How To Island-Hop Like A Celeb On A Millennial's Budget

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.
There is still something of the glamorous allure of travel’s golden age in the idea of hopping your way around an archipelago. With the glamour, however, usually comes expense. Have you ever enviously wondered how wealthy yachties manage to sail from island to island, disembarking where they see fit? Well, we’re here to tell you that you don’t need a private yacht — or a particularly large bank account — to go island-hopping in some of the most scenic parts of the earth.

From the wild and windy north Atlantic to the lush, palm-fringed islands of the Caribbean and tropical South Pacific, why stop at just one island? Here are 11 places where you can go island-hopping on a budget.
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Scotland
Each of the islands off the west coast of Scotland has its own distinctive flavor. Sample the peaty whiskies of Islay, walk the otherworldly landscape of the Isle of Skye, then hop over to Harris and Lewis to see the mysterious standing stones of Callanish before shopping for a stylish Harris Tweed jacket to keep warm. Ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne runs services to 22 islands, and you can save some money by buying a Hopscotch pass. Prices start at $6, but for $55, you can take in the islands of Barra, Eriskay, North Uist, Skye, and Harris and Lewis.
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Faroe Islands
Made up of 18 windswept islands scattered over the North Atlantic Ocean, the Faroe Islands demand traveling between the land masses, even just to go from the airport to the capital. Undersea tunnels connect a few islands, but to really get a feel for this seafaring nation, hop on a ferry. Routes start at $3 for the trip between Tórshavn and Nólsoy. Even more alluringly romantic, you can travel in a (government-subsidized) helicopter from Vágar to Koltur for only $20.
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Croatia
Croatia's sparkling Dalmatian Coast has deservedly earned comparison to the South of France and the Almalfi Coast in recent years. Indeed, Hvar has turned into quite the celeb hotspot; George Clooney, Beyoncé, and Bill Gates have all been spotted enjoying the Adriatic waters, winding stone streets, and other varied charms of the island. Unlike in some other glam southern European locales, you can still travel around Croatia's coastline relatively affordably. Daily ferries can whisk you from Croatia's second-biggest city, Split, to Brač, Hvar, Korčula, Mljet, and back to Dubrovnik on the mainland. Fares begin at $6 for the trip from Split to Brač.
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Greece
From romantic Santorini sunsets to the sandy beaches of Naxos and nightclubs of Mykonos, island-hopping is one of the greatest joys of visiting Greece. Valid for one month, the Eurail Greek Islands pass offers six ferry trips for $206 ($186 for those under the age of 26). Four of those trips can be taken within Greece, to a choice of 27 different islands, and two can be taken between Patras, Greece, and Venice, Ancona, or Bari in Italy. If you want to see more than four islands, the pass also nets you a 30% discount on all additional ferries operated by Attica.
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Thailand
Firmly planted on the backpacker trail, the islands of Thailand’s Central Gulf Coast are well-trodden for good reason. Getting around these dramatically beautiful islands is cheap and easy — all the better to save money for a pampering at one of Koh Samui’s high-end spas. Samui invites you to linger among its palm-fringed beaches and clear, blue waters, but you’d be remiss not to take advantage of the $7 ferry ride to Ko Pha-ngan for its waterfalls and temple-hopping opportunities — or perhaps to partake in an infamous full-moon party. Then, it’s another ferry ($10) to the divers’ paradise of Koh Tao.
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The Philippines
Lush and largely undeveloped, Palawan island has been earning accolades over the past few years, with some calling it the most beautiful island on earth. Given its clear aquamarine waters, dramatic limestone cliffs, and abundant wildlife, we can understand why. But the island of Palawan is just the beginning: Palawan province is home to roughly 1,700 islands and islets, many with some of the most breathtaking sandy beaches you’ll encounter anywhere. Numerous tour operators offer day-long island-hopping tours from El Nido on Palawan island, starting for as little as $25, including lunch.
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French Polynesia
Okay, so even getting to these far-flung islands can be a budget-buster, let alone hopping from one palm-tree-dotted paradise to the next. If you really have your heart set on it, though, Air Tahiti offers multi-island passes for travel between many of the French Polynesian islands, which usually cost not much more than buying one return ticket. Leaving from Tahiti, for example, the Discovery Pass takes you to Moorea, Huahine, and Raiatea, then back to Tahiti, and begins at $298.
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The Caribbean
While the logistics of getting around the Caribbean islands by sea make it costly and time-consuming, there are several airlines that offer wallet-friendly fares. Jetting between U.S. territories Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands starts at $59 with JetBlue, while Air Caraïbes travels between the Francophone islands for as little as $55. Caribbean Air covers a lot of additional ground and makes it easy to book a multi-island itinerary through its website, where it is worth playing around with several different routes until you find a price you like. An itinerary that takes in four islands can cost anywhere from $350 to $750.
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The Florida Keys
The Florida Keys offer possibly the simplest island-hopping itinerary on the list. It’s an easy drive along the Overseas Highway stretch of US-1, from Key Largo to the U.S.’s eccentric southernmost town, Key West — with a few detours along the way. You’ll take in Islamorada, Marathon, and lots of delicious hogfish and Key Lime Pie along the way, all for the price of a tank of gas. All you have to do is get in a car, bring the top down, and adjust your clock to island time.
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Photo: Cultura RM Exclusive/Kate Ballis.
Belize
More than 200 islands, or “cayes,” dot the waters off the coast of Belize, noted as one of the best diving spots in the Caribbean. From Belize City you can jump in a water taxi for a quick 45-minute ($15) ride to Caye Caulker. From there, it’s just another 25 minutes and $20 to get to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. The two islands offer a contrasting experience, with Caulker the chilled-out, laid-back partner to the bigger and more developed Ambergris.
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Panama
Farther down the Caribbean coast, the nine islands and hundreds of islets of Panama’s Bocas del Toro archipelago beckon with their abundant wildlife, coral reefs, and lush vegetation. From Almirante on the mainland, a $6 water taxi arrives on Colon island within 30 minutes. From Colon’s Bocas Town, water taxis will whisk you around the archipelago to explore its rainforests, mangroves, and dive sites for as little as a dollar.
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