Many people dream of a tropical island getaway, complete with velvety white sand, refreshing waves, and towering palm trees. Whether you want to lounge on the beach and drink cocktails or hike in the rainforest and surf in the ocean, island vacations can appeal to pretty much anyone.
There is a notion that island vacations are always expensive. If you choose to stay in five star hotels and treat yourself to luxuries, then yes, islands can be very expensive.
In addition to choosing affordable island destinations, consider exploring nature for free, staying in budget hostels, doing work exchanges, and eating local street food to save money as well. You can also fly budget airlines and travel during the off season to save money on an island getaway.
Top 17 islands to visit on an affordable getaway
This article will list 17 stunning islands around the world that can actually be affordable for travelers. I’ll include a few tips and suggestions for each island about how to save money. So here are 17 cheap islands to visit around the world!
1. Kauai, Hawaii
Known as “The Garden Isle”, this tropical and wild island of Hawaii is one of the best cheap islands to visit in the USA.
Find the cheapest flights to Kauai between the spring months of March and June, as flight prices tend to drop after the peak winter season. Once you arrive on the lush, stunning island of Kauai, most of the gorgeous natural attractions can be explored for free.
Hostels in Koh Phi Phi cost less than 10 USD per night. Partying, eating out, and buying souvenirs is all cheap as well, so you don’t have to restrict yourself at all. You can also find cheap boat tours around the islands for just 20 USD.
3. Ios, Greece
One of the best cheap islands to visit in Europe is Ios. Greece has so many luxurious islands, but Ios is a great option for budget travelers.
Famous for its nightlife and parties, Ios is ideal for young backpackers who want to live it up and party without spending a fortune. There is also amazing hiking and exploring to be done in the hills and forests of the island.
4. Isla Mujeres, Mexico
At only 5 miles long and 1 mile wide, this island off the coast of Mexico is tiny, yet diverse.
You can catch a cheap ferry from Cancun to the island, and spend your days swimming and snorkeling in the coral reefs, exploring the Mayan Ruins, hiking to the lighthouse, and scanning the ocean for sea turtles and other marine life.
You can explore much of the Isla Mujeres on foot, and taxis are really cheap if you want to cover more ground. Being a volunteer at this hostel can save you even more money.
5. Puerto Rico
Home to rainforests, beaches, and a historic Old Town, Puerto Rico is a fun and family-friendly island destination off the coast of southeast USA.
Wander through the colorful colonial buildings of San Juan, hike in the El Yunque Rainforest, or try to see bioluminescent plankton in the water at night (a common occurrence around Puerto Rico).
Zanzibar is an island archipelago in the Indian Ocean, off the east coast of Africa. Located just 15 miles away from Tanzania, you can either catch a short flight or a 2-hour ferry to reach Unguja, the main island of Zanzibar.
During your stay, sleep in a hostel for around 10-20 USD per night and enjoy free attractions like the beaches and forests. Stone Town is a cheap and historic area of the island that is full of entertainment and architecture.
Scotland’s islands don’t offer that tropical, warm weather island vacation. However, they do offer lots of rugged natural beauty. Just pack sweaters and hiking boots instead of bathing suits and flip flops!
You can either rent a car or book a cheap guided tour for exploring the Isle of Skye. Once you arrive, most of the attractions are in nature so they’re free.
Be sure to check out interesting rock formations like the Old Man of Storr and the Quiraing. Also check out the Kilt Falls waterfall and the Fairy Pools in the mountains.
8. Turks and Caicos
This archipelago of islands in the Atlantic Ocean is a popular vacation spot from the USA. Some may not realize that it is also one of the best cheap Caribbean islands to visit. With white sand beaches and the calm turquoise ocean, Turks and Caicos embodies that perfect tropical getaway you’ve always dreamed about.
There are a few budget hotels on the island, including vacation apartment rentals where you can cook your own food to save money.
If you stick to mostly free activities like enjoying the beaches and snorkeling, you can easily visit the island on a budget.
Located in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Southern India, Sri Lanka is a stunning island. Visit temples and explore the beaches for free, or ride a scenic train through the countryside or tour tea plantations for relatively cheap fees.
Utila, an island off Honduras in Central America, is one of the best cheap islands to visit, and of course among the best things to do in Honduras.
It’s known for its amazing coral reefs and snorkeling or diving opportunities, all of which can be done much cheaper than other countries. Stay in hostels and shop at the local markets to further save money and be part of a Permaculture Farm on a Caribbean Island.
11. Phu Quoc, Vietnam
The largest island in Vietnam, Phu Quoc is beautiful and easy to explore on a budget. Hostels are a bit pricier than mainland Vietnam, but they’re still extremely affordable. Enjoy the delicious street food and stick to free activities like lounging on Long Beach or checking out the Floating Village Rach Vem.
12. Madeira, Portugal
Madeira is an archipelago of 4 islands off the coast of Africa, though the islands are a region of Portugal. Portugal is generally an affordable European country to visit, and Madeira is one of the best cheap islands to visit in the area.
Travelers flock to Madeira for its diverse landscapes, full of forests, volcanoes, cliffs, beaches, and unique flora and fauna. Here you can hike to your heart's content without spending too much money.
Located deep in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of eastern USA, Bermuda is a popular island destination for Americans on holiday. Accommodation in Bermuda isn’t super cheap, but most of the best attractions are free.
Exploring the postcard-worthy beaches, hiking to the lighthouse, and sightseeing in colorful Hamilton are ways to enjoy Bermuda without spending a dime. You can also find flights to Bermuda from the USA for only 100-200 USD, which isn’t too bad!
14. Gili Trawangan, Indonesia
This island in Indonesia is not far from Bali, and the boat ride between the two is quite cheap. There are hostels in Gili Trawangan for under 10 USD per night, and you can easily spend under 10 USD per day on food.
This island is unique because it’s not actually in the ocean. Ometepe Island is located in Lake Nicaragua, a lake in Nicaragua surrounded by volcanoes. Travelers visit Ometepe to hike the volcanoes, see waterfalls, and explore the museums and artifacts in the town.
Ometepe has a very chill vibe and is home to numerous laid-back hostels, eco farms, permaculture projects, and vegan eateries, and even a raw vegan chocolate factory.
If you’re looking for cheap US islands to visit, look no further than Key West, Florida. This is a great local option if you don’t want to leave the USA, and budget airlines like Spirit have super cheap flights into Florida.
If you choose walking or biking around Key West instead of taxis or car hire, you can also explore the island cheaply.
Key West is known for its colorful buildings, its stunning beaches which are amazing for water sports, and its exciting nightlife.
Get sailing lessons and give a little help getting a yacht ready for travel in this amazing position for volunteers.
One of the best cheap islands to visit in the Mediterranean, Malta is a historic and multicultural gem of Europe. Located at a crossroads for different empires and cultures, Malta has played a significant role in the history of Europe, northern Africa, and Asia. There are lots of unique landmarks, temples, and monuments, in addition to glorious beaches.
To save money and further learn about the culture and lifestyle of Malta, consider one of the work exchanges available on Worldpackers. You can learn about beekeeping, practice your art and photography skills, or work in social media or housekeeping with a local business.
I'm positive these volunteer programs will help you to save even more money while visiting the islands listed here. If you have a suggestion of another incredible cheap island to visit, leave the name in the comments to help other travelers! And be always welcome to explore our blog to get more budget travel tips.
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Hello! I am a 25 year old from the USA with a knack for traveling on a budget. I fell in love with traveling while studying in Europe, and that love grew even more when I started volunteering abroad in South America. Since then, I've worked odd jobs and volunteered all over the globe while cultivating passions for hiking, wildlife photography, food, wine, animals, permaculture, and more!