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10 Cheap Tropical Places to Travel Around the World, According to Travel Experts

Nothing says vacation quite like jetting off to a tropical destination with sunshine and beautiful beaches or rain forests and perhaps some dramatic mountains. Travelers can post up on the sand and enjoy midday naps under the shade of a palm tree, or take in the melodic soundtrack of jungle creatures. Of course, it’s not all lazy days and nights, unless that’s your preference.

Many torrid travel spots are ripe with adventure, from snorkeling excursions to ATV tours to zip lining. Culture and fresh, local cuisine also come with the territory. And while equatorial hot spots like St. Barts, the Maldives, and Bora Bora command a high price, it’s certainly not necessary to break the bank on a steamy escape. Prefer to save than splurge? You’re in good company. According to a recent Vacasa survey, 84 percent of travelers are shifting their plans to be more budget-conscious. 

Lush landscapes, reasonable rates, and frame-worthy photo ops lie ahead at these affordable tropical destinations, from Costa Rica to Vietnam.

Mérida, Mexico

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Mérida, the capital of Mexico’s Yucatan state, is one of the country’s most underrated cultural hubs. “Surge tourism-related pricing hasn’t arrived yet, as it’s often overlooked by travelers in favor of beachside resort meccas such as Cancun and Tulum,” says Brandon Berkson, CEO of Hotels Above Par. Days unfold while ambling about the historic downtown, stocking up on affordable souvenirs at design-forward shops, and savoring regional dishes such as cochinita pibil at economical Yucatec restaurants. “If you’re looking for a boutique hotel in Merida that doesn’t break the bank, Wayam Mundo Imperial is the move, with suites ringing in at under $175 a night.”

Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

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Bali might require a long travel day and some pricier plane tickets, but the Island of the Gods offers travelers superb value. The budget-conscious crowd should consider the upland town of Ubud in particular, a bastion of traditional culture and lush scenery with more wallet-friendly rates than along the coast. You can spend the day palling around with cute primates at the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary for just $5. The surrounding landscape brims with rain forests and terraced rice paddies. Food from local warungs and accommodations are inexpensive as well. If you want to splurge, the top-rated Adiwana Unagi Suites is still around $150 a night.

Negril, Jamaica

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The westernmost town in Jamaica, Negril — a.k.a. the Capital of Casual — offers sandy beaches, turquoise water, friendly locals, and a laid-back vibe. This relaxing paradise also won’t put stress on your wallet. Seven Mile Beach is dotted with affordable and delicious local beach shacks. “There are several great boutique properties — notably Skylark Negril Beach Resort, a member of Design Hotels — with rates under $200,” says Chelsea Bicknese, a travel advisor at Fora. “Rick’s Cafe does a bar special that’s five Red Stripes and five shots for $25. Split between friends, it’s only a few bucks each.”

Phú Quốc, Vietnam

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Admittedly, getting to Phú Quốc, a Vietnamese island off the coast of Cambodia, does require connecting flights and higher airfare costs than most places on this list, but don’t let that be a deterrent. Once you arrive at this slice of paradise, it’s an incredible value. Rooms at the top-rated Mövenpick Villas & Residences Phú Quốc start at just $75. The night markets in Dương Đông overflow with cheap and delicious eats. And, of course, catching rays on the white-sand beaches and hiking through Phú Quốc National Park are free.

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

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While the beach resorts in Santa Teresa and Peninsula Papagayo may fetch high price tags, that’s certainly not the case across all of Costa Rica. Off-the-beaten-path Manuel Antonio — the area including and surrounding seven-square-mile Manuel Antonio National Park — is a bastion of biodiversity with rain forests, pristine white-sand beaches, coral reefs for snorkeling, and diverse wildlife, including three-toed sloths and white-faced capuchin monkeys. Its remote location keeps the prices down. Many of the hotels cost around $100 a night, and eco-tours are fairy reasonable as well.

Madeira, Portugal

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Madeira is an adventure lover’s paradise with cinematic scenery and eco-tourism opportunities galore. Its lush forests, black-sand beaches, natural lava pools, and towering mountains with idyllic viewpoints like Lombo dos Palheiros are just a few of the scenic highlights. “In downtown Funchal, many star attractions, including Mercado dos Lavradores and Livraria Esperanca, are free,” says Berkson. Entry to the flower-studded Monte Palace Tropical Garden costs about $13.50. “Right across from the sea and within walking distance of everything, Next hotel is a wallet-friendly stay with rates around $150 a night.”

San Juan, Puerto Rico

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“For travelers looking for an easy and affordable beach vacation, Puerto Rico supplies some of the most reasonable direct flights from the United States — with tickets starting at $129,” says Laura Lindsay, travel trends expert at Skyscanner. Besides low-cost outdoor activities like stretching out on the sun-splashed shores and trekking through tropical rain forests a short drive away, head to the historic district of Old San Juan to experience local culture. It’s free to wander around and snap photos of the colorful buildings. Admission to Castillo San Felipe del Morro, the imposing 16th-century fortress and citadel, is just $10 for adults and free for kids under age 15.

Puebla, Mexico

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“Featuring a subtropical highland climate, the central Mexican city of Puebla remains one of Mexico’s best-kept secrets,” says Berkson. The city is teeming with affordable activities — from checking out the art galleries, colorful facades, and handicrafts along Callejón de Los Sapos and admiring the well-tailored architecture of the historic library Biblioteca Palafoxiana, Catedral de Puebla, and the ornate 17th-century Capilla del Rosario to stocking up on handmade pottery and feasting on delicious local dishes. “You can often book my favorite stay, Banyan Tree Puebla, for under $200 a night.”

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

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Droves of sunseekers flock to the all-inclusive resorts in Punta Cana. Far fewer realize the deals that await in Santo Domingo. Round-trip flights as low as $286 leave plenty of vacation budget for lodging, food, and entertainment — not that any of those things will set you back much in the commercial and cultural capital of the Dominican Republic. After lounging on the sandy beaches, take a tram tour of Jardin Botánico Nacional, eat your way through Mercado Modelo for cheap, and visit the famous Basilica Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor. And be sure to do a day trip to Parque Nacional Los Tres Ojos.

St. Kitts

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In comparison to nearby St. Martin or even Anguilla, St. Kitts flies under the radar. However, it’s deserving of your vacation days and hard-earned dollars — both of which will go far on the 18-mile-long island that’s known for its Atlantic and Caribbean beaches, lush rain forests, and candy-colored buildings in the capital, Basseterre. In November, JetBlue launched nonstop flights from New York (JFK) to St. Kitts (SKB) with one-way tickets starting at $183. But it’s not just getting there that’s easy on the wallet; you can snag a room at St. Kitts Marriott Resort & The Royal Beach Casino for just $218.

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