4 Affordable Florida Island Vacations

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

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.

Cayo Costa

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

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

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.

4 Best Vacation Cities Along the Gulf of Mexico Close

When Americans think of beaches, they tend to think of southern California, Florida, Hawaii, or even the Caribbean islands before they think of the Gulf Coast. Yet some of the best beaches in North America are along this stretch of shoreline. Soft white sand, emerald green waters, unobstructed views, and all the leisure and recreation a vacationer needs are stretched out on this curve around the Gulf of Mexico. If you’re looking for a restorative beach vacation, take a look at these four Gulf Coast beaches.

Galveston, Texas

Image via Flickr by enchiladaplate

This island off the coast of Texas features miles and miles of sandy beach, warm weather, and recreation. The  beaches are expansive and beautifully developed. The town offers restaurants, museums, historic sites, galleries, nightlife, and boutiques. Moody Gardens is a great spot for soaking up beautiful views, and the Schlitterbahn water park offers excitement. Galveston Island State Park is a great place to hike and explore when you want to be alone with nature. Visit the Seawall Urban Park for roller blading, jogging, or long walks.

Destin, Florida

Destin is a quiet beach town with white sand beaches and gleaming green water. The coastline around Destin offers a variety of water parks, amusement parks, dolphin cruises, fishing, and other recreation for families. The town has plenty of shopping and dining options, but it’s Henderson Beach State Park that is the biggest draw here. The park offers beautiful dunes and a relaxing beach for swimming and sunning. Henderson Beach also has picnic areas and campsites, but once you check out the assortment of great hotels in Destin, you’ll probably opt to sleep indoors.

Marco Island, Florida

One of Florida’s top beach destinations for luxury travelers, Marco Island offers pristine white sand beaches with warm water throughout the year. This upscale island attracts older travelers and families who are looking for comfort amid stunning views and scenery.

The Tigertail Beach side of the island is the most popular. It’s a fully-equipped beach complete with lifeguards, concessions, restrooms, and equipment rentals. South Marco Beach at the opposite end of the island is smaller, but it’s becoming quite popular. There are also lots of private beaches around the coastline of the island that are attached to vacation rentals.

Orange Beach, Alabama

One of the best Gulf Coast beaches lies just across the border for Florida’s Emerald Coast, on the Alabama side. Orange Beach offers a balance between beautiful beaches and outdoor activities. The Orange Beach Waterfront Park is a popular family spot with public beach access, picnic areas, a playground, and a fishing pier. The park’s Back Country Trail is a good place to hike or run. Orange Beach offers access to both the Gulf and the inland bays and bayous to the north, where locals and vacationers like to kayak, sail, and fish.

The Gulf Coast offers something for everyone, from party beaches to upscale getaways and family adventures. Choose the destination that’s right for you, and start daydreaming about your Gulf Coast vacation.