If you like warm sunny vacation destinations, then the Caribbean is a great option for you!
As a popular tourist region, Caribbean countries often have plenty of hotels and resorts to cater to their out of town guests. However, these all-inclusive resorts and fancy hotels tend to come with an expensive price tag. If you are on a budget or looking to stay at a cheaper place so you can spend your money on experiences, there are still plenty of options for you. Not all countries in the Caribbean are cheap, but there are regions and cities in most of them that are cheaper than you might expect. There are also countries that have a Caribbean coast that might not be considered initially as a Caribbean destination, such as Venezuela or Columbia; but these countries too have cheaper options for visitors that provide the same Caribbean vacation experience. The majority of Caribbean destinations offer beaches to relax on as well as options for those who do not wish to spend all of their time on a beach.
This list will provide some suggestions for countries (and the areas within the country) that are a cheaper option for travellers. Although some countries are very cheap (15$ a night!) the prices vary depending on what time of the year you are visiting and how long you plan to stay.
Belize is located between Mexico and Guatemala in Central America. The country was a British colony and is still part of the Commonwealth, so English is the official language. There are coral reefs which visitors can scuba dive or snorkel at.
Inland, Belize is mainly jungle with wildlife reserves, however, there are also cave systems that can be explored. If you are interested in the Mayan history of the country, there are also Mayan ruin sites that can be visited.
The country has a warm, tropical climate, perfect for days spent on the beach and in the water. Some of the cheaper locations in the country include Caye Caulker (where the motto is 'Go Slow') and Placencia.
Guatemala is located in Central America, with Guatemala City as the capital. There are multiple cruise ship ports for the country, meaning that tourism has been an important and growing industry.
The city of Antigua is a popular location for tourists as it is often considered to be safer and less busy than the capital, as well as fairly cheap. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has Spanish Baroque style architecture as well as monuments and churches from the colonial era. Mayan ruin sites, such as Tikal, are also common in Guatemala. In addition to the rich history of the country, there are beautiful beaches and a sub-tropic climate for those looking to have a relaxing vacation.
Located in Central America between Costa Rica and Honduras, Nicaragua has a large tourism industry. The population is multi-ethnic, and Spanish is the main language spoken in the country. If you are not looking to spend all of your vacation on the beach, there are many lakes and lagoons to visit as well as volcanos that can be climbed.
The country is mainly tropical rainforest, which has led to an increase in ecotourism as well. For a cheaper location, the largest city, Managua, is the best bet. There is colonial architecture to see in the city as well as the beaches on the coast. Surfing is also popular in Nicaragua.
Costa Rica is located between Nicaragua and Panama, and the English language is commonly spoken. The country is considered to be fairly politically stable and has a large focus on ecotourism. Due to environmental sustainability measures, there are many national parks and other protected areas in the country. The tropical climate, and a temperature that is usually in the twenties (celsius) means that Costa Rica is a great option for those looking for a cheaper Caribbean destination
As a result, the country is the most popular tourist destination in Central America. Some of the locations in the country where hotels are cheapest include: Alajuela, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca and San Jose.
Panama, famous for the Panama Canal is located between Costa Rica and Columbia. The country creates the divide between Central America and South America and has a growing tourism industry. Panama City is a fairly cheap option for tourists and offers Spanish colonial architecture and museums. Cruise ships visit Panama, and in particular sail through the Panama Canal frequently.
Aside from the cruise ships, Panama is not a huge tourist destination yet so there will be smaller crowds compared to some of the other Caribbean destinations. The country is very tropical and warm and there are plenty of beach options. Whether on the Caribbean coast (east) or the Pacific coast (west), you're sure to find somewhere to kick off the shoes and enjoy the sun.
Columbia is located in the north of South America and has a small Caribbean coastline. The country was colonized by the Spanish and therefore that's the language commonly spoken.
While the Amazon Rainforest is partially located in Columbia, there are also regions of low plains and also mountain ranges, particularly on the Caribbean coast side of the country.
The city of Cartagena is a major port city on the Caribbean coast and offers a cheap destination for tourists. Cartagena has many heritage sites including the walled city and a fortress. There is also the Spanish colonial architecture to view, plus a gold museum. The Caribbean coast and Cartagena offer some glorious beaches for tourists to explore.
Venezuela is located to the east of Columbia and has a warm tropical climate year-round. The capital city, Caracas, is on the Caribbean coast and is a cheaper option for tourists. However, Isla de Margarita (or Margarita Island), located just off the east coast of Venezuela is a popular and fairly cheap tourist destination as well. The island offers plenty of activities for visitors, including fortresses, castles and churches to explore.
There are at least 50 beaches on the island for visitors to choose from, and activities like windsurfing and kitesurfing can be tried at many of the beaches.
Trinidad and Tobago are a small country made up of two islands off the coast of South America. It is located northeast of Venezuela but still has a warm tropical climate. The islands typically avoid the major hurricanes as well, as they are located just outside the normal hurricane zone. Trinidad is the larger of the two islands and is more populated. Port of Spain in Trinidad, and Buccoo in Tobago are both reasonably priced Caribbean destinations.
There were multiple colonizers to the islands and as a result the culture is diverse and English is commonly spoken. The leatherback turtle is known to nest on the islands as well.
Aruba is a small island nation off the north coast of Venezuela. It is a former Dutch colony, and as a result the island has plenty of unique and colourful Dutch colonial architecture to view.
The island is not tropical like most of the Caribbean islands, instead is has a drier climate with plenty of cacti. However, it is still located in the typical hurricane zone.
Aruba has become a more popular stop for cruise ships, and therefore the tourism industry has grown. The capital city is Oranjestad, which is a little more expensive compared to some other options across the nation. The city of Noord, for example, is a relatively common tourist spot that is cheaper than the capital.
Grenada was colonized mainly by the British and as a result the country is still English speaking. It is also a part of the Commonwealth still and has Queen Elizabeth II as the head of state. The country has been becoming more popular for ecotourism, and there are plenty of activities for visitors to experience. The city of St. Georges is a fairly cheap destination that offers beautiful beaches and a cruise ship port. Grand Anse Beach is located in St. Georges, it is 3km long and is often considered to be one of the nicer beaches in the world. Aside from beaches, there are many waterfalls on the island which are popular tourist destinations as well.
Barbados is an island country that is classified as being located in the Atlantic Ocean but is considered to be a Caribbean country nonetheless. It is a former British colony but still has Queen Elizabeth II as the head of state and English is commonly spoken.
The country is located outside of the usual hurricane zone but still has a warm tropical climate. There are mountains on the island that visitors can explore, but Barbados is typically known for its blue water and sandy beaches, making it a great destination to relax. The cities of Mangrove and Christ Church both offer some cheaper options for visitors.
Saint Lucia is an island country that has a history of both French and British colonization. Today, English is the official language and the country has become a popular vacation spot. It has a tropical climate and multiple beaches, with hotels and resorts along the beaches for the tourists.
The island boasts botanical gardens, rainforests and sulphur springs that are popular for travelers. If you are interested in an adrenaline rush during your vacation, there are also options for zip lining on the island. Some of the popular and cheaper locations on the island to stay are Castries and Gros Islet. Note that while Saint Lucia is a popular tourist destination, it is not particularly LGBT friendly.
Curacao is a former Dutch colony that is located off the coast of Venezuela. The country is actually made up of two islands, but the Little Curacao Island is uninhabited. While the official language of the country is still Dutch, other languages including English and Spanish are common.
The capital, Willemstad, is fairly cheap and has plenty of history for visitors to experience including some areas in the city that have been named UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
There are beautiful coral reefs just off the coast of the island, which are accessible without a boat and are good for scuba diving and snorkeling. The southern coast of the island typically has calm waters as well.
Saint Vincent is the largest island in the chain that makes up the country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The country is located to the west of Barbados and has a history of French and English colonization. It is a volcanic island that is mainly composed of mountains and forests, creating a humid tropical environment.
Notably, parts of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies were filmed on Saint Vincent, which has resulted in an increase in tourism to the island. While most of the beaches in the Grenadines are white sand, the majority of the beaches on the island of Saint Vincent are black sand, from volcanic ash.
Guadeloupe is an island in the Caribbean that belongs to France. As a result, the official language is French, and the country uses the Euro for currency. It has a tropical climate where the average temperature is in the mid-twenties. However, the island is located in the normal hurricane zone, and there are volcanos on the island. Guadeloupe has a relatively small tourism industry still, and the majority of tourists to the island are from France.
It is becoming a more popular cruise ship stop, which will likely result in an increase in tourism. Aside from the beaches, there are also multiple waterfalls that are popular tourist destinations on the island. Some of the popular and cheap areas of the island are Vieux Bourg and Sainte Rose.
Antigua is located in the region of the Caribbean often known as the West Indies. The country is part of the Commonwealth and both English and Spanish are commonly spoken. Antigua is the smaller of the two islands that make up Antigua and Barbuda but has many hotels and resorts.
The region is often promoted as a luxury Caribbean destination, but there are still some cheaper options, mainly St. Johns in Antigua. Antigua offers numerous beaches and natural harbours around the coastline. As a bonus, there are stunning coral reefs located off the islands coastlines.
The Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. Under Spanish colonial rule, the Dominican Republic became a reasonably well-functioning country. It has now become one of the more popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean.
On the Dominican side of the Island there is mainly tropical rainforest. The country has mountains and lakes providing ecotourism options for visitors, but there are golf courses and beaches as well. Santo Domingo is a relatively cheap location for visitors and the city’s “Colonial Zone” was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Of course, there are countless beaches for those looking to relax in the sun.
Located south of Cuba, Jamaica is another island country that is great for a Caribbean vacation. It was a British colony and is still part of the Commonwealth, so English is widely spoken. The Island is mainly comprised of mountains, referred to as the Blue Mountains, which has resulted in the coastline being quite narrow. In the mountains there are numerous waterfalls and lagoons to visit, as well as some protected environment regions.
If you like spicy foods, the local specialty is the Jamaican “jerk” spice which is typically used on meats. Although the coastline is narrow, there are still many beaches to see. The best cities for cheaper options are Port Antonio, Kingston and the region of Long Bay.
The island of Cuba is located where the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico meet. It is the largest island in the Caribbean and has a unique history as a Spanish colony and then briefly, an American territory. Although Cuba was communist during the Cold War era, the island is becoming a very popular tourist destination, especially medical tourism.
The city of Havana is full of interesting architecture and monuments, and the older region of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Havana is a reasonably priced location on the island to visit, but there are plenty of other options too, all of which have great beaches for relaxing.
While most of Mexico is not located on the Caribbean, the southeastern city of Cancun is. It is part of the region referred to as the Riviera Maya and is a major tourist and cruise ship destination.
There are plenty of places to stay in the city, but the main tourist area is known as the Hotel zone, which also has a long and well-kept beach. There are coral reefs and snorkeling sites in the area as well that visitors can explore.
If beaches are not your favourite, there are many Mayan ruin sites in the city, including the site El Rey, which is located within the Hotel Zone.