Looking for a sunny stretch of beach or swath of jungle that feels a world away? Tropical vacations don’t have to break the bank in destinations where new air routes, recent travel trends, and/or a strong U.S. dollar give you the upper hand. Here are the best tropical vacation spots for affordable 2020 travel.
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Despite the headlines about Hurricane Dorian that caused a drop in tourism to the archipelago, the Bahamas is largely still seeking visitors planning tropical vacations. Hotspots like Paradise Island and Nassau were left untouched by the storm (the Bahamas is made up of over 700 islands, after all) and the Bahamian tourism board has set out to let travelers know that most islands outside of Abacos and Grand Bahama are welcoming visitors. Still, thanks to that recent drop in arrivals, both flights and lodging are shaping up to be downright cheap in 2020.
Outside the main hub of Nassau, tiny Bimini is an off-the-beaten-path option that’s easier to get to. Catch a nonstop flight to Fort Lauderdale or Miami, and from there you can easily reach the two main islands of Bimini, which are just 50 miles from Florida’s coast via a two-hour ferry from Fort Lauderdale.
Where to stay: The world-renowned Atlantis Bahamas resort on Paradise Island is seeing lower prices than in recent memory—making now the best time to get great value at the palatial pink resort.
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Massive and mountainous Quito is a worthwhile cheap tropical getaway that sometimes gets overlooked by visitors bound for Ecuador’s most famous destination, the Galapagos. One of the cheapest places in South America, Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar—an added bonus for Americans—and has since 2000 when the local currency valuation tumbled. High-end apartments in Quito can easily cost as little as $20 per night. The city itself is a progressive, sustainability-focused hub that packs rich colonial history and natural splendor; it’s full of museums, monasteries, and hiking spots, including the active Pichincha Volcano’s trails.
Where to stay: While rentals are crazy-cheap in Quito, hotels are worth the value for stylish under-$100 options like the Hotel Akros by Blue Bay.
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A far-off tropical destination that’s seen a recent dip in tourism and rise in value, Sri Lanka is a bucket-list vacation that’s downright cheap in the May-through-September monsoon season. But the rains shouldn’t deter visitors looking to avoid the crowds: Putting up with sporadic afternoon thunderstorms is worth the air deals as low as $700 round-trip from U.S. hubs. And choosing a local-led tour option like Intrepid Travel’s array of itineraries makes the journey easier and cheaper; departures for 2020 start from under $1,000 for an eight-day trip.
If you’re daunted by higher airfares, keep in mind that the real savings happen on the ground. The Sri Lankan Rupee is about 37 percent undervalued compared to the U.S. dollar; average meals cost only a few dollars, and already-cheap hotel rates hit their lowest lows during monsoon season.
Where to stay: “Splurge” on international properties like the Shangri-La Colombo, which thanks to the currency exchange, will be a tiny fraction of the usual price.
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Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
After a harsh drop in tourism that followed headline-making tourist incidents in Punta Cana last year, the Dominican Republic’s easternmost resort hub is a cheap tropical destination for 2020 even in the spring high season. Beachside all-inclusive properties are slinging deals to entice travelers, and they make it easy and fun to get off-resort on excursions to natural and cultural hotspots. Choose a property that offers transportation and ticket packages to beloved Punta Cana sites like Scape Park, the cenote water park that pairs zip lines and waterfall pools with educational cultural exhibits and cave swimming, or Saona Island for remote white-sand natural pools in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea.
Where to stay: The Bavaro area’s Occidental Punta Cana resort is a sprawling all-inclusive property that has something for every type of traveler. But all guests break for the resort’s vast and idyllic beach, which has a beachside bar and whirlpools, volleyball nets, snorkel gear, and lounge chairs.
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You’ve probably heard a lot about affordable Hawaii flights in the past year thanks to Southwest’s long-awaited Hawaii service conjuring the “Southwest effect”—price-dropping competition created by the low-cost carrier. And the trend of Hawaii air deals will continue to deliver in the ‘20s, according to experts.
“The Southwest effect has consistently driven down prices on other airlines, both from the mainland to Hawaii and within the islands, with inter-island flights dropping as low as $58 round-trip,” Scott’s Cheap Flights founder Scott Keyes says, naming Hawaii one of the best places for flight deals in 2020. “Southwest will continue to expand its routes, which means we’ll see more fare competition between Southwest and airlines like Hawaiian, Alaska, and United.”
Hawaiian Airlines has already started selling basic-economy fares in response. And on the ground, affordability continues if you opt for an apartment rental over a resort.
Where to stay: Outside Waikiki, Big Island resorts like the Outrigger Royal Sea Cliff tend to have slightly more affordable prices. Or, check vacation rental websites like Airbnb or TripAdvisor Vacation rentals for more space and savings.
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Quintana Roo, Mexico
The Mexican state of Quintana Roo includes tourist areas like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, the Riviera Maya, Tulum, Isla Mujeres, Isla Holbox, and Cozumel. With affordable airfares, a strong dollar against the peso, cheap hotel prices thanks to competition, and a wide variety of all-inclusive resort packages that appeal to all ages of travelers, this state is guaranteed to be a fun and cheap tropical getaway. Cancun International Airport is an easy gateway to the region.
Beyond Cancun, each town and city offers bucket-list activities with its own distinctive vibe—after all, where else can you swim in a cenote, visit ancient Mayan ruins, and lounge on the beach all in one day?
Where to stay: Isla Holbox is widely regarded as the new Tulum. Check out Hotel El Pueblito for its central location, boho design, affordable price, and good value.
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Fort Lauderdale and Fort Myers, Florida
It’s becoming downright cheap to reach Florida, according to Airfarewatchdog analyst Peter Thornton . That’s particularly true of Fort Myers, which is one of SmarterTravel’s cheapest places to fly this winter thanks to sub-$100 fares. Fort Myers airfares are down 31 percent year-over-year, according to Skyscanner data.
“This is likely due to even more competition from budget carriers than in the past: Both Spirit and Frontier have expanded service to Orlando, Tampa, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and Ft. Myers, and Allegiant has added flights to some other Florida airports as well,” Thornton says. “And now that JetBlue has introduced its version of Basic Economy, it is better positioned to compete on price with these ultra-low-cost carriers.”
The median January airfare to Ft. Myers is $156 round-trip—leaving lots of wiggle room for a mid-range hotel, even in the spring high season.
Where to stay: With the money you’ll save on airfare, you can upgrade to an oceanfront resort like the B Ocean Resort Fort Lauderdale.
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Another far-off tropical vacation that’s shockingly affordable this year, Fiji also made Scott’s Cheap Flights’ list of the best places for flight deals in 2020. Skeptical? Sub-$600 flights from Las Vegas and California might change your mind.
“In 2019 we found several amazing deals to Fiji, and we expect to continue to see some great fares in 2020,” Keyes says. “While historically the best deals have been from the West Coast, we’ve seen an increase in deals from all over the U.S., such as fares to Fiji in the $600s from smaller airports like Eugene, Boise, Kalispell, and Reno.”
Where to stay: Use the crazy savings on your flight to upgrade to a luxe property like the famed Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in Savusavu, which offers deals like free nights and spa packages during the low season months of September and October. Or, keep things affordable with a locally run overwater bungalow like Koro Sun Resort and Rain Forest Spa.
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An affordable getaway from the East Coast if you skip the big all-inclusive hotels, Aruba made PriceofTravel’s top 10 cheapest Caribbean getaways for 2020. Three-star hotels as cheap as $64 per night make up the affordable side of the island (stay outside of the touristy Palm Beach area for better prices). And airfare from New York City dips as low as $390 round-trip, according to the ranking. Aruba is a small, quiet, and safe Caribbean island for venturing outside the built-up resort areas.
Where to stay: Colorful Oranjestad is the cultural center of the island, with many inns and apartment options near pristine Eagle Beach. Check vacation rental websites like Airbnb or TripAdvisor Vacation rentals.
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In Negril, about an hour-and-a-half from Montego Bay, you’ll find cheap hotels and a mix of upscale, unique lodging options. You’ll also find coral reefs and Seven Mile Beach. What you won’t find are the kind of over-crowded and expensive all-inclusives that are so popular in Montego Bay. You’ll still want to fly into the Montego Bay—one of the largest and busiest airports in the Caribbean—since direct and inexpensive flights are easy to find from major U.S. hubs.
Where to stay: Travelers love the more secluded Westender Inn, which is nestled in a rocky cove with a sea pool.
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Editor’s note: SmarterTravel’s Ashley Rossi contributed to this story.
More from SmarterTravel:
- The Top Travel Destinations for 2020
- Affordable Dream Vacations to Take in 2020
- The Best All-Inclusive Resorts in the United States for 2020
SmarterTravel’s Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her adventures on Instagram @shanmcmahon.