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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Beachfront bargains: The best cheap Florida hotels


By Maria Mora

Orlando hotels will always be staples in spring break vacation and summer vacation planning, but a cheap Florida vacation doesn’t need to center on Walt Disney World. Plenty of other cities with cheap Florida hotels tease with their access to the beach, nightlife and fine dining. The following four cities broaden the Floridian experience beyond Mickey Mouse:

St. Pete Beach
At just 30 minutes from Tampa International Airport, this quaint beach town is the perfect place to find cheap Florida hotels. Book a hotel right on the beach and enjoy the eclectic nightlife, fine dining and great beach for shelling and walking. The waves are mild, making it a perfect destination for families with small children. Spend a day away from the water to visit the newly opened Dali Museum in downtown St. Petersburg.

South Beach
Located convenient to the airports in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, South Beach is a classic hot spot with surprisingly cheap Florida hotels. You can stay right in the heart of celebrity-frequented South Beach for around $100 a night if you book a stay at one of the area’s boutique hotels. Every hotel is walking distance to the water, so don’t worry about facing the beach. Half the fun is walking out to the water and seeing the locals.

Cocoa Beach
While you may have to drive a bit further to reach this beach from a major international airport, it’s worth the trip. This famous beach has great waves for beginner and intermediate surfers. Enjoy an active Florida vacation and visit the iconic Ron Jon Surf Shop while you’re in the area. Kids will love visiting nearby Kennedy Space Center, an educational, interactive option on the days you aren’t strolling around Walt Disney World.

Naples
Located south of Fort Meyers, Naples is a medium-sized city with upscale shopping areas and fine dining. The beach is famous for pristine white sand and a great mix of seniors, young visitors and travelers from around the world. Look for cheap Florida hotels near the water, where you can save money in the off season. Visit some of the bigger resorts to use the day spa facilities and splurge on a beach-ready pedicure.

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Maria Mora is a memoir blogger and wannabe photographer. She travels extensively throughout Florida and the Caribbean with her two young sons.

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