Feeling a little stretched by your wedding expenses? Don’t let that impact your honeymoon fun! We did the math on 13 of the best affordable honeymoon getaways where travel budgets stretch longer and wider.
The Spanish colonized Jamaica shortly after Christopher Columbus discovered the exotic tropical isle in 1494. The British later snatched it away, laying the groundwork for the cultural melting pot that eventually gave the world Rasta, reggae and Red Stripe. But the Spanish are invading again, this time with huge all-inclusive resorts that lure couples craving bargains. You don’t even have to stay at one of the new Riu, Iberostar or Gran Bahia Principe resorts, strung along the north shore between Negril and Ocho Rios — their mere appearance has brought down hotel rates across the island. Sandals resorts were founded in Jamaica, and their seven on-island oases are offering all sorts of incentives, including spa credits, free nights and rates up to 65 percent less than before the Spanish invasion. And with budget airlines like JetBlue, AirTran and Air Transat now flying between North American cities and Montego Bay, as well as expanded service by other air carriers, Jamaica is now among the cheapest places to reach in the Caribbean.
Southeast Asia’s favorite destination is the kind of place where it almost doesn’t matter how much money you spend — even slumming it can seem like luxury in tropical paradises like Phuket and Ko Samui. Thailand’s biggest bargain is accommodations, especially at the more popular destinations, where the choice in hotels can sometimes overwhelm. Fierce competition has brought room prices down to levels that seem too good to be true. Flying around Thailand is fairly inexpensive too and never takes very long. Flights between Bangkok and the northern city of Chiang Mai take about an hour and can cost less one-way than most comparable flights in the U.S.
With the average price of a hotel night falling over the past two years, Dublin has gone from being one of the most expensive capitals in Western Europe to one of the best values. Even so, the Irish metropolis remains relatively expensive compared to the rest of the Emerald Isle — especially the breathtaking west coast, with its quaint villages, wind-swept scenery and green that seems to stretch forever. Our advice: Skip Dublin and fly straight into Shannon Airport, and you’ll save both money and time (it’s an hour closer to the United States than Dublin), without sacrificing the attractions for which Ireland is known — welcoming locals, thriving musical culture and rugged natural beauty.
Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula encompasses a huge area — Cancun and Cozumel islands, the mainland Riviera Maya(Playa del Carmen and Tulum) and inland spots like Chichen Itza and Merida — which means there’s plenty of choice in terms of where you stay, eat and play. Each destination has its own distinct vibe. Cancun is all about beaching, bargain shopping and crazy nightlife. Fronting the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, Cozumel is a holy grail for the diving crowd. Playa del Carmen is smooth and sophisticated, while Tulum and Isla Mujeres offer two takes on beach-bum paradise — the former, eco-minded; the latter, isolated (in a good way). The average price of a hotel room has plunged across the Yucatan during spring and summer. Five-star hotels generally offer the deepest discounts. Or you can make like Indiana Jones in a thatch-roof jungle bungalow at the Mayaland Hotel, near Chichen Itza. Down in laid-back Tulum, there are good beachfront rooms for less, and even the high-end places, like the rustically romantic Posada Luna del Sur, can fit you in for an affordable price, depending on the season.
If you crave a honeymoon with a French joie de vivre but Paris seems too pricey, why not consider Montreal? In Montreal, a compact city with top-grade public transit, you won’t have to rent a car to wander. Base yourselves in Vieux Montreal (Old Montreal), and you can walk to Notre-Dame Basilica, the St. Lawrence riverfront and the renovated Marche Bonsecours market, with its bars, restaurants and boutiques. Or purchase a three-day occasional card for unlimited travel on the city’s extensive metro and bus networks. Many of the coolest attractions and events in the city are actually free. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Redpath Museum won’t cost you a dime. Neither will many of the events staged during the city’s famous comedy festival. Likewise, the annual Montreal International Jazz Festival includes more than 350 free concerts.
Given its distance from the mainland and high-priced island economy, the 50th state has always been one of the pricier domestic destinations. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find good value. Couples dreaming about a Hawaiian honeymoon should consider Honolulu and the island of Oahu, home to icons like Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head crater and the Banzai Pipeline surf break. Honolulu’s hefty hotel stock means rates are available that fit every budget. Dining can be affordable too, especially when you join the locals at the low-priced lunch joints and bakeries of Honolulu’s Kapahulu neighborhood and the city’s Saturday farmers’ market. The city and its lush tropical surroundings also boast many free festivals and special events that highlight the island’s multicultural heritage.
Portugal tops nearly everyone’s list of the most affordable holiday destinations inside the Euro zone, beating out neighboring Spain and equally sun-splashed Greece. But it’s not just the value that’s been giving this coastal country such attention of late: One of the last Western European nations to modernize, Portugal retains much of its bygone charm — this land of ancient castles and endless olive groves, chromatic fishing villages and funky urban neighborhoods is just now being complemented by chic beach retreats and some of the best golf courses in the world. The European Consumers’ Organisation recently selected Lisbon as Europe’s Best Vacation Destination, just ahead of Barcelona, Spain. One of the reasons is that a full week at a five-star hotel in Lisbon can run about the same price as just one or two nights at a luxury hotel in other European capitals. In addition to reasonable hotel rates, Portugal is known for relatively low rental-car rates, restaurant prices and greens fees.
Brazil has finally embraced the all-inclusive with the same passion it puts toward soccer. Brazilian backers have hooked up with SuperClubs to launch Breezes properties at prime honeymoons locations, including the musical city of Bahia on the north coast and the super-chic Buzios beach-resort area near Rio de Janeiro. Despite its reputation as a high-priced city, Rio can actually be very reasonable. After all, the most popular activities are absolutely free: people-watching and parading up and down Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. And you don’t have to stay right on the beach: Hotels a block or two behind the strand are often hundreds of dollars per night cheaper than the sandside ones while offering the same level of room and service.
The Aussies have long believed everyone deserves a great holiday, and they respond with dining, sleeping and travel options for every budget. In fact, the Australian Automobile Association offers an awesome Web tool for figuring out the prices of hotels, B&Bs, hostels and even houseboats and campgrounds. AAA’s star system is primarily based on amenities but roughly corresponds to overnight rates. And with trans-Pacific tickets down from their pre-recession peak, you can easily reach Australia for less. Qantas and other Aussie carriers also offer value air passes that allow flexible flights within Australia — ideal for first-time visitors who want to see it all, from the sophisticated restaurants and shops of Sydney and Melbourne to dive sites along the Great Barrier Reef to desert landscapes in the Red Centre.
Europe’s long-lost corner may not seem like the most obvious spot for a honeymoon, but the Balkans have really come into their own in recent years as a low-cost alternative to pricier Mediterranean destinations. In particular, Bulgaria and Croatia have emerged as standout locales where money goes further than elsewhere on the continent — and they have as much culture to offer as their better-known neighbors in Western Europe. Bulgaria blends Roman ruins, ancient Orthodox churches, Greek-like cuisine and Black Sea beaches with incredibly low prices on just about everything. While Croatia is just as eclectic, with a gorgeous mix of Adriatic islands and beaches, fortified Renaissance towns and inland national parks with white-water rafting, hiking and boating on jade-colored lakes.
This island remains one of the Caribbean’s best value getaways, not the least because U.S. citizens don’t have to invest in a passport to get there. Flights from the States haven’t dropped that much in price over the past few years, but accommodations in Puerto Rico definitely have. You’ll also save bucks on many of Puerto Rico’s popular outdoor activities. Surf schools at world-renowned Playa Rincon range are considerably less than other surf spots like Hawaii. Top-ranked scuba outfitters offer one and two-tank dives for extremely competitive prices out of San Juan. Rental cars are another great value. Because Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, not only are roads and driving conditions very similar to back home, so are rental rates.
This teardrop-shaped island in the Indian Ocean is on the opposite side of the globe from North America, so airfare isn’t cheap. But once you reach the ancient land of Serendib, the island is very affordable. Imagine all of the exotic delights India has to offer — palaces and ancient temples, coconut-palm-shaded beaches, game reserves with wild elephants and leopards, incredible cuisine and exotic shopping — in a smaller, more manageable space, and you’ll have some idea of why Sri Lanka is such a cool honeymoon destination.
With more than 3,400 miles of shoreline, Turkey has a lot of coast to choose from. And it’s on three different seas: the Mediterranean, Black and Aegean. Much like neighboring Greece, the coast is sprinkled with ancient ruins and picturesque villages, chic waterfront resorts and white-sand strands framed by pine forests and turquoise bays. The main difference is price. Plan right, and you could end up paying half as much for a Turkish honeymoon as an equivalent Greek getaway. Turkey’s seaside resorts are an especially good bargain. The Greek isle of Santorini may be breathtaking, but over on the Turkish shore, you can snag a great room in places like Antalya, Bodrum or the new hipster hangout of Cesme, for much less. A beach honeymoon in Turkey easily combines with a stopover in one of Europe’s iconic capital cites (London, Paris, Rome). Or you can fly straight to Istanbul and while away a couple of days beside the Bosporus in a city that has become increasingly sophisticated in recent years.