Image: The Lodge at Pico Bonito in La Cieba, Honduras
This luxury Lodge at Pico Bonito in La Cieba, Honduras, on 200 acres at the edge of the Pico Bonito National Park has 22 elegantly furnished cabins with verandas and hammocks. Each cabin is hidden behind verdant coffee and cacao trees, affording guests complete privacy.
updated 3/19/2009 10:05:04 AM ET 2009-03-19T14:05:04

Follow the sun. It’s a simple prescription for the winter doldrums. But in these tumultuous economic times, the challenge for even the savviest traveler is finding the right sun-drenched spot at the right price.

To help you plan the perfect warm-weather retreat, Condé Nast Traveler turned to our globe-trotting correspondents for their picks of the best hotels and resorts that offer unbeatable values in the most appealing destinations in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. So if you’re cold, pale, and yearning for an easy escape to warmer climes at an affordable price, your search is over — and your tan awaits.


Mama Noots Backabush, Mayflower Bocawina National Park
Doubles, $90–$150
Hiding beneath the jungle canopy of southern Belize's Mayflower Bocawina National Park are stunning waterfalls, unexcavated Mayan ruins, and Mama Noots Backabush resort. This ecolodge is totally off the grid, relying on solar, wind, and hydro systems for electricity. It has six rooms, all with queen beds, ceiling fans, and verandas. Two spacious thatched-roof cabanas — one perfect for adventurous families, the other suited for lovebirds — have stunning jungle views. The restaurant cooks up fine fare using local seafood and homegrown produce, and even manages to keep vegetarians and vegans happy.
Book: The Kush Kush Tapi Cabana to feel like you're alone in the wilderness (501-670-8019;
Best for: Indulging your inner archaeologist/adventurer.
Rental car: Required — go with a four-by-four.

Costa Rica

Finca Rosa Blanca Country Inn, Santa Bárbara de Heredia
Doubles, $290–$350
This small eco-gem on seven tree-studded acres overlooks sustainable coffee farms, volcanoes and cloud forests. The seven junior suites in the main lodge are the most affordable, but there's little sacrifice in these spacious quarters, each with arched windows, original artwork, tiled bathrooms, and gorgeous hardwood floors. For even more space and privacy, splurge on one of the two villas or the whimsical two-story master suite, where a spiral staircase leads to a window-walled tower bedroom. Owners Teri and Glenn Jampol have consistently garnered the highest eco-credentials. One of the highlights of the property is the 30-acre organic coffee farm shaded by 5,000-plus trees strategically placed to create corridors for birds and wildlife.

Book: El Cafetal, where even the bathtub has sublime views (506-2269-9392;
Best for: Sybarites with a wild side.
Rental car: Not required and not allowed on the property.

Selva Bananito Lodge and Preserve, Bananito
Doubles, $260–$280

From the ridge on which Selva Bananito has planted its 11 stilted cabins, you can peer out over dense jungle into the Amistad Biosphere, which borders this lodge's private reserve. But the view might not have been so stunning if owner Rudi Stein had followed through with his plans to log this patch of land back in the early 1990s. Instead, he built one of the country's premier ecolodges — going so far as to construct every building out of abandoned mahogany logs harvested with the aid of water buffalo. Indeed, Selva Bananito is an off-the-grid true-green experience: Oil lamps and candles replace electricity, water is solar heated, and waste is recycled or composted. But the eco-cred doesn't come at the cost of comfort. The 12 rooms are well designed and have private bathrooms and large terraces strung with hammocks. At night, candlelit dinners of locally harvested fare are served in the dining room — or for a romantic twist, on your balcony, with a symphony of birds, bats and tree frogs as your dinner music.
Book: A Superior cabin for a view of the rain forest from your bed (506-2253-8118;
Best for: Avid campers who appreciate a little pampering.
Rental car: Not required, but recommended for exploring the area.


Mocking Bird Hill Port Antonio
Doubles, $255–$370
That warm feeling you get at Mocking Bird Hill isn't from a gentle wind blowing in off the Caribbean. It's from the knowledge that innkeepers Barbara Walker and Shireen Aga opened their 10-room hotel as an eco retreat, and that everything they do here is respectful of the environment (the area is home to several types of fruit trees and more than 40 bird species) and the local people (the resort supports several work and literacy programs). The setting in Port Antonio, in the Blue Mountain foothills in northwestern Jamaica, is ideal for bird-watching, hiking, biking, or paddling down the nearby Rio Grande on a bamboo raft. The property has its own pool surrounded by blue canvas chaise longues, and, for those who prefer sand and surf, some lovely Caribbean beaches are just a few miles away. The restaurant uses organic ingredients from neighboring farms to turn out innovative dishes — jerk-spiced pesto shrimp, callaloo ravioli. Rooms are airy and simply decorated with tile floors and bamboo furnishings. Best of all, they're open to the sound of the sea.
Book: A ground-level Garden room or an upper-floor Superior room for better views — and better breezes (876-993-7267;
Best for: Nascent naturalists who want to tread lightly and stay somewhere that gives back to the locals.
Rental car: Required. It is at least a two-and-a-half-hour drive to Port Antonio from Kingston, and you'll want your own wheels to explore the surrounding hills and beaches.

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St. Lucia

Balenbouche Estate, Vieux Fort
Doubles, $120–$190
Entering Balenbouche is like walking into the charming home of a chic environmentalist. In this case, that would be Uta Lawaetz, who with her two daughters maintains four cottages that sit on a historic sugar plantation in the mountainous southwest part of the island. Don't expect a conventional stay: The hotel's practices are as green as the centuries-old trees that cover the property. Air-conditioning is replaced with natural breezes, water is heated by solar power, and towels are changed only at a guest's request. There are beaches a short drive away, one of which is the setting for yoga classes arranged by the hotel.
Book: The Banyan Cottage for dinner on your own veranda (758-455-1244;
Best for: Organic fanatics who want to see authentic St. Lucia in all its natural glory.
Rental car: Required — it's cheaper than taking taxis, and you'll want it to get to nearby beaches.


Lodge at Pico Bonito, La Ceiba
Doubles, $240–$325
This luxury lodge on 200 acres at the edge of the Pico Bonito National Park has 22 elegantly furnished cabins with verandas and hammocks. Each cabin is hidden behind verdant coffee and cacao trees, affording guests complete privacy. For those who require more diversion, there's also an inviting pool, a small spa, and an arm's-length list of outdoor activities. Drop by the on-site butterfly farm or serpentarium, or arrange for guided excursions farther afield, including everything from bird-watching from high upon an observation tower and hiking the rain forest with a naturalist to horseback riding and white-water rafting.
Book: A Superior Plus cabin for air-conditioning (504-440-0388;
Best for: Adventurous types who want to experience the rain forest at its finest. A must for avid bird-watchers.
Rental car: Required. You'll want a four-by-four to take on the backcountry road into the resort.

© 2013 Condé Nast Traveler


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