The Caribbean is made up of over 5000 islands, reefs, and cays, each with its own unique attractions and price ranges. In recent years, even very secluded islands have been transformed into some of the world’s most exclusive vacationing destinations. There is a misconception that a trip to the islands will be extremely expensive and not a viable destination for budget travelers. While accommodation can be expensive, costs of food and activities can vary greatly island to island. With so many places to choose from in this guide, you’ll find a corner of the Caribbean suitable to your
1) Sail around the Virgin Islands
Sailing around the islands is one of the most popular and fun activities you can do. You can get day sails or multi-day trips. I sailed around for a month and had a phenomenal time. (And there’s an art to it, but you can even sail for free.)
2) Visit Havana, Cuba
Often eliciting images of revolutionary heroes and a turbulent history, Havana is the largest city in the Caribbean. However, in recent times, the city has emerged as a tourist hotspot, rich in history, architecture, and culture. Try to visit the country in July when Santiago (the second-largest city) celebrates its annual Carnival de Santiago de Cuba. From July 24-26, the streets fill with music and dancing, a real sight to behold.
3) Hike Gros Piton in St.Lucia
These twin volcanic peaks that rise out of the water are a marvel to behold, but even more of an experience to climb. Gros Piton is open to experienced hikers. Beware, at 2,619-feet, it’s a steep, challenging, but rewarding climb.
4) Swim with pigs, Bahamas
You’ve probably seen photos of these swimming pigs. Located in Exuma (in the Bahamas), these pigs draw tourists from all around the world. While cute, they are still wild and have been known to bite so be careful when you take your selfies!
5) See Trunk Bay, St.John
Frequently voted one of the best beaches in the world, Trunk Bay is picture perfect with white sands and clear water. It does cost a few dollars to get onto the beach, but the coral and marine life you’ll see while snorkeling will make it all worthwhile. A day pass is $5 USD.
1. Mount Gay Rum Distillery, Barbados
2. Learn about Reggae’s roots, Jamaica
3. Splash around Dunn’s River Falls, Jamaica
4. Go snorkeling or diving
5. Turtle Farm, Cayman Island
6. Go zip-lining in St. Lucia
7. Visit Antigua
8. See the world’s “wickedest” city, Jamaica
9. Kayak around the islands
10. Pretend you’re a pirate, Bahamas
11. See Bermuda’s famous cathedral
12. Go nude at Salomon’s Beach, St. John
13. Lose yourself in the clouds, Jamaica
Accommodation – There aren’t many hostels or campgrounds to be found in the Caribbean, but the ones that do exist will cost around $20 USD per night. A basic room in a 2-star budget hotel in a room that sleeps two starts around an $80 USD per night average. Airbnb is also available throughout the Caribbean and you can find entire homes (usually studio apartments) starting around a $50 USD per night average. You will find more inventory if you look around $95 USD or above, though. While there are a lot of islands in the Caribbean and prices vary widely, remember that overall, this is an expensive part of the world.
Food – Food typical of the Caribbean includes dishes with lots of beans, plantains, rice, sweet potatoes, coconut, pork beef, chicken, and fish. Prices vary considerably depending on which island you are on (Is it big? Small? Does it have a large local population? Or does it cater to tourists?) but you’re looking at between $10-20 USD for a meal at a restaurant. Prices go up from there. If you can find food at the local markets, those will cost around $5. My advice for the region: avoid restaurants near cruise ports and resorts, find the local markets, and cook your food as often as you can. Rarely are the fancy meals worth their exorbitant price!
Transportation – Bus services on the islands are inexpensive, rarely more than $3 USD. You can hitchhike safely around most of the islands too (save Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Haiti). On islands without a bus system, a taxi may be the only form of transport with fares getting up to $15 USD for even a short journey. To get between islands, you’ll need your own boat or to fly. In the Lower Antilles, there are ferries that connect the island together since they aren’t too far apart but, generally speaking, flights are the most realistic option.
Activities – $60-100 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out a little, cooking most of your meals, and using local transportation. Using the budget tips below, you can always lower this number. However, if you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more often, expect this to be higher!)
Suggested daily budget – 150 BMD / 150 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating and cooking, and using local transportation. Using the budget tips below, you can always lower this number. If you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more, expect this to be higher!)
While each country guide has specific tips, here are some general money saving tips for the region: