historic capitals.
Travelling to the Caribbean in the low season (between June and November) can also be cheaper – and although wet and humid, rain falls in bursts so you can still enjoy the beach. However, June to November is also hurricane season, so it’s worth checking whether your destination is likely to be affected before booking.
With that said, if you’re looking for some ideas for your next sunshine-infused break, here are seven Caribbean islands to visit on a budget.
Charming and unique, Cuba is both the largest island in the Caribbean and the cheapest to visit, with flights starting from £295 return. Packed with history and intrigue, this is the land of Che Guevara and Castro – and it’s as famous for its politics as it is for its cigars.
At the top of most people’s wish list is visiting the atmospheric capital, Havana. Here, you can watch 1950s American cars drive along the waterfront; admire colourful pastel houses; and sip cheap and delicious mojitos or daiquiris in tiny bars playing live salsa music.
To experience a slice of Cuban life in Havana, you could consider a homestay (casa particular), which can be booked online through Airbnb for as little as £9 per night. And, at paladares (privately-owned restaurants), a three-course meal – featuring tasty local foods such as lechon (roast pork) and ropa vieja (pulled pork with rice, black beans, and fried plantain) – is also only around £20.
In low season, good deals can also be found on stays in all-inclusive resorts. Check out Varadero – two hours east of Havana – where you’ll find lots of hotels to choose from.
Tours and activities in Cuba are reasonably priced too, with everything from scuba diving and cycling to cave exploration and hiking on offer. There’s also opportunities to see Havana’s professional baseball team in action and to enjoy top orchestral performances for less than £1 per ticket in refurbished theatres like Tomàs Terry in Cienfuegos and Sauto in Matanzas.
And then there’s the artwork, most of which can be enjoyed for free. Fusterlandia is a neighbourhood in Havana which is covered in mosaic artwork – it’s a masterpiece of fantastical colours and well worth a visit.
Known for its tranquil beaches and coves, lush landscapes, gushing waterfalls, and reggae soundtrack, Jamaica is a dream holiday destination for many. Plus, with flights to Kingston and Montego Bay starting from £375 return, it’s one of the cheapest Caribbean islands to visit.
In stylish Montego Bay, you’ll find a huge choice of bars, restaurants, duty-free shopping, and golf. While about an hour and half’s drive away from Montego Bay, on the northwest coast, is Negril. This is one of the most laid back and family-friendly places on the island and is home to the stunning Seven Mile Beach. Here, you can stay in characterful cottages and guesthouses, with prices starting around £25 per night.
The other main gateway to the island is the colourful capital, Kingston, which offers a more authentic experience of Jamaican life. Guesthouses can cost less than £30 per night – and you can hike or camp in the Blue Mountains, go for a picnic in the oasis of Emancipation Park, and visit the Institute of Jamaica to learn about the country’s history.
Kingston is also worth visiting for the laid back Rastafarian culture and Bob Marley Museum – which isn’t cheap at nearly £20 a ticket, but is well worth the money!
When it comes to food, Jamaica’s thriving street food scene will keep you well fed on a budget. You can enjoy combinations of tasty Jamaican favourites, such as jerk pork, chicken, and fish; curry goat; and rice and peas for less than £10. Public transport is incredibly cheap too, with a single bus trip costing less than £1.
3. Dominican Republic
With beautiful beaches, forested mountains and waterfalls, and plenty of wildlife watching opportunities, the Dominican Republic is a great choice for a budget Caribbean holiday.
The island has seven international airports, with flights from the UK to the north coast regions of Punta Cana (the most touristy) for around £290 return and to Puerto Plata starting at around £545 return. And, in low season, it’s possible to find all-inclusive 14-night deals for under £1000 per person.
Punta Cana is known for its jaw-droppingly beautiful beaches, while Puerta Plata has better road conditions and lots of history. This includes the oldest amber fossils in the world and the largest collection of preserved 19th century Victorian-style houses in the Caribbean.
On the coast, the Spanish colonial capital, Santo Domingo, is also worth exploring and flights are around £445 return, while basic hotels can cost less than £20 per night. Here, you can people watch in the central square, admire the government buildings’ impressive architecture, play chess with the locals, and enjoy the city’s open air Sunday night salsa.
The Dominican Republic also offers many free or low-cost chances to dig deeper into nature. You can hike in the forested mountains around Jarabacoa (which is around two hours away from Santo Domingo by car); explore waterfalls and national parks; and snorkel, zipline, and cave swim.
To get around, you can take a guagua (minivan) one way for less than £1. And, when you’re hungry, there’s plenty of low-cost local food to tuck into, such as tostadas (flat, toasted filled tortillas), which cost around £2 each at street food stalls.
4. Puerto Rico
From jagged mountain peaks, diverse forests, golden beaches, and an ancient Taino culture, Puerto Rico has it all. While it’s often considered expensive, you can get flights from around £370 return during low season and there are a good range of affordable accommodation options. And package deals may work out even cheaper!
The cheapest airport to fly into is San Juan – Puerto Rico’s capital city. Here, you can spend hours wandering along the cobbled streets, soaking in sights such as the vibrant Spanish-colonial buildings; bold street art; and the impressive fortress, El Morro, which overlooks the ocean.
If you like animals, you can visit the free Save-A-Gato cat sanctuary, or if you’re looking for something more active, you can take a bus to some of the best surf spots in the Caribbean at Playa La Ocho. Then, when night falls, you can enjoy salsa lessons at bars like Piso Viejo.
Food in Puerto Rico isn’t dirt cheap, but you can get a meal at an inexpensive restaurant for around £12 per person. Meanwhile, to save money on accommodation, you could consider staying in one of San Juan’s many hostels, which start from around £20 per night. Or, you’ll find cheerful paradores (family-owned hotels), off-the-beaten-track inns, and guesthouses just outside the capital.
Puerto Rico is also a place to get active while admiring breathtaking landscapes. Public transport between centres isn’t well-developed here – so save your pennies to splash out on a few tours. These range from unmissable tours hiking in El Yunque rainforest to the soundtrack of the nation’s beloved frog (the coqui), to caving and boat trips spotting seabirds and turtles offshore.
5. Trinidad and Tobago
This pair of islands near Venezuela are perfect for nature lovers and are a safe bet for a budget holiday. You can fly here for around £450 return and there’s a good selection of mid-range and budget accommodation.
Tobago is perhaps the more picturesque island and offers the most affordable guesthouses and lodges – especially away from the main tourist areas, with prices beginning around £30.
There’s plenty of free and cheap wildlife experiences to be had here; from island-hopping and visiting pretty coves and hidden bays, to spotting striking birds. These include the stunning Scarlet Ibis at Caroni Swamp in Trinidad, and the tiny, iridescent hummingbird at the Tobago Forest Reserve.
You can also see leatherback turtles nesting and laying eggs on Trinidad’s Turtle Beach and, depending on the season, the emergence of hatchlings near Grande Riviere, on Tobago’s north coast.
Meanwhile, culture seekers can explore the capital, Port of Spain, which is famous for inventing the steel pan in the 1930s. Though, if you’re on a budget, try to avoid visiting in February as prices shoot up due to a spectacular annual carnival.
The cheapest and easiest way to get around the islands is to use maxi-taxis (public minibuses) for around £1 a ride. You can also get a meal in a local restaurant for around £10 – or street food for as little as £1. Feast on popular doubles (flatbread wrapped around curried chickpeas) and buss-up-shut (crab or pigtail served with roti ripped like a ‘busted up shirt’).
The local ingredient dasheen has a root which turns blue when cooked, inspiring the Blue Food festival in Tobago each October. Blue ice cream or chips anyone?
The pretty Dutch-owned island of Curaçao is one of the Caribbean’s hidden gems, with lush coasts, colourful cities, incredible hiking, and lots of wildlife. Flights cost around £550 return, and you can get the cheapest accommodation between May and November.
If you love swimming and snorkelling, Curaçao has plenty of breathtaking beaches and azure seas, with good facilities and some tropical beach clubs. A couple of the best beaches are Grote Knip and Daaibooi.
When you’ve had your fill of lounging under the palm trees, why not soak up some history and culture in the colourful capital, Willemstad? Its cobbled streets are lined with pretty pastel-coloured houses from Dutch colonial times – and visitors can take a free walking tour.
You can stay in a four-star hotel from £85 per night. And, while a meal in a restaurant costs around £8, you can sample local dishes such as pumpkin pancakes and fried plantains in the markets for around £1 each.
Curaçao offers some great wildlife experiences, from flamingo spotting in the region of Sint Willibrordus on the west of the island to swimming with turtles at Playa Grandi. You can also tour an aloe farm on the east of the island – Curaçao produces some of the best quality aloe in the world.
For around £12, you can take a trip to see the wonderful wild orchids at Christoffel National Park on the northwest of the island, where you can hike up the mountain for magnificent views. From here, you can also visit the adjoining Shete Boka National Park to explore craggy coastal grottos and mysterious sea caves.
This small, sophisticated island offers the perfect Caribbean escape, with glorious beaches and sparkling turquoise seas, buzzing nightlife, and a scenic capital.
An independent British Commonwealth nation, you can easily visit ‘Little England’ on a budget. The cheapest holiday deals can be found in the low season (with flights from around £250 return) and as Barbados is outside the Caribbean hurricane belt, you’ll be safe from storms.
Accommodation-wise the trick is to steer clear of the glamorous resort areas on the west coast (nicknamed Platinum Coast) and Speightstown. Instead, head for the laid-back south coast, where you can find better value shops, bars, restaurants, and hotels. Airbnb also has plenty of cosy apartments, beachside bungalows, and secluded hillside hideouts for less than £50 per night.
Oistins – an active fishing village on the south coast – is famous for its reasonably-priced open-air fish fry at the weekends, which features music and dancing. There’s also shacks and rum shops dotted across the island, serving local favourites such as cou cou (made from cornmeal and okra), deep-fried fish cakes, and BBQ pig tails.
Barbados has 60-miles of coastline and all the beaches are public, making it a wonderful choice for a beach-hopping break. And, if you feel like exploring, getting around by bus is cheap and easy.
It’s well worth visiting the UNESCO-listed capital Bridgetown to see its well-preserved colonial architecture. There are plenty of museums and churches to explore here too – and the Parliament Buildings are the oldest in the Western Hemisphere.
On the west coast, at Carlisle Bay, Paynes Bay, and Lone Star, nature lovers can swim and snorkel with turtles. And, if you head to Carlisle Bay early, you can also sit and watch the beautiful sight of race horses having a morning swim!
You might have thought that a holiday in the Caribbean was beyond your budget, but we hope that these ideas have made it feel more accessible.
Whether you want to hang out on some of the region’s best beaches, go on nature hikes, or explore colonial history, there’s plenty to be enjoyed on a budget.
By staying in small hotels or guesthouses, eating local food, and using public transport, you’ll not only save pennies, but experience the culture of the Caribbean. And, if you’re willing to travel in the low season, you can pick up flight bargains.
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Are you planning a Caribbean holiday? Do you have any tips on having an affordable Caribbean break? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.