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ON A BUDGET

After New Year's, Prices Head South in the Tropics

November 05, 2000|ARTHUR FROMMER

January is again shaping up to be a "slump month" in travel to the tropics. From resorts across the Caribbean and Mexico come announcements of early winter discounts designed to overcome the tendency of Americans to stay home after the holiday frenzy.

January's downward pressure on prices affects even the upscale resorts, like those in the gated holiday enclave of Playa Dorada on the northern Amber Coast of the Dominican Republic, where more than a dozen resorts are hotly competitive. Rated toward the upper end of those establishments, the sprawling, 516-room Iberostar Costa Dorada has nearly every amenity you could imagine. The all-inclusive plan, Jan. 3 to 27--round-trip air fare on American, a week's accommodations, three meals daily, drinks of any sort, entertainment and non-motorized sports--is priced at $1,169 from Los Angeles.

Book through Vacation Travel Mart at (800) 288-1435 or http://www.vacmart.com.

All rates quoted here are per person, based on double occupancy, subject to availability. Taxes and airport fees are extra.

The same ultra-inclusive week--air fare, room, meals, drinks, activities and entertainment--is available at remarkable rates throughout January (starting Jan. 3) at Blue Bay Getaway, one of the nicer resorts in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Fast-growing Mexico maven Baja Motion Tours, tel. (877) 246-2252, is responsible for a price of $911 from Los Angeles for the elements listed above.

You can also take a dive in January and see the Northern Hemisphere's largest barrier reef for rates far lower than any other time in the traditional high season for the tropics. A specialist in Belize travel, Capricorn Leisure, tel. (800) 426-6544, will fly you there in January, house you for five nights at the Tides Hotel on Ambergris Cay and give you three days of double-tank diving. All this for $956 from Los Angeles.

If you're not a diver, you might prefer a package from Caradonna Caribbean Tours, tel. (800) 328-2288: For $958 you stay for seven nights at the Sunbreeze Beach Hotel on Ambergris Cay, with round-trip travel on Continental Airlines from Los Angeles.

Caradonna also has an all-inclusive vacation (travel, room, all meals, drinks, sports) to the eastern Caribbean island of Bonaire. This six-nighter at the Divi Flamingo Beach Resort, from Jan. 5 to 31, costs $1,313 from Los Angeles, with Saturday departures on Air Jamaica.

And for our ultra-frugal readers: Cancun has opened its first hostel. It's a 70-bed affair (20 cots are on the roof, under a thatched overhang) at 30 Palmera, about four blocks from the bus station. It's open to people of all ages, offering new beds, private lockers, Internet access, full kitchen with cooking equipment and TV lounge with cable. Starting now, the price of a beach towel and bed, $10, at the Cancun Hostel will get you the reasonable equivalent of a superb vacation at a Mexican resort, where all beach areas, by law, are open to the public.

Make reservations on the Internet at http://www.mexicohostels.com.

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