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On a Budget

Spring Reigns With Tropical Bargains

March 25, 2001|ARTHUR FROMMER

Easter is April 15, and within a few days, vacation prices to the tropics-the Pacific and Caribbean coasts of Mexico, and the islands of the Caribbean-will retreat to some of their lowest levels of the year. They remain low until the beginning of July and subside again after Labor Day.

I found three Mexican packages that look appealing for departures in late April, May and June:

* Puerto Vallarta: Possibly the best mix going of old Mexican village ambience and new resort action, Puerto Vallarta offers lots of deals. One of the better ones is a seven-nighter at the good-quality, 200-unit Las Tules hotel, available through Mexico specialist Baja Motion Tours, telephone (800) 511-4848, or Internet, through the Web site http://www.mexicotravelnet .com. The typical rate from April 20 through June is $471 per person, double occupancy, from L.A. Aeromexico. That includes transfers but no meals.

* Cancn: For a combination of de-stressing on the beach and the stimulation of side trips to the Yucatan Peninsula's awesome pre-Columbian sites (such as Chichen Itza and Uxmal), this Americanized, hotel-packed sandbar in the Gulf of Mexico is just the ticket. Booking through Baja Motion Tours, tel. (800) 511-4848, http://www .mexicotravelnet.com, you spend seven nights at the Hotel Aristos, an oldie (one of Cancn's first) but goodie: 244 cool, pleasant rooms, plus amenities such as pools, tennis, sea sports, restaurant and bars. And you have a couple of options: Through July, the European plan (no meals) will run you $599, double occupancy, out of L.A. An all-inclusive setup-all meals, unlimited drinks, most activities-will add $200.

* Sonora Bay: This is not one of Club Med's plusher properties-think modest but immaculate rooms with white stucco walls and terra-cotta tiles-but the Sonora Bay Club Med has a starkly scenic setting: red desert mountains on one side, the brilliant azure Gulf of California on the other. There's a full complement of Club Med activities, both typical (tennis, beach volleyball, sailing) and not (horseback rides in the desert, communing with sea lions). From around April 25 till June 23, the all-inclusive price for seven nights costs $690 per person, double occupancy, including round-trip air. Taxes and membership fees for first-time vacationers bring the total to $847. Information: tel. (800) 258-2633, http://www.clubmed.com.

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