While many travelers in the northern hemisphere think of beach season as the months of June, July, and August, the reality is that it’s always beach season somewhere. When snow starts to fall in the north, the beaches of the southern hemisphere are just started to heat up. And in tropical destinations, you can enjoy the sand and surf nearly all year round.
But beach destinations can be pricey. Some are expensive simply due to a higher cost of living or stronger currency, while the price of some is driven by popularity. If you’re looking for a lower cost beach vacation, check out these beach destinations that offer a cheaper experience (once you get there). They may not be the absolute cheapest in the world, but each one offers excellent value for the experience.
Poland isn’t a place most people would consider for a beach vacation, yet on the northern coast is an area called the Polish Riviera. Along the Baltic coast,you’ll find miles of sandy shores, including some of the biggest sand dunes in Europe, and beach resorts that cost a fraction of the price of their Mediterranean counterparts.
Places such as Sopot, Gdansk, Gdynia or Ustka are some of the best places to spend a beach vacation in the country. Ustka is particularly famous among German tourists (the border is just 250 km away). There are two beaches in Ustka, out of which the Eastern Beach has more facilities, bars and restaurants, as well as a waterfront promenade.
1 US dollar equals 2.89 Polish zloty, which puts dorm rooms in Sopot under $20 US, even in high season. Rooms in Sopot start at £54 per night (double occupancy), while double rooms in seaside hotel in Ustka start at around$65 per night. Food and drink is equally affordable; a beer won’t set you back more than about $2US and an entree at even the poshest beachfront restaurants is generally under $15, with casual fare much cheaper.
The closest large airport is in Gdansk. It is hub for WizzAir, which offers flights from various large cities in Europe. Ryanair also flies here. If you fly from North America, you’ll have to make as stop in another city, like London or Warsaw, and then continue on a low cost carrier.
For years Malta has remained one of the biggest secrets in Europe. It doesn’t get the same attention as France or Italy, but it has its fair share of superb beaches and excellent diving conditions. The island most travelers visit in Malta is Gozo. Aside from the beaches, it also offers historic fortifications and interesting churches.
Dwejra is considered the best beach in Gozo and most travelers come here for the snorkeling, but you’ll also find many travelers just hanging on the beach soaking up the sun. Gozo’s off-the-radar status helps keep the prices low. Rooms in Gozo start around $50 per night during the summer months.
Malta has its own airport, which is hub for Air Malta and Ryanair. If you fly from North America, you need to make a stop in London, Amsterdam or Rome, before continuing on a low cost carrier. Alternatively, you can take the ferry from Catania (Italy) or Pozzallo (Italy) to get to Malta.
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Greece has been known for years as a cheap beach vacation destination. It has long offered a good alternative to the pricier Italian or French beaches, and has become even cheaper lately thanks to the country’s economic woes.
On the mainland, the entire Halkidiki area is your best bet if you are on a low budget but still want crystal clear water and white sandy beaches. Book your vacation ahead of time (typically by mid-March or April) to get even bigger discounts. If you are looking for cheaper islands, Thassos is a good choice, but so are Zakynthos or Corfu.
Cheap and basic studio accommodation is plentiful in Halkidiki, Thassos , and Zakynthos, where you can find a room for as little as $7-12US per person. Eating in Greece is equally cheap, if you go for budget dining. Gyros cost around $3USD while dinner in a taverna can be had for around $10US.
Most of the Greek islands are served by seasonal flights run by various European low cost carriers. Or you can fly into Athens or Thessaloniki and then take a domestic flight or a ferry to the island of your choice.
Portugal shares Europe’s Iberian Peninsula with Spain, and competes with its neighbor, as well as Italy and France, when it comes to beach destinations. Like those other countries, it also offers excellent regional cuisine, several regions for wine tasting, and a diverse landscape that ranges from rocky cliffs to white sand beaches to verdant valleys to rolling plains.
The Algarve, with its beautiful beaches and picturesque coastline, is Portugal’s most popular vacation destination and offers a variety of choices from built-up (and more crowded) beaches lined with resorts to secluded slices of sand that you may have to work a bit harder to reach. The island of Madeira is also a good choice, especially since you can travel here year round and still enjoy the sun and the sea.
Beach accommodation in a single room in a guesthouse can be had for 20 euros or less in many towns of the Algarve, and, like elsewhere in Portugal, food and drink is a bargain when compared to the costs of neighboring Spain. A glass of port or local wine can be found for about two euros and a platter of fresh local fish is generally under 10 euros.
Many major airlines and low cost European carriers fly into Portugal. If you fly from North America, you’ll most like land in Lisbon. And from there you can take a domestic flight to the desired destination. If you are already in Europe, you can fly into plenty other smaller airports; Faro is one of the most popular of them.
Located on the shores of the Black Sea, Bulgaria offers a cheaper and warmer beach destination than its neighbor, Romania. It’s just as cheap as Greece’s low cost resorts and is also a good alternative to the Turkish Riviera.
Albena, Balchik, Nessebar and Sunny Beach are good options for those on a low budget. There are some sights to see in Varna and Balchik, but, in general, all these resorts offer the typical sun, sand and partying experience, on a smaller budget.
Accommodation in Albena starts at less than 30 Bulgarian lev, or about $20US in 2 star hotels, breakfast included. In Nessebar, rooms start at just over $10US per night in 2 star hotels. Dining and drinking are just as inexpensive, with a good dinner for two with glasses of wine available for under $20 US; a beer will set you back less than a buck in most places.
You can fly into either Sofia or Varna and then travel by car or bus to one of the resorts. Varna is closer to the Black Sea Coast but flights to Varna are usually expensive. Alternatively you can fly into Bucharest and then take a bus to one of the resorts.
Located in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic has always been known as a cheap beach paradise. For those who want to spend a vacation on the sandy beaches but don’t want to burn holes in their pockets in places such as Bahamas, Aruba or the USVI, the Dominican Republic is an excellent choice. Play in the surf on sandy beaches fringed by lush jungle, or get more active with surfing lessons, jungle wildlife tours, or hiking excursions.
In Santo Domingo, room rates start at US$36 per night (twin private room), while in Cabarete, rooms start at US$32 per night (double private room). A cold beer on the beach only costs about $1.50US with plenty of inexpensive options for local food.
The Dominican Republic is connected with daily flights from the USA, making it also a very easy to reach destination. The main airport is located in Santo Domingo and, aside from the flights from the USA and the Caribbean, it also receives direct flights from Europe.
Panama is definitely the hidden gem of Central America. It has coastlines on both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean and is one of the most attractive emerging tourism destinations in the world. It is 30% cheaper to spend a vacation in Panama than in Costa Rica.
Bocas de Toro is a town and beach resort located on the southern tip of Colón Island, small enough to be tackled on foot. Aside from the high end hotels, you can also find cheap accommodation for $20-$40 per night. Another option is Balboa. But you can also stay in Panama City -where rooms are slightly more expensive – and explore the beaches on day trips. It’s also easy to find cheap meals, with set meals at Panamanian restaurants going for about $2-$4US.
Panama is served by daily flights from the Americas. You’ll most likely land on Tocumen International Airport, serving Panama City. From here you can either take a domestic flight, rent a car or take a cheap bus to you final destination.
Venezuela, located in the far north of South America, shares shorelines with both the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. Most travelers come here to see Angel Falls, the world’s highest waterfall, but the country also has the longest coastline to the Caribbean Sea and a variety of beaches to check out.
Margarita Island (Isla Margarita) in the Caribbean Sea offers 106 miles of coastline with 50 beautiful beaches. Along with a lively nightlife, it’s also a windsurfers’ paradise. At Playa El Agua, the most popular beach, guesthouse double room rates start at $30-$40 with hostel rooms costing less than half that. Set lunches and street food cost under $5US.
The main gateway into Venezuela is Simon Bolivar International Airport, serving the capital of Caracas. It receives direct flights from USA, Europe, the Caribbean and other countries in South America. To get to Margarita Island you can either choose a domestic flight or take the ferry from Puerto La Cruz.
The Philippines is an archipelago in South East Asia, well known for being a cheap vacation destination. If you combined all the beaches on its more than 7000 islands, it would forms one of the world’s longest coastlines.
Many visitors choose the island of Boracay; despite its popularity and notoriety as a beach party hotspot, its long white sandy beaches rival those in the Caribbean or Thailand.
The cheapest rates can be found from June to September. Room rates start at US$23 per night in a bungalow (sleeps two) o r you can pay from US$45 in a standard double room in a 3-star hotel. Street food and budget meals won’t cost more than few bucks, with more upscale dining available for around $10US.
Boracay Island is located about an hour’s flight from Manila, the country’s capital. There are two main airports close to Boracay Island: Godofredo P. Ramos Airport in Caticlan and Kalibo International Airport.
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Vietnam is not as popular of a beach destination as nearby neighbors Thailand and Indonesia. Still, the country boasts 3,444 km of coastline (excluding the islands) which offers quite a lot of beaches to choose from and all at a budget price.
Surfers head to China Beach, where the water is clean and the sandy beach seems to stretch on forever. China Beach is located close to Da Nang and that’s where you should look for accommodation. Room rates start at US$6 per night for basic accommodations, with a few more comforts easily attainable if you can spend around $10. Dining out is just as much of a bargain with street food available for about a buck. Another option for Vietnam is Nha Trang, which may not boast the clearest water or cleanest beaches, but it’s still a great place to get your fix for cheap. Like most of the rest of Vietnam, cheap rooms can be had anywhere, and many are just a short walk from the massive public beach. While the water isn’t the clearest near town, you can head out just a short boat ride from shore on diving or scuba adventures and see some amazing, clear azure waters and plenty of underwater life.
Da Nang is Vietnam’s third largest city, served by an international airport. It only receives flights from Vietnam and the near-by countries, so your best bet is to fly into Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City and then travel to Da Nang. From Da Nang you can rent a scooter to get to China Beach. Nha Trang is located about 8-9 hours from Ho Chi Minh City by bus, which is the cheapest transport option. If your budget provides, flights and a 5 star express train is available as well.
With revered food, a tropical climate and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Thailand has always been a preferred destination for budget travelers. It is the most popular destination in Southeast Asia thanks to the huge variety of landscapes and things to do here as well as the low cost and ease of travel.
Options are endless when it comes to beaches in Thailand, and if you’re looking to do it on a budget, you’ve come to the right place. Koh Chang, while not the secluded backpacker paradise it once was, is still a fantastic option. Lonely Beach still has super cheap (as low as $3/night) beach bungalows to stay in, and if you eat local Thai food, it’s not hard to only spend about a buck per meal. If you’re looking for diving and snorkeling opportunities, Koh Tao is quickly becoming one of the top spots in all of Thailand. It’s also not far from party spots Koh Samui and Koh Pha Ngan (famous for their Full Moon Parties), easily reached by ferries if that’s your preferred scene.
All the islands mentioned have very cheap, very basic beach bungalows that can be had for under $5/night. If you’re looking for something a little nicer, you have options as well. It’s not difficult to find a decent hotel room or even a nicer bungalow with air conditioning for around $25-$30/night for a double. As long as you eat local Thai food you can save on your budget. But if you go for the western options, you’ll likely pay more than double.
Getting to any of these islands is relatively easy from Bangkok. To get to Koh Chang, the best option is to head to the Eastern Bus Terminal in Bangkok and catch a bus to Laem Ngop, where you’ll take a ferry to Koh Chang. It should only take about 6 hours total from Bangkok. To get to Koh Tao, Koh Samui, or Koh Pha Ngan, travelers need to first get to Surat Thani, which can be reached by plane, bus, or train. Thai trains are extremely comfortable and cheap, so consider taking an overnight sleeper train. From Surat Thani, ferries can reach all three islands.
Morocco, located in North Africa, has a coastline on both the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Due to its location it competes for beach tourists with Spain, Portugal, Egypt and even Italy. But Morocco wins when it comes to cost.
Oualidia is a coastal village, rapidly emerging as the best beach destination in Morocco. It is located close to Marrakech, which also makes it easy to get to. The unspoiled beach, as well as the great conditions for windsurfing, attracts lots of tourists. Essaouira, a seaside fishing village known for its white and blue buildings, is another popular option.
Rooms in riads – guesthouses in converted homes – start at low as $40US, while seaview rooms in mid-range hotels can be found for about $70US. Food from the local markets and street vendors ranges from $3-$6 for a heaping tagine plate, while food at upscale places and those geared towards tourists will be about double that.
Fly into Marrakech and then either choose the local transport or rent a car and drive to Oualidia. The airport in Marrakech is served by flights from Europe. If you fly from North America, you can fly via London, Madrid, Amsterdam or Paris.
Egypt has been known for decades as a cheap vacation destination, particularly for the European travelers who want to escape the cold season and soak up the sun and sand in Africa. But many travelers also choose Egypt during summer as the prices are lower.
Sharm el Sheikh is a well known Egyptian beach resort, popular with British and other European travelers. Aside from soaking up the sun, you should try diving, as it is known as one of the best diving spots in the world.
While this resort area has its share of pricey places to stay, you can find double rooms clean and cozy hotels and guesthouses for less than $20US. Dining costs can likewise fluctuate from a few bucks for street food and market meals to much, much more at higher end restaurants.
Sharm el Sheikh is served by its own airport, which receives plenty of charter flights from Europe during the high season. There are year-round flights from cities in Europe, as well. If you fly from North America, you’ll have to make a stop in one of the European hubs, such as Amsterdam or London.