Dec. 2, 2013 -- intro: Most of us have to stick to a budget when we plan a vacation, and we know that hotel's value is just as important as its rooms and features. It's hard to enjoy a nice resort when you feel like you've been ripped off, and it's hard to enjoy a cheap resort when you feel like a few extra bucks could have bought you a significantly better trip. For a hotel to be a great value, in our view, it's got to offer the best of both worlds: It's got to be a resort that's cheaper than the competition but still objectively pretty great. So we scoured some of our favorite beach destinations to find seven resorts offering just that. Prepare yourself for some shockingly good deals.
quicklist: 1 title: Kauai Beach Resort, Kauai text: This private, quiet property has large rooms, gorgeous sunrises over a rugged beach, a water slide and sand-bottom pool, and a romantic bar with live music. It's a good choice for a quiet, relaxed stay. There may be more to do at the Kauai Marriott, but rates are typically better here. media:21042751
quicklist: 2 title: Aqua Wellness Resort, Nicaragua text: The beaches in Nicaragua are just as beautiful as those in Costa Rica, its neighbor to the south, but you'll pay significantly less for your slice of paradise here. The charmingly rustic Aqua Wellness Resort is one of the top luxury options in the country, but you'd hardly know it from the rates this winter, which start at around $160 a night. The resort has eco-friendly design, lush vegetation (expect to spot wildlife such as howler monkeys and iguanas), and rooms adorned with lots of natural wood; some units include plunge pools and stunning ocean views. The white-sand beach is secluded and beautiful, the restaurant serves simple but tasty local dishes, and group yoga classes on the ocean-view wooden platform are free. media:21042873
quicklist: 3 title: Jake's, Jamaica text: With just 30 hippy-chic cottages in secluded Treasure Beach, Jake's is a member of Bespoke Hotels, a trendy, luxury hotel group — but rates this winter are under $200/night. Guests come to unplug — there's no phone, Internet, or TV in the cottages. The black-sand beaches aren't Jamaica's most impressive, but the Driftwood Spa, on-site painting and yoga classes, and excellent food make this a particular favorite. media:21042801
quicklist: 4 title: Sands at Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos text: Located at the center of Grace Bay, the 114-room Sands at Grace Bay offers solid, if not spectacular, amenities — a fitness center, a nice restaurant, two pools, and a long stretch of oceanfront — at attractive rates. While its pools and lush grounds aren't quite as impressive as those at pricier resorts, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better value, especially when factoring in the generous size of the rooms, almost all of which feature furnished balconies. media:21042652
quicklist: 5 title: Hotel La Mariposa, Costa Rica text: Hotel La Mariposa is one of the best deals in pricey Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. Perched high above the Pacific Ocean, the highlight of the 60-room La Mariposa is the breathtaking coastal views from the restaurant, pool deck, and guest rooms. We're not sure you can find a hotel with better views anywhere in this price range. A beautifully designed (if small) pool and a warm staff add to the appeal. Rooms are nothing special and the restaurant is mediocre, but guests don't seem to mind at all. media:21042970
quicklist: 6 title: Hotel B Cozumel, Mexico text: Hotel B has everything a hotel needs to draw a young, hip crowd: a lounge-y beach, spacious rooms with great amenities, a gorgeous infinity-edge pool, a hopping bar with great mojitos, and yoga classes several times a week. Everything here is trendy, but that doesn't come at the cost of sustainability, social responsibility, or local culture — the property is decorated top to bottom with traditional Mexican touches with a contemporary twist and crafts made by Mexican artisans. Add this to great rates and a fabulous restaurant, and you've got a resort that's a very attractive alternative to the dozens of all-inclusive properties lining this part of the island. media:21042922
quicklist: 7 title: Natura Cabanas, Dominican Republic text: Offering eco-friendly bungalows in a lush, friendly setting, Natura Cabanas is a taste of serene, northern coast luxury for a remarkably fair price. Guests enjoy delicious, fresh food, a clean, crowd-less private beach, yoga classes, and a fabulous spa. It's quiet, and a bit rustic without TV or AC in rooms, but that's the point. media: 21042702