Caribbean Travel Tips
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 in to 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 from which to choose, you are sure to find a corner of the Caribbean suitable to your budget.
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- Accommodation: Hostels cost around $18USD per evening in the off season, with budget hotels coming in at around $80USD.
- Food: Prices vary considerably depending on which island you are on, with a meal in the Dominican Republic costing as little as $10 or around $15 USD on Aruba. Best advice? Stick to restaurants away from the cruise ships and families.
- Transportation: Bus services are inexpensive, rarely more than $.50 (USD) to $3USD. On islands without a bus service, a taxi may be the only form of transport with fares of $15 USD for even a short journey.
- Activities: In general, tours and historical and architectural attractions are relatively inexpensive ($5-20 USD), however diving and other day trips such as swimming with dolphins are quite expensive, usually costing a minimum of $100 USD
Money Saving Tips
- Travel off-season – Prices for vacations plummet the third week in April. Savings of 30% and more are possible during the “summer” season (April – December 21st).
- Drink local alcohol- Rum is around 1/3 the price in the Caribbean than in the US and many islands have their own local beers which are much cheaper than the more famous imported beers (such as Corona, Budweiser etc.).
- Camp - Some islands allow visitors to camp on the beach for around $10 USD. This can be a good way to save money on accommodation on some of the safer, less inhabited islands and on those islands where typical hotel prices are astronomical.
- Take a cruise – Cruising can offer a low-cost way of seeing various islands as well as getting your transport, accommodation and food paid in advance. Many cruises can be as cheap as $50 USD per day, especially if booked last minute.
Top Things to See and Do
- Antigua - 365 pink and white beaches can be found in Antigua, one of the largest Caribbean islands. If you’re into sailing, sign up to be a deckhand or just observe Sailing Week, the world renowned sailing regatta.
- Dunn’s River Falls, Jamaica - This is the most popular visitor attraction in Jamaica. At 660 ft it consists of an impressive waterfall and collection of plunge pools which lead directly into the ocean. You can add bouldering to your tour for a more energetic way to get back to the beach.
- 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.
- Swim with Dolphins – There are plenty of opportunities to swim with dolphins and other marine life on any of the islands here. Although expensive, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many people. Some of the most popular programs operate out of Anthony’s Key in Honduras and Dolphin Cay, Bahamas.
- Go snorkeling or diving – Divers and even snorkelers can visit shipwrecks and coral reefs in the waters surrounding most islands. In general, diving trips can be expensive, at around $125 USD per person, but if you bring your own snorkeling gear you can enjoy the underwater sights for free.
- 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 when snorkeling makes it all worthwhile.
- Mount Gay Rum Distillery, Barbados - Barbados is famous for its rum and Mount Gay is one of the oldest and most respected distilleries in the world. This tour takes you through the history and process of distillation. At $6 USD, it’s worth it just for the huge discounts on Mount Gay that you receive at the end.
- Cayman Turtle Farm, Cayman Islands - The Turtle Farm is the most popular attraction in the Cayman Island and is the only farm of its kind in the world as it specializes in controlled breeding. There are plenty of adult turtles weighing in at hundreds of pounds and others that are smaller than a few inches. No matter their size, all seem ready for a photo op.
- Go Zip-Lining in St. Lucia - Looking for an adventurous break from sun-tanning? Try zip-lining through the rain forest canopy in St. Lucia. Expect to pay around $60 USD for the use of twelve different zip-lines.
- Learn about Reggae’s Roots - Jamaica is home to the reggae music and culture. While Bob Marley’s legacy reverberates throughout the island, you can get the most out of your reggae immersion by visiting the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston, Marley’s hometown.
- Lose Yourself in the Clouds - Holywell National Park lies in the Blue Mountain region of Jamaica. Walk along the mountain’s edge and find yourself in a sea of clouds, with birds and monkeys screeching around you. A short drive from Kingston, this tropical park can easily be visited in an afternoon.
- Visit the World’s Wickedest City- Port Royal, at the mouth of Kingston harbor (Jamaica), once held a reputation as the “wickedest city on earth.” In the 17th century, it was a haven for buccaneers, and consisted mainly of bars and brothels. At the end of the century, much of the city sunk as the result of a huge earthquake. Underwater archaeological excavations are underway, but you can still visit some of the ruins and tour a small information centre during your visit.
- Kayak around the Islands - One of the best ways to explore these islands by water, but if you can’t afford your own powerboat, a half-day kayaking tour is a great alternative. Prices will vary by island, but for example, you can expect to pay around $100 USD for a six-hour guided tour in Aruba.
- Pretend You’re a Pirate - If you’re looking for more pirate culture, check out the Pirates of Nassau Museum in the Bahamas, which consists of informative historical exhibits and a replica pirate ship.
- 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.