Best Budget Caribbean Islands

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Right about now 75% of the country is dreaming of a place where the sun shines every day and ice scrapers are an unnecessary accessory. Which means its high season in the Caribbean and the outrageous prices–and crowds–that come with it. But you can avoid the hordes and save hundreds on hotel rooms by thinking outside the box. Here are 10 affordable Caribbean islands that you may not have heard of that will give you fun in the sun without breaking the bank.
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Best Budget Caribbean Islands

Right about now 75% of the country is dreaming of a place where the sun shines every day and ice scrapers are an unnecessary accessory. Which means its high season in the Caribbean and the outrageous prices–and crowds–that come with it. But you can avoid the hordes and save hundreds on hotel rooms by thinking outside the box. Here are 10 affordable Caribbean islands that you may not have heard of that will give you fun in the sun without breaking the bank. Most entail hopping a second puddle jumper or boat (from lumbering ferry to fleet hydrofoil), though some are reachable by non-stop flights from the U.S. But remember that an extra step can open up a whole new world. All of these locales have great hotels less than $150 a night (yes, even in high season) and offer you the chance to not only easily find a spot on the sand but also immerse yourself in old-time Caribbean that's quickly vanishing.

Best Budget Caribbean Islands

Several worth-the-extra-step islands lie off Guadeloupe and are easily accessible by hydrofoil from the capital of Pointe-à-Pitre. Despite the Euro-dollar exchange, they remain unsung budget destinations. Caribbean connoisseurs regard Les Saintes as a mini St. Barths, similar in all but haute prices and hauteur. Whitewashed Creole cottages cling precariously to the hills, housing charming inns, galleries, boutiques, and bistros with amazing fare at fair prices. Neighboring Marie Galante is a sparsely populated and unaccountably undeveloped island, offering only one resort and several family-run auberges. Go for the beauteous beaches, cactus-covered cliffs, sun-dappled grottoes, and quaint fishing villages.

Best Budget Caribbean Islands

Though it's the most recognizable name on the list, the D.R. does have out-of-the-way budget beaches that just can't be ignored. The country has three international airports that are near these hidden-gems which offer hotels brimming with character (and characters) on or steps from the sand. Juan Dolio and Boca Chica are just outside the historic capital of Santo Domingo and the 30-mile Bávaro is a sandy stretch lined with all-inclusives near Punta Cana. Puerto Plata offers tawny talcum-soft beaches as well as good values of its own, but head to nearby Sosúa or Cabarete and it's perpetual-spring-break surf scene. If you feel adventurous, a prop-jet or longer drive brings you to still-unspoiled areas like Barahona and the blissful beaches of Samaná.

Best Budget Caribbean Islands

A short flight from more developed Grand Cayman, "The Brac" takes its name from the Gaelic for bluff, illustrated by the 12-mile-long cave-stippled crag that dominates the rugged landscape. Despite its petite size there is a good selection of small resorts, condos, and family-run inns that are a sensational value. But hurry. The island is getting attention as a world-class eco-adventure destination. Bike or hike to the cliff-edge nature trail at desolate Lighthouse Walk or explore the island's many caverns, long rumored to hold pirate treasure. The underwater topography is also quite dramatic. Divers can explore pyrotechnic sponge-encrusted walls, wrecks, and even manmade marine sculptural installations.

Best Budget Caribbean Islands

It may not be the easiest to get to (American Airlines offers service through San Juan, Puerto Rico), but once you arrive in Dominica you will feel like you've entered the Lost World. If the Lost World had an assortment of reasonably priced hotels, that is. The island's varied ecosystem and terrain-not to mention fauna, flora, and birdlife-comprise a miniature continent in just 289 square miles. You'll find verdant parks, volcanic black-sand beaches, bubbling hot springs like Boiling Lake (part of the lunarscape that is the aptly named Valley of Desolation), and rivers punctuated by tumultuous waterfalls tumbling into natural Jacuzzis. The earth's restlessness also puts on a show for divers and snorkelers, who can whale-watch while gliding through sheer 800-foot drops and 1,000-foot walls curtained with gorgonian. Or simply swim in the water's champagne-like bubbles, courtesy of submerged volcanic vents.

Best Budget Caribbean Islands

Neighboring Saba and St. Eustatius and their affordable Caribbean inns are both a 25-minute flight from St. Maarten. What Saba lacks in beaches it makes up for in views, especially those from the hiking trails up the 2,855-foot Mt. Scenery. Besides mangoes and mahogany you'll see the fairytale fieldstone cottages with gingerbread trim and bougainvillea-draped picket fences that cling dollhouse-like to steep hills. The lack of beaches doesn't mean you have to stay out of the water. Divers and snorkelers cruise the Saba Marine Park and its maze of coral-carpeted pinnacles, walls, and ridges patrolled by grunts to grouper.
St. Eustatius is where you'll find the beach, namely miles and miles of near-deserted black-sand. Dive or snorkel at the St. Eustatius Marine Park through crumbling brick buildings visible from shore in shallow water and among coral-encrusted galleons, their cannons exploding with vibrant fish. On dry land there are beautifully preserved Dutch colonial forts and the St. Eustatius Historical Foundation Museum, which includes excavated artifacts of the previously unknown 6th-century Saladoid community.

Best Budget Caribbean Islands

This island has old-time Caribbean ambiance and hospitality to spare, is easily accessible from Antigua (15-minute flight or 75-minute ferry), and has amazing prices at homey guesthouses and fabulous villas. The "Emerald Isle of the Caribbean" (a soubriquet referring to the residents' mostly Irish roots, as well as the verdant countryside), has been reinventing itself as an eco-centric destination after its Soufrière volcano blew its top in 1995. Despite periodic pyroclastic flows and ash fall to the south, the island's northern half remains safe. You can visit the world-class Montserrat Volcano Observatory, drive to viewing points displaying dramatic petrified lava "rivers" flowing down the volcano's flanks to the sea, or even take specially authorized trips into Plymouth, the former capital which eerily resembles a Caribbean Pompeii. As for the beaches, sands are unsurprisingly volcanic gray, with the exception of Rendezvous Bay. This sugary beach is accessible via boat or challenging hike, but is worth it to be able to snorkel in its cool bat cave.

Best Budget Caribbean Islands

This idyllic island off Puerto Rico's east coast is easily accessible via plane from San Juan or ferry from the town of Fajardo. Though the island is slowly going upscale (a W recently opened) there are lots of fun funky budget properties to choose from. Many of the island's beaches are only accessible via dirt and gravel roads, ensuring remote romantic picnics. Vieques resisted high-rise chain hotels since it was under U.S. Navy control until 2003 and much of the island constitutes the Caribbean's largest and most ecologically diverse National Wildlife Refuge. The rest is pure old-time Caribbean: charming little villages with tree-shaded plazas, bumpy roads where cows and chicken own the right of way, historic ruins, and mellow vibe thanks to the mix of locals and expats.

Best Budget Caribbean Islands

Though upscale development looms, affordable hotels are still plentiful on St. Kitts. The main beach area of Frigate Bay is just minutes from the airport, which is served by nonstops from most major East Coast hubs. Since Frigate straddles the island's narrowest point, it has both Caribbean and Atlantic frontage, the perfect location for all those reasonably priced hotels and condos. It's also an easy jaunt from your hotel on Frigate to even lovelier and laidback strands, such as Friars, Turtle, and Banana Bays. Off the beach the intrepid can scale Mt. Liamuiga then descend into its jungle-filled crater clinging to vines and roots. Or visit Brimstone Hill, a restored fortress and UNESCO World Heritage Site, for stunning 360-degree panoramas of surrounding islands and walks along nature trails where green vervet monkeys play peekaboo.

Best Budget Caribbean Islands

Best Budget Caribbean Islands

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