Many of the islands now offer excellent budget getaways – thanks to an increase in affordable accommodations, food and shopping. And of course, the region’s biggest draw – those powdery white, pal tree-lined beaches – don’t have to cost a thing. We’ve compiled a guide to the Caribbean’s five most affordable destinations. Enjoy our 5 most affordable Caribbean Holidays.
Known as the Cancun of the Dominican Republic due to its huge amount of low-priced all-inclusive resorts, Punta Cana is a bargain-hunters haven. Offering everything from oceanfront views to delicious international cuisine, this tourist hotspot is one of the cheapest escapes in the Caribbean.
Cancun’s cheap price tag is just one of its many draws. As one of the most popular Caribbean destinations, from weddings and honeymoons to family getaways and holidays with friends, Cancun has steadily become one of the most recognised names in the travel world. Although a less authentic Mexican experience (the purpose-built resort was built up from nothing), you’re guaranteed a successful holiday-to-remember, at a fraction of the price of many other destinations nearby.
Powdery soft sands, shimmering turquoise water, fresh seafood in abundance, and lots of rum cocktails – Puerto Rico offers travellers the chance to experience all the Caribbean has to offer. Like most Caribbean destinations, staying inside the city itself or the surrounding area are both suitable ways to holiday on the cheap. Goods are also ridiculously cheap, but be careful not to go overboard with so much on offer!
Laid back, breathtaking scenery and with the best coffee in the world, Jamaica is a popular tourist hotspot for obvious reasons. This island appeals to all types and although it may be a little pricier than say, Puerto Rico or the Bahamas, travellers shouldn’t have too much trouble finding cheap flights and cheap, but comfortable accommodation.
According to Frommer’s, “Puerto Plata appeals to a mass-market crowd that prefers less expensive, all-inclusive resorts.” This Dominican Republic resort town is a fantastic choice for those looking for an action-packed holiday – there’s plenty for travellers to do away from the hotel, from watersports in Cabarete to spectacular sights like the Damajaqua Cascades (27 Waterfalls).
Did you know? January is actually one of the best months to book a holiday. Not only is the weather particularly miserable in the UK, but January is also the month in which you can find the best deals throughout the travel industry. While other people are tightening their belts, those who have saved some of their Christmas cash flow can enjoy the year’s best holiday bargains. Let Purple Travel aid your decision with out round-up of 10 best January holidays
For a little bit of sunshine…
1) Tenerife – near-guaranteed sunshine that’s just 4 hours away from the UK.
2) Southern Tunisia – avoid Tunis (which can be chilly at this time) and head to southern Tunisia for a mid-haul getaway that’ll leave you bronzed and refreshed.
3) Mexico – from boutique hotels to haciendas, there are some gorgeous places to stay in Mexico’s Caribbean coast. And with perfect January temperatures, there’s plenty of leeway for exploring ancient sites such as Chichen Itza.
4) Gambia – a charming, low-cost destination with an improved hotel scene.
5) Cape Verde – great value for money and easily accessible, Cape Verde islands are sure to win you over with their diversity and natural beauty.
Or for a cool wintery break…
6) Northern Lights – discover one of the earth’s natural wonders and our top choice for 2013 travel. Read our guide to the best Northern Lights trips here.
7) Sweden – With its winter wonderland scenes, plenty of things to do and see and even an ice hotel, Sweden is an ideal destination for January travel.
8) New York– while the sales are on, head to the world’s best shopping destination to pick up a bargain, grab a bagel or two and enjoy the last of the Christmas buzz.
9) Bulgaria – named the cheapest ski destination, Bulgaria is a great choice for those looking for good value without comprising on the slopes.
10) Italy – stylish skiing doesn’t get much better than in Italy. In January, you may find excellent deals on holidays to Italy’s luxury resorts.
Daydreaming about holidays is one of our favourite things and there might not be a better place than Playa del Carmen Mexico.
Found on the stunning coast of Riviera Maya, just a stone’s throw from the (in)famous resort of Cancun, Playa (as it’s known locally) is a haven for honeymooners, families looking to relax, couples who need a break and cruise ships that dock nearby. Temperatures are generally above 20 all year round, reaching a height of the mid 30s in the Summer. Playa del Carmen Mexico is number two on TripAdvisor’s Traveller’s Choice for Mexico, and features in the prestigious Conde Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Awards this year . While the beaches are simply to die for, regularly topping the top 25 in the world lists. Playa comes at number 12, while nearby Tulim is third on TripAdvisor’s yearly ‘Top 25 Beach Destinations in the World for 2012.’
There’s a big focus locally on keeping the area’s charm of a small fishing village and colony for artists. Basically it’s a smaller, less touristy version of Cancun. There is a Fifth Avenue where you can stock up on Louis Vuitton or Chanel, but there are also unspoiled beaches, hammocks swaying in the breeze under coconut trees, stunning sea views, great Mexican food and history by the bucket load. Don’t knock Playa ‘til you’ve tried it.
Things to do in Playa del Carmen
Snorkelling/Scuba The offshore Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, (the second biggest reef in the world) is right there on your doorstep in Playa del Carmen. You’ll find lots of dive shops throughout the resort, while there’s open water scuba a little further down the coast in Cozumel.
Get married or go on honeymoon Mexico might actually be the most romantic place ever. They make weddings and honeymoons an art form. Take all the hard work out of it and simply enjoy the ultimate beach wedding or the most luxurious romantic honeymoon you can image in Playa del Carmen. We’ve even put together this Mexico Honeymoon guide to help you get started!
Meet some monkeysThe Jungle Place is a spider monkey sanctuary where you can go and meet these adorable little animals. Although a little out of the way, according to TripAdvisor, it’s well worth the trip.
Splash some cash on Quinta Evenida Playa’s fifth avenue has become a firm tourist favourite, with 20 blocks of cobblestone streets to explore. It’s got tonnes of shops if spending is your thing. Even if it’s not, it’s a great place to have some delicious local grub and is a safe place to spend an evening out.
Nightlife Not as wild as Cancun, but still with plenty on offer, most clubs in Playa stay open all night, and some of the best ones are actually on the beach, so you can enjoy a cocktail and sunset as well as sunrise views.
See the cenotes these are huge naturally occurring spring water sinkholes. Historically they were very important to the Mayan people as they were a channel to communicate with the gods. Found all over the Yucatan peninsula, the clear water, which is around 200 feet deep in some, is perfect for swimming or diving, in fact you might not have a better swimming experience in your life. Read more about cenotes in our Purple Picks: Mythical Hotspots.
BPM: Or beats per minute. The BPM Festival is a trance lover’s dream and is taking place in January, 2013 in Playa. It’s got everyone from Carl Cox, Sasha, and John Digweed on the lineup. Click here for more details.
Get close to nature at the Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve just an hour or so outside of Playa you’ll find a great day out for the ecologically minded. Locally run, it offers tours of the Mayan ruins at Muyil or a float down the river through mangrove trees. There’s also a local nature guide pointing out the local flowers and animals. They’ve just introduced a chewing gum tour too.
Go to this amazing beauty salon (in Mexico City) It might be a little out of the way for a Brazilian, but we just had to include this beautiful beauty salon. The amazing colours are soothing and beautiful and certainly enough to distract while you’re getting seen to.
Visit Tulum The nearby resort is a history buffs paradise. The pre Christopher Columbus walled city is right on the water and is easily the number one attraction in the area. The big temple on the site, and the many smaller buildings and huts give a good glimpse into life hundreds of years ago.
Go in the dark: How amazing does this sound? Xplor is an adventure park, where you can go ziplining or go in all terrain trips under the moonlight. It’s an exclusive after dark experience especially for meetings and groups form 8 to 11.30 at night.
Where to stay in Playa del Carmen
Stess buster Bluebay Esmereldaan onsite spa, spacious rooms, snorkelling and windsurfing just down at the beach, and 15 minutes from Fifth Avenue. All inclusive at the Bluebay Esmerelda is the ultimate in stress free holidays.
Couples getaway Grand Sirenis Riviera Maya Hotel & SpaIf we could use one word to describe the Sirenis it would be gorgeous. The modern hotel is right on a picture perfect sandy beach, the crystal clear water is home to a coral reef, and the palm trees are the perfect shade from the hot sunshine.
Family favourite Sandos Caracol Eco Resort & SpaJust a look at the brige rooms, great gardens and exotic surrounds and you can tell the 5* Sandos Caracol is a fantastic choice for all the family. The watersports centre offers something for everyone, while a kids club and teens club means everyone is catered for, as mum and dad chill out in the hot tub.
Best Budget Hotel Bananathis is right on the famous fifth avenue, so it’s a great choice for sampling the local nightlife and culture. With an outdoor pool and the beach just a stone’s throw away, as well as tonnes of eating options nearby, it’s a great choice for you and your pocket.
Best for the beach Ocean Maya Royale this one is so close to the beach, its pools are built into the sand. The recently refurbished hotel offers a little bit of luxury, with its Despacio Spa Centre and sea view rooms. Perfect for going from beach to bed in no time.
There are around 75 restaurants throughout Playa, so make sure you get on that plane with an empty belly! From the pizza in the street places that are open until 6am, to the super fancy, delicacy serving delights of Quinta Avenida, here are some of the top places to eat and the top dishes to try.
Stuffed tacos You can pick these up on practically every street corner, whether it’s seafood, chicken or chorizo, these traditional lunchtime meals are usually around two or three dollars, so stock up.
ChocolateMexico is famous for it. What did you mean you didn’t know that ? Try the most amazing brownies at the Ah Cacao Chocolate Cafe on Fifth Avenue.
Breakfast The family owned Kaxapa Factory between 10th and 15th Avenues does a tasty breakfast or brunch and its Venezuelan inspired dishes are to die for.
Birds We don’t mean to eat! The parrots on the balcony create a wonderful atmosphere at the Xulam, Mayan Fisher on 10th Avenue. A great choice for traditional Mayan fare.
Fish Kool Fish Restaurant on Fifth Avenue is a seafood lovers dream. It’s great value and offers wonderful fresh seafood with that traditional Mexican twist.
Although it’s in Mexico, there are also plenty of well known chain stores including a Cheesecake Factory. Now, we’re not saying it’s worth a trip to Mexico just for some cheesecake, but ‘when in Rome…’
Not content with sharing our most haunted hotels, our Halloween theme continues, there are still plenty of places to visit in broad daylight that’ll still give you the chills. Here are some of our top picks.
Plan your holiday to perfect with our top 10 holidays for history buffs. From the Acropolis of Athens to the Mayan stronghold of Tulum in Mexico, we’ve got 10 of the best history holidays that will make your jaw drop.
Athens, Greece Almost anywhere you visit in Athens you’ll find precious ruins that date back thousands of years. The iconic Acropolis stands tall baking in the sunshine, while you can relive history at the ancient Greek and Roman markets, visit the colossal ruin of the Temple of Zeus, or take a walk around the Theatre of Dionysus.
Nile Valley, Egypt Actually, if you travel anywhere in Egypt, you’re likely to bump into an ancient and quite frankly, awe inspiring site. Some of our favourites are the ancient Giza Pyramids (how did they do that!?), Cairo’s Museum, where you’ll find the treasures of Tutankhamen and up the Nile River, the Luxor Temple and the Valley of the Kings.
Machu Picchu, Peru People wait a lifetime to visit the majestic ruins of the lost ‘city of the Incas’. Built around 1400, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has been voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Rome, Italy Once the most powerful city in history, Rome is still saturated with historical and cultural sites that will remind you of times gone by. The Colosseum, Roman Forum and Pantheon will transport you back in time, while the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain should be on your ‘must-see’ list. No wonder it’s made our top 10 list of holidays for history buffs.
Tulum, Mexico A seat of ancient Mayan civilisation, Tulum actually means ‘wall’ and is one of very few ancient sites that remains right on the sea. Dating back to 564 BC, you’ll find the Castillo, with breathtaking views of the ocean, the Temple of the Descending God and a selection of Cenotes (natural spring water pits that were used as a place of sacrifice.)
Prague, Czech Republic Once the capital of Bohemia, Prague’s ghostly atmosphere and historic streets mean there is a tonne to keep you going once you arrive. From the imposing Castle that overlooks the city to the Charles Bridge, it’s a haven for budding photographers. For occult hunters, most other sites pale in comparison to the Selec Ossuary. The Bone Church was built around the 1500s from the bones of thousands of people. Not for the fainthearted.
Florence, Italy Florence is a city dripping with art history, from the famous Cathedral, featuring a Brunelleschi designed dome, to the world famous Uffizi Gallery, showcasing works by Botticelli, Michelangelo and Raffaello, it’s a historian’s dream destination.
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic The capital is a model for city and town planners across the world. Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492 and Santo Domingo became the site of the very first cathedral, university and hospital in the Americas, all laid out in a familiar grid pattern. It’s a wonderful place to combine sun holiday with historic wonder.
Vienna, Austria Vienna could easily be taken for one of the classical music capitals of the world. Combined with its history of royalty and the strategic positioning, it offers the State Opera House, Imperial Palace and Schonbrunn Palace, gorgeous!
Fez, Morocco The medieval capital of Morocco, Fez is one of the best preserved old cities you’ll find. The ancient Medina is home to excellent examples of ancient Islamic architecture, while the city’s car free policy means you’ll truly feel like you’ve travelled back in time.
‘Museum’ probably isn’t the perfect word for the combination of art and nature you’ll find just off the Cancun coast. Holidays here are of course the stuff dreams are made of and for something really special we love a day at Mexico’s Underwater Sculpture Park. Sculptor Jason de Caires Taylor has installed hundreds of natural clay statues that will act as a reef to encourage coral and sealife growth.
The Cancun Underwater Museum acts as a restoration project, the statues have been built as artificial reefs to attract marine life and improve the natural reef that’s been damaged over the years. The displays are perfectly placed to attract glass bottomed boats, divers and snorkelers. Now 450 permanent life size sculptures make up one of the most ambitious and attractive underwater art works in the world.
Here are some of our favourites:
Man on Fire: This eerie sculpture was one of the first installed in 2009. It’s been cut with 75 holes, to allow fast growing fire coral to thrive. As the coral grows it will begin to bloom red, hence the name Man on Fire. It’s actually been cast from a local fisherman named Joachim and is meant to reflect the current world environmental situation.
The Banker: The meaning of this one is fairly clear cut. A suited man has his head buried in the sand. What’s that phrase, a picture paints a thousand words? Well this sculpture paints a lot more. It symbolizes the current economic crisis and the accountability of banking institutions. The sculpture itself is made for crustaceans and young fish to grow and breed.
The Silent Evolution: In the shape of an eye and the newest addition, this is an underwater village of hundreds of life size sculptures, all cast from local people. The silent museum takes you up, close and personal to view art in a way you may never have imagine. Like the others they’re made from special PH neutral clay to promote coral growth and life.
For more information visit the Aqua World Cancun website. You can find regular diving trips, including for beginners or certified.
A few of my male friends even started their own ‘Burrito Wednesday’, touring the London Mexican haunts each week, with testosterone in abundance and Coronas in hand. Whilst I didn’t even know what an avocado was in my childhood, I now consider myself somewhat of a guacamole connoisseur and chips and dip is a regular ‘can’t be bothered to cook’ staple. Yet aside from the obvious burritos, enchiladas and huevos ranchos, how much do we really know about Mexican food?
‘New Mexican’ can be both gastronomically glorious and a culinary confusion. Is chile with an ‘e’ still chilli? Do you know your pintos from you black beans? Does the word chimichanga connote some kind of hallucinogenic to you? Get your head around the lingo, with our gringo’s guide… to the best Mexican Food.
Chili Peppers (Photo credit: camknows)
Achiote-Annatto: a spice used in the Yucatan region Albondigas: meatballs. Atole: a thick, hot gruel made from corn. Biscochitos: an anise-flavoured cookie. Burrito: a white flour tortilla, filled with meats, beans, cheese, or a combination of these, and rolled, served smothered with chile sauce and melted cheese. Capirotada: a raisin and walnut pudding. Carne Adovada: cubes of pork that have been marinated and cooked in red chile, garlic and oregano. Chalupas: (little boats) corn tortillas fried into a bowl shape and filled with shredded chicken, and/or beans, and topped with guacamole and salsa. Chicharron: pork skin, fried crisp. Chile con queso: chile and melted cheese mixed together into a dip. Chiles Rellenos: roasted, peeled and stuffed (often with cheese) chiles, usually dipped in a batter and fried. Chimichanga: a burrito that’s deep fried, and smothered with chile and cheese. Chorizo: a spicy pork sausage, seasoned with garlic and red chile. Cilantro: a pungent green herb used in salsas, etc; the seeds are coriander. Curtido: pickled vegetables, typically cabbage, carrots. similar to cole slaw Empanada: a turnover, filled usually with a sweetened meat mixture or fruit. Enchiladas: corn tortillas filled with meat, beans or cheese, and either rolled, or stacked, and covered with chile sauce and cheese. Fajita: strips of grilled steak or chicken that come with tortillas, sautéed peppers and onions, and other side dishes to make do-it-yourself burritos. Flan: caramel custard dessert. Flautas: tightly rolled, fried to a crunch, enchiladas. Frijoles: beans. Guacamole: mashed avocado, usually with chopped onion, tomatoes, garlic, lime and chile. Habanero: Extremely hot pepper Horchata: a delicious rice beverage Horno: outdoor, beehive-shaped ovens. Huevos Divorciados: Two eggs, one covered in green salsa, one in red, with tortillas in between Huevos Motulenos: eggs with black beans, cheese, often ham, peas, plantains and picante Huevos Rancheros: corn tortillas, topped with eggs, usually fried, smothered with chile and cheese. Jalapenos: small, fat chiles, very hot, frequently used in salsa. Mancha Manteles: a stew with turkey, chorizo, pork, pineapple, apple, chiles cinnamon, lard, tomatoes Menudo: a soup made with tripe and chiles (known as “breakfast of champions”). Nachos: tostados topped with beans, melted cheese, sliced jalapenos, sometimes served “Grande” with ground beef, or shredded chicken, guacamole and sour cream. Natilla: soft custard dessert. Pico de Gallo: salsa with chopped fresh chiles, tomatoes, onions and cilantro. Posole: a thick stew made with hominy corn simmered for hours with red chile and pork. Quesadilla: a turnover made of a flour tortilla, filled with cheese or other ingredients, then toasted, fried or baked. Refritos: beans that have been mashed and fried, most often in lard. Salsa: generally an uncooked mixture of chile, tomatoes, onions. Sopaipilla: Puffed, fried yeast bread, eaten split and filled with honey-butter. Tlacoyo: toasted masa cakes stuffed with various items, similar to pupusas Taco: a corn tortilla either fried crisp, or just softened, and filled with meats, cheese, or beans, and fresh chopped lettuce, onions and tomatoes. Tostados: corn tortilla chips, also, a open face corn tortilla covered with refried beans, salsa, cheese, and chopped lettuce and tomato.
Summer is still months away and it seems the list of short-haul destinations for winter sun are getting slim. If you still want to get away on a moderate budget, the Caribbean is the best alternative. We’ve narrowed down the most worth-while places to enjoy the best value Caribbean holidays. Light on the wallet but heavy on fun!
Dominican Republic – Punta Cana
The fantastic climate, coupled with excellent standard all-inclusive resorts, long sandy beaches, and moderate prices makes the Dominican Republic the destination of choice for a Caribbean holiday. The resort of Punta Cana is on the South-East side of the Island and is home to Bavaro – a stunning stretch of white sand beach leading into turquoise waters. If you’re looking at Dominican as an option, paying a slight premium to stay on this stunning shore as opposed to Puerto Plata is well worth it.
Cuba – Varadero
This beautiful island is not only the birthplace of the refreshing Mojito – it is the place to be if you’re looking to experience an incredible culture coupled with stunning beaches. Because of the vast size of the island, it is difficult to get to Havana’s gorgeous architecture if you’re staying anywhere other than Varadero. If you don’t want to compromise between a beach getaway of a lifetime and an unforgettable cultural experience, then Varadero is definitely the place for you. The abundance of reasonably-priced all inclusive resorts in this area are sure to delight you.
Jamaica – Negril
Jamaica is the place for lush landscapes, long sandy beaches, and fantastic nightlife. If you want it all, Jamaica is the definite must-see. Negril is the most popular tourist resort in the area. Located on the West Coast, here you will find all the famous Jamaican all-inclusive hotels lined along the 7-mile sandy beach. The abundance of shops, restaurants and bars in Negril are sure to keep every day as action-packed or as lazy as you want.
Mexico – Cancun
Cancun is a favourite destination for the entire family. Couples will love the luxurious all-inclusive hotels in the area, fantastic Mexican cuisine, and the stunning stretches of sandy beach. For the party animals, Cancun has a reputation for some of the liveliest nightlife in the Caribbean, which makes it a favourite spot for North Americans during their school holidays. Your little ones will be entertained by all the organized activities on the beach and the wide array of facilities for children at the hotels. Excursions are also widely available – a favourite being the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza, which are well worth the trip.
These destinations rank top for budget and value, but many other Caribbean islands are worth seeing if you can afford the premium price. St. Lucia and Barbados are top choices, as well as St. Maarten, Aruba, the US Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Bahamas and Turks & Caicos just to name a few. For more information on the best value Caribbean holidays visit our website or give us a ring on 0207 993 9228.