Images of the world’s best beach destinations abound on social media but what you don’t always see is how affordable they truly are. They may be in the foreground of iconic forts or lush farmland; deep sapphire-coloured or a sparklingly clear aquamarine; full of life or tucked away in a little-known cove but they’re also the some of the best cheap beach destinations in the world.
Just around the corner from Thailand’s famous beaches, Vietnam’s are equally beautiful and more unspoiled. The country may not come to mind when you imagine a seaside getaway but if you can imagine yourself in Thailand, you can see yourself in Vietnam, too.
But the best reason to go for Vietnam is undoubtedly the low price tag. Travel Bird’s 2018 study ranked Vietnamese beaches like Cua Dai Beach, Ho Coc Beach and City Beach the cheapest in the world.
Located in Hoi An, Cua Dai Beach is a spectacular place to catch a sunset: as the sun dips, fishermen bring in their boats, creating a wonderful scene for watching tourists. The stretchy shore of City Beach is top in Vietnam. In the distance float tiny tropical islets.
Travel Bird found you could buy a day at a Vietnamese beach for as little as R160. That includes ice cream, suntan lotion, lunch, a beer, ice cream and another drink.
Just up the coast, Mozambique is incredibly rand-friendly; some merchants even accept the rand as currency. And the coastline is simply stunning: with long flat shores and deep blue seas, the country’s often called the Pearl of the Indian Ocean.
Bazaruto Archipelago, a part of a national park, is where some of the best beaches are located. The Quirimbas Archipelago, just off the coast from Pemba, is also a good choice. There’s spectacular diving to be and local seafood dishes are heavy on the waist but light on the wallet at around.
Have a beach holiday that’s also affordable with amazing packages (including flights and accommodation) from R9744 per person.
A rising star, the Algarve in southern Portugal offers a cheap beach getaway that doesn’t skimp on beauty or excitement. The honey-coloured cliffs rise out of the turquoise Mediterranean to create secluded coves that are increasingly coveted around the world.
Of the 150 beaches in Algarve, the Praia da Marinha is the most celebrated. Arrive via the cliffside promenade and start the photoshoot: this is as scenic a beach as there’s ever been.
Indulge in the abundant region’s specialties: olives, figs, almonds, and octopus. And all of this can be had for a steal, compared to other seaside resort towns.
Travel Bird concluded that a day at Praia da Marinha in Algarve costs about R360.
Phuket is party and beach-centric and it’s still an amazingly cheap beach destination. The Thai currency is low and the Rand goes far in Thailand.
There’s no shortage of beautiful beaches on Phuket, the main Thai island. Patong Beach is the most famous with its long shores that are eternally packed with hedonists and watersports enthusiasts. Just next door lies Paradise Beach, the venue for the legendary Full Moon Parties.
- A day on Patong Beach will come to just R233 per person.
- Vendors sell fresh juices and local food for very cheap.
Ochos Rios, Jamaica
A former fishing village, Ochos Rios has been transformed into a cheap tropical destination for the travelers who keep streaming in. It’s cheaper than Montego Bay and among the all-inclusive resort options, are plenty of locally-run hotels and restaurants that keep things affordable.
Off Jamaica Beach lies a stunning reef, home to parrotfish, turtles, and barracudas, amongst other marine life. Other fabulous shorelines include Fisherman’s Beach and Ochos Rios Statue. Mahogany Beach is a local favourite: small and laid-back, it’s where you can play football, buy freshly cooked jerky and turn up the volume on some Bob Marley.
As a benchmark for Jamaican beaches, lounging on Silver Sands Beach comes to around R338.
Manzanillo and Playa del Carmen rank as Mexico’s inexpensive beachside vacation spots.
Playa del Carmen is low-key and uncrowded while Manzanillo is both a tourist hub and a key Pacific port. Both have plenty of low-cost hotels and eating places.
Along the Manzanillo promenade, you’ll find local handicrafts for sale, as well as affordable snacks. Playa Miramar, a surfing and bodyboarding spot, and Playa La Boquita, with a shipwreck diving site, are the jewels in the city’s seaside crown.
Playa del Carmen also has some superb diving sites beneath the aquamarine seas and is near some truly awesome Mayan ruins (day trips are very affordable).
Playa del Carmen’s perfectly affordable at R338 for all your beach goodies.
Greece has always been among the cheapies but look to Corfu for an even better bargain. Located on the western side of the country, in the Ionian Sea, the island is rich in sun-kissed shores and old cultural traditions.
Paleokastritsa is the beach that takes the prize: a long blue bay, it is divided into six beaches. Some are sandy, others are pebbled: you can take your pick. Runners-up include Agios Gordios in the south and Glyfada in the north.
A sunny day at Paleokastritsa comes to just R256
Another of our African neighbours, Tanzania is visa-free for South Africans and the exchange rate is low. On Zanzibar, there’s plenty to keep you busy and it’s all very affordable.
The Indian Ocean creates idyllically balmy beaches for travelers to experience. Nungwi Beach is almost always hailed as the island’s best bit of coastline. There’s also Kendwa on the north coast and Matemwe in the northeast. Both are somewhat hidden jewels, unvisited by most tourists, with very few properties on the shore.
- Nungwi Beach days needn’t break the bank at R361.
- There are some wonderful deals to be had for a seaside getaway, starting at just R11518 for accommodation and flights
Although seldom mentioned, Belize is an amazing tropical beach destination that’s also cheap. Centuries-old Mayan temples give way to beautiful islands with stunning beaches The people are warm and welcoming and the ocean is likewise.
Two of the islands you’ll want to go for budget-friendly holidays are Ambergris Caye and Half Moon Caye. Ambergris Caye is one of the best seaside locations in Belize but unlike the others, it stays cheap. Belize’s barrier reef is the second largest in the world, meaning snorkeling in the Caribbean is a must and unforgettable experience.
Half Moon Caye, meanwhile, offers some of the cleanest beaches and most crystalline waters, home to some of the nation’s best and most unique diving.
Don’t be afraid to dip your feet in the waters in Belize. At Half Moon Caye it’s R338 for the day.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Colourful San Juan is cobbled and surrounded by huge stone fortresses. The town’s charm extends to its beaches: they’re thin with soft sands, palm trees, and divine waters.
Start the day off with Balneario Escambrón, a sheltered, well-located and uncrowded cove that’s good for surfing in the foreground of the city fort. Next up is Playa Isla Verde, a more bustling centre where sunbeds are up for hire and volleyball is the sport of choice.
- You can get a decent main meal for around R93.
- There are lots of budget accommodation options and you can get by on about R884 per person per day.
It’s as clear as the waters in Belize that a dip in gorgeous seas needn’t cost that much. From the far-flung Andaman Sea of Thailand to the Ionian Coastline of Corfu and the fabulous Caribbean haunts of Puerto Rico and Belize, these are the best of the world’s cheap beach destinations.