Travel is good for the soul --- but the average adventure vacation can cost thousands of dollars per person! If you’re on a budget, this can really take a sledgehammer to your bucket list plans. I've never understood why this had to be the case. Adventurous folks can easily get out of the "all-inclusive circuit" and save big!
The fact is that there are plenty of budget-friendly adventure destinations just waiting for you to get off your lounger and onto the less-beaten path.
If you’re ready to venture into new and unexplored territory, here are some of the most beautiful, mysterious, and affordable adventure spots the planet has to offer.
Hidden Beach, Mexico
Hidden Beach is located in the Marieta Islands, near the coast of Puerta Vallarta. Just a short ride away from the city’s all-inclusive holiday resorts, the virtually untouched Marieta Islands are home to golden beaches, rare rock formations, and a vast array of wildlife. And in the middle of this paradise, you’ll find Hidden Beach, a secluded sunken beach inside a crater.
To reach this magical spot, take a local bus from Puerta Vallarta to Punta de Mita, and then take a short and affordable boat ride to the islands from here. You can book a tour of the islands with the Cooperativa de Turismo (Cooperativa El Anclote on Google Maps), which includes the journey to Hidden Beach and an opportunity to discover the tropical fish and unique geology of the islands. Taking the boat and tour from Punta de Mita will cut your costs in half!
Hotel rooms in Puerto Vallarta can be found for $49 and up per night on deal sites like Trivago.com. Round-trip flights from major U.S. airports to Puerto Vallarta are also extremely affordable (currently $308 per person). While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the gorgeous and underrated Vallarta Botanical Gardens (entry is just over $5), taste the Jalisco-style Pozole soup, and try out your bargaining skills at the local market at the River Cuale. Free live music and art exhibits abound.
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
The result of a prehistoric lake that dried out, the Salar is a 4,000+ square-mile, bright white and otherworldly desert punctuated by cacti and pink flamingos. If you visit during the wet season, between December and April, the water turns the salt fields into a glistening mirror. The effect is truly spectacular.
To get here, you need to fly to La Paz, Bolivia first. This is the most expensive part of the journey, but you can get tickets starting as low as $520 if you don’t fly around Christmas time. Then take a bus to Uyuni for about $7-$15 to start your adventure. It’s a three-day jeep trek from Uyuni to get to the flats, and booking a tour in Uyuni will cost you half the price of leaving from La Paz. The standard food and accommodations during the tour can be basic, but you can pay more for a private tour if you want. If you’re up for an adventure, check out the Salar and you’ll be coming home with the story of a lifetime!
Spotted Lake, Canada
Located in the west coast province of British Columbia, the mysterious and beautiful Spotted Lake stands out even among Canada’s many natural treasures. At the beginning of summer, the surface of this completely normal-looking lake transforms into a spotted kaleidoscope of colors. This phenomenon results when heavy minerals are left behind after the snow melts evaporate with the warming weather.
To get to this magical spot, you’ll travel from Vancouver to the little desert town of Osoyoos, located in the lovely Okanagan Valley. A hotel room in Osoyoos can cost around $150 a night, but you can save money on accommodations by booking a room with Airbnb. Once you’ve experienced the amazing lake, you’re also in a great position to discover the local wineries, cheeses, beaches, and endless natural beauty of the Okanagan Valley.
The Great Blue Hole, Belize
A legendary spot popularized by world-famous explorer Jacques Cousteau, Belize’s Blue Hole is officially one of the best scuba diving locations in the world. The water is so clear, deep, and blue that the hole is visible from space! This giant natural sinkhole is home to unusual coral reefs and mineral formations.
To get here, you’ll have to hire a boat for the day. Staying in San Pedro is a good option, and you can find rooms here from $35 a night up to hundreds of dollars for luxury accommodations. The Blue Hole is actually located in Lighthouse Reef, which has plenty more diving wonders to offer. Once you’ve made it here, you can continue your diving adventure and check out the shipwrecks, tropical sea creatures, and fantastic plants and geological formations in the reef.