Cheapest Tropical Vacations for College Students

By Ashley Paskill on February 23, 2020

Whether you are planning spring break, a summer trip, or just an escape from winter doldrums, you are likely wanting to escape to a tropical location. However, these vacations can be expensive, especially since you are on a college student budget. Luckily, there are plenty of tropical destinations for those looking for an inexpensive escape. When thinking of a tropical escape, consider these options as they are among the cheapest tropical destinations for college students.

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Punta Cana is a resort town located in the eastern province of the Dominican Republic. It is located where the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea connect, making it a unique place to check out. According to reports, a week-long vacation to Punta Cana, including airfare, food, lodging, and some resort activities can cost less than $1000, which makes it a budget-friendly vacation destination for college students.

Punta Cana has a lot to offer. If you are a fan of diving, you can go to barrier reefs, coral gardens, and even the Punta Cana Pewter Wreck, a notable local shipwreck. Other shipwrecks are visible if you swim north, and these wrecks are home to tropical fish since they are covered in marine plants.

If you are willing to travel a bit outside of Punta Cana, you can go to one of several nearby adventure parks, such as Scape Park and Manati Park. These parks feature things such as ziplining, animal shows, boating activities and cruises, horseback riding, cave explorations, hiking, and bridge trekking.

Punta Cana is also known for its beaches, so if these adventurous activities are not quite your thing, you can go to the beach. Some beaches have watersports nearby and some are more developed than others, so you may want to do some research to plan out what you want to do and where you want to go.

Cancun, Mexico

While traveling to Cancun, Mexico is expensive during peak travel seasons (including spring break), there are options to help balance out the costs. One way to save money is to plan a trip in an off-season. If this is not possible due to work or school, there are plenty of all-inclusive resorts that can help you save money.

Cancun is obviously known for its beaches. However, there are other things to do, such as snorkeling and exploring Mayan ruins. Aside from the beaches, Cancun also has a vibrant nightlife. Its party atmosphere makes Cancun a great trip for younger students. There is constantly something to do, so it is very difficult to be bored while in Cancun.

Cancun has two sections: Hotel Zone, which tends to be geared more towards tourists, and Downtown Cancun, which has more cultural experiences. Downtown Cancun is an escape from the tourist scene as it is where those who work in the Hotel Zone actually live.

If you want to get a panoramic view of Cancun, check out the Scenic Tower. The top of the tower spins slowly and gives visitors a chance to get a full look around Cancun. The ride to the top takes about five minutes, and visitors can spend another 15 minutes taking pictures and learning about the history of the city.

The Bahamas

Even though many of the most famous resorts in the Bahamas are not all-inclusive, you may be able to get a good deal if you plan on going with a group of friends. Otherwise, try to steer clear of these resorts to save some money. With approximately 700 islands, you do not want to be focused on staying in your resort when you could be out exploring and making the most of your trip.

The best time to visit the Bahamas s from mid-December to mood-April. Though it is typically not advised to go on vacation during peak travel times if you are looking to save money, in this case, it can help you avoid hurricane season. May is also considered to be a rainy month, so if your focus is on hitting the beach or spending a significant amount of time outdoors (which you should since it is warm year-round), this can put a hamper on your plans.

There are plenty of fun activities to do while on vacation in the Bahamas. For those who wish to embrace their inner Victoria’s Secret angel, you can swim with pigs at Exuma’s pig beach. You may also wish to go to one of the many dolphin experiences. Things such as gambling, drinking, and going to clubs are 18+ in the Bahamas, so if you are not quite 21 in the United States, the Bahamas will allow you to do these things. Just be sure to do so carefully and safely.

One place to check out while in the Bahamas is Nassau. It is known for its white-sand beaches and clear water. There are also a variety of tourist attractions to check out if you want a little bit of a break from hitting the beach. Just like the rest of the Bahamas, the nightlife in Nassau is alive and thriving, so there is no shortage of things to do, no matter what time of day it is.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is known for its history, culture, food, beaches, and scenery. Whether you want to go surfing or try out new food, there is something for everyone. There are even hiking trails, including the famous Cueva Ventana, which is located in Arecibo and is a great way to take in the beauty of Puerto Rico while learning about its indigenous people.

One town to check out is Aguadilla. Known as the “village of the eye of the water,” its blue water and beautiful beaches will surely mesmerize you. To take full advantage of the beaches, which are some of the best surfing beaches in North America, rent a surfboard and take some surfing lessons. There are plenty of inexpensive surfing rentals and lessons. Besides its world-class beaches, there is not much to see. Other popular surfing destinations include Rincon, Isabela, La Ocho, La Pared, and Los Tubos.

If you are interested in military history, particularly military history, Castillo San Felipe del Morro is a must-see. This fortification is located on the corner of Old San Juan and was once a crucial military outpost for Spain and then the United States. When you visit El Morro, you will learn about El Morro as well as the importance of Puerto Rico’s location in terms of those trying to reach the United States. There are park rangers who serve as tour guides, but you are also welcome to explore at your own pace.

Aside from the numerous sites, traveling to Puerto Rico is a great way to practice your Spanish from class since both English and Spanish are spoken there. For example, at El Morro, park rangers give tours in both Spanish and English, so if you are feeling adventurous, you can take the tour in Spanish and see how much you are able to pick up.

Image: Wenhao Ryan via https://unsplash.com/photos/jEUEpfjpe6Q

Grand Cayman Islands

While some areas, especially the docks, are busy, there are places that are more peaceful than others. If you love animals, you will want to venture off to Stingray City, which is a sandbar located in the ocean where stingrays will swim beside you. There are plenty of spas to get spa treatments and massages if you are willing to spend a little bit more money.

The Grand Cayman Islands are known for their beaches, but these beautiful islands also offer activities such as biking, fishing, and golfing. Like many other tropical islands, the Cayman Islands also offer diving as well as a vibrant nightlife.

If you are feeling especially adventurous, you can visit Crystal Caves. You will be led by guides who will tell you about how the caves formed and the various things that reside within the caves, from wildlife to crystal formations. Be sure to wear good footwear and book your tour ahead of time. The cave is a great place to get unique photos for your Instagram feed.

For a unique (and free) experience, you can visit Hell. It is an attraction located in the West Bay on Grand Cayman. This attraction is known for a small patch of black limestone formations that were created by salt and lime deposits. Despite knowing that it has developed over 24 million years, the legend is still debated. Make sure you get postcards so that you can send postcards from Hell!

Bermuda

Bermuda is a great yet inexpensive vacation. There are plenty of places to go scuba diving, and it is cheaper to get SCUBA certified in Bermuda than in the United States, so if you have been meaning to get certified, Bermuda is the perfect place to do so. To take a break from the beach, you can go for a hike or soak up Bermuda’s nightlife.

The best time to visit Bermuda is in September or October since this is considered the end of the peak season and the humidity from summer has disappeared. That said, Bermuda is subtropical, so it will still be warm. However, if you have to wait until spring break or summer vacation, it will still be warm, but you may have to pay slightly higher travel prices due to peak season.

Since rental cars are not permitted, you will have to either rent a scooter or take the public buses and ferries. The primary language spoken is English and they currently use the United States dollar and the Bermuda dollar interchangeably. These facts make Bermuda the perfect destination for those who have never traveled abroad and are worried about not knowing the language or the currency exchange rate.

Like so many of the other destinations on this list, Bermuda is more than just a bunch of beaches. There is so much more to Bermuda. It is also known for its golf, art museums, and lighthouses. One landmark worth checking out, especially if you love seeing British colonial architecture, is St. Peter’s Church located in St. George’s. St. George’s itself is a must-see. During the summer months, there are period actors that simulate the old days, from town criers and people getting sentenced to the stocks.

Aruba

Aruba is an iconic Caribbean island known for its scenery, gorgeous beaches, and stunning sunsets. It is a perfect getaway for soaking up the sun while filling your Instagram with amazing photos of landscapes and sunsets. Although Aruba has a reputation for being super exclusive due to it being the most expensive island in the Caribbean, it is still a great place for college students.

Contrary to what you may think, the best time to visit Aruba is from April to August. During this timeframe, the typically high prices are lower and unlike other islands, tropical storms are not as likely on Aruba.

Since Aruba is known for its beaches, like the other tropical destinations on this list, you likely want to spend some time at the beach. A unique way to make use of your beach time is to windsurf, which is ideal in Aruba due to high trade winds.

Ecuador

Even though Ecuador is not necessarily the top of everyone’s list when deciding where to go, this fact actually makes it less expensive than some of the more popular tourist spots. The tourist-targeted crime rate has dropped significantly, so it is now a safer place to go, especially if you keep your bearings.

Ecuador’s Quito and Cuenca are known as the country’s historic centers, but other towns are also popular for their markets and cultural impacts. They are home to cobblestone streets, beautiful architecture, and markets.

For those who are more adventurous, taking a hike in the Andes is an adventure filled with nature, beautiful views from the top, and quaint villages. If hiking is not your thing, you can get to the top of the mountains by biking or horseback riding.

Ecuador is also home to the Galapagos Islands. These islands are a group of volcanic islands that straddle the equator. They are known for their variety of animal species that were studied by Charles Darwin. This makes these islands perfect for those who love nature or are majoring in a field where the knowledge of animals is crucial.

Traveling to tropical destinations has a reputation for being expensive, but these destinations do not have to break the bank, especially if you go at a time when prices are lower. Ultimately, doing your research and comparing prices on everything from things to do to flights and hotels will save you the most money in the end.

By Ashley Paskill

Uloop Writer

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