JAMAICA. Whether you want to indulge in Creole-inspired cuisine like jerk chicken, listen to lilting reggae rhythms in the place where the music was born, or just bask on a luxuriously affordable beach, Jamaica has plenty to offer the Budget Traveler. But we’ve got a deal that may surprise even the most experienced bargain hunter: Westender Inn is perched on the low-lying cliffs of the West End. You’ll want to relax in a hammock on your veranda or patio and savor authentic Jamaican cuisine after your shuttle returns you from a fun day shopping in nearby Negril (from $69, bedandbreakfast.com). Nab a table at Rick's Cafe on the Negril Cliffs for a scary/cool view of cliff divers.
(R. Gino Santa Maria / Dreamstime.com)
TOBAGO. Though this little island sometimes plays second fiddle to its bigger and busier neighbor, Trinidad, it offers ample opportunities for swimming, diving, hiking the rain forest, and indulging in fresh seafood. Gloucester Place has airy rooms that open onto a veranda with sweet views of the sea and fishing boats bearing the day’s catch (a.k.a. your dinner), plus an infinity pool that’ll make you feel as if you’re swimming to the horizon (from $70, bedandbreakfast.com). Browse the small shops and outdoor market in nearby Scarborough and visit the historic 18th-century Fort St. George.
(Courtesy Gloucester Place Guest House)
PUERTO RICO. You don't need a passport to visit this U.S. territory, but in all other respects you’ll be a world away from home. Stroll the old-world streets of Old San Juan, kayak in the eerily beautiful Bioluminescent Bay, and taste local favorites like arepas and spicy Asian-fusion dishes that juxtapose noodles with Latin-flavored meat and vegetables. Copamarina Beach Resort & Spa is located on a secluded beach with 20 acres of tropical gardens and nearby diving opportunities. The My Puerto Rico Experience deal can get you an upgraded room (based on availability), $100 debit card, 20 percent off a car rental, and 20 percent off water sports such as kayaking, paddleboarding, and snorkeling (from $145, copamarina.com).
(Courtesy Copamarina Beach Resort)
CURAÇAO. With a UNESCO-recognized capital, Willemstad, that boasts some of the most historic colonial-era structures and eye-popping architecture in the islands, Curaçao is easily reachable via direct flights on JetBlue. B&B Sombré di Kabana, Curaçao, just outside the colorful capital, offers a soothing garden setting with tropical birds, pool, and Jacuzzi (from $150, bedandbreakfast.com). Feeling a little adventurous? Some first-rate nearby dive sites will let you explore beautiful undersea coral formations.
ST. LUCIA. Sure, we crowned St. Lucia the world’s most romantic island, but La Haut Plantation proves that this paradise's indulgences can come in at well under $200/night. The inn is located high above Soufrière, delivering iconic views of two of the island’s best-known attractions, the twin Pitons. Before you hit the nearby beach, you can expect a full breakfast that includes tropical fruit, fish cakes, Creole bread, and hot cocoa tea (from $175, bedandbreakfast.com). Don’t miss nearby Sulphur Springs, where you can bathe in the “black water pool” of the Caribbean’s only “drive-in volcano."
BAHAMAS. We consistently rank the Bahamas as a great budget destination, where you can find all the beach, water park, food, and cocktail action the Caribbean is known for, but without the sticker shock. But, of course, there’s more to the Bahamas than bargains; if you’re in the market for a worth-it splurge, you can find peace and quiet a stone’s throw from Nassau’s luxe shopping and excellent restaurants at a Paradise Island B&B literally called, you guessed it, A Stone's Throw Away. The Bahamian plantation-style inn includes a large wraparound veranda and a staff renowned for their friendly welcome (from $180, bedandbreakfast.com). Just west of downtown Nassau, hit the Arawak Cay Fish Fry for fresh conch fritters.
ST. JOHN. With a reputation for being the quieter, less crowded of the Virgin Islands, St. John is the appropriate location for the low-key luxury of Hillcrest Guest House. The inn’s six suites come with kitchenettes or full kitchens (from $185, bedandbreakfast.com). In theory, of course, that means you can save money by cooking your own meals. But you’ll be tempted to do a lot of your eating in nearby Cruz Bay, a three-minute walk from your suite, and we promise we won’t judge. Kayak at Honeymoon Beach, or try snorkeling among the colorful coral.
(Courtesy F H Mira/Flickr)
ANTIGUA. With 365 beaches (that’s right, one for each day of the year), Antigua has been luring visitors for centuries, including the real-life pirates of the Caribbean, British naval hero Admiral Nelson, and today’s enthusiastic vacationers. This year, the island nation of Antigua and Barbuda is poised to welcome travelers like never before, with increased direct air service and a number of renovated and reimagined hotels. On Antigua’s south coast, English Harbour is home to Admiral's Inn and Gunpowder Suites with its two restaurants, infinity pool, hammocks, spa, gardens, and beach (from $205, admiralsantigua.com).
(Courtesy of Antigua & Barbuda)
BELIZE. Ready to dive into one of the world's greatest snorkeling and scuba destinations? You can take in two of Belize’s most popular spots, the natural beauty and Mayan ruins of San Ignacio and the cool beach town and amazing diving opportunities of Ambergris Caye, with one of the flexible package tours from TripMasters, which depart from a variety of U.S. cities. A six-night sample itinerary includes airfare, three nights in San Ignacio, three nights in Ambergris Caye, and daily breakfasts (from $1,258, tripmasters.com).
CUBA. We’ve been excited to see Cuba opening up to American travelers for the first time in more than 50 years, with opportunities for commercial flights and even ferry service on the horizon. Here, the colonial past has been preserved more than perhaps anywhere else in the Caribbean, with UNESCO World Heritage cities boasting grand public squares, cathedrals, and cobblestoned streets. At the same time, perfect white-sand beaches beckon along the north coast while beautiful mountains and lush forests await the intrepid explorer. Package tours from Friendly Planet can get you to Havana, Cojimar, and Las Terrazas with a fully escorted land tour, including airfare, fuel surcharges, hotels, transfers, many meals, educational activities, and much more (from $2,699, friendlyplanet.com).