Your honeymoon is a trip to remember, whether you’re on a full-blown adventure or are settling in for a week of beach lounging and relaxation. The only thing that might be stopping you? Your budget. Planning the trip of a lifetime can come with a hefty price tag, and that might leave you and your partner wondering how on earth you’ll get away without breaking the bank. Well, there is a way! Caroline Makepeace, budget-savvy travel pro and half of the duo behind Y Travel, knows a thing or two about making the most of a trip while still keeping the costs low, so we asked her to share her 10 favorite affordable honeymoon destinations, and what you can do to keep it cheap.
Cape Town, South Africa
“Cape Town is the perfect spot for honeymooners who want a bit of everything: Stunning location, outdoor adventures, metropolitan lifestyle, great food and wine, and a few wild animals for good measure!” says Makepeace. To keep it affordable, she suggests renting an apartment instead of staying in a hotel and looking to Muizenberg (a beach-front suburb south of the city) instead of Camps Bay (another beachy ‘burb that’s much closer to downtown). “If you’re outdoorsy, there are many free activities that can help you get by on just $50 a day,” Makepeace continues. Of course, you have to hit the highlights. “Wander the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, then hike up to the top of Table Mountain,” she suggests. Visit a piece of history with a tour of Robben Island, then devote a little time to the birds by checking out the African penguin colony at Boulder’s Beach. Head out to the Cape Winelands for a sundowner at one of the world-class vineyards—Makepeace loves the charming Waterford Estate in Stellenbosch—or tour the area with the Franschhoek Wine Tram, a hop-on, hop-off tram that will bring you to a few can’t miss spots.
Yes, you can visit this playground of the rich and famous while sticking to your budget! “If you’re looking for island relaxation, stunning ocean views, and lots of romance, this is it,” says Makepeace. If you have reward points to cash in, spring for the idyllic Maldives experience with an overwater bungalow and all-inclusive meals and drinks. For a more local (and affordable) perspective, there are guesthouses along the beach that can be rented for around $60 a night. “Some guesthouses will offer excursions, like diving, snorkeling, and swimming with whale sharks,” Makepeace continues. If that’s up your alley, don’t miss diving in the protected marine area at Banana Reef. Getting to the Maldives can be pretty cheap if you connect through major Middle Eastern hubs, then once you’re there, use ferries or local fishermen to get you from island to island instead of expensive speedboats. One thing to remember: The Maldives is a strict Muslim country, so if you’re hoping to drink cocktails in a bikini, you’ll be better off at a resort.
Palawan, The Philippines
Hoping to swim with turtles and not tourists? Head to Palawan, with white beaches, jade green waters, and stunning coastlines. “For a central base, stay at the Sheridan Beach Resort and Spa,” Makepeace recommends. They have spectacular views of the mountains and the beach, and they’re within walking distance of lots of local restaurants and shops.” Once you’re there, don’t miss the beaches of El Nido and Coron. Or head north to Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. “It’s a world heritage site and one of the new seven wonders of nature,” Makepeace says. Book a tour to float along the river, then opt for a little adrenaline with a zipline tour when you’re done. “Island hopping is a must-do, so rent kayaks and visit the remote beaches that make up the Bacuit Archipelago at your own pace,” Makepeace adds.
Zanzibar Island, Tanzania
“Off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa, endless white sand beaches sink into crystal blue waters,” says Makepeace. “This relaxing getaway has some of the most beautiful sunsets you’ll ever see!” The Island is also known for its spices, so be prepared to indulge in fresh, local seafood full of flavor. “Visit the waterfront night markets in Stone Town for the best Zanzibar food,” she suggests. Spend your days watching the traditional wooden dhows sail by, or get a little adventure on a day trip to Mnemba Atoll. “For a low price, you can cruise around the island, sunbathing and snorkeling, and dine on a delicious afternoon barbecue,” Makepeace says. For a mix of relaxation and nightlife (and affordable accommodations), stay in Kendwa on the western side of the island.
Yes, this Italian hotspot can also be budget-friendly! “If you’re looking to indulge, Tuscany is full of fabulous food and timeless, rustic beauty,” says Makepeace. Fly to Rome or Milan instead of Florence to save on airfare, then rent a car and make the three to four hour drive through rolling hills and crumbling castles. “Instead of a hotel, stay at a rural villa,” Makepeace suggests. “You’ll be able to cook for yourselves using the fabulous local produce and cheap wine!” Take a trip to Chianti, with a picnic in tow, or stop at Casamonti Estates for delicious wine and food. “Be sure to taste the legendary Cinta Sinese pork!” says Makepeace. And make time for a visit to the natural hot water pools in Saturnia, Bagno Vignoni, Petriolo, or San Filippo for a little thermal therapy.
Railay Bay, Thailand
This is the place to go if you want an adventurous honeymoon in a tropical paradise. “The area is divided into three beaches,” says Makepeace. “For the best sunsets and a range of accommodation options, head to Railay West, or for cheaper choices (and a party scene) go to Railay East.” Either way, don’t miss Phranang Beach, reached by a path through a limestone cave and jungle vines. “The first time you see it is a memory you’ll remember forever,” says Makepeace. The area is also a rock climber’s paradise. Bring your ropes or join a class to scale the limestone cliffs. For a day of relaxation, hire a long tail boat for a private snorkeling tour. “The great thing about this area is that there are so few expenses. You can spend your days kayaking or beach lazing, and there are plenty of affordable dining options,” says Makepeace. “Just try to fly directly to Phuket, then take a boat, bus, or taxi to Krabi for the long tail boat ride to the peninsula.”
“Sapa is the honeymoon destination for a couple who wants to step back in time to the terraced rice villages of North Vietnam, as well as a couple who enjoys a fair amount of trekking,” says Makepeace. “The town overlooks plunging valleys, with mountains on all sides. Relax in town, or pick a direction and trek through the countryside to visit the hilltop tribal villages.” If you want to really accomplish something on your honeymoon, devote two days to climbing Mt. Fansipan. “Join a tour and hire local porters to carry your gear, then hike to the roof of Indochina,” Makepeace recommends. “Even if the clouds block the view, the journey is a reward in itself.” Fly to Hanoi on an Asian airline, such as Vietnam Airlines or Singapore Airlines. From Hanoi, the bus is your cheapest way to get to Sapa, while the train is more comfortable, but also more expensive.
Queenstown, New Zealand
Want to put your love and trust to the test? How about an adrenaline-pumping honeymoon in New Zealand! “This is the place to go for skydiving, bungy jumping, jet boat rides, and winter skiing,” says Makepeace. “For a quieter (and more affordable) trip, head south during New Zealand’s autumn (March to May) or spring (October to November). Either way, don’t miss the Onsen Hot Pools, with sweeping views of Shotover River Canyon.” Treat yourselves to a totally secluded picnic on a mountain peak—reached only by helicopter! And don’t overlook the country’s motels. “They are a great home-away-from-home option, with living areas, kitchens, and bathrooms,” says Makepeace. “You can settle in and cook for yourselves, and Queenstown Motel Apartments are a great price with just a short walk to town.”
Lizard Island, Australia
“If you want privacy, seclusion, and luxury overlooking one of the world’s biggest reef systems, look no further than Lizard Island,” says Makepeace. “It’s the northernmost island on the Great Barrier Reef, and while the private charter from Cairns is pricey, the hour-long flight over the reef is really part of the experience!” Wander straight off the beach to explore the reef, or take a short boat trip to the inner and outer islands for snorkeling and diving. “Visiting Lizard Island is a trip worth saving for, and now is the time to go!” says Makepeace. “Flights from L.A. to Cairns have never been more affordable, so now is the time for the trip of a lifetime.