Even the most exclusive Caribbean islands are within easy reach.
When budget-minded travelers think about a Caribbean vacation, the Bahamas and Jamaica are often top of mind. However, there are plenty of island destinations that really are within reach, like the British Virgin Islands and Grand Cayman. Even better, more non-stop flights are flying into the Caribbean, including routes with Southwest, which makes its Grand Cayman debut in June.
Just because Grand Cayman has Seven Mile Beach, one of the most well-known beaches in the world, don’t think this tropical island is out of reach. Yes, you’ll find the Ritz-Carlton and the new Kimpton Seafire Resort right on the beach, but you’ll also find the value-oriented Comfort Suites Seven Mile Beach. No need to rent a car either. It’s easy and cheap to get around the island by bus – just $2.50 per ride – with stops at popular attractions, like Rum Point and the Cayman Turtle Centre.
The British Virgin Islands is home to a number of five-star resorts, but a budget-friendly vacation is still within easy reach. Spend the day island hopping across Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke, then settle in for the night on the island of Tortola. Try the A&L Inn or The Heritage Inn, both of which can be booked for under $150 a night. Enjoy rum tasting at the Callwood Rum Distillery or sign up for surfing lessons at Surf School BVI. Or, simply relax at Smuggler’s Cove, one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean.
Barbados has it all. Talcum-powder soft sand, turquoise waters, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, even affordable all-inclusive resorts. That’s according to Caribbean travel expert, Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon of JetSetSarah.com, who suggests a stay at the Island Inn Hotel. This 24-room property is situated on the south coast of Barbados, just steps away from Pebbles Beach. Enjoy snorkeling and stand-up paddleboarding on the calm waters, and be sure to make time for Cuz’s Fish Stand. The fried fish sandwiches (called “cutters”) are beyond delicious. Even better, they’re not only filling, but they’re only $9 a pop.
Sure, you’ll find pricey all-inclusives in Turks & Caicos, like Beaches and Turkoise (a Club Med property), but it’s not impossible to find deals in Providenciales. Greaves-Gabbadon likes Ocean Club, which offers stylish condo suites that range from a studio for two people to a three-bedroom suite for up to eight and shares the same beach at Grace Bay as far more expensive properties. Nightly rates at Ocean Club start at just $229 per night. Make time for Caicos Conch Farm for a 30-minute tour, as well as Children’s Park, which hosts a fish fry every Thursday evening.
St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands has never been known as a budget island destination, but thanks to Airbnb, it’s a lot more affordable. One look and you’ll find multiple listings boasting scenic views at less than $200 per night, many for less than $150 per night. By day, head to Virgin Islands National Park to hike along the Reef Bay Trail and snorkel in the turquoise waters at Trunk Bay, one of the nicest beaches on the island. In the evening, prepare dinner in a full-size kitchen before settling in to enjoy a tropical sunset.