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10 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. So to help out your bank account, we have 10 fabulous locations that are similar (if not better) and more importantly, cheaper.

These places tick all the boxes for white sandy beaches, clear waters and watersports that Maldives is famous for.

When you need a break from the sun and sea, explore the rich cultural heritage of these sites, trek lush jungles or visit national parks, sample the food and enjoy the warm hospitality of the people.

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1. Cook Islands

This South Pacific Island chain sits between New Zealand and Hawaii and features picture-perfect lagoons, lush green hills. And most importantly, you can be at the beach just 30 minutes after landing.

  • Best beaches: Muri Beach, One Foot Island Beach, Ootu Beach
  • Things to do: Paddleboarding in lagoons, experience the local culture, eat fresh seafood
  • Where to stay: Little Polynesian Resort. A dreamy pool by the sea and a private villa are just some perks at this small 4-star resort has to offer.

See all travel deals to the Cook Islands

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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.

  • Islands: Gili Trawangan, Gili Air, Gili Meno
  • Things to do: Diving in crystal-clear waters , snorkelling right off the beach, island hopping between the Gilis, watch the sunset from a beachfront bar
  • Where to stay: Aston Sunset Beach Resort. Sitting on a private beach on the main island, Gili Trawangan, this resort offers a range of accommodations including villas with private pools.

See all travel deals to Bali and the Gili Islands


Belize

Image source: Travel Belize

3. 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.

  • Top 5 beaches: Placencia Peninsula, Hopkins, Ambergris Caye, South Water Caye, The Split
  • Must do/see: Reef diving, Mayan archeological sites, Belize Zoo, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries, Great Blue Hole
  • Stay: At the Belize Ocean Club Resort. Choose to wake up to breathtaking ocean views with snorkelling and other water activities at your fingertips. Prices from $329/night.

See all travel deals to the Caribbean


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4. 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.

  • Best beaches: Trou aux Biches Beach, Belle Mare Beach, Ile aux Cerfs Beach, Flic en Flac Beach
  • Things to do: Diving, exploring national parks,
  • Where to stay: Hilton Mauritius Resort & Spa. Treat yourself at this luxury, beachfront property that offers sunset views over the Indian Ocean. It also offers complimentary dolphin-shopping trips.

See all travel deals to Mauritius


Whitsundays

Image source: Tourism Whitsundays

5. 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.

  • Top 5 beaches: Whitehaven Beach, Horseshoe Bay, Turtle Bay, Catseye Beach, Airlie Beach Lagoon
  • Must do/see: The Great Barrier Reef, Aboriginal rock paintings, scenic drives
  • Stay: At the Martinique Whitsunday Resort. French-Caribbean style apartments with a balcony that offers panoramic ocean views. Prices start at $370/per night.

See all travel deals to Hamilton Island and the Whitsundays


6. 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.

  • Best beaches: Matira Beach
  • Things to do: Explore the lagoon by jetski, indulge in an overwater bungalow (and dive right into the water from it), snorkel or dive
  • Where to stay: Intercontinental Bora Bora. Idyllic overwater bungalows and unrivalled views of the lagoon and mountain. What more could you ask for?

See all travel deals to Bora Bora


7. 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.

  • Top 5 beaches: Boracay, Siargao, El Nido, Panglao, Pagudpud
  • Must do/see: Nightlife, beaches, island hopping, swimming with whale sharks, rice terraces
  • Stay: At Discovery Shores Boracay. This luxury five-star property sits on Boracay’s fine white sand beach. Enjoy a day on its private beach or pamper yourself at the full service spa. Rates start at $317/night.

See all travel deals to the Philippines


Perhenthian-Islands---shutterstock

8. 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.

  • Top 5 beaches: D’ Lagoon, Long Beach, Coral Bay, Turtle Beach, Adam & Eve Beach
  • Must do/see: Scuba diving, turtle conservation, jungle trekking
  • Stay: at Bubu Resort Perhentian Island. This resort is the perfect holiday destination for honeymooners and water sports enthusiasts. Go scuba diving or relax by the beach - it’s entirely up to you. Rooms start at $372/night.

See all travel deals to Malaysia


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9. 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.

  • Best beaches: Kavaratti Beach, Minicoy Beach, Bangaram Beach
  • Things to do: Visit Kavaratti Aquarium or snorkel to see the local sealife, relax on the beach, visist uninhabited islands
  • Where to stay: Agatti Island Beach Resort. This beachfront resort features white and blue villas that place you right on the sand and is surrounded by crystalline waters.

See all travel deals to India


10. 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.

  • Top 5 beaches: Cas Abao, Playa Kalki, Blue Beach, Caracasbaai, Jan Thiel
  • Must do/see: Ostrich farms, scuba diving, Christoffel National Park, Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge
  • Stay: at Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort. Take scuba diving classes and swim with dolphins. Tee off in paradise at one of the best golf courses in the Caribbean. A room with spectacular sea views start at $229/night.

See all travel deals to the Caribbean


Ready to fly? Book using these travel coupons and deals:

Store Discount Expiration Description Last verified Redeem
Africa flights from $1,299 return

Deal expires

Valid on select flights until 31 December 2017. Destinations include Mauritius, Morocco and South Africa. Sample fare is Perth-Mauritius. Select routes include Christmas. Conditions Apply

Last verified

Up to 40% off cruises: Royal Caribbean birthday sale Valid on new bookings on select sailings in Australia, New Zealand, South Pacific (New Caledonia, Bora Bora, Vanuatu), Caribbean (Bahamas, Curacao, Mexico, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Bermuda), Canada, Asia (China, Europe (Denmark, Croatia, Belgium, France, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy) and more. Includes select sailings over Christmas and New Year.

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20% off select Australia tours

Deal expires

Valid for travel from 21 November - 24 January 2018. Destinations include Great Ocean Road, the Whitsundays, Cairns, Uluru/Ayers Rock and is available over Christmas and New Years. T&C's apply.

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Up to $515 off resorts worldwide

Deal expires

Valid for stays November 2017 - April 2018. Destinations include Maldives, Bali, Phuket, Mauritius, Malaysia, China, Caribbean (Mexico, Guadaloupe, Bahamas, Martinique), Morocco, Portugal, Greece, Brazil, Japan, Italy France and more.

Last verified

20% off select Indochina and Southeast Asia tours

Deal expires

Valid on select dates. Destinations include Thailand, Malaysia and Philippines. T&C's apply.

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Philippines flights from $293 return

Deal expires

Valid on select dates. Sample fare is Darwin-Manila. Destinations include Cebu, Davao, Boracay and more.

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Starwood Hotels Starwood Hotels
50% off select rooms in Hawaii and French Polynesia

Deal expires

Valid on select Ocean View rooms in Oahu, Waikiki, Kaiulani, Maui, Kauai, Kona, Bora Bora, Tahiti, and more.

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Free upgrade to include drinks

Deal expires

Valid on select dates. Sample destinations include India, Mauritius, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, the Middle East, Caribbean.

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Up to $460 off luxury Bora Bora resorts Valid at select hotels in Bora Bora, discounts change day-to-day. Sample hotels include the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora, Sofitel Bora Bora Marara Beach Resort and Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort.

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Up to 25% off select hotels

Deal expires

Valid for stays until 31 December 2017 at select hotels in Mauritius, Switzerland, Turkey, Portugal, Israel, or Mexico. Includes breakfast and hotel tour. T&C's apply.

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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 or cheap flight available, she'll know about it. And she'll let you know about it, too.

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