Some island destinations are so expensive that many travelers consider them out of reach. Places like the Maldives, French Polynesia, Santorini and Hawaii all come to mind. Everything from the cost of transportation to activities is high due to location and tourist demand. But don't let the initial price tag deter you from planning a trip to one of these picturesque locales. Follow the tips outlined below and your island vacation may be much more attainable than you previously thought.
Since most resorts in the Maldives are located on remote islands, they can and do charge through the roof for everything from lodging and transportation to dining and activities. Once you've paid thousands of dollars to fly into the capital of Malé, you're still on the hook for seaplane transfers that can cost upward of $500 round trip.
Avoid the extra charge and opt for a resort near the airport. This way, you can skip the pricey seaplane transfer in favor of a more affordable speedboat ride ($50 to $150 per person round trip). You'll find the same picturesque beaches and iconic overwater villas at a fraction of the cost.
Another convenient option is to book an all-inclusive resort. The Adaaran Club Rannalhi, for example, offers seven-day full-board packages for as low as $2,200 per person. These rates include speedboat transfers for two, all meals, non-motorized sports and one spa treatment per stay. Many chain hotels offer similar packages during the low season, which is between May and November. With most of your vacation costs bundled in one price, all-inclusive resorts are a great alternative to the constant number crunching that accompanies expensive destinations like the Maldives.
When most people think of French Polynesia, Bora Bora's Mount Otemanu probably comes to mind. However, Bora Bora is one of the most expensive islands in French Polynesia, both in terms of accommodations and transportation costs. Getting there requires a domestic flight out of Faa'a International Airport, which typically costs around $450 round trip.
But if you stay on the island of Tahiti, where the only transportation you'll have to worry about is a cab ride from the airport to the resort, you'll save big. Even the accommodations are cheaper in Tahiti, with the InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa offering rates as low as $250 per night for most of the year. Compare that to resorts in Bora Bora, where rates at similar properties are nearly double.
Meanwhile, the island of Moorea offers the best of both worlds: World-class hotels at lower prices than Bora Bora, plus affordable transportation options. All it takes is a $15 one-way ferry ride from Tahiti to Moorea. The lesser-known islands of Maupiti, Raiatea and Tahaa are also budget-friendly options.
As far as activities go, French Polynesia is an ideal place to go snorkeling. Bring your own gear and enjoy a free activity for the rest of your stay. Many resorts also offer complimentary non-motorized water sports, such as kayaking.
Thanks to its pleasant weather, luxurious resorts and beautiful scenery, Santorini consistently gets voted one of the best islands in the world. The key to experiencing Santorini on a budget is to avoid the photogenic, yet pricey, enclave of Oia and opt for Imerovigli or Fira instead. The views are on par with Oia and you can find top hotels for less than $300 a night. At the highly ranked Afroessa Hotel, summer rates are as low as $160 per night.
Similar bargains can be found in Fira, with the Philippion Boutique Hotel offering summer rates at less than $110 per night. For those traveling in groups, there are some incredible deals on villas, apartments and cave homes on home exchange sites like Airbnb.
Many hotels do offer breakfast as part of the daily rate, though it's worth inquiring about full- and half-board packages as well. Renting a house, on the other hand, ensures you can prepare your own meals and save on dining expenses.
The least exotic region on this list, Hawaii has the advantage of being much more accessible to U.S.-based travelers. And with an abundance of time shares scattered across the state's islands, travelers can find some amazing lodging deals. A simple Airbnb search turns up dozens of time share owners looking to make a bit of cash by leasing out their chain-affiliated condos for well under $200 per night. For example, a two-bedroom condo at the Marriott Waiohai Beach Club can currently be booked for $143 per night through Airbnb. Booking the same room type through Marriott would cost upward of $659 per night.
Activities can put a dent in your budget as well, but that's where the A3H Goldcard comes into play. Priced at $30, the card is valid for one year and affords members savings of up to 25 percent on popular activities throughout Hawaii. The best part? Cardholders get access to owner's tickets, which are half-priced activities sold in limited quantities each month. A 30-minute Jet Ski session in Maui will set you back $100, but with the A3H Goldcard the same activity can be booked for just $50. The same goes for parasailing, ziplining and snorkeling tours, which are heavily discounted even during peak season.
No matter how expensive a destination may seem, there are plenty of ways to keep costs low without having to skimp on fun and relaxation.
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