25 Gorgeous Islands For Vacationing That Won't Break The Bank

Worried that an island vacation won't fit into this year's holiday budget? Don't overstress. While some destinations are more suited to those with deep pockets (hello, Maldives), there are plenty of gorgeous islands for vacationing that won't break the bank. It's no secret that travel has become more expensive — thanks a lot, inflation. Between 2022 and 2023, airline ticket prices alone jumped by 25%, according to the Federal Reserve Economic Data. By choosing the right destinations at the ideal time of year (off-season is always the cheapest), you can enjoy a budget-friendly island vacation that will put the "yay" into your holiday, not to mention a whole lot of "ahh." 


We've scoured the globe (and the internet) to find the most affordable vacation destinations you'll adore. From the sunny isles of the Caribbean to Bali's laid-back strands to Scotland's magical Isle of Skye, there's no lack of beautiful and affordable places to visit for an island vacay. And with all that money you'll be saving, you can order an extra pina colada or two by the pool. 

To ensure the islands we're recommending are both gorgeous and budget-friendly, we searched for places with cheap things to do, fun attractions, stunning landscapes, and affordable hotels with high ratings on Booking.com and Tripadvisor, among other sites. We've also personally visited quite a few of these Elysian wonderlands, so we can assure you from first-hand experience that they're as fabulous as you'd hope they'd be.


Sri Lanka, Asia

It's easy to stick to a budget when visiting Sri Lanka. After you've paid for airfare, which will be the largest expense, you can expect reasonable rates on hotels, food, and transportation. For example, a night at Jayananda Estate Villa costs $17 with breakfast, while those visiting Undawalawe National Park can stay at Elephant Side Bungalow for $5 a night with breakfast. Park entry is $63 per person, but you're guaranteed amazing views of elephants and other wildlife. 


Taking the train is one of the most scenic and affordable ways to travel around Sri Lanka. Tourists rave about the bucket-list journey from Colombo to Badulla. It takes about 10 hours, but is breathtaking and affordable — tickets cost around $9.30 for third class or $15.50 for first class on the luxury Ella Odyssey Train. Buses are even cheaper but can be bumpy, crowded, and confusing to find. For a budget-friendly meal, Flow in the Hilton Colombo Residences will cost between $3 and $11.

Zanzibar, Tanzania

If you dream of sunning yourself on a tropical island surrounded by translucent, turquoise water, head to the stunning archipelago of Zanzibar. Set just off the coast of Tanzania, along Africa's East Coast, this natural paradise overflows with history, culture, and delicious food, not to mention pristine (and super cheap) beaches blanketed with soft, white sand. Menu items at Lost Soles Bar in Jambiani Village's Garden Beach Bungalows range from $4 to $13 and come with rave reviews.


Zanzibar's capital, Zanzibar City, is where you'll find the Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the only ancient towns in Africa, this cheap place to visit boasts affordable hostels, hotels, lodges, and more, starting at $20 per night. Diverse accommodations are rampant throughout, ranging from one-bedroom apartments for $21 in Kiwengwa Beach to under $100 for a double room (including breakfast) at the Taj Nungwi Hotel in Banda Kuu.

Bali, Indonesia

A once-in-a-lifetime vacation destination, Bali bursts with beauty in all forms — from deep jungles to idyllic beaches to verdant rice fields to towering mountains. Luckily, it's easy and super cheap to explore the diverse landscapes of this Indonesian haven. Perama Tour & Travel offers a shuttle bus that costs just over $6 to travel 20 miles from Kuta to Ubud, and renting a car with a driver for eight hours will start at around $43.


When it comes to food, you'll find the cheapest options further away from tourist hotspots, like the beach at Jimbaran Bay and Nusa Dua's resort area. Street food is cheap and available across the island, or you can grab a filling beef rendang meal at Waroeng Bernadette in Seminyak for under $9. Accommodations range from Parthi Puri Ubud, a stunning bed and breakfast for $12 a night, to $30 for a deluxe garden room at the four-star New Sunari Lovina Beach Resort. 

Malta, Europe

Malta is a haven for history buffs. This dreamy island lies south of Sicily and offers a dazzling mix of ocean views and historic sites for much cheaper than those in mainland Europe. Here, you'll find three UNESCO World Heritage properties, including the nation's capital, the City of Valletta. There's no cost to see many of Malta's attractions, including the upper and lower Barrakka Gardens, which offer captivating views. 


Pastizzi is a cheap Maltese street food in almost every town and village. The pastries often cost under $1. For a complete meal, entreés at Forty Fishes costs as low as $11. As for spending the night, rates at So City Adults-only Hotel start at $80. Or, book the four-star Ax Odycy Hotel for about $140, including breakfast. Malta's main Island (Malta) is about 16.8 miles long and 9 miles wide, meaning you won't need to spend much on transportation. The average bus ticket costs about $1.60 in the off-season and $2.20 in summer.

Madeira, Portugal

Budget-friendly Madeira offers fabulous weather year-round. With highs ranging from 65 degrees Fahrenheit in February to 79 degrees Fahrenheit in August, you'll never freeze or melt in this Portuguese island destination. Once home to soccer great Christiano Ronaldo, Madeira is a perfect place to soak up magical views from hillside terraces spotted with vineyards, hike towering mountains, or brave the glass platform at the Cabo Girão Viewpoint. 


Accommodations are plentiful and range from apartment rentals costing about $77 per night to $188 for a double room and breakfast at Aqua Natura Hotel. Food at Lido's Tavern (A Poncha do Lido) will cost between $2.20 and $11, while dining at the more upscale Marcel's Bistro in Santana will run between $15 and $20 a head. The cheapest way to get around is by bus. A one-day ticket will cost about $5, while a three-day pass costs about $12.50 with Horários Do Funchal.

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Craving the feeling of digging your toes into uber-soft sand? A trip to the Dominican Republic will tick that box. An island nation sandwiched between the Atlantic and Caribbean Oceans, the DR is known for its pristine beaches, delicious food, and fabulous hotels, many of which are all-inclusive. Punta Cana is especially popular with travelers searching for a good deal. An ideal place for an unforgettable Caribbean vacation, the shores of this touristy region are lined with resorts catering to all kinds of vacationers. 


A two-bedroom apartment at Serena Village can cost as low as $51 a night, while a stay at Ducassi Suites Sol Caribe Hotel Beach Club & Spa will cost about $70. All-inclusives are a big hit in this area — like the Live Aqua Beach Resort Punta Cana, which can cost as low as $570 a night. They're pricier but include activities, food, and beverages.

Puerto Rico, Caribbean

Outdoorsy types will love a trip to Puerto Rico, a gorgeous island in the Caribbean Sea. The best part? This holiday won't break the bank. Spend the day lounging on a beautiful beach (there are almost 300), touring Spanish ruins, or swimming in a bioluminescent bay — these adventures won't cost a penny! Then, grab a bite at Kabanas in San Juan. A Fresh Island Fish Sandwich costs $18.85 or $10 on Thursdays. Tacos are only $2.22 on Tuesdays. 


The cheapest way to get around is by públicos, a shared van service with specific pickup spots. If you're staying in Old San Juan, flag down a garita (golf cart) for a free ride. Hostels are your cheapest bet, but cheap bed and breakfasts, apartments, and hotels are also available. A studio apartment at Itza-Bella Suites will cost about $80 a night, while a king room at the Hyatt Place Manati is about $160 with breakfast.

Utila, Honduras

Beloved for its snorkeling, scuba diving, water sports, and whale shark watching, Utila is a hot spot for people who like to save a few bucks on their island vacation. In fact, Utila is known as one of the world's cheapest (and best) places to go diving, which can cost as little as $50 per dive. Plus, it boasts easy access to the Mesoamerican reef system, the world's second-largest barrier reef. This tiny bay island belongs to Honduras, which lies in the Caribbean. 


There are plenty of options for apartment rentals ranging from $50 to $118 a night, or a stay at the highly-rated Manurii Boutique Hotel will cost about $134 per night. As for food, Blue Bayou Beach Bar offers fab views, drinks, and snacks for between $2 to $5. For a heartier meal, visit El Castillo Garden Restaurant. Only open on Fridays and Saturdays, this lovely spot serves dishes ranging from $10 to 20 and offers live music.

Trinidad and Tobago, Caribbean

If you're hoping to visit the Caribbean on a budget, Trinidad and Tobago is an ideal place to stay. Among the cheapest destinations in the region, these twin islands boast cheap, free, and stunning attractions like sandy beaches, diving sites, verdant rainforests, and mountainous hikes. Getting around the islands is easiest in a rental car, costing as low as $38 per day. There's also a public bus service that runs between locations on both islands with tickets for as little as $3. 


Guesthouses and B&Bs are affordable. For example, a double room at the Valley Oasis Inn in Saint Joseph can cost around $100 per night. A villa at Tobago Hibiscus Golf Villas & Apartments costs around $110. To keep costs low, avoid traveling during Carnival in mid-February, on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Prices for everything from food to accommodations increase at this time.

Boracay Island, Philippines

Life is cheap on Boracay Island in the Philippines. A tiny island known for its beautiful beaches, this 4-mile-long, dog-bone-shaped paradise bursts with free things to do, like swimming, lounging on the sand, and visiting the iconic volcanic formation, Willy's Rock. Food is overall affordable; a grilled entrée at Island Chicken Inasal Boracay costs under $7.


Transportation is uber cheap, too. Motorized tricycles are the most convenient (and only public) way to get around. A motorcycle with a side carriage attached, these trikes should cost no more than $1 for a ride along White Beach. Low- and mid-range hotels will help you get a good bang for your proverbial buck. Rooms at the three-star IL Mare Sakura Resort Boracay in Station 1 start at about $45 a night with breakfast, and a night at the four-star The Strand Boutique Resort can cost about $70, also including breakfast.

Koh Rong, Cambodia

A word of warning if you're hoping for a quiet vacation: Koh Rong is known for its party scene and eclectic collection of backpackers. This also means that you can expect some cheap accommodations on this pretty Cambodian island. From $10 per night "jungle glamping" to a $27-per-night villa at Naroth Beach Bungalow, there are many budget-friendly places to stay. Always wanted to stay in an overwater bungalow? A night at Salacia's Suite on the Palmbeach Pier will only cost $100, including breakfast.


Meals on Koh Rong won't break the bank either. Lunch at Seapony Cafe, for instance, will cost less than $5. The Hornbill Guesthouse Cafe offers dishes for $3.50 to $7. Plus, the island's top attractions and things to do are free or dirt cheap — like watching the sunset, paddleboarding, beaching, or viewing the glowing plankton. To get to the island, take an Island Speed Ferry from Sihanoukville for $14.

Phú Quốc, Vietnam

Phú Quốc is a budget-friendly haven primed for nature lovers. Beloved for its sugar-white sandy beaches, remarkable UNESCO Kien Giang Biosphere Reserve, and gorgeous Phu Quoc National Park, these cheap (or free) attractions give visitors an up-close and personal view of some of Mother Nature's best work. While visiting this budget-friendly island, keep costs low by eating at local spots like Bún Quây KiÉn-XÂy (A-C noodles), where dishes are between $1.60 and $3.50.


Or visit Restaurant Eat Pray Love Phu Quoc, where a serving of Vietnamese stuffed calamari will cost less than $6. Average hotel rooms cost between $11 and $30 per night. Or, a night at the five-star Wyndham Grand Phu Quoc could cost a mere $79 per night for a superior king room, depending on when you visit. Car rentals can cost about $35, or you can take a bus to get around the island for between $2 and $2.50. 

Koh Tao, Thailand

A cheap vacation destination, Thailand is renowned for its gorgeous beaches, crystalline water, sparkling temples, and delicious cuisine. Koh Tao is one of the country's smaller islands, best known for its fantastic scuba diving and large population of turtles. There are plenty of free attractions on the island, including Sairee Beach, a busy strand beloved for its sunsets, restaurants, and nightlife. To get around the island, rent a motorbike for about $4 per day or hail a taxi, which will cost less if you wait for more people to fill it. 


While it's possible to stay in a hostel for $15 a night, more comfortable accommodations in a bungalow, hotel, or resort won't break the bank on this gorgeous island. A beachfront cottage at View Point Resort will cost about $111 with breakfast. At Koh Tao Relax Freedom Beach Resort, you can expect to pay $100 for a Superior House bungalow with sea views. And when hunger strikes, you'll feel satiated for about $9 at Tree House Cafe or $5 at 995 Duck. 

U.S. Virgin Islands, Caribbean

The U.S. Virgin Islands are stunning, especially if you're staying on the more unspoiled St. John. St. Thomas is a hub for cruise ships and luxury resorts, but its popularity means there are plenty of economical places to stay. St. Croix boasts historic forts and charming stone streets. Each of these gorgeous isles offers a bevy of free things to do, like visiting the beach, enjoying watersports, or exploring nature trails. 


Plus, most cellphone carriers don't charge roaming fees for U.S. residents, and U.S. citizens won't be charged the expensive fee for a tourist visa. A night at the two-star The Green Iguana Hotel on St. Thomas will cost about $150, while a bungalow at Bungalows on the Bay on St. Croix runs in the $200 range. As for food, an entrée at La Reine Chicken Shack on St. Croix will cost about $15. A burger at St. Thomas's Dinghy's Beach Bar and Grill is about $16.

Isle of Skye, Scotland

A stay on Scotland's majestic Isle of Skye will make you believe in fairy tales. Peppered with inspiring points of interest like the remarkable Fairy Pools and enchanted Fairy Glen, the scenery is priceless. It's free to visit these sites, but parking costs between $2.50 for two hours to $7.60 per day. You'll want a car to explore the vast landscape, and the cheapest (and easiest) way to do that is to rent it in Inverness. This is the closest main city to the island and offers one-day rentals starting at $75.


Hostels, guest houses, and room rentals are the cheapest places to stay on the island. Nightly rates at Taigh Pa in the village of Uig start at around $166, including breakfast. In comparison, a night at the more elegant five-star Edinbane Lodge would cost about $300 with breakfast. Speaking of food, lunch at The Hungry Gull in Staffin — which has five stars on Tripadvisor — will cost as low as $12.

Barbados, Caribbean

There's a lot to like about Barbados — palm trees, white sandy beaches, and crystalline water are the island's star attractions. The most eastern island in the Caribbean, this gorgeous destination is ideal for an affordable and relaxing vacation. Animal Flower Cave is a must-visit. Admission costs $20 and includes a guided tour and swim in the cave. The restaurant is captivating, but entrées cost about $30. Grandene's Bar & Bistro in Mullins is a great place for a cheap and tasty meal. Menu items range from $6 to $15. Head to Oistins Fish Fry on a Friday night for a large serving of fresh fish and beer for between $15 and $17.50.


Avoid high-end luxury accommodations (like the $1,335 per night Sandy Lane Hotel). Instead, stay at the Yellow Bird Hotel in Saint Lawrence Gap for prices starting at $145. Crystal Cove by Elegant Hotels is a good bet for an all-inclusive experience. One night costs about $407 for two people.

Jamaica, Caribbean

Jamaica is known as one of the cheapest islands to visit in the Caribbean. In addition to affordable food and cheap transportation (a taxi from the airport averages about $14), there are plenty of accommodations catering to every taste and budget. Public transportation is easy to access in Kingston, but if you're visiting smaller towns, it's best to rent a car or take a "route taxi," which operates like a bus — wave your hand, and they'll stop at specific spots along their designated route. A 9-mile journey, for instance, will cost about $1. 


Curry lobster with rice and vegetables at Kool Vybz Bar & Jerk Centre in the West End costs about $19. Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, and Negril boast multiple resorts and all-inclusive properties for a variety of price points. The Spring Garden Mobay Resort offers an apartment for $116 per night. Or you can stay at the luxurious, adults-only Ocean Cliff Hotel Negril for $200.

Aruba, Caribbean

While Aruba isn't the cheapest island to visit during high season, a trip between mid-April and mid-December will help save some serious coin. Plus, this Caribbean island's star attractions, beaches, Arikok National Park, and the colorful capital of Oranjestad are affordable and cheerful places to explore. It costs $20 to enter the park, but all beaches (except for Renaissance Island and De Palm Island) are free to visit.


Aruba's small size and fixed rates make taxis an affordable way to get around the island. The public buses are another budget-friendly transportation option, with roundtrip cards costing $5 and day passes available for $10. Or, don't spend a penny by taking the free trolley in Oranjestad. They zip around the downtown core. A meal at Baby Back Grill in Oranjestad costs between $7.50 and $10 for a basket of meat with fries and macaroni salad. A room at Wonders Boutique Hotel will cost about $158, including transportation to the beach.

Martinique, Caribbean

Good news: You can enjoy a rum-infused adult beverage (or two) while on a budget-friendly island vacation, and Martinique is the best place to do so. A favored, free thing to do in Martinique is embarking on a self-guided tour of the Road of Rums (Route des Ruhms). Tourists can explore rum factories and distilleries, enjoy a rum tasting (or many), and learn the history of this tasty trade. The island's beautiful beaches are a huge draw, but it's the rum that will really have you buzzing.


Taxis can be quite expensive, so either rent a car yourself (booking through a U.S.-based agency is recommended) or take the scenic vedettes (ferries). A return trip on Vedettes Tropicales from Fort-de-France to Anse à l'Ane, for example, will only cost under $8. Food in Martinique is delicious and will cost between $13 and $17 at the highly-rated Le Cocotier in Sainte-Anne. One-bedroom apartments are available across the island for as low as $70 a night.

Curaçao, Caribbean

A colorful Caribbean destination boasting the turquoise sea and sandy beach many tourists crave, Curaçao is well-loved for more than its gorgeous coastline. History buffs are in for a treat in the island's capital, Willemstad. A UNESCO World Heritage site, you'll find plenty of fascinating (and free) points of interest, remarkable architecture, and access to cheap eateries like Gordo Grill & Bar, where a delicious entrée costs about $8. The food in Curaçao alone is worth the journey.


As for getting around the island, it's best to use your hotel's shuttle service (if they offer that). Otherwise, public buses cost just over $1 to ride. As for budget-friendly accommodations, a night at the three-star Harbor Hotel Curaçao will set you back about $140. You can find other hotels, lodges, and resorts on Priceline for as low as $65.

Turks & Caicos, Caribbean

Another Caribbean destination graces our list of gorgeous islands for vacationing that won't break the bank. While known for being a luxury holiday spot, Turks & Caicos can be visited on a budget by choosing the right time (off-season, June – November), an affordable resort (the three-star Osprey Beach Hotel costs as little as $125 per night between May and late December), and budget-friendly restaurants (entrées at Turks Kebab in Providenciales cost around $14 to $22).


Many of the island's most unmissable attractions are free to visit. From beaches to natural landmarks like The Hole and Chalk Sound National Park, you won't have to part with any cash to spend time at these stellar places. Grace Bay Beach is one of the best beaches in Turks and Caicos. Both parking and entry to the beach are free. The cheapest way to get around the island is by renting a car. There's no public transportation, and taxis can get pricey. 

Bahamas, Caribbean

The Bahamas are budget-friendly destinations perfect for deal-seeking sun-worshippers, especially those who hail from the U.S. Grand Bahama and New Providence are two popular islands in the 700-island archipelago. New Providence is your best bet for finding cheap food, accommodations, and transportation. 


A breakfast sandwich at The New Duff in Nassau will cost about $5.50 plus another $5.75 for a Bimini sunset iced tea. Cracked conch at Budda's Snack Shack in Spanish Wells is about $16.40. If you steer clear of high-end resorts (i.e., Atlantis and Baha Mar), accommodations in the Bahamas are affordable.

For example, a one-night stay in a one-bedroom suite at Freeport's four-star Dolphin Cove costs about $175. Getting around the islands will require a combination of taxi rides (which can cost between $22 and over $30, depending on how far you're traveling) and, if you're staying in New Providence, rides on the public Jitney bus, which cost about $1.25.

Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

You won't go broke from visiting Thailand's sublime Koh Phi Phi islands. A mini archipelago made up of two large and four small isles, this luscious spot boasts sand so soft it's no wonder visitors spend their days lounging in barely-there swimsuits to better enjoy its silky texture. Koh Phi Phi Leh and Koh Phi Phi Don are the two main islands, with the latter playing host to affordable hotels, buzzy bars, tasty restaurants, shops, and vibrant nightlife.


For example, a double room at the Viking Nature Resort only costs around $60 a night and includes breakfast. Speaking of food, you can order seconds or even thirds without denting your wallet in this cheap place to visit. A traditional pad Thai or stir-fried green curry costs just over $2 from local places like Hello My Mom. Reviewers on Google rave about the food's authenticity, tastiness, and low price. 

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

This Mexican beauty is apt to steal your heart and tempt you into a longer stay (the numbers speak for themselves!). For instance, a night at Casa Barco Hotel Boutique in Isla Mujeres will only set you back around $120. Reviewers awarded this quaint hotel 9.1 stars on Booking.com, praising its friendly service, large rooms, and overall cleanliness. Though it doesn't have a restaurant, there are plenty of budget-friendly places to eat on the island. You can't go wrong with a meal from Los Tacos de Humo, which received five stars from over 1,300 reviewers on Tripadvisor due to its attentive staff and delicious dishes (don't miss the fish tacos or the guacamole). Dishes range from $2 to $11.


A quieter, more resplendent island than its neighbor, Cancun, Isla Mujeres is a haven for more laid-back vacationers who become enticed by its magnificent beaches and budget-friendly restaurants and accommodations. While the island is walkable in certain areas, many tourists rent a golf cart during their stay. They cost about $49 a day to rent, or you can rent a motorized bike or scooter for about $20 for 24 hours.

Isla Holbox, Mexico

Wildlife lovers unite! Located off the north coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, Isla Holbox offers an array of spectacular creatures on land and below the region's sparkling aquamarine waves. And luckily, you won't have to break the bank on hotels or meals during your visit. For example, one night at the four-star Casa Astral Luxury Hotel will set you back about $109 for a standard king room, including breakfast. Reviewers on Booking.com applaud the hotel's beauty, quiet location, friendly staff, and fabulous sunset views.


As for food, Isla Holbox is an ideal place for penny pinchers. Pinshis Tacos gets five stars from Tripadvisor reviewers for its "perfectly spicy" salsas and flavorful pork belly tacos.  Meals are all around and under $10. Arte Sano Mexican Vegan Food Holbox is another fan favorite boasting rave reviews for its tasty food, great value, and quiet locale. Many dishes cost under $12. There are no cars on this small island (it's only 26 miles long), so renting a bike is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to get around. Some accommodations offer them for free.

Our methodology

No one should have to shelve their vacation plans due to budget, so we scoured the internet for days, searching for the best deals on everything from food to hotels to transportation, to find the cheapest islands for vacationing that won't break the bank. By digging through prices on sites like Booking.com, Priceline, Expedia, Tripadvisor, and various location-centric hotel and transportation websites, we found fantastic options for those who'd like to visit an island without causing permanent damage to their bank account. 


Since prices vary by time of year (high season is always the most expensive), we chose a date in late May to use for our research purposes. This month falls in most islands' shoulder season but not quite low season, so the rates we found should be about average. To be considered for this list, the properties and restaurants we chose had to feature affordable rates and good reviews on sites like Tripadvisor, Yelp, and Google.  

Finally, the islands we chose had to be "gorgeous." We're talking about pristine beaches, well-manicured gardens, majestic mountains, and verdant jungles. If they boast waterfalls, even better. Who doesn't love a waterfall? The fact that we've visited quite a few of these islands helped us ensure they're definitely worthy of being on this list.