Budget Caribbean: 5 Cheapest Islands with Stellar Beaches

Posted by Fodor's Editors on October 22, 2008 at 2:43:45 PM EDT | Post a Comment

Weather got you down? Already dreaming of that island escape? You have many budget-friendly choices in the Caribbean, from the tranquil pink sands of Bonaire to the snorkeler's paradise of St. Croix. Here are our top choices.

102208--DRPalm--MT.jpgDominican Republic

Dominicans have beautiful smiles and warm hearts and are proud of their island, which is blessed with pearl-white beaches and a vibrant, Latin culture. Go for the best-priced resorts in the Caribbean and a wide range of activities that will keep you moving day and night. Don't go if you can't go with the flow. Things don't always work here, and not everyone speaks English.

Only On These Beaches

The isolated, gorgeous stretch of virgin beach called Playa Bahoruco goes on for miles in either direction, with rugged cliffs dropping to golden sand and warm, blue water. It's the ideal wild, undeveloped Caribbean beach. Playa El Cosón, to the west of postcard-perfect Playa Las Terrenas, is a great whale-watching spot.

Learn More: Visit our Dominican Republic destination guide to learn more, including when to go. Santo Domingo is the capital city.

Bonaire

With only 12,000 year-round citizens and huge numbers of visiting divers, Bonaire still seems largely untouched by tourism. Divers come for the clear water, profusion of marine life, and great dive shops. With a surreal, arid landscape, immense flamingo population, and gorgeous turquoise vistas, you can also have a wonderful land-based holiday.

Only On These Beaches

Known for its festive music on Sunday nights, Lac Bay Beach has strikingly pink-tinted sand. Also pink-tinted: Bonaire's huge flamingo population, best viewed from Playa Funchi.

Trip Reports: Bonaire is a snorkeling mecca!, Bonaire Trip Report

Grenada: Carriacou

The spice business is going strong, but tourism is just as important. On the laid-back island, the only sounds are the occasional abrupt call of a cuckoo in the lush rain forest, the crash of surf in the secluded coves, and the slow beat of a big drum dance. Resorts are mostly small and charming. St. George's, the island's capital, is often called the most beautiful city in the Caribbean. People interested in a really quiet, get-away-from-it-all vacation will appreciate the simple pleasures of Carriacou during an extended stay.

Only On These Beaches

The truly deserted Sandy Island off Hillsborough is just a ring of white sand with a few palm trees, surrounded by a reef and crystal-clear waters. Bring your snorkeling gear and, if you want, a picnic—and leave all your cares behind. Be more attentive at Tyrrel Bay Beach, though! While this beach is popular with the sailing set, landlubbers will find themselves dodging the poisonous green "apples" of the manchineel trees here. The foliage of these trees can burn your skin.

Asked in the Forums: "What to do in Grenada?"

Guadeloupe

An exotic, tropical paradise, Guadeloupe is covered by a lush rain forest and blessed with a rich, Creole culture that influences everything from its dances to its food. Go if you want to experience another culture—and still have your creature comforts and access to fine beaches. Don't go if you want five-star luxury because it's rare here.

Only On These Beaches

Excellent surfing can be had at Plage du Helleux around 4 PM, when you might find 70 or so young surfers jockeying for position on the waves coming in. One of the coast's most dramatic landscapes can be found at Pointe Tarare, where rugged cliffs topped with a huge crucifix loom over the island's official nude beach.

Trip Report: One Week Vacation Rental in Guadeloupe

St. Croix

Although St. Croix sits definitely in the 21st century, with only a little effort you can easily step back into the island's past. A visit to St. Croix, once a Danish colony, attracts those who enjoy sunning at the island's powdery beaches, being pampered at the hotels, and dining at interesting restaurants, but especially those who wish to explore the island's colonial history.

Only On These Beaches

You must not miss Buck Island Beach, a national monument and snorkeler's paradise. Cane Bay has an underwater wall 200 yards off of the beach, where you can drift out over a precipitous dropoff.

Asked in the Forums: What is it like to live on St. Croix?

Photo Credit: Palm tree image courtesy of milesghem on Flickr; Homepage boat/water thumbnail courtesy of darkpatator on Flickr

Posted in Trip Ideas Tagged: Budget Travel, Caribbean

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