U.S. Virgin Isles: Bay of plenty, land of sand
U.S. Virgin Isles: Bay of plenty, land of sand

Saving Your Sand Dollars

Budget-conscious families should know two things about the tropics: First, Central America and the Caribbean are only a few degrees hotter in summer than in winter. Second, as temperatures rise, resort prices often fall by 15 to 20 percent or more. What's a little humidity in exchange for a great, affordable family trip? We found six of the best spots-from Puer

U.S. Virgin Isles: Bay of plenty, land of sand

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U.S. Virgin Isles: Bay of plenty, land of sand U.S. Virgin Isles: Bay of plenty, land of sand

Ten elevated, one-room tent cabins—all with porches and hammocks—edge the banks of western Belize's Macal River at Macal River Jungle Camp at Chaa Creek. Swim and canoe in the mellow river, go horseback riding and mountain biking on the jungle trails, and explore the Mayan ruins of Tikal in Guatemala and Xunantunich, a two-and-a-half-hour drive and a half-hour drive away, respectively. Doubles cost an affordable $50 per adult per day year-round (kids under 18 are free), breakfast and dinner included. 011-501-824-2037, www.belizecamp.com
Puerto Rico
On the island's sparsely populated southwest shore, Copamarina Beach Resort is far from commercialized San Juan, in distance and in spirit. Tin-roofed plantation-style buildings house 110 rooms that overlook gardens and a kids' pool. Frolic at the resort's empty three-quarter-mile beach and hike in the adjacent Guánica Commonwealth Forest Reserve, a subtropical dry forest. Doubles start at $164 per person per night—a 15 percent savings over winter rates. Kids under three stay for free, four- to 12-year-olds stay for $50 per night, and 13- to 17-year-olds stay for $95. All meals, drinks, and nonmotorized watersports are included. 800-468-4553, www.copamarina.com
U.S. Virgin Islands
The Buccaneer Hotel St. Croix is a refurbished 17th-century sugar plantation with 140 rooms and a coral reef just off the beach. At the free Kids' Camp (ages four to 12), little buccaneers spend days beachcombing, fishing, hunting geckos, and hiking the jungle. Meanwhile, adults can snorkel or borrow from a fleet of kayaks and Sunfishes. In the low season, from April through mid-December, doubles start at $215 per night—a 27 percent break from winter rates. Kids under 18 stay free, and a second room is 50 percent off. 800-255-3881, www.thebuccaneer.com

We like to be under the sea We like to be under the sea

Costa Rica
The Hotel Capitán Suizo commands a stretch of quiet Pacific coast beach just north of Playa Tamarindo's bustling surf central—a smaller break for your young rippers. Otherwise, the sprawling pool keeps kids entertained, and howler monkeys make frequent visits to the Swiss-run resort. The most relaxing seats in the 40 rooms and four bungalows are the glossy wooden lounge chairs on balconies that overlook well-tended grounds. Doubles cost $105 per night, including breakfast—a 16 percent savings over winter rates—and kids ages four to 12 stay for $5; under age four, free. 800-948-3770, www.hotelcapitansuizo.com
The Gamboa Rainforest Resort borders Soberania National Park and has 48 spacious villas with kitchenettes and living rooms. In addition to forays into the park to see the long blue plumes of quetzals and green shrike-vireos, guests can take an aerial tram up into the rainforest canopy on the grounds of the resort, visit the butterfly sanctuary, and explore the turtle and iguana nesting areas. Melt into the trilevel cascading pool or, for a twist, try a tai chi class. Doubles (one-bedroom villas) cost a reasonable $120 per night, year-round; kids under 12 stay free. 877-800-1690, www.gamboaresort.com
Cayman Islands
Set on uncrowded Seven Mile Beach, the miniature city of Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman Resort & Villas has six pools, 289 rooms, and the most comprehensive watersports program on the island, including scuba certification courses. Camp Hyatt entertains kids (ages three to 12, about $12 an hour) with treasure hunts and visits to a nearby sea turtle reserve. Doubles start at $265 per night—a 36 percent savings over winter rates—and children under 18 stay free. 800-233-1234, www.hyatt.com