Some of the islands in the Caribbean Sea are major tourist destinations. During the Northern Hemisphere winter, travelers from colder regions flock to these tropical places for some sun, warmth and fun. As demand rises, so does the price for flights, hotel rooms and vacation packages. For those who travel before the cold weather truly sets in, the prices are more reasonable. September, October, and even early pre-Thanksgiving November are the best months to visit the Caribbean if you are concerned about getting the most bang for your buck. It is good to keep in mind that this is the end of hurricane season, so keep an eye on the weather forecast before departure, but remember than large storms, while spectacular, are not all that common.
Here are some of the best cheap Caribbean destinations. For the best values, hit these islands during the fall. That said, if you know where to look, you may even be able to get some great prices during the busy high season between December and March.
1. Aruba: This island, in the southern Lesser Antilles, is outside of Hurricane Alley. That makes it ideal for off-season travel. While it is dominated by resorts and casinos, there are some cheaper places to stay. There are rental condos and apartments that can be had for well under $100 per night. Because of its unique location and arid climate, there are plenty of outdoor activities on Aruba as well (Arikok National Park, for example, has hikes, rock formations and wildlife galore). So there is no need to spend money on entertainment at a resort or drop your travel budget at the blackjack table.
2. US Virgin Islands: This US territory is known for its nature and for its laid-back populace. The island of Saint John is a welcoming place where it is easy to live like a local. Eating local, instead of at a resort or tourist area, can save a bundle. The city of Cruz Bay has a few wonderful locally-owned eateries. Also, unlike other islands, such as Jamaica, where wandering out of tourist areas is an invitation for trouble, things are relaxed and reasonably safe during the day on Saint John. There are also campgrounds and rental cottages for those who want to save money on sleeping and aren’t in search of a high end resort experience. .
3. Grenada is another island where it is easy to live like a local. This laid-back, safe island is home to beaches and highlands that are just as idyllic as any place in the Bahamas or Jamaica. Local cafes outside of tourist areas serve full meals featuring local favorites for $2-$4. Public transport, via privately owned mini-buses, can take visitors from one part of the island to another for no more than $10 for a whole day’s worth of travel. Though some of the luxury villas on Grenada rent for thousands of dollars per week, there are also small, family-owned guesthouses where a room can be had for around $50 per night.
4. The small, comparatively-unknown island of Dominica sees the fewest tourists of any nation in the Caribbean. It is known as the “Nature Isle” because of its lack of large resorts and the fact that vast parts of its landscape are mountainous and heavily forested. With hot springs, plenty of cheap eco-resorts and campgrounds and some of the world’s most stunningly scenic waterfalls, there is plenty to do on Dominica. Yes, the capitol city of Rosalie has a beach, but it is more known for the sea turtles that nest there rather than for its postcard-like tropical beauty.
5. The problem with many of these smaller destinations is that they are not as easy to get to as larger, more popular islands. Traveling to Grenada may require a connecting flight and reaching Satin John requires a ferry trip. The Dominican Republic has plenty of cheap flights, especially for those in Miami and New York. Weeklong packages are in the $600-$900 price range and there are plenty of guesthouses and rental apartments in the $30-$50 per night range. This makes the Caribbean island one of the cheapest. In addition, it is a large place compared to any of the Lesser Antilles. So there will be plenty of options. Your Dominican vacation does not only have to be centered around the beach.
Sujan writes about air travel advice, airlines reviews and destinations at Airline Tickets. He also is managing editor at airportparking.org.