The Maldives have been lauded by many a gap-year goer for their energetic culture, prolific landmarks, luscious greenery, and immaculate beaches. With this recognition, however, comes stagnation as many people view visiting the Maldives as either a foregone conclusion or repeat destination, which takes the wind out of the wings of many aspiring travellers.
The island collective has built quite a lucrative reputation for itself, which has acted as a double-edged sword for the small republic. While it has undoubtedly served as a dream getaway for many, there are plenty of folks who find themselves put off by sheer number of yearly visitors and the associated price tag that such a premium location commands. If this sounds like you then you’ve stumbled across the perfect list. Join us as we recount a number of spots that provide many of the same benefits of the Maldives, but with the added stipulations of being both cheaper and less busy!
Cayo Largo del Sur - Cuba
If you’re looking for the crystal clear waters and tranquil beaches the Maldives are known for, but at a more forgiving price point, look no further than Cayo Largo del Sur. This luscious Caribbean islet located a hundred miles south of Havana is notable for having dazzling white sand beaches spanning 17 miles of shoreline, towering mangrove trees that cast a unique shade across the beaches, and a legendary black coral reef that draws in scuba divers from far and wide.
Tripadvisor awarded this island paradise the title of third best beach in the world for good reason, it is truly a marvel of nature. With return flights to Havana likely only running you around £350-£400 with a little extra to get to the island itself, Cayo Largo del Sur is a no brainer visit if you're looking for a seaside getaway.
El Gouna - Egypt
Carrying on with the theme of clear blue waters, we have the Red Sea’s El Gouna. The modern Egyptian resort town is an underrated gem that is also host to beautiful beaches and dazzling coral reefs. The private resort is adorned with waterside accommodation that leads directly into the sea itself, so if you want to literally have the sea at your doorstep, then look no further.
The Panorama Bungalows offer much of the luxurious appeal of the similar constructions available in the Maldives, but these have the benefit of being far cheaper. This frees up your budget to indulge in more of the scuba diving that the Red Sea is famous for, with the clear sea being host to a wide variety of colourful sea life living just beneath the surface. If you’re lucky, you may even find yourself swimming alongside a dolphin! With even week-long, all-inclusive stays being very affordable, you’d be remiss to pass up on this lowkey amazing destination.
Fethiye - Turkey
Fethiye sits on a natural harbour in the Turkish Riviera. While it carries a lot of the same traits that we’ve lauded the other destinations on this list for, as can be seen across the stunning Ölüdeniz beach with its crescent of white sand and mesmerising turquoise waves, where this humble town sets itself apart is that it’s dripping in rich Turkish history.
The town was once known as Telmessos, part of ancient Lycia, a confederation of independent city-states. Remnants of the ancient civilisation are present everywhere and make for a fascinating break from the beach if you’re looking to stroll around and immerse yourself in a history nearly 5000 years old.
Langkawi - Malaysia
Gaining the mythical title of ‘The Jewel of Kedah’, Langkawi is a compact archipelago consisting of nearly 100 islands in the Andaman Sea. Few places embody the ideal image people hold of the Maldives in their mind quite like the utterly unsullied beaches and unforgettable vistas of this collection of sands and sea.
This tropical getaway is a lot less commercialised than its Indian Ocean counterpart; you'll find a lot less in the way of major resorts and more untamed jungles and unique local cuisine spots. Keep an eye out for a variety of monkeys and exotic birds roaming the islands while you traverse the treetop jungle treks. You’ll get the best view of everything the archipelago has to offer by hitting up the Langkawi sky bridge, a mechanical marvel that spans through the peak of Gunung Mat Cincang, the 2nd biggest mountain the island has to offer.
The whole area has a wild charm that’s hard to match, so if you find yourself deterred by both the price tag and crowds of the Maldives, then take a walk on the wild side and get down to Langkawi for an unforgettable experience.
Kauai - Hawaii
We’d be doing this list a disservice if we didn’t bring at least one of Hawaii’s beautiful islands as a more attainable alternative to the Maldives. Kauai is taking the spotlight this time, being both the oldest of the Hawaiian island chain and the fourth biggest Hawaiian island, it offers a somewhat unique island paradise experience. For one, it won’t be quite as sunny as the other spots on the list, as this happens to be the wettest place on earth, with an average rainfall of 440 Inches. But if you can make it past this somewhat soggy barrier to entry, there’s a lot to love here
If you would take rural over resplendent any day then you will have a lot to love across this island paradise, especially if you get a kick out of outdoor activities. Kayak along the Wailua river for a waterborne adventure or snorkel on Poipu beach for a taste of Hawaiian sea life. The island is also renowned for its hefty hikes, such as the Kokee Skate Park trail. Above all, the whole location has an undeniable laid-back atmosphere that’s sure to charm and relax you.
Belize - Central America
To cap off the list, we’re highlighting Belize. Also home to gorgeous turquoise water, shimmering sands, and stunning cayes, there’s a lot more to Belize than seems. If you enjoy aztec history, you can surmount one of the nearby Mayan pyramids and witness some incredible architecture.
One of the biggest draws of the area is a boat tour that’ll take you to Shark Ray Alley. Just off the coast of Caye Caulker, this subsection of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve is home to a wide variety of nurse sharks and stingrays that you can snorkel with. It’s a short experience but one that will truly stick with you as a once in a lifetime experience.
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