You might think that sunning and sipping the hours away in an exotic beach destination will forever be out of your budget. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Plenty of traditionally pricey sandboxes around the world offer great budget-friendly options, too. While the flights might not come cheap -- and you may have to forfeit the haute cuisine and designer bathrobes -- you can still enjoy some of the most amazing beach destinations and their hotels for an affordable price once you're there. Here, we rounded up a list of beach getaways that won't break the bank -- in destinations that are commonly known to do exactly that.
1. French Polynesia
French Polynesia might be associated with over-the-top luxury, but cash-strapped travelers can find affordable guesthouses (or pensions) all over the destination, too. Keep in mind, however, that their quality can vary drastically. While some pensions resemble grimy hostels with shared bathrooms, others feel like charming bed-and-breakfasts with inviting hosts and clean, simple accommodations.
Pension Au Phil du Temps is one such property. The three-room guesthouse is on Taha’a, a tiny, quiet island that shares a bay with neighboring Raiatea. Owners Muriel and Franck welcome guests like members of their family, and treat them as such by personally escorting them on private excursions and preparing fantastic daily meals (full-board nightly rates, which includes two meals per day, are available). Rooms have an authentic Polynesian feel, and are a bit on the rustic side (with no air-conditioning or TVs), but feature local artwork, fresh linens, and spotlessly clean bathrooms. To top it off, there are free bikes and kayaks for guests to use, and Wi-Fi is free in the common area.
Also check out our list of the best value hotels in French Polynesia >>
2. St. John
St. John, the smallest of the Virgin Islands, has some of the area’s most beautiful and photographed beaches, including Trunk Bay. During the summer, hurricane season keeps most tourists away, which means there are great bargains for intrepid travelers willing to take a little risk. Those who are concerned about their odds and wish to avoid booking a stay during rainy season can look to one of the budget-conscious properties on the island.
Coconut Coast Villas, for example, describes itself as “beach house comfortable,” and that’s exactly what it is. It isn’t fancy, or pretentious. Guests are a mixed bag -- from families with young children, to groups of thirtysomethings, to couples, and retirees. The property remains fairly quiet throughout the day, since most people choose to spend their time exploring the island rather than relaxing by the pool. Frank Bay, a small beach, is about a two-minute walk from the hotel. And while it may be rocky, the calm waters make for a relaxing ambience. Plus, all of the national park beaches are accessible via taxi or rental car.
Good news: Enjoying the high life in Monaco is possible without a platinum card. Of course, it makes sense to avoid this French Riviera destination during the Grand Prix season or any other major event, like September's annual Yacht Show. However, if you choose wisely, there are value hotels, particularly near the Place d’Armes market square, that don’t cost a fortune. Even better, Monaco’s extensive bus system makes it easy to get around. If you’re willing to stay in nearby Nice, the hotel options increase and the cost of a bus ride to Monaco is only a few dollars. Plage du Larvotto is the only public beach, but it’s free.
4. Hong Kong
Neon lights may be the first image that comes to mind when someone mentions Hong Kong, but the business-focused Asian destination also has approximately 50 beaches, many of which are pristine and remote. For example, Pui O Beach features stunning white sand and the beachside eatery Mavericks, which serves fresh-baked bread, organic vegetables, and creative cocktails. Upper Cheung Sha Beach is another a great spot for relaxing or taking a dip.
And finding a cheap and enjoyable Hong Kong hotel is possible. Y-Loft, for example, is a hostel with rooms and amenities more akin to a mid-range hotel. It has rooms for up to six people, but most are private twin rooms with flat-screen TVs and mini-fridges. All have en-suite bathrooms, but as it caters to students, there are no double beds here. It's only about a half-hour car ride to Shek O beach.
5. Boracay, Phillipines
With its coconut trees and beautiful beaches that are just a shade paler than buttermilk, the island of Boracay makes for a lovely getaway. Getting there on the cheap begins with timing. Avoid traveling there during the holidays or Holy Week. Ideally, plan on stopping by during the low season, which extends from June to October. It’s the rainiest time of the year, but since Boracay's weather is unpredictable year-round, you’re not risking much. While there, local Philippine meals can be had for under $5.
Book a stay at the 36-room Boracay Beach Club, a friendly, family-owned hotel right across the street from Boracay’s most stunning white-sand beach. Rooms are basic but clean, and feature good amenities such as free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, minibars, and air-conditioning. The hotel has an airy restaurant, a rooftop deck with views, and a small but pleasant freeform pool, but the highlight here is the beachfront bar, which has a drinks and food menu and unobstructed sunset views. Affordable rates and location within walking distance of famous bars and restaurants make it a great pick for value-minded travelers.
Phuket, Thailand is home to some wondrous spas, high-end restaurants, and luxury beachfront resorts. Spending three or four figures per night can get you butler service, a beyond comfy king-sized bed, and even a personal tree house. But those with a smaller budget need not miss out on the island's gorgeous beaches. In fact, Phuket has several to consider (Patong is one of the most popular; Layan is calmer).
As for where to stay, check out Kata Beach Resort and Spa. Located on the sandy shores of Kata Beach, the 275-room hotel provides an affordable beachfront vacation for families and couples. Spacious, minimal rooms feature flat-screen TVs, balconies facing the sea, and some have access to private pools. This resort also offers water sports rentals, three restaurants, poolside and beachside bars, two pools, spa treatments, and supervised kids’ activities.
Often described as an island paradise, Bali is popular with travelers looking for a relaxing beach vacation. Each region has its own type of beaches -- white sand in the south and black sand in the north and west region. The whole island is surrounded by coral reefs and it's a superb destination for surfing, snorkeling, and diving. And there are options for those traveling on a small budget, too.
One of the newer properties in the Legian Beach area, the Swiss-Belinn Legian is a 123-room value hotel with contemporary appeal. Rooms are basic, but clean and equipped with modern amenities such as free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, minibars, and air-conditioning. A rooftop pool and small fitness center are available for guests. There's also an on-site bar and restaurant that serves a varied Indonesian and international breakfast buffet. Best of all, Double Six Beach is a a five-minute stroll away via a shortcut.
Also check out our list of the best value hotels in Bali >>