B is for…Bungalow

bun·ga·low [buhng-guh-loh]

  1. a one-storied thatched or tiled house, usually surrounded by a veranda (www.dictionary.com)
  2. an inexpensive, or luxurious, haven for families beaching it in Mexico, South America or other tropical destinations (Little B and the Boy)

Bungalows offer families a secluded, tranquil beach experience, away from the crowded pools and beaches of a big resort. Rustic and swanky bungalows alike are abundant on beaches and in villages in Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica and several other tropical destinations in Central and South America and Asia.

Bungalow in Belize

On a family trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, we found the dozens of bungalows in the colorful surfing village of Sayulita, less than an hour drive from PV, a reprieve from the rows of sunbathers and cheesy Michael Bolton music piped around our big PV resort.  Set among beautiful flowers and lush green trees, Sayulita’s bungalows permeated tranquility and seclusion without a hefty price tag.

Sayulita, Mexico – Village Square

Meandering past fish taco stands, rows of surf boards and locals attending to cushioned beach chair rentals, my husband combed the thatched roof bungalows lining Sayulita’s beach to find our home for the day.  We had been to Sayulita a few days earlier and we yearned for more of the easy-going beach vibe.

For $80, a rustic hotel offered a room on the beach complete with a small kitchen, a screened-in living area overlooking the garden where I read while the kids rested and enough water trickling through the shower to wash away sand before an early dinner in town.  Just beyond the stone pathway through the bungalow’s tropical garden, we reveled in the beach’s rejuvenating atmosphere as our kids dug in the sand and the grown ups drank cerveza and took turns surfing or boogie boarding.  Our only lament was our pre-paid week at the PV resort prevented us from staying in Sayulita longer.

Sayulita Fish Taco – the best fish tacos I’ve ever eaten, steps from the town’s many bungalows

In another equatorial destination, my sister stayed in a luxurious beach front bungalow in Belize (rates up to $440 per night). While several beach side bungalows in Belize cater to couples or older families, there are plenty of options at various price points for younger families along the shores and inland in the jungle.  (Matachica Resort, for example, where my sister stayed, welcomes children over 10 years old.  Check websites or call if you are unsure if young children are welcome at a particular hotel).  Click here for a Frommer’s guide to some family friendly lodges in Belize, many of which have bungalows (also known as casitas or cabanas).

Luxurious bungalow living in Belize, Matachica Resort

An English-speaking country with mixes of Caribbean and Central American influence, Belize offers pristine beaches and tropical outdoor adventure.  Beachcombers up and down the shores can easily kayak or take a small boat to the edge of the reef, the second largest in the world next to Great Barrier Reef in Australia, for spectacular snorkeling and scuba diving.  Mayan ruins and jungle adventures including zip lines and guided hikes are accessed by inland day trip.

Whether for one day or a week, consider staying in a quiet, easy-breezy bungalow as an alternative to the big beach resorts on your next tropical vacation.

Do you know a bungalow to recommend?  Please share in the comments below.

Beach view from bungalow in Belize