After a bumpy 2020 many of us can’t wait to flop on a tropical beach, glass of fresh mango juice (or something stronger) in hand. There’s nothing like snorkeling on a coral reef to bring down your stress levels. While many people worry about the cost of an exotic vacation, some hotels and airlines are offering incentives such as lower prices and zero cancellation fees to encourage more visitors. Here are some of the best cheap tropical vacation destinations open for business in 2021.
Editor’s note: Save these ideas for when it’s safe to travel again, and always follow all COVID-19 restrictions, rules and safety regulations both at your destination and upon returning home.
With most cruise ship schedules on hold until at least April 2021, the second busiest cruise destination in the world is attempting to fill up its hotels by offering rooms at up to 30 percent lower than normal. The lush Mexican Caribbean island is fringed by excellent snorkeling sites and the ruins of a Maya temple is tucked away in the heart of it.
If you have a few extra hours to spare, you can save even more money by flying to Cancun airport rather than Cozumel airport, then taking a luxury ADO bus ($15) from the airport to Playa del Carmen (65 minutes), where you can hop on a fast ferry to Cozumel ($14 Tourist Ticket, 20 minutes).
Where to stay: The Explorean Cozumel is an affordable choice (often with big discounts on rooms), and with food and beverages included in the rates, it’s a steal.
Check Prices for The Explorean Cozumel in Cozumel
Having been battered by two back-to-back hurricanes in 2020, Honduras is facing a long recovery period and so is very keen to see tourist dollars flowing back in. This is a destination where you get a lot of value for money at the best of times, with four-star rooms for under $100. But some Honduras hotels are offering excellent deals in 2021 including up to 20 percent off regular rates.
Where to stay: Check out Paradise Beach Hotel’s cute clusters of guestrooms, villas and suites on the beachfront, surrounded by palm trees and pools. The hotel frequently offers discounts and cheap packages.
‘Done’ the Caribbean and want to see something new? Then Cabo Verde (Cape Verde) could be your next big adventure. According to a recent report, Cabo Verde is eager to entice travelers after being hit hard by a drop in tourism last year. If you’re working remotely or looking for a long stay trip, you’re in luck – they’ve launched new work visas that allow you to stay for up to six months.
But whether you’re heading to Cabo Verde for six months or six nights, you’ll easily find accommodation for under $100 a night. Turquoise lagoons and creole culture await you on these ten volcanic islands. Head to Boa Vista island (Portuguese for ‘good view’) for laid-back vibes and pristine golden sands.
Where to stay: Some of the hotels are closed until more tourists venture back but things are starting to pick up. Ouril Hotel Agueda is a solid three-star hotel near the sea with a rooftop bar. Rooms are under $100 a night and currently there’s 25 percent off.
Check Prices for Ouril Agueda Hotel in Sal Rei
Recently Grenada has totally revamped its tourism framework “to competitively position Grenada with target audiences”. That’s good news for bargain-hunters and those who appreciate natural attractions such as white sand beaches, waterfalls and reefs will love it. The islands are also famous for their spices, so spice tours should also be added to any foodies’ Grenada bucket list.
The tourist board has launched a heap of deals and incentives, including discounts on rum tours, spa day passes, outdoor adventures and scuba diving experiences.
Where to stay: Check out the three-star Sea Breeze Hotel for a simple affordable option (under $80/night) just four minutes’ walk from the beach
Check Prices for Sea Breeze Hotel in Culebra, Puerto Rico
You can usually get the best deals on flights to Thailand by booking at least one month in advance, but this year many routes are almost half price if you use a bargain flight site to book, such as CheapOair. Once you’ve grabbed a flight deal, you’ll find everything in Thailand is incredibly cheap.
For blissful beach vibes, fly to Koh Samui or Phuket, or if jungle is your thing, head to Chiang Mai. If you’ve seen The Beach, the filming location, Phi Phi Lei (scheduled to reopen this year after extensive conservation works) is a must-see. You can’t stay on this protected island, but you can book a trip/hire a taxi boat to take you there from Phi Phi Don, Krabi, Ao Nang or any of the other neighboring tourism hotspots.
Where to stay: On Koh Phi Phi Don (‘Big Phi Phi Island) try the contemporary Thai three-star, Phi Phi Island Cabana Resort, with excellent views of the beach and sublime limestone cliffs for around $60 per night.
Check Prices for Phi Phi Island Cabana Hotel in Ko Phi Phi Don, Thailand
This Indian Ocean archipelago has a reputation for sky-high prices but don’t let that put you off. “Many resorts have slashed prices by as much as 30 to 60 percent and some resort brands, such as Villa Hotels, are also offering extra perks like upgrades and kids stay free, to attract more visitors”, explains Maldives travel specialist, Liswith Obinamuni, of Desti Asia.
You can now bag a three-star Maldives private island resort for as little as $137 per night, while airlines such as Qatar are tempting travelers with unlimited date changes, fee-free refunds and special online fares. Visit during the (surprisingly light) rainy season, May to September, for even lower rates.
To save even more cash, check out for this lesser-known option: Hotel rooms located in island villages (known locally as ‘guesthouses’, but more like boutique hotels) start at $50 per night. Take a public ferry to your island for just $3-5 (compared to $200 for resort transfers) and eat at local restaurants for under $10/meal.
Where to stay: The new Amaya Kuda Rah four-star private island resort is currently 51 percent cheaper than normal. It’s located in South Ari Atoll, which has some of the best scuba diving in the country.
Check Prices for Amaya Kuda Rah in Kuda Rah Island
With US airlines expanding their routes to the Domincan Republic, you can expect a slew of deals to follow. American Airlines is launching a new route on June 5 from Charlotte, NC, to El Catey, while budget operator, Spirit Airlines, has just launched routes between Orlando, FL, and Punta Cana. Not to be left out, Frontier Airlines is increasing the number of flights it offers between Miami and Punta Cana from March.
While the tropical nation is known for its beaches, golf courses and resorts, it also has rainforests, savannah and highlands (including Pico Duarte, the tallest mountain in the Caribbean) to tempt outdoor adventurers, as well as 500-year old Spanish landmarks like the gothic cathedral in Santo Domingo.
Where to stay: Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana is a great option for an affordable but upscale beachfront resort, with frequent discounts, a huge beach and attractive freeform pools for lazy lounging.
Check Prices for Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana in Punta Cana
This lush island is consistently rated as one of the Caribbean’s most affordable destinations. Despite being a popular pitstop for cruise ships (during normal conditions) and having featured in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’, Dominica has not been ruined by over-tourism. In the untouched interior, over 350 waterfalls and rivers surrounded by thick jungle beckons hikers, rock climbers and kayakers.
But those who enjoy a slower pace of life will love the eco cottages, boutique hotels and private villas (in contrast to the big flashy resorts of other Caribbean islands). The golden beaches are framed by soaring cliffs and mountains rather than high-rise hotels.
Where to stay: Simple, friendly and for under $60/night, Soufriere Guesthouse ticks a lot of boxes for good value budget accommodation. It’s in easy reach of diving and snorkeling sites, as well as hiking trails.
Check Prices for Soufriere Guesthouse in Dominica, Caribbean
Jetblue is another budget airline launching low-cost flights to a new tropical destination this year. The new routes will link Boston, LA and New York City with Guatemala City.
This more under-the-radar tropical destination has oodles to offer – from beaches and lakes to volcanoes, jungle and Maya ruins. And there’s even more good news. Major international hotel brands such as Hilton and Hyatt have rooms in Guatemala City for around $100 per night, or less. Accomodation rates on the coast are often at an even lower price-point.
Where to stay: Head to Izabal department for manatees, beaches and rivers. Discover the adorable coconut-thatch villas of Nanajuana Río Dulce, between the rainforest and the river. It even has its own marina – but rooms are less than $70 per night.
This state on the Yucatan Peninsula, where the South Atlantic turns into the Caribbean Sea, always has plenty of affordable accommodation options and is served by many low-cost flights from the US. But in 2021, even more deals abound than normal. Lizzie Cole of the Quintana Roo Consejo de Promoción Turística tells us: “The hotels have implemented different strategies, some offering special packages at better rates, kids-stay-free promotions and others even adding a complimentary night,” in Quintana Roo’s major tourism hubs including Costa Mujeres, Cancun and the Riviera Maya. Due to these promotions, travelers are booking even longer stays than they normally do, she adds.
Highlights of the ‘Mexican Caribbean’ include world-class dive sites, white sand beaches, the ruins of Maya temples, mystical cenotes and quality adventure parks.
Where to stay: The all-inclusive beachfront Iberostar Selection Paraiso Maya with nine pools and a slow-river is one of the many hotels in the region with sizzling deals, and being all-inclusive you’ll save even more cash.
Check Prices for Iberostar Selection Paraiso Maya in Playa Paraiso
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