If you’re cruising to the Caribbean or DIY island-hopping on a budget, here’s a little secret from the travel pros: skip the pricey shore excursion and head to the resorts.
One relatively inexpensive way to soak up sun is to purchase a day pass that will give you access to a resort’s beach and amenities — meaning you’re essentially a guest for the day. These day passes are usually an affordable alternative to excursions, which can cost upwards of $100 simply to snorkel or hike.
Here are eight resorts in popular Caribbean destinations where you can enjoy sun-drenched beaches and frozen cocktails for the day -- all for less than $100 per person:
1. Nassau, Bahamas Meliá Nassau Beach All Inclusive Resort
Sure, you can book a day pass at the famous Atlantis Paradise Island water park ($139 for adults; $80 for kids 12 and under) if you want an active day zooming down water slides and interacting with dolphins, but the less expensive, lower-key option is at this all-inclusive resort. You can enjoy four miles of white sand, three freshwater pools, plus kayaking and snorkeling gear for a fraction of the cost.
The cost: $45 for adults and $25 for kids 5 to 12
2. Barbados: The Crane
Dip your toes into the pools in a palm-lined, 1.5-acre complex at this resort, or stake out a spot on the beach. You'll have a perfectly powdery spot to enjoy the island under the shade of an umbrella -- and you'll pay less than at other resorts on the island (Turtle Beach Resort costs $125).
The cost: $25 per adult and $12.50 for kids younger than 12 for beach access, or $45 per adult and $22.50 for kids for additional access to the pools
3. Roatan: Mayan Princess Beach & Dive Resort
Roatan's clear waters make it a diving mecca, and it's easy to explore at this resort, where the day pass gives you access to West Bay Beach, plus the property’s lagoon pool and restaurant. You can upgrade the pass to include lunch and an open bar ($75) or add snorkeling with transportation to and from a dive site ($85). Bonus: round-trip transportation from the port is also included.
The cost: $35 for an adult beach pass, $15 for children 5-12
4. Antigua: Jolly Beach
Huge pool? Check. White sand beach? Check. These amenities come with one of the most affordable passes in Antigua (the Sandals resort in town will run you $25 more), and includes food and drinks, plus access to non-motorized water sports equipment from 10:30 am–6:00 pm.
The cost: $75 for an adult, and $45 for children 3 to 11
5. St. Kitts: Timothy Beach Resort
Kick back with a complimentary drink and watch the Caribbean waves lap the shore with this resort’s day pass, which is available from July to November. In addition to chairs and towels on the beach, you’ll also get lunch and access to the private, newly refurbished pool.
The cost: $20 plus tax for adults, and $12.50 for kids under 12
6. St. Thomas: Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott & Beach Resort
Nothing on this dreamy island comes cheap, but with this day pass, you'll find a lot of value, including access to towels and chairs on the beach, a beachfront pool, sports courts, and restaurants, all set between hilly island terrain and sea on all sides.
The cost: $75 per adult and $55 kids 6 to 12. Note that drinks aren’t included.
7. St. Maarten: Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Casino & Spa
Traveling without kids? With the day pass at this adults-only, all-inclusive resort, you can take laps in the infinity pool, nosh on unlimited food and drinks (yes, including alcohol) and play in the waves on the beach from 10 am to 6 pm.
The cost: $89 per person, adults only
8. La Romana, Dominican Republic: Casa de Campo
It's hard not to find something entertaining at this sprawling, 7,000-acre resort. In addition to the beach, you'll find golf courses, an equestrian center, and a tennis court, as well as Altos de Chavón (a 16th-century replica of a Mediterranean village with an amphitheater, museum, and restaurants). Dine on complimentary lunch al fresco at the Beach Club before you sink into the sand on Minitas Beach.
The cost: $75 per adult, $45 per child under 12