Whether you want a city break, a beach holiday, an art-filled getaway or a soothing spa vacation, taking a romantic trip on a budget can be done. You just have to prioritize what’s most important to you. Invest in time spent in nature, a luxe hotel, an action-packed itinerary or special meals together and economize on the rest. These affordable romantic vacations under 500.00 dollars or less do not include transportation, airfare and some taxes — but the rest is covered.
You can choose the attractions that speak to you for a customized vacation experience. Each lodging option offers a little something extra — including pools, spas, and activities or amenities like free breakfast, complimentary beverages, kitchens, refrigerators and microwaves — so you can reduce dining and entertainment expenses. So it doesn’t matter if you’re craving an urban escape, a quiet marsh landscape, snowy mountain peaks or a desert retreat, you’ll get more for your money.
We hope you love the vacations under 500.00 dollars we recommend! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay. Listed prices are accurate as of the time of publication.
1. A Rocky Mountain retreat in Banff, Alberta
The Canadian Rockies tempts nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts with secluded hikes through Banff National Park, sunset ice skating on Lake Louise and glacial lakes and frosty peaks that glitter in the crisp mountain air. It’s all just 90 minutes from Calgary. And since the exchange rate favors the US dollar, travel budgets stretch further here.
Check into The Dorothy Motel, the first boutique property in Banff. Rates start at just $60 US per night and include free parking, access to the ROAM Transit system, and discounts at local businesses. Stash provisions in the fridge and brew some complimentary coffee and tea (or head to Whitebark Café for espresso and vegan coffee cake) as you plan your outdoor adventures.
Rent snowshoes, ice skates, winter boots, ice cleats or cross-country skis for $10-$20 a day from Banff Adventures. Hike Johnston Canyon to see two of Banff National Park’s frozen waterfalls which cost only $10.50 per person, ski Moraine Lake Road or lace up your skates and take a spin on Lake Louise. Then snuggle up for a horse-drawn sleigh ride. It’s a splurge at $42 each, but the romantic 40-minute outing includes a hot drink and epic Rocky Mountain landscapes.
Steam rolls off the waters of Banff Upper Hot Springs for $9.25 per person, a mountainside UNESCO World Heritage Site sheltered by snow-covered pines. Explore boardwalks, trails, films and interactive exhibits at nearby Cave and Basin National Historic Site for $8.50 each.
Connect over tapas and hearty vegetarian dishes at Nourish Bistro. Or try pub food like poutine and Alberta beef or bison burgers at Banff Ave Brewing Company. The beer is made from the same icy glacial water that shaped the scenery.
2. Soak up the sun in Miami
Miami is glamorous, but its most striking attractions are totally free. Explore colorful street art, Cuban culture and pristine beaches by neighborhood.
Start in Miami Beach. Winter temperatures stay in the 70s, so stretch out on the white sand at South Beach, window shop along Ocean Drive, and walk to the South Beach Pier to fish, bike or ogle the turquoise Atlantic. Then hit Lummus Park Beach for sunbathing, sand volleyball and a possible celeb sighting. It’s all free, as is the Art Deco Tour, which explores the neighborhood’s distinctive, pastel-colored buildings.
Try affordable Cuban food like fried whole snapper and fried plantains at Puerto Sagua Restaurant. Or order a frita (a Cuban burger on fluffy bread topped with shoestring potatoes) and papaya juice for well under $10 at El Rey de Los Fritas in Little Havana. Browse the fruit stands and cigar shops, nibble guava and cheese pastelitos, sip Cuban coffee or rum and watch spirited games of dominos unfold in Máximo Gómez Park.
Stop by the Wynwood neighborhood for eclectic art galleries, boutiques and The Wynwood Walls, an outdoor collection of murals created by artists from around the world. General admission is $12 per person. Adding a tour is $5 more.
In a city this photogenic, you’ve got to stay in an artful abode. This dreamy Airbnb has a Frida Kahlo theme, a landscaped yard and patio, and a kitchen that includes a coffee maker and kitchen staples for $136 a night.
Art aficionados will adore The Gabriel South Beach, an Art Deco boutique hotel that features a 30-foot-tall mural by street artist Mr. Brainwash. It’s at the very top end of the budget — around $230 a night — but that rate includes a two hour beach cruiser rental, beach chairs and towels, a daily in-room movie and shuttle service to downtown Miami.
3. A spa trip to Jemez Springs, New Mexico
Immerse yourself in indigenous history, culture and soothing hot springs just an hour north of Albuquerque. People have found serenity in the sleepy town’s red rock canyons, scenic mesas and medicinal waters for centuries. As an added bonus, all of the key attractions in and around Jemez Springs cost $25 or less.
For just $7 per person, you can explore The Jemez Historic Site, a village in San Diego Canyon built by the ancestors of the Jemez Pueblo (Walatowa), then study geology and indigenous history during a 1.5-mile guided hike in Red Rocks Canyon. Purchase a $10 hiking pass at the Walatowa Visitor Center if you’d rather hike as a couple. Bring layers and check the forecast — it does snow in the Santa Fe National Forest.
Budget $25 for an hour-long session at rustic spots like Spence Hot Springs and McCauley Warm Springs. There are trailheads nearby, so you can treat yourself to a post-hike soak. It’s also $25 for a 50-minute session at Jemez Hot Springs (which features four pools and lovely mesa and river views), and Jemez Spring Bath House, where you can add a wrap or massage for $50 or less.
Stay at the adobe-style Cañon Del Rio Hotel. For $165 a night, you can appreciate scenic Jemez River and mesa views from the hot tub, courtyard garden, seasonal pool, koi pond and walking trails. Or book this 1890s cottage with a cozy wood burning stove for $120 nightly. It’s also near hiking trails and includes a full kitchen with free tea, coffee and kitchen essentials so you can make your own meals. Use the money you save for burgers, ribs or chili rellenos at Los Ojos Restaurant and Saloon, or treat yourselves to huevos rancheros and fresh pastries on the mountainside porch at Highway 4 Coffee.
Investigate crashing waterfalls, secluded nature preserves, underground caverns, hardwood forests and peaceful wildflower meadows in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. This laid-back city is a nature-lover’s dream.
Board the historic Lookout Mountain Incline Railway which costs $15 per person for sweeping Tennessee River views from Point Park, a Civil War battlefield. Admission is $10 and valid for seven days. Descend deep into the mountain to visit Ruby Falls for $24.95 a person. You can also hike to nine above-ground waterfalls within driving distance of Chattanooga.
Order fall-off-the-bones St. Louis-style ribs, deli sandwiches and banana pudding at Purple Daisy Picnic Café after a day of hiking the Lookout Mountain Battlefield Trail System. Sample creamy Clumpies Ice Cream and a bakery-fresh MoonPie (invented in Chattanooga in 1917), or indulge in the daily buy one, get one free oyster happy hour from 4:00 — 5:00 PM at Easy Bistro.
Bring a picnic to Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center, 300 acres of hiking, biking and paddling serenity just 10 minutes from downtown. (A donation of $15 per car is suggested.) Ride the charming antique carousel in Coolidge Park just $1 and cross the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge (one of the world’s longest). Then grab a Bike Chattanooga rideshare, $8 for a 1-day pass, $15 for 3 days, to explore sites along the Chattanooga Riverwalk, including the River Gallery Sculpture Garden.
Add the Rejuvenate Package to your stay at RiverView Inn on Lookout Mountain to enjoy 25 percent off a consecutive two-night stay, two waffle-weave robes and a relaxing room spray. Rates start at $128 a night and include a hot breakfast like biscuits and gravy or cheese grits, along with fruit and pastries, a seasonal outdoor pool, firepit and spacious deck. Settle into the rocking chairs on your balcony to drink in those gorgeous views.
A trip to Scottsdale blends the stoic beauty of the Sonoran Desert with the creative energy of an art-lover’s city break. This Phoenix suburb is a creative enclave bursting with museums, galleries and public arts. And much of it is totally free.
Over 120 pieces of public art are placed around the city. A mini walking tour highlights 10 key public art pieces in Scottsdale’s atmospheric Old Town neighborhood. Stop for oh-so-Instagrammable ice cream creations at Sugar Bowl, a 1950s soda fountain.
Admission to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art admission is free Thursdays and the second Saturday of every month. The Heard Museum, which showcases indigenous art, is free the first Friday of each month.
More than 100 art galleries welcome visitors throughout the city for no charge. Old Town Scottsdale kicks it up a notch on Thursday nights, when over 30 galleries tempt art hounds with wine, cheese and live demonstrations.
Want another glass? Old Town Scottsdale’s six wine tasting rooms feature flights from $12-20 per person and Postino Wine Café offers popular “bottle and board” wine and bruschetta board specials on Monday and Tuesday nights. Or order $6 wine and sangria during daily Happy Hours at Diego Pops, an addictive Mexican eatery tucked inside a historic pottery shop.
You’ll have extra money for meals if you stay at this private Airbnb in the Sonoran Desert. It includes a full kitchen and grill so you can prepare your own meals and complimentary coffee, tea, cocoa and breakfast muffins, so you can fuel up before a day hiking or biking over 225 miles of trails on McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Admission is free.
You can also score a rare high season discount of $122 a night at the new Comfort Suites in early February. To save even more, come in the summer, prices drop 50-60 percent.
San Antonio is steeped in hundreds of years of history, seasoned with Mexican culinary and cultural influences and spiced with urban outdoor attractions. Take a city break in one of the most vibrant communities in Texas.
Start at The Alamo, the iconic landmark where James Bowie and David Crockett died fighting General Santa Anna’s troops in 1836. Reserve a free ticket to enter. The site includes interactive exhibits and tours, demonstrations and gardens.
Stay at the historic Menger Hotel, the oldest continuously operating hotel west of the Mississippi, just steps away. It boasts an elegant lobby, courtyard garden, and the largest heated pool in the city. Rooms start at just $139 a night. Add breakfast in the Victorian-era restaurant for $149.
Walk down to The San Antonio River Walk, a 15-mile urban waterway just below street level that pulses with life all year long. Amble under the shade trees, watch the riverboats, and follow the sound of live music.
History buffs and nature lovers will love San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, the only UNESCO World Heritage site in the state. A hiking and biking trail connects the 18th century missions, an ideal way to get outdoors in the middle of the city. Admission is free.
Head to Historic Market Square for authentic Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine and shopping from more than a hundred vendors. Look for live music and artist demos on the outdoor plaza and Farmer’s Market stage on weekends.
Still hungry? Follow the locals to Rosario’s Mexican Restaurant and Lounge for sizzling parrillas, fish tacos and bold vegetarian options like quinoa chile relleno. Or relax on the patio at La Fonda on Main, a San Antonio standby for Tex-Mex cheese enchiladas and other classic dishes since 1932. Both are close to the airport, so you can fuel up before you take off.
Unwind along South Carolina’s Atlantic coast. The beachfront boardwalk’s arcades, restaurants, amusement park and Ferris Wheel offer a quick hit of nostalgia and the pale, sandy beaches are perfect for a sunset stroll.
Winter temperatures in Myrtle Beach stay in the 50s and 60s, perfect weather for morning coffee on the beach, fishing from the piers or gathering over 700 varieties of seashells. The city’s beaches are free.
The ocean is the star of Myrtle Beach State Park ($8 per adult), 312 acres of bike paths, nature trails and oceanfront woods. While you’re in the area, visit Brookgreen Gardens, where 1,400 sculptures rest among ever-blooming botanical gardens, moody oaks and palmetto groves. Each $20 adult admission is valid for seven days.
Every room at The Strand has an ocean view. Linger over the complimentary hot breakfast, relax on the beach, seasonal oceanfront pool deck and tanning lawn, or chill a bottle of wine in the mini fridge and watch the waves from your balcony. Rates start at $67 a night in February, so there’s room in the budget for dinner and drinks.
Savor peel-and-eat-shrimp, oysters and cocktails bourbon-spiked Carolina Lemonade on the wraparound deck at Hook and Barrel. Or indulge in fresh seafood and live music every night up and down the Murrels Inlet Marsh Walk, an outdoor boardwalk that runs along the Lowcountry marshes in a pretty fishing village.
For a special oceanfront dinner, splurge on steak and crab cakes and Lowcountry classics like shrimp and grits and She Crab soup at Sea Captain’s House. Then see the Atlantic from the SkyWheel for $16 each, as the sun dips below the horizon.