Nothing combats a stressful year more than an island vacation, and we know that the last few years have been draining for many of us. Skip out on touristy islands and explore some budget-friendly hidden gems, allowing you to save while still escaping your hometown for a little while.
This post will cover the best cheap islands to visit for travelers with a tight budget. These fabulous island destinations have everything you need, from affordable overnight accommodations to cheap local eats.
As one of the mainland United States’ most famous tropical islands, Key West is a terrific place for a romantic getaway or family summer vacation.
There are twelve stunning beaches situated throughout the Florida Keys, including the local favorite, Smathers Beach. Travelers may also want to check out one of the nation’s most unique national parks, Dry Tortugas National Park, where you can sunbathe on a white sand beach and explore a former U.S. military fort.
Hotels can be pretty expensive in the Keys, but you can cut back costs by renting an Airbnb or camping at one of the Florida Keys many R.V. Resorts. Beach camping is significantly different from wilderness camping, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of a tropical vacation without the hefty costs.
Lastly, be sure to drop by Salute! On The Beach to eat the tastiest, authentic key lime pies in the country.
Nestled off the coast of Maine, Mount Desert Island is an underrated and cheap island to visit in the USA. It is home to Acadia National Park, where travelers can catch the first sunrise of the day on a morning hike up Cadillac Mountain.
Other must-see attractions in Acadia National Park include the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, Bee Hive Loop Trail, Sand Beach, and Thunder Hole Overlook. Park admission is $15, though certain days are free such as April 16th (the first day of National Park Week).
Guests may find affordable overnight accommodations in the nearby town of Bar Harbor or camp directly inside one of the national park’s four campgrounds. You can reserve a campsite using the National Park Service or Recreation.gov mobile applications.
We highly recommend visiting this jewel on the East Coast for an island vacation unlike any you have experienced before.
Venture out of mainland USA to step into paradise at one of Hawaii’s postcard-worthy islands. The 50th state is made up of six primary islands: Kauai, Maui, Lanai, Molokai, and Hawaii’s Big Island. Each boasts its own unique charm and culture, meaning that you will have much to see and explore when island hopping in Hawaii.
The cheapest Hawaiian island to visit is The Big Island. It is the largest of the six islands, famous for its beaches, rainforest, and volcanic history. You will want to leave the island without seeing Kilauea, an active volcano found in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The thrilling experience will be one you remember for a lifetime.
Another budget-friendly island to check out in Hawaii is Kauai, otherwise known as “The Garden Island.” Much like The island of Hawaii, there are various beaches, scenic hiking trails, a tropical rainforest, and fantastic local eateries for travelers to explore.
The islands below are considered budget-friendly when departing from the United States.
We suggest spending one to two days exploring Puerto Rico’s capital city, San Juan, where you can find some of the area’s most noteworthy attractions, such as the colorful Calle de la Fortaleza.
However, if you want to save money on food and overnight accommodations, stay in neighboring cities like Hatillo. Even though Hatillo is home to more cows than human residents, it is a spectacular barrio where travelers can find great street food and even better beaches like Playa Mar Azul.
Since Puerto Rico is a United States territory, citizens do not need a passport to visit this island.
Even though the U.S. Virgin Islands boasts many luxurious, all-inclusive resorts, travelers will not have much difficulty finding budget-friendly accommodations in St. Croix.
There are plenty of free and cheap things to do on the island, including swimming and listening to live music at Rainbow Beach. If you stick to local food staples instead of fancier restaurants, you will find many cheap eats.
Lastly, while an all-inclusive trip may seem pricey up-front, it saves travelers a ton of money in the long run. So, you may want to consider staying in one of St. Croix’s more affordable all-inclusive resorts after all.
Like Puerto Rico, American citizens are not required to present a passport when traveling to any U.S. Virgin Islands.
With so many beautiful and cheap islands in The Caribbean, narrowing down which is best was challenging.
After some evaluation, we decided on Trinidad and Tobago, where travelers may explore two affordable Caribbean Islands for the price of one. Both islands have a vibrant culture, a great nightlife scene, and delicious eateries. You can hop between the two islands via ferry boat, allowing you to get the most out of your trip.
Trinidad and Tobago host next-level celebrations for Carnival and Diwali. With that being said, it may be pricier to fly to the islands during these peak seasons.
Flight prices to Europe may vary, but the overall accommodations, attractions, and food expenses are rather affordable in the destinations below.
Located in Glasgow, Scotland, the Isle of Skye is among the most magical destinations in the world. Travelers can stroll through fairy pools and visit breathtaking Medieval Castles overlooking the Highlands.
Unlike some of the other islands featured on this list, the Isle of Skye experiences colder temperatures year-round. You will want to pack tons of light layers to prepare for chilly or warm temperatures.
A prime time to visit the Isle of Skye is in May and June, during Scotland’s dry season. While the weather is often a little better in the summertime, travel expenses and crowding may be greater during this time of year.
Malta is one of the best small cheap islands to visit in Europe. The Central Mediterranean island nation is among the most underrated European travel destinations, offering visitors a fascinating history and great beaches.
Overnight accommodations are cheaper in Malta than in other top European islands in Italy and Greece. There are many hostels, most of which offer free WiFi to accommodate remote workers. Hostels are an excellent option for budget-friendly travel.
Seeing the crystal clear waters at The Blue Lagoon, on one of Malta’s inhabited islands named Comino, is worth the trip alone. It is a spectacular beach with many coves and sea caves that leave you feeling transported to another world. Admission is free, but you should expect to pay a $10 ferry fee.
We obviously could not compile a list of European islands without covering Greece, which comprises over two hundred inhabited islands. Obviously, that leaves us a lot of ground to cover.
A beautiful yet inexpensive island to visit in Greece is Crete, which is home to many sandy beaches, a lively nightlife scene, and incredible restaurants serving freshly caught seafood for cheap. The Greek island is accessible from the mainland via ferry boat or plane and is less than an hour away from the capital Athens. Although, you do not have to make a day trip to The Acropolis to see historic ruins when you can visit Crete’s Palace of Knossos.
Another fun, cheap island to add to your Greece trip itinerary is Rhodes. It is slightly different from the other Greek islands, offering a more medieval feel. The island boasts a rich culture and history, which you can learn about on a tour of The Place of Grand Masters in the Old Town of Rhodes.
Our favorite activity to do in Rhodes is late-night gyro runs at food trucks near the bars after a night out dancing and drinking lots of Ouzo. It is seriously the best post-drinking meal that sobers you up to do it all again the next night!
While flights to Asia from the United States may be pricey, costs for attractions, food, and overnight accommodations are pretty affordable.
Thailand is a notorious budget-friendly destination, making it a hotspot for digital nomads and young travelers. We highly recommend visiting Thailand’s Phi Phi islands if you are looking for a more affordable alternative to Phuket. You still have access to great beaches and local culture for a cheaper price tag.
Koh Phi Phi is known for its iconic white sand beaches with crystalline turquoise waters surrounded by massive limestone buffs. The cliffs make the beaches look like an oasis, making this cheap tropical island a must-see for budget travelers. You may also recognize Koh Phi Phi as the setting of Leonardo Dicaprio’s 2000s film, “The Beach.” However, many updates have been made since the 2004 Tsunami hit Thailand.
After sunbathing on the sandy beaches of Koh Phi Phi, enjoy authentic Thai cuisine at the local food market in Tonsai Village. You will score great deals on meals while still receiving filling portions.
Situated in the heart of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is a lovely cheap island to visit right off the coast of Southern India.
Most of the island’s stunning beaches and temples, including the famous Temple of The Sacred Tooth Relic (apparently home to one of Buddha’s teeth!) in Kandy, are open to the public free of charge, allowing you to save money on excursions. Food is also relatively affordable in Sri Lanka. Although, there was a recent surge in costs following the aftermath of the covid-19 pandemic. With that being said, you can still likely find a hearty and tasty meal at local eateries for around 350 LKR.
Those traveling from the United States should pack a universal adaptor to charge their devices in your Sri Lanka hostel or Airbnb. The island uses plug types D and G instead of types A and B. You should consider investing in one of these devices for all your travel needs!
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