– Cheapest Caribbean Islands –
32 Destinations Best prices in 2020
Extremely popular with both North Americans and Europeans during the winter months, the Caribbean is filled with islands and destinations that range from cheap & basic to posh & exclusive. You’ll also find islands where English dominates, but also where Spanish, French, or Dutch are far more common.
This list has been totally updated for 2020 and nearly all islands have now recovered from the devastating 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria. Puerto Rico is mostly back open for business, as most of the hotels have reopened. The Virgin Islands (US and British) remain the hardest hit as very few of the cheaper hotels and resorts have reopened as of late 2019.
Ranking Caribbean islands and destinations by price is challenging for a variety of reasons, so we simplified it by including only a cheaper 3-star hotel room for a week.
Airfares to Cancun are spiking at the time of research, so the Dominican Republic seems like a better bargain. Some low-cost airlines have pulled out of the Caribbean and now a couple smaller islands are much lower on this list because they are much more expensive to reach again.
Below are the 32 most popular Caribbean destinations
Caribbean islands and Destinations ranked by price during the High Season
By far the busiest destination in the Caribbean, Cancun is obviously not an island so it might not count for some people. But Greater Cancun also consists of Playa del Carmen, and the Riviera Maya area as well as the nearby island of Cozumel, so it’s a huge cluster of resort areas all served by one busy airport.
With cheap flights from almost everywhere and hotels starting at suspiciously low prices, Cancun is easily the cheapest Caribbean destination and a great choice for the Spring Break crowd. It’s worth noting that the cheapest hotels in Cancun won’t be within walking distance of the beach, although most will have a pool. The new hotels along the Hotel Zone tend to be good value compared to Caribbean islands. If you want to stay in a lovely town rather than along a strip of new hotels, look for places down in Playa del Carmen or Tulum, which are only an hour south of the airport by taxi or shuttle.
Punta Cana has some modestly priced hotels that include breakfast, but it’s much better known as the best and cheapest place for luxury all-inclusive resorts at amazing rates. In fact, some of these all inclusives only cost a bit more than the ones that only include breakfast. There are really good air+hotel packages available that can keep prices down and offer fantastic value for the Caribbean.
La Romana does have just enough inexpensive hotels to make it this high on the list, but the area is mostly known for larger upscale resorts. The famous Casa de Campo Resort started the trend, and it’s still almost exclusively a package resort area for the upscale crowd. La Romana is often included in the Punta Cana market when you search for hotels, so you can fly into that airport if it’s cheaper, and take a shuttle to your resort on the brand-new highways between them. In fact, flights into Punta Cana Airport are almost always cheaper so that is what we used for this entry.
Puerto Plata includes several clusters of resort beaches along the northern shore of the Dominican Republic. The hotels here are among the cheapest in the Caribbean, and this area is also known for very affordable all-inclusive packages. The diving and snorkeling aren’t top-notch, but at least it’s good value otherwise. Flights to the nearby airport aren’t as cheap as they used to be, and the Santiago Airport a bit further south is 90 minutes away by road. Those looking for a luxury all-inclusive at an appealing price would probably be happier in Punta Cana (see above).
Thanks to some surprisingly cheap JetBlue flights Curacao can be an excellent value for some travelers. Officially part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Curaçao has excellent diving and some of the cheaper hotels in the southern part of the Caribbean. It also has a large and busy airport which helps keep airfares reasonable from North America and several key European cities. Curaçao is also seldom in the path of hurricanes, so autumn trips are a great value here and come with greater peace of mind.
Samana has quite a few posh and expensive resorts, but it’s also got a nice mix of more affordable simple hotels near the beach. This is a newer resort area that is expanding at a fast clip, with a new airport and increasing services as well. Samaná is the whale-watching capital of the Caribbean with some very nice beaches to boot.
For a couple years Americans were allowed visits to Cuba for “cultural tourism”, and cruise ships started coming as well. But Americans still can’t legally sun themselves in Varadero or any other Cuban resort city and that doesn’t look ready to change anytime soon. Still, Canadians and Europeans are very fond of this commercialized stretch of beach out on a restricted peninsula. You’ll find mostly larger all-inclusive resorts here built specifically for the package crowds. Varadero is relatively cheap and good value for the Caribbean, and quality in its beachfront resort hotels is fairly high. Once Americans can visit Cuba solely for leisure, things are bound to change quite a bit.
Almost completely flat, Aruba is another Dutch island without a striking volcano at its center. Still, it has a well developed tourist infrastructure and a busy airport with cheap flights from Europe, so it’s a popular choice for northern Europeans as well as Americans. Most hotels on Aruba are in the mid-range and upper end, but there are enough affordable places that get good reviews to make it pretty high on this list.
About 90-minutes east of Montego Bay Airport on Jamaica’s northern shore, Ocho Rios is similar in price to Montego Bay and Negril (see below). It’s also a very popular cruise port, so the local waterfalls and other attractions can be jammed or nearly empty depending on the day. There are large and impressive resorts all along the north shore between Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, including many all-inclusives. But similar to Montego Bay, the actual town of Ocho Rios is underdeveloped, unimpressive, and somewhat annoying, filled mostly with nearly identical souvenir shops and a few jewelry malls. If you want to stay in a small hotel and try different restaurants and bars along a beach, go to Negril and stay clear of Ocho Rios.
Jamaica’s busiest airport is near the heart of Montego Bay so visitors can be checked-in sooner here than if they went to Negril or Ocho Rios nearby. This is a very well developed and touristy area along Jamaica’s north shore, with plenty of large all-inclusive resorts all the way up the price scale. All along the north shore you’ll find a string of large hotels (many all-inclusive), and there are a few good activities as well. But the actual town of Montego Bay, centered along the so-called “Hip Strip” is disappointing. In other words, if you want to stay in an independent hotel and try many nearby restaurants and bars, go to Negril. Montego Bay is really only good for its larger resorts.
Negril, which is about 90-minutes from Montego Bay Airport by road, has a beautiful west-facing beach and an abundance of cheaper 2-star and 3-star hotels, making it among the Caribbean’s best value destinations for hotels that are actually on the sand. There are also many all-inclusives and upscale & pricey 4-stars, so it’s a good mix rather than just all down-market. The gorgeous area along 7-Mile Beach is lined with smaller hotels and a few larger ones plus a few all-inclusives. THIS is where you want to go in Jamaica if you want to visit the country rather than just visiting the grounds of a hotel.
About 95% of the population lives on Trinidad, but about half the resorts are on Tobago and usually people just visit one island or the other since they aren’t close together. Slightly cheaper flights go into Trinidad, but we are using data for Tobago here since it’s more popular with resort-goers. The hotel markets are listed separately as well, but prices and the overall range are quite similar and both offer good value. In other words, if you are considering a first visit, it’s probably best to book on Tobago unless you want to specifically explore the culture (and oil fields) of Trinidad.
While it’s a bit farther than other cheap Caribbean destinations, there are sometimes good airfares from the US to Barbados. This island has many good-value 3-star beach resorts towards the south, and a long line of exclusive and luxurious hotels and resorts in what might best be described as the Beverly Hills of the Caribbean. Barbados has a well developed hotel scene so it won’t feel as exotic as some of the smaller islands nearby. Some of the diving here is excellent so it can be great value for the scuba set.
Cheap and direct flights from many cities help make San Juan a good budget choice, even if hotel prices here start higher than other destinations near the top of this list. The Old San Juan area is gorgeous and there are many surprisingly affordable eating and sleeping options there. Starting just next door you’ll find a long string of tourist-oriented areas with some of the best city beaches in the world. There are virtually no all-inclusive resorts on Puerto Rico, so this is a pay as you go destination. If you want a bit of culture and don’t need nonstop buffets, then San Juan might be the best option in the Caribbean at a modest price. San Juan can also be a great choice for trips of only a few days because airfares are low even if hotels aren’t quite so cheap.
If you are a serious surfer and want to give it a try in the Caribbean then come to Rincon, on Puerto Rico’s west coast. Others are probably better off in the more developed San Juan area, but surfers love it here and often rent local houses rather than staying in the somewhat pricey hotels. Flights to the local airport are cheap, and the sometimes-cheaper San Juan airport is also an easy drive.
Arguably the most beautiful island in the Caribbean, St. Lucia is an interesting mix of options with some surprisingly good deals at hotels combined with rather expensive airfares. Flights aren’t always expensive though, so this is a good island to put in an airfare alert and pounce when a bargain appears. This is a popular stop for cruise ships and there is also a great mix of upscale resorts, so St. Lucia is justifiably popular for many different groups.
You wouldn’t come to Bonaire for the beaches, because this small and mostly-flat island isn’t blessed with sandy shores like most of the Caribbean, but it does have excellent diving and wind surfing as well. This all contributes to more of an informal atmosphere on Bonaire, with a nice selection of cheap hotels available. Flights aren’t cheap, however, so it’s not ideal for most.
Known for its beautiful volcanic views and for not being overly developed, Grenada is a good choice for English-speaking folks looking to get away from the package crowds. Prices at the resorts are mostly in the middle range, but a few top-end places are here as well. Flights can sometimes be cheap, though be sure to check hotel prices before you book the airfare.
Antigua is one of the more accessible Caribbean islands that is known as a playground for the rich and famous. It’s a beautiful place and flight deals are often available, but resorts here range from moderate on up to shockingly expensive. Several celebrities have homes on the island, which tells you something about the crowd that books here. Still, there are some modestly priced hotels that get very good reviews, so it’s a possibility for budget visitors.
Still an official part of France, Guadeloupe is very unusual in that it’s sometimes actually cheaper to reach by air from Paris than from New York. In other words, this is a very French island that caters nicely to budget and mid-range Europeans, but it can be expensive and difficult to reach from North America if you aren’t starting in the right city. Hotels here can be good value if you can get an airfare bargain.
Famously divided with a French half in the north (Saint Martin) and a Dutch half in the south (Sint Maarten), this island otherwise treats itself as one destination. Almost all (cheap) flights are into the airport in the Dutch area, and hotels are grouped together as well, with both halves being mid-range choices with almost nothing in the low-budget category.
The twin islands of St. Kitts and Nevis are among the smaller and more modest tourist markets, and this can make them ideal for those not interested in crowds and shopping centers. In fact, even the more populous St. Kitts feels mostly empty with wide-open land, with Nevis even more empty. There are almost no cheap hotels on either island though. Scuba diving is very good here, with some notable shipwrecks and underwater caves. Flights are a bit pricey too, so this is a good choice for scuba visits for upmarket guests.
A favorite of French-speakers from Canada and Europe, Martinique has a relatively large population without a great number of resorts, so it doesn’t feel as touristy as many other islands. You’ll find great cuisine here, and quite a few budget hotel options as well. Norwegian Air flew into Martinique for a couple years, but the low cost airline ended that in early 2019 so airfares are much higher again.
Freeport is the second-largest city in the Bahamas and its location on the island of Grand Bahama is also the second-busiest tourist destination in the island chain. While popular as a cruise destination, hotels here are mostly in the mid-range for the Caribbean, and it’s a common short getaway for those coming from nearby Florida. Hurricane Dorian DID hit parts of Grand Bahama Island and some hotels and resorts were damaged, but many others were not. If you are interested in visiting you can see what is open and available for your travel dates, and they need all the visitors they can get in the wake of the storm.
Larger than nearby St. Thomas, the island of St. Croix is also harder to reach, with very few direct flights from far away. There are also fewer cruise ships stopping in St. Croix, so it really does have a bit more of a remote and isolated feeling, for better or for worse. Hotels are quite expensive in general, though flight deals are sometimes available. All of the Virgin Islands were hit hard in the 2017 hurricanes and many of the cheaper hotels have yet to reopen as a result.
Nassau is another very popular stop for cruise passengers, and it’s also well known for Paradise Island just over the bridge, which is home to the famous Atlantis Resort and Casino complex. Flights are cheap from most places, but hotels in the Nassau area start in the mid range and go way up from there. There’s great shopping and nightlife here, at least for the Caribbean. Nassau was also mostly out of the path of the 2019 hurricanes so it was completely spared.
If you’ve heard of the Cayman Islands then you might be a banker because this territory of the UK has nearly as many banks as it has people. It’s also a fairly luxurious resort island that is geographically off on its own a bit, with prices starting in the mid-range and going way up from there. Cheap flights are often available so package deals might be good value.
Known largely as a stop for cruise ships and a Caribbean shopping mecca for inexpensive jewelry, St. Thomas also has great scuba diving and all the usual water sports available. Hotels here are quite expensive compared to others higher on this list, but at least cheap flight deals are possible, making this a good-value option for visits of only a few days. St. Thomas was also hit hard by the 2017 hurricanes so some of the cheaper hotels are no longer on the market.
Though it’s technically a long way from the Caribbean, Bermuda gets included here because it’s a good alternative, especially from April through June when it’s warm enough. This is a very British island still, and quite expensive as well, with not a single cheap hotel available online. Flights from the US can be cheap though, so it’s still a decent budget option for a short visit.
Tourism in the British Virgin Islands is mostly restricted to 2 islands, Tortola and Virgin Gorda. They are beautiful and very low key, partly because there are no long-haul flights coming in so everyone has to change planes at least once. Hotels here start quite high and go up from there, so it’s only a good choice for well-heeled folks escaping the crowds elsewhere. As of 2015, Tortola began to welcome more cruise visits with its new port and pier, so development here will increase as well, for better or worse. Tortola was also hit by the 2017 hurricanes so some of the cheaper hotels are still knocked out.
A bit north of the real Caribbean, Turks & Caicos has a drier climate than most other islands, giving it a longer in-season range. There are some extremely posh resorts here, including some all-inclusives, but there are some modestly priced hotels as well, making it a mid-range option overall. The cheap flights often available make it good for late-season or shorter stay.
Only a few miles off St. Martin, Anguilla is a small and beautiful island that is near the upper end of the price scale for all of the Caribbean. Flights are expensive, though you can get here by ferry from St. Martin, but hotels are all very expensive as well. A few of the resorts here are among the priciest in all of the Caribbean.
Saint Barthélemy (AKA St. Barts) is an outlier because it’s not only the most expensive Caribbean island, it also has only a handful of small hotels, and most guests rent villas and condos instead. In reality, there are a few cheaper hotels here, but in-season this is really a scene best suited for the rich and/or famous. Flights are also expensive because you have to change planes nearby just to reach it.