Budget

Budget Beaches

by Sarah Tuff

Florida Keys

When you hit Mile Marker 37 on the Overseas Highway, the sugar-soft sand and swaying silver palms might trick you into believing you've cruise-controlled all the way to the Caribbean. No, this is still Florida, specifically Bahia Honda Key, a 524-acre state park with a pristine stretch of coastline. In fact, it's pretty much the best beach in the Keys—and its state-owned status means the cost to stay here is a fraction of what you'll spend elsewhere along the island chain. Book one of the park's six quiet Bayside Cabins: Each bungalow on stilts sleeps you and five friends, and has air-conditioning, heat (as if!), a kitchen and living room, plus a grill on a deck overlooking the lagoon. For those who need more action than just watching the waves, kayaks rentals are $10, and snorkeling trips inside the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary run less than $30 for three hours. Of the park's three beaches, two-mile-long Sandspur is the longest and it's ideal for swimming, with a gentle drop-off into the turquoise Caribbean, er, Atlantic Ocean.

Fly Buy: Fly into Fort Lauderdale, which is often cheaper than Miami, and drive down—it's about three and a half hours to Bahia Honda. Thrifty car rental rates are as low as $30 per day (800-847-4389; www.thrifty.com).

Bahia Honda Key Bayside Cabins
Tel: 305 872 2353
Two-bedroom cabins for six, $160

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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