Surprise! Your dream island vacations might be more within reach than you’d expect, even if you’re traveling on a budget. Skip the overpriced resorts in the Dominican Republic and Cancún favor of unexpected destinations around the world for an even better island vacation at a fraction of the cost.
Our ultimate guide to the best affordable island vacations has some of the most unexpected destinations for the best island vacations you can visit even on a tight budget. Compiled by some of our favorite travel bloggers who have visited these spots time and time again, this guide will help you plan the getaway you’ve been dreaming of.
22 Island Vacations You’ll Love
1. Rosario Islands, Colombia
Located just off the Caribbean coast of Colombia, the Rosario Islands are some of the most underrated islands in the Caribbean, perfect for an easy and unexpected yet affordable island vacation. This archipelago of 27 islands is just a short trip from Cartagena, Colombia by speedboat or ferry, and is home to eco-lodges, hotels, and even hostels perched above white sand beaches on crystal clear waters.
While some island hotels welcome day trippers from Cartagena and have bustling beach clubs, most are pretty laidback. Picture kayaking through the mangrove forests, excellent snorkeling and diving excursions, and even affordable speedboat excursions around the islands.
If you’re looking for a little more hustle and bustle in your island vacation rather than the relaxed Rosario Islands, consider choosing nearby Isla Barú. This island’s premier Playa Blanca is considered Cartagena’s best beach, and just 45 minutes by shuttle or even less by taxi from Cartagena, this destination has much more to offer in the way of restaurants, beach bars, and even party spots.
Cartagena receives frequent direct flights across the Americas at its bustling international airport. In addition to affordable accommodations, you can expect affordable and easy travel to your next island vacation in paradise.
2. Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Vietnam’s largest island, Phu Quoc, is the perfect place in Southeast Asia for island life on a budget. Located in the Gulf of Thailand just off the coast of Cambodia, it is easy to reach by ferry from mainland Southern Vietnam or – thanks to the addition of an international airport – by flight.
Visa-free travel is available for all nationalities, meaning you can skip the usual burden (and up-front costs) associated with a Vietnam tourist visa.
Phu Quoc has a huge range of accommodation options, from flashy five-star resorts right through to humble family guesthouses and secluded beachside bungalows, making it a breeze to find budget digs. An abundance of local restaurants, night street food markets and cheap transportation makes Phu Quoc perfect for anyone traveling on a shoestring.
Hire a motorbike or scooter (prices start from 5 USD per day) and guide yourself around the ‘paradise pearl’. Phu Quoc’s lush jungle interior holds many treasures, including quaint fishing villages, hiking trails in the Ham Ninh Mountains, and the stunning Suoi Tranh Waterfall.
The northern and southern ends of the island are fringed with sheltered white-sand beaches, including the popular Sao Beach.
3. Bali, Indonesia
The beautiful Indonesian island of Bali is one of the most affordable places to visit, especially for a luxury experience. The prices for food, transport and accommodation are all very reasonable, especially if you explore more of the island beyond tourist hubs in Ubud and Canggu.
Bali has plenty to do whether you’re looking for adventure travel, rest and relaxation, or anything in between. If beaches are your thing, make sure you do day trips to the surrounding islands such as Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan, and the Gili islands.
If the outdoors is for you, you should explore the famous Tegallalang rice terrace, visit the Sacred Monkey Forest, and climb Mount Batur at sunrise. You can also choose to stay in one of the unique treehouses in Bali, to really immerse yourself in nature!
If wellness is on your agenda, there are countless yoga studios, spas, meditation retreats and restaurants serving delicious healthy meals at great prices. If you love culture, experience the shadow play theatre that is popular in Bali, or visit one of the many temples such as Lempuyang Temple, or Pura Besakih (the oldest temple on the island).
4. Ischia, Italy
Ischia is a hidden gem in Italy perfect for an affordable island vacation in what can be an expensive country to visit. Located off the gulf of Naples in the Tyrrhenian Sea, Ischia is part of the Phlegraean Islands in the Campania region of southern Italy, near the better-known island of Capri.
Ischia Island is the perfect destination for a Mediterranean vacation thanks to its beautiful coastline, idyllic harbors, and unapologetically local feel. You’ll see clothing drying in the warm Italian sun, charming old cars in bright colors parked against stone walls, and grape vines draped over growing lines in small backyard vineyards.
Ischia is a favorite vacation spot for Italians, and you’ll find lower prices and more local fare than in the more internationally popular cities of Rome, Florence, or Venice. There are a number of wonderful things to do in Ischia, but the main attraction is definitely visiting the Aragonese Castle, a castle fortress that has been in use since 471 B.C.
Additionally, you can visit one of Ischia’s sandy beaches, where you can eat bruschetta and sip an Aperol spritz under a reasonably priced cabana. Be sure to rent a car or scooter in order to drive around the ring road and see as much of the island as possible.
5. Sri Lanka
One of the most affordable islands for an unforgettable island vacation has to be Sri Lanka. This year-round destination has everything from vibrant cities and mountain ranges to tropical jungles and epic beaches.
There are plenty of wildlife-related things to do, from elephant safaris to whale and dolphin watching in Mirissa, and leopard spotting in Yala National Park. For a bit of history and culture, you can visit the tea plantations or explore Sigiriya rock via a hike to the top or on a hot air balloon ride.
Plus if you want to get off the beaten track, there are plenty of choices including the Knuckles Mountains, a great destination for hiking and glamping.
Hotels, food, and activities in Sri Lanka are all very affordable, and you won’t feel like you’re depriving yourself if you’re traveling on a budget. This makes Sri Lanka a great destination for long-term travelers and digital nomads; even those with kids will find that family travel in Sri Lanka is an affordable reality.
The longer than better in this island vacation paradise, though visiting Sri Lanka for 10 days is a great length of time for the average traveler.
6. São Miguel, Portugal
São Miguel, the largest of the islands that makes up the Azores, is a stunning, affordable island vacation destination off the coast of Portugal.
Spend your time soaking in hot springs like at Parque Terra Nostra, the Termas da Caldeiras, or the Termas da Ferraria. Hike to the many colorful volcanic lakes, with waters ranging from deep blues to greens.
São Miguel and the other islands in the Azores have become much more accessible in recent years with more flight options from Europe, New York City, and Boston.
Navigating the island can be easily done in your own car, so you won’t need to hire a tour guide or taxi. Many of the hikes, hot springs, and attractions have free entry. Others charge a minimal fee, but this makes São Miguel a very affordable island destination.
Food on the island comes straight from the source. Be sure to enjoy the mouth-watering local cheeses and Azorean pineapples. You can take a tour to see how they are grown, and sample the sweet fruit. They’re a pleasant surprise, much different than their tropical counterparts.
7. Maafushi, Maldives
Don’t be fooled: Maldives isn’t just a destination for travelers on an unlimited budget. There are plenty of easy ways to visit the Maldives on a budget, and with just a few easy Maldives travel tips, it’s actually pretty easy to book a trip to these paradise islands for an affordable island vacation.
One of the most important tips for cheap island vacations to the Maldives is to choose to stay on a populated island like Maafushi, one of the best options for an affordable trip to the Maldives, whether it be popular Maafushi or less-visited Dhangethi.
While Maafushi is home to just over 3,000 people, travelers will find cheap guesthouses, local restaurants, and affordable transportation from the Maldives’ capital and main international airport in Malé.
All this without sacrificing the white sand beaches and clear water you’re looking for in a Maldives vacation. Maafushi has several beautiful white sand beaches to choose from, as well as affordable excursion opportunities to other nearby islands and desolated sand spits in the ocean for that private island experience on a budget.
For affordable island vacations in the Maldives you might have to skip some of the more luxurious Maldives resorts that have made this island nation famous (unless you travel on the off-season, when resorts cut their prices by up to 50% or more!). However, don’t rule the Maldives out entirely – there are travel deals to be had in this bucket list destination, too!
8. Madeira, Portugal
Madeira is one of the best budget island vacations in Europe and is a place that is ideal even for a slow-travel trip! The island is part of Portugal and getting there is fairly easy (and cheap!) from Lisbon.
Once in Madeira, you can opt to stay in the capital city of Funchal or head elsewhere, finding budget accommodation options all throughout the island.
One of the best things to do in Madeira for active travelers is to go hiking! There are many hiking trails and walks throughout the island that are free and can be reached with public transportation. Two of the most famous Madeira Levada walks are the Rabaçal 25 Fountains Levada Walk and the Caldeirão Verde Levada Walk.
Aside from hiking, other wonderful (and affordable) things to do on the island include visiting Nun’s Valley, relaxing on the beaches of Seixal and Sao Vicente, and checking out the Monte Palace. If you’re looking for an excursion, the ones on Madeira are pretty affordable, and whale watching is a great choice.
Alternatively, you can head to Porto Santo to see the golden, sandy beaches, or visit the Madeira Botanical Gardens, among the most impressive botanical gardens in Portugal.
Like many destinations, the best way to save some money on Madeira is to visit outside of the high season (summer). Visiting in spring or autumn will allow an enjoyable, cheaper trip with far lower accommodation prices!
9. Korcula, Croatia
Located along the Dalmatian Coast, Korcula is one of Croatia’s most beautiful islands – and one of the most affordable! Unlike its pricier neighboring party island of Hvar, Korcula offers a more laidback vibe with reasonable prices to match.
However, don’t be fooled by the island’s tranquil atmosphere – there are still many wonderful things to do on Korcula that won’t break the bank.
One of the best things to do in Korcula is enjoy its strong wine culture, as it’s the only place to produce Grk. This dry white is native to the island and cultivated in Korcula’s unique, sand-like soil. Fortunately, wine tastings tend to be budget-friendly, such as the ones offered at Vitis Winery in Lumbarda.
For budget travelers, there are also plenty of cost-effective food options to be found along the outskirts of the town center and along the bay. In addition, getting around the island is also quite affordable with public transportation, only costing several dollars (or around 40HRK) per journey.
Beyond wine tasting, Korcula offers many free public beaches as well as some wonderful hiking opportunities. Head up Novi Put Road off of Sveti Nikola for the best panoramic view over the island, a great way to finish your perfect island vacations in Croatia.
For totally unique and unforgettable island vacations, head to Cuba for the trip of a lifetime. From exploring Old Havana and cruising along the Malecón sea wall in a vintage American car to visiting white sand beaches considered among the best in the world, Cuba offers something for every kind of traveler.
While Cuba might not be considered a backpacking hotspot, you’ll find plenty of affordable travel options here. Choose to stay in “casas particulares” – private apartments and homes rented by average Cubans long before Airbnb popularized the idea – for affordable travel, and take shared taxis to move around cities like Havana, and even between cities in Cuba.
There are plenty of excellent places to visit in Cuba, from cities to beaches and national parks. Favorites include Viñales Valley with its stunning “mountain” landscape, the colonial gem of Trinidad, Cuba’s best beaches along the island’s northern coast in Holguin, and the world’s best snorkeling and diving in Jardines de la Reina.
If you’re sticking to a budget while traveling in Cuba, make sure to watch your bottom line; while there are budget travel gems in Cuba, you’ll also find expensive and luxurious resorts, and private transportation to cities in Cuba and travel destinations across the island will add up quickly. However, even on a budget, the very best of the island is easily within reach.
11. Lamu Island, Kenya
Most people know the famous safari destinations in Kenya but did you know that Kenya is also an incredible destination for an affordable island vacation? Located on the coast of Kenya north of the city of Mombasa, Lamu Island is an idyllic beach resort destination with a variety of hotels to choose from for every budget and desire.
A UNESCO World Heritage destination site, the old town is the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa. Rich in Swahili and Islamic culture and influence, just exploring Old Town is a top activity, though the island has much more to offer as well.
What makes this a great affordable island destination is the availability of cheap lodging and food options. There are many highly rated hotels to choose from that are $30-40 a night and the town has many options for a low-cost meal.
Make this your next island getaway or part of a longer trip to Kenya for a safari and beach combination.
12. Palawan, Philippines
If you’re looking for affordable island vacations around the globe, the island of Palawan in the Philippines should be at the top of your list. A popular destination for budget travelers, you can get a meal in a restaurant for as little as four bucks, and you can find accommodation for as low as ten dollars per night, stretching your travel dollar a lot further than you might imagine.
Palawan is not only affordable but also utterly beautiful. When traveling to Palawan, you can expect to see stunning white-sand beaches, gorgeous waterfalls, and lush rainforests. Plus, there are many great activities in Palawan, whether you want to relax on the beach or try your luck with water sports like snorkeling, paddleboarding, or kayaking.
One of the best things to do in Palawan is island-hopping near El Nido to see the incredibly beautiful islands in Bacuit Bay. The islands are known for huge limestone cliffs, great snorkeling spots, and crystal-clear water.
Other popular activities include diving (try Tubbataha Reef!), surfing at Duli Beach, and hanging out in the small fishing village of Port Barton. No matter how you choose to spend your island vacation, you’re guaranteed to have an unforgettable trip in Palawan.
13. Holbox, Mexico
Located just off the northeastern coast of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, Holbox is a small island that has become increasingly popular in recent years as a tourist destination. The island is known for its beautiful calm beaches, shallow turquoise waters, and laid-back atmosphere.
As one of Mexico’s hidden gems, Holbox is an affordable island destination that offers visitors a tropical island experience without the crowds or high prices. When choosing from hotels in Holbox, you can expect to spend significantly less than nearby beach destinations in Mexico like Cancun or Tulum.
One of the things that makes Holbox so special is its laid-back natural environment. With no cars on the island, Holbox feels like a true oasis with only golf carts and bicycles for transportation. You can get around the island easily on foot, and there are plenty of gorgeous beaches, flamingo lagoons, and nature reserves to explore.
In addition to its natural beauty, Holbox also offers a range of activities and attractions that make it a great affordable island vacation destination. In addition to enjoying the island’s many beautiful beaches, visitors can go kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, go on boat excursions, and even swim with whale sharks (in season), making it an unexpected but thrilling destination for adventure travel.
14. Corn Islands, Nicaragua
Long a favorite destination in Central America for backpackers, Nicaragua’s Corn Islands are a great spot for travel whether you’re on a backpacker’s budget or looking for a little more luxury. Located in the Caribbean Sea just 45 miles off the coast of mainland Nicaragua, these off-the-beaten-path islands are served by frequent flights from Managua and are easier to access than you might expect for a destination that feels a million miles away.
The Corn Islands are a great choice for travelers looking for a true retreat. Here you’ll find great surfing, plenty of hammocks slung over white sand beaches, and what feels like infinite beautiful spots for swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, and soaking up the sun.
Car-free Little Corn Island feels like the Caribbean of decades ago, undeveloped and natural.
Travelers can choose between Big Corn Island and Little Corn Island, and while many visitors head for the more relaxed Corn Island, there is a lot to love on the bigger island as well. You’ll also save money by sticking to Big Corn, which has more accommodation options at all budgets. Plus, Big Corn has many of the excellent beaches Little Corn does as well.
15. Zakynthos, Greece
The stunning Greek island of Zakynthos is an excellent choice for affordable island vacations in the Mediterranean, far less expensive than Ibiza or other Greek islands such as Santorini. From affordable accommodation options to cheap drinks and food from local bars and cafes, you’ll find your travel dollar stretches far here than many other neighboring islands.
One of the best things to do in Zante is to rent a quad or motorbike. It is the most popular way of exploring the island and a cheaper option than a car rental. You can discover many beaches in one day due to the concentration of attractions in the small area of the island.
A trip to Gerakas beach, St. Nicholas Beach, Porto Zorro, and many others can be completed in one day. However, a visit to Navagio Beach cannot be missed. This award-winning beach is one of the most beautiful in the world and attracts many visitors every year.
The island’s high cliffs, amazing blue water, and charming, quaint towns will make you feel like in a luxurious spot, but in fact, Zakynthos is easily accessible to those who want to travel on a budget.
Read: 8 Best Beaches in Greece
16. Borneo, Malaysia
Malaysian Borneo is a wonderful and affordable vacation destination for those seeking a unique and exciting getaway. A single traveler can easily spend less than $40 a day without too much scrimping. This beautiful region offers a wide variety of things to do, from exploring its stunning tropical rainforests to relaxing on its pristine beaches and enjoying local cuisine.
Some of the most popular attractions in Malaysian Borneo include the Mount Kinabalu National Park, home to some of the tallest mountains in Southeast Asia, and the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, where visitors can observe these amazing primates in their natural habitat.
Other must-see destinations include Sipadan Island, known for its spectacular diving opportunities, and Lambir Hills National Park, which boasts diverse ecosystems and many unique species of plants and animals.
In addition to these natural wonders, Malaysian Borneo also has a rich culture that is well worth exploring. From tribal villages to bustling cities like Kota Kinabalu and Kuching, there is something for everyone here.
Whether you’re interested in experiencing local art and music or just want to try delicious Malay food at one of the many outdoor markets, there is something for every taste in this fascinating and budget-friendly region.
17. Koh Mook, Thailand
One of the best affordable island vacations in Thailand is the spectacular Koh Mook, considered on the the best places to visit in Thailand. Often included on an itinerary for island hopping in Thailand, Koh Mook is mainly famed for its Emerald Cave which you can see (affordably!) by kayak in the early morning while dodging the crowds of the more costly boat trips from nearby islands.
Koh Mook also has a number of budget bungalows where you can expect to pay between $16-24 for simple but comfortable bungalows. You can do a lot by walking, but even renting a scooter won’t cost much more than $6-7 a day.
Apart from Emerald Cave, there are hiking trails taking you through the dense jungle to hidden beaches.
If you prefer a calmer island experience, Koh Mook is home to spectacularly long and untouched beaches where you easily can laze around for a few days while grabbing cheap drinks and food at a local beach bar.
18. Lombok, Indonesia
Lovely Lombok is a beautiful Indonesian island in the Lesser Sunda group, directly east of the uber-popular Bali. It has a bit of everything: dazzling beaches, pumping surf, exciting diving and snorkeling, fantastic hiking, interesting culture, heavenly resorts and friendly people.
Best of all, it’s also incredibly affordable, offering outstanding value for money.
Whether you’re looking for affordable luxury or inexpensive beach huts, Lombok is the place for you. There are private pool villas, dive resorts, surf lodges, and cheap accommodations to suit every type of traveler, all at a fraction of the cost of elsewhere in the region.
Divers, snorkelers, and hedonists will want to head north to the Gili Islands, just off the coast of Lombok. These three little gems are pure magic, with a good balance between activities and laid-back retreats. Go on an island hopping boat tour while snorkeling among the turtles, go diving with mantas or chill on the beach and watch incredible sunsets.
Surfers will be in heaven on the southern beaches of Kuta. Southern Lombok is a year-round surf destination, with April to October being the peak surf season.
19. Princes Islands, Turkey
One of the most quaint and affordable islands in the world is Buyukada Island, one of the Princes’ Islands located in the Sea of Marmara, just off the coast of Istanbul. One of a chain is nine islands that stretch across the Marmara Sea, Buyukada is a great escape for affordable island vacations as you explore your way through your Turkey itinerary.
The island is the perfect balance between nature and tourism, with its quaint streets lined with historic mansions, and its many beaches and cafes. It is also home to a number of historical sites, such as the Aya Yorgi Church and Monastery, which date back to the 18th century.
Visitors can spend a day exploring the trails that take you to some of the best vistas on the island, or rent a bike and go up and down the streets and admire the old mansions.
With all fuel-driven vehicles banned on Buyukada, the island offers a quiet respite from the city’s hustle and bustle. Once you step foot on the island, you’ll immediately feel that the air is cleaner and the atmosphere much more relaxed!
With the economic crisis in Turkey, the Princes’ Islands are becoming one of the most affordable islands to visit in the world. Everything from food to accommodation is much cheaper than it used to be. Make sure you don’t miss this beautiful place in Istanbul!
20. Roatan, Honduras
If you’re looking for an affordable island vacation with white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and a unique cultural experience, look no further than Roatan, Honduras.
Affordable accommodations, food, and budget-friendly activities make this charming Caribbean island the perfect spot for a budget-friendly getaway. You can also get a delicious, authentic meal for around $5, and you can snag a nice villa or hotel for $45.
Located on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest in the world, Roatan is renowned for scuba diving and snorkeling. The reef surrounds the island and provides some of the best diving in the Caribbean. The best part is that diving here is a fraction of the cost of other islands.
Roatan is home to pristine beaches, like West Bay Beach, considered among the best beaches in the world. Rent a chair and umbrella and spend the afternoon enjoying the sun while sipping on cocktails.
Other fun things to do on the island include exploring West End, which is lined with restaurants and shops, ziplining through the lush mountains, or soaking in the vivid marine life on a glass-bottom boat tour.
Read More: 16 Best Beaches in the Caribbean
21. Tobacco Caye, Belize
Looking for a bucket list experience on a budget? An amazing hidden gem and the perfect island vacation for budget travelers, Tobacco Caye, Belize is home to one of the most affordable overwater bungalows in the world. The overwater bungalows at Tobacco Caye Paradise cost only $90 a night based on double occupancy, while budget guest rooms are available for $25 per night.
The island is very small – you can actually walk the perimeter of the entire island in about 30 minutes! – so you feel like you almost have your own private island.
Don’t let the island’s small size deter you, however, as there are a lot of activities to occupy your time while visiting. Activities available on the island include snorkeling, stand-up paddleboarding, and sea kayaking. Equipment for these activities is available to rent from Tobacco Caye Paradise.
While snorkeling in Caye Caulker might be more well-known, Tobacco Caye is also a great scuba destination. There is a PADI dive center on the island offering guided dives as well as scuba certification programs. Located in the northern part of the Southwater Caye Marine Reserve, there are dozens of amazing dive sites just a 10-minute boat ride from Tobacco Caye.
22. Koh Rong, Cambodia
Travelers in Southeast Asia remember fondly the days before so many of the islands in Thailand were built up and overtouristed, as many feel now after years of booming tourism. For those looking to relive those glory days of affordable island vacations spent on off-the-beaten-path, laidback beaches near lush jungle, head to Koh Rong, Cambodia.
Easily accessible by frequent ferries from Sihanoukville, Koh Rong is rimmed with miles and miles of white sand beaches, making beach-hopping one of the best activities on the island. Boats between the beaches are one of the best ways to get a unique perspective of the island and a quick way to travel.
In recent years, a small but vibrant backpacker party scene has developed around Koh Tuch beach, on the southeast side of the island. If you’re looking for nightlife, this spot is a must. If not, head to another part of the island, and just a few miles outside of town you’ll feel like you’re in another world.
Best Island Vacations
Whether you’re looking for a remote, natural Caribbean island vacation or a vibrant party spot in Southeast Asia, your ideal island vacation is closer than it might seem. In these unique island travel destinations, you’re guaranteed to have a memorable time while staying on budget.
Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.