Vacationing on a tropical island may sound like an activity reserved for the upper crust of society, but there are dozens of sandy and warm spots off the Florida coast that are perfect for a budget retreat. Make your dream trip a reality with a trip to one of these gorgeous locations.
Sanibel Island is west of the Florida mainland in the Gulf of Mexico. If you’re on a tight budget, visit J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge — admission is only $1 if you’re traveling on foot. There’s an education center you can visit for free, and the park is home to over 200 species of birds. This makes it a great spot for viewing wildlife.
Many people consider camping to cut the cost of staying at a resort. Thankfully, you don’t have to pick between four-star resorts and primitive beaches to afford a trip here. To save on accommodations, book an affordable Sanibel Island hotel with Hotel Planner.
Image via Flickr by James St. John
One of the best things about a trip to Sanibel Island is that you can easily venture to some of the most secluded beach spots in the state and retreat back to your hotel room for a full night’s rest. Bowman’s Beach is a good choice during the week, but it can get crowded during the weekend.
To enjoy guaranteed peace and quiet, take a ferry ride to Cayo Costa. This island has little more than a ranger station on its shores, and if all you want to do is camp out, swim, and go fishing, you can vacation on Cayo Costa for next to nothing. You can also add a daytrip here to your Sanibel Island itinerary.
Marco Island is a sunny destination south of Sanibel Island past Naples, Florida. Free and cheap activities include kayaking and paddleboarding in the tidal lagoon, or you can sunbathe on Tigertail Beach. To save on your travels to this location, book a hotel inland rather than right on the beaches. Another tip is to visit in the offseason. In South Florida, tourists flock to the beaches for warmth in the winter. If you can stand the heat, you’ll contend with fewer crowds and better room rates on Marco Island in the summer.
Key West might sound like a pricy place to visit, but it’s affordable if you search for good rates on hotels and avoid the expensive resorts. There are also plenty of free and cheap things to do, like sightseeing at Dry Tortugas. You can also visit one of the island’s many famous homes. Ernest Hemingway, Harry S. Truman, and Tennessee Williams enjoyed a tenure here, and you can learn more about their lives with a visit to their respective properties.
Hopefully these recommendations have inspired you to start planning your dream vacation. If you do your research, you can find lodging and activities to meet your budget. Try one of these locations, and cross a stay on a Florida island off your travel bucket list.