K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
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When you’re looking for that perfect couples getaway but have to stick to a budget, you might not be able to jet off to Fiji or the Maldives, or book a luxurious castle stay, but there are still plenty of enticing options. Right in the U.S., you’ll find some fabulous places to enjoy the romantic ambiance of a mountain town or beaches for soaking up the sun together. If you can venture a bit further, you might even take advantage of affordable and enticing international spots, from cities in Europe and South America to popular Caribbean islands.
The Florida Keys offer a Caribbean-like experience without the need to fly overseas or pull out your passport. Key Largo in particular tends to be more affordable and with bargain airfare from many major cities to Miami. Once in Miami, rent a car and enjoy one of the country’s most scenic drives to get to Key Largo. You’ll find budget-friendly resorts and a myriad of low-cost things to do, like snorkeling in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park which preserves the only living coral reef in the country, watching the crocs in Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge, walking the trails in Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park, and enjoying colorful sunsets together for the perfect finale to every evening.
Ecuador is staggeringly cheap and offers everything from sandy beaches to soaring volcanic mountains and Amazon rainforest. No matter what you’re looking for in a vacation you can probably find it here, including multi-course chef tasting dinners with wine at a fraction of the price you’d pay at home. But when it comes to romance, the colonial city of Cuenca is a top pick with everything from adventurous pursuits to a rich history and culture. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s filled with Old World charms, while four rivers run through it and a cathedral rests at the city center. Climb to the cathedral’s top and take in a breathtaking view. Enjoy peaceful strolls along the riverfront, discover the city’s history through its museums, and explore Inca ruins too.
Puerto Escondido is a tranquil fishing village, hidden away along the Pacific coast in Oaxaca. While it’s home to one of the region’s most beautiful beaches, it’s somehow managed to remain mostly under the radar other than the many surfers who come for the Mexican Pipeline, its famous break. Room rates start at less than $40 a night and even if you don’t surf it’s the perfect place to relax and enjoy the views together. It also offers authentic Mexican culture and a cheap, bustling outdoor food market, with the bay’s east side particularly known for its delicious, inexpensive eats.
As Montego Bay is home to one of the largest airports in the Caribbean, it’s easier to find more affordable airfare, even for direct, non-stop flights. It also offers some of the best values for accommodation, with a wide range of options that include hotels for under $50 a night. There are plenty of delicious, cheap eats, including tasty jerk beachside and at streetside stands, along with free things to do. Swimming in the stunning aquamarine waters, sunbathing on pristine white sand beaches, and dancing to live reggae won’t cost a thing.
Compared to other western European capital cities, Lisbon is one of the cheaper to visit, with everything from affordable vacation rentals to four-star lodging. Plus, many of the top attractions are free to visit or charge a modest admission fee. It offers a ton of Old World charm and historic attractions, including ancient castles, while landscapes include everything from olive groves as far as your eye can see to a picturesque coastline with sandy beaches nearby, including stretches in secluded, sheltered coves. There is a wide range of mouthwatering dining experiences to suit every budget. At the Time Out Market, you can enjoy budget-friendly samples from Portugal’s Michelin-star chefs.
Puerto Rico is one of the most affordable Caribbean destinations and it doesn’t even require a passport. The capital city of San Juan offers historical and cultural attractions, lively nightlife, and gorgeous beaches like El Escambrón for enjoying everything from romantic strolls to swimming and snorkeling. Visitors can also hop on a ferry to Vieques Island to enjoy secluded sandy beaches with outstanding snorkeling among an abundance of colorful fish and giant sea turtles. Watch for the wild horses that run rampant across the island and embark on a romantic horseback ride through lush, green trails and right on the sand.
Orange Beach is known for its glistening white sands that are made up mostly of quartz, causing them to sparkle in the sunshine while beautifully contrasted by brilliant turquoise water. Enjoy swimming, beach strolls and walks on nature trails to see ospreys, owls, turtles, and bullfrogs. As there are plenty of budget-friendly hotels and vacation rentals here, you might be able to splurge a bit for a guaranteed dolphin sighting with Dolphin Cruises Aboard the Cold Mill Fleet. Look forward to cheap or free live entertainment, and a bounty of fresh seafood in this haven for foodies, with many dining spots featuring waterfront views.
While many couples head to Cannon Beach, prices are steep. But just a few miles away in Seaside, you’ll find a romantic setting with a nearly two-mile-long stretch of sandy beach and much cheaper accommodation options. There’s plenty to do, too. Walk or bike the waterfront promenade that runs alongside the beach, fly a kite, search for sand dollars at low tide, or hike the trail that crosses Tillamook Head between the two towns, providing breathtaking vantage points for viewing the waves that crash against Tillamook Lighthouse offshore. Bell Buoy of Seaside is a great place to pick up lunch for a picnic with affordable prices for some of the best and freshest seafood around.
While Las Vegas has gotten rather pricey over the years, Reno offers a more budget-friendly alternative without the big crowds. It’s often thought of as a smaller version of Sin City, but its nickname, “The Biggest Little City in the World,” provides a more accurate description of its atmosphere. It’s jam-packed with things to do, including low-cost entertainment, while beautiful Lake Tahoe is a short drive away, with opportunities to play in and around the water, including beaches for sunbathing and hikes in the surrounding mountains. Many of the hotels and resorts, which come at a fraction of the costs you’ll find in Vegas, offer live music and comedy shows too.
Located in Santa Ynez Valley wine country, home to over 120 wineries, the Danish-themed town of Solvang not only makes a great base for touring and tasting, but it has plenty of delights of its own. Symbolized by an iconic windmill, its streets are lined with Old World European architecture, some 150 different boutiques and shops with lots of Danish items, and aromatic bakeries serving delectable Danish pastries or Aebleskiver. Visit the Hans Christian Andersen Museum, dedicated to the Danish author best-known for his beloved fairy tales or the Elverhøj Museum of History & Art. The Old Mission Santa Inés, a gorgeously restored historic mission, is well worth a visit with a rare collection of art.
One of the top spots in the Midwest for a romantic couples getaway, Mackinac Island was famously featured in the 1980 film “Somewhere In Time.” While there are plenty of luxurious accommodations here, you’ll find budget-friendly options along with free and inexpensive things to do. Bring your bikes and cycle along the coastline, take peaceful walks in the state parks, and enjoy free samples at one of more than a dozen fudge shops, including venues where you can watch as it’s made. The island is virtually car-free, with a horse-drawn carriage ride being one of the best ways to take in the scenery, including the old summer cottages and impressive architecture downtown.
Set along the lush Columbia River Gorge, Hood River offers a dreamy getaway that can fit into most budgets depending on where you stay. It’s especially ideal for adventure-loving couples, with opportunities to kiteboard or windsurf the river, and throughout the area, there are miles and miles of scenic trails for hiking, some of which lead to beautiful waterfalls. Visit Hood River Lavender to take in a jaw-dropping view of the endless purple flowers with a backdrop of Mount Hood and Mount Adams, and pick up handcrafted lavender-focused items, with everything from bath and body products to culinary treats. In town, there are enticing coffee shops, breweries, and restaurants serving local fare.
A hub of arts and culture, couples will find plenty to love about Santa Fe, including affordable accommodations and Airbnb options. Rich in Spanish and Native American traditions, the cuisine is internationally renowned while art enthusiasts can browse the many art markets and galleries. Take in free live music at Santa Fe Plaza, and explore the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum which focuses on one of the most influential artists of the entire 20th century. If you want to take advantage of the frequent sunny skies, hit the Dale Ball Trails on foot or on two wheels. In the winter, outstanding ski resorts for enjoying the powder are nearby too.
One of the most charming towns in New England, Stowe sits at the base of Mount Manfield, the state’s highest peak. It’s surrounded by nature with spectacular scenery year-round, including the vibrant hues of fall blanketed across the Green Mountains dotted with church steeples and covered bridges. In the winter it’s an enchanting white wonderland as the ski capital of the East. You can also twirl around on the ice skating rink at Spruce Peak Village and enjoy fantastic après-ski dining just steps from the slopes. When the snow has melted, enjoy tranquil hikes and bike rides. Summer nights include entertaining musicals at the Stowe Theatre Guild.