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13 dreamy places like Maldives but cheaper

These alternative coastal paradises will give Maldives a run for its money.

A vacation to the luxurious resorts of Maldives is an unforgettable affair, but we want you to look back on your holiday and remember powder sands and cyan-blue waters, not the hefty price tag or the long flight.

Be kind to your bank account by opting to fly to one of these fabulous locations that are similar (if not better) and more importantly, cheaper. So much cheaper that we've even found a host of deals available to them.

How much does the Maldives cost?

  • Flight time from Australia: 11 hours (from Perth, 1 stop)
  • Resort (4-star): $150+ per night
  • Domestic beer: $3.70
  • 3-course meal for two: $39.96
  • Package holidays can start from under: $3,000 for 5-night stays in 4-star accommodation, including flights from Perth. Check here for the latest prices.

1. Fiji

This South Pacific archipelago chain sits east of Queensland and features over 300 islands blessed with sandy beaches and coral-filled waters.

When it comes to cost on-ground Fiji prices are on-par with Maldives with a cheap meal costing around $6 and a sit down for two around 30-40 according to Numbeo. Where the savings lie is in the flights which can go as low as $400 return from the Australia's east coast.

  • Flight time from Australia: 3.5 hours (from Brisbane, non-stop)
  • Resort (4-star): $145+ per night
  • Domestic beer: $3.32
  • 3-course meal for two: $39.79
  • Package deals can start from under: $1,000 for 7-nights when departing from Sydney. Check here for the latest prices.

2. Gili Islands

Only a short boat ride from Bali but a world away, these three small islands offer picture-perfect white sand beaches, swaying palms and a view of Lombok's majestic Mt Rinjani volcano.

The price of hotels and meals on Gili Islands, or elsewhere in Bali is dirt cheap compared to Maldives with a day's worth of meals costing under $10 and the average cost per person, per day coming under $50.

  • Flight time from Australia: 3.5 hours (from Perth to Bali, non-stop)
  • Resort (4-star): $75+ per night
  • Domestic beer: $3.42
  • 3-course meal for two: $14.64
  • Package deals can start from under: $1,200 for 7 nights in 3-star accommodation, departing from Melbourne. Check here for the latest prices.

3. Whitsundays

Located in the heart of the world's most famous reef, the 74 Whitsunday Islands have stunning beaches and secluded bays framed by aqua water and emerald forests. If you have to choose one though, we recommend Whitehaven Beach - it’s the finest in Whitsunday, if not the world.

By cost, flights to Whitsundays are not only cheaper than to Maldives but much shorter with budget airlines Tigerair and Jetstar both flying in. Meals are up-priced due to it being a resort area however the lack of exchange rate and hassle can make all the difference.

  • Flight time: 1.75 hours (from Brisbane, non-stop)
  • Resort (4-star): $110+ per night
  • Domestic beer: $7
  • 3-course meal for two: $80
  • Package holidays can start from under: $1,000 for 5-nights, departing Brisbane. Check here for the latest prices.

4. Vanuatu

If escaping to a nation of dozens of tropical islands surrounded by unbelievably blue waters is your thing, then we'd recommend Vanuatu. Only a few hours' flight off the east coast of Australia, these islands are perfect for a short escape or an extended getaway - after all, there are more than 80 islands to explore.

Flights to Vanuatu fall just shy of those to Maldives as both are accessible by budget carrier, while hotels are relatively similar priced. Unfortunately, the cost of food is almost double on Vanuatu than Maldives but for the shortened flight time we think it's worth putting this island on this map.

  • Flight time from Australia: 2.5 hours (from Brisbane, non-stop)
  • Resort (4-star): $150+ per night
  • Domestic beer: $9.72
  • 3-course meal for two: $77.79
  • Package holidays can start from under: $650 for 4-nights, departing Brisbane. Check here for the latest prices.

5. Philippines

Thousands of inviting islands and famed Boracay beach parties await you in the Philippines, but don’t forget to take some time to explore the chiselled beauty of rice terraces and historical landmarks in Manila.

If you're lucky, you can catch flights to the Philippines for under $200 return. When in the nation, the cost of living drops dramatically as well with similar meals half the price of those on Maldives. It's a winner in our eyes for super budget-friendly holidays.

  • Flight time from Australia: 14 hours (from Sydney, 1 stop)
  • Resort (4-star): $127+ per night
  • Domestic beer: $1.30
  • 3-course meal for two: $52.05
  • Holiday packages can start from under: $1,100 for 3-night trips to Manila from Melbourne and Sydney. Check here for the latest prices.

6. Mauritius

Looking every bit like the epitome of paradise, Mauritius is a small island nation in the Indian Ocean that’s packed with picturesque lagoons, towering waterfalls, and colourful reefs.

  • Flight time from Australia: 14 hours and 30 minutes (from Melbourne, non-stop)
  • Resort (4-star): $461+ per night
  • Domestic beer: $2.04
  • 3-course meal for two: $28.58
  • Holiday packages can start from under: $2,500 for 6-night holiday bliss, departing from Perth. Check here for the latest prices.

7. Perhentian Islands

The Perhentian Islands are less than hour boat ride from the east coast of Malaysia, and are a haven for scuba divers. Whether you are touring the underwater wonderland, relaxing on the blindingly white sand beach or trekking the lush jungles, it's is a budget-friendly path to a tropical escape.

With budget airline AirAsia flying into Malaysia you can often catch a cheap break for under $200 return, undercutting Maldives flights by a mile. 5-star hotels are a little pricier as they're more scarce but the cost of activities can be a dream with diving activities starting from $25, including equipment.

  • Flight time from Australia: 8 hours and 50 minutes (from Sydney, non-stop)
  • Resort (4-star): $250+ per night
  • Domestic beer: $5.08
  • 3-course meal for two: $21.99

8. Lakshadweep, India

So much like the Maldives, technically this Indian island chain is part of the Maldives, geographically speaking. It's much less developed and accommodation is sparse, but budget bungalows can be found on a few of the islands.

  • Flight time from Australia: 1 day and 4 hours (from Sydney, 2 stops)
  • Resort (3-star): $500+ per night
  • Domestic beer: $4.26
  • 3-course meal for two: $36.33

More places like the Maldives

Not on such a tight budget? Then we'd recommend checking out these idyllic isles like the Maldives that exude luxury:

9. Bora Bora

When you think of paradise, you think of Bora Bora. This picture-perfect spot in the South Pacific has lush, jungle-covered mountains, an unbelievably blue lagoon and pristine beaches.

  • Flight time from Australia: 15 hours and 50 minutes (from Melbourne, 2+ stops)
  • Resort (4-star): $585+ per night
  • Domestic beer: $12.28
  • 3-course meal for two: $150.14
  • Holiday packages can cost under: $4,000 for 7-day private island escapes from Brisbane. Check here for the latest prices

10. Belize

Belize will have you spoiled for choice with Caribbean shorelines to the east and Central American jungle to the west. Packed with adventure and culture, you can scuba dive the Great Blue Hole one day and explore excavated tombs of Mayan kings the next.

Flying to Belize is not going to be cheap with fares starting from $1,500 from Sydney however it's the cost on ground that makes this cheaper than Maldives with cheap meals starting from $4 according to Numbeo. 5-star hotels can start from $138 per night. Comparatively, equivalent hotels in Maldives start from $200 per night.

  • Flight time from Australia: 20.5 hours (from Sydney, 1 stop )
  • Resort (4-star): $225+ per night
  • Domestic beer: $2.80
  • 3-course meal for two: $42.20

11. Curacao

Curacao is one of the Caribbean's best kept secrets with hidden beaches tucked along its Western coast. Watch psychedelic sunsets at more than 35 captivating beaches while savoring the rich history dating back to the 16th century at its capital city Willemstad.

  • Flight time from Australia: 1 day and 2 hours (from Sydney, 2+ stops)
  • Resort (4-star): $297+ per night
  • Domestic beer: $2.67
  • 3-course meal for two: $57.16

12. Cook Islands

Nestled halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii is the Cook Islands chain and its bevy of beautiful beaches. It comes up just slightly pricier than Maldives unfortunately as prices on-island are dear however the flight time is bang-on perfect coming up less than 6 hours from Sydney. Flights are mainly operated by Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand though Jetstar offers a few indirect services per week.

  • Flight time from Australia: 5 hours and 45 minutes (from Sydney, non-stop)
  • Resort (4-star): $228+ per night
  • Domestic beer: $7.79
  • 3-course meal for two: $87.07
  • Holiday packages can start from under: $1,300 for 5-night trips, departing Sydney. Check here for the latest prices.

13. Seychelles

Located on the east coast of Africa, for somewhere utterly pristine, heaven-scent and a bit of a blow-out, make yours a luxurious trip to Seychelles. It's definitely a cut above Maldives in terms of cost but for the crystal clear water, nature reserves and unique flora and fauna it's the thing of dreams. Make yours a reality.

  • Flight time from Australia: 21 hours (from Melbourne, 1 stop)
  • Resort (4-star): $285+ per night
  • Domestic beer: $6.19
  • 3-course meal for two: $56.76
  • Holiday packages can start from under: $3,000 for week-long stays, flying out of Perth. Check here for the latest prices.

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Food, drink and hotel costs sourced from: Numbeo.com and Hotel Finder. Hotel price based on a per-night price in March 2019 quoted on 10 September 2019. Prices are based on a per-night rate for a 3-night stay at a 4-star beach resort in the above destinations. We used the dates 1-4 March 2019 as a guide.

Stephanie Yip

Stephanie is the travel editor at finder.com.au. On top of being an avid traveller, she's an all-round bargain hunter. If there's a deal on hotels or a sale on flights, she'll know about it. And she'll let you know about it, too. Though probably not before she buys her own ticket.

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