By - Holly Wheelwright

(MONEY Magazine) – There is no need to deny yourself a winter vacation in the tropics just because your budget is as tiny as a thong bikini. You can strip away a big part of the cost of lying on the beach if you sleep on it too. At public campgrounds, you can often stay for free right on the water. Private campsites average only $15 a day. Cabins run $5 to $30 a person.

TROPICAL TENT TIPS -- Book ahead. Popular Caribbean beaches may require reservations up to a year in advance. -- Rent equipment the first time. You'll find out if you like it without much investment. When you are reserving, check the rental-equipment prices. It may pay to rent it here and lug it there.

-- Bring along some basics. Items like safety matches, batteries and flashlights can add up at island prices. -- Take either cash or traveler's checks. Many campgrounds do not accept any credit cards. Here are 10 destinations with superb beaches that offer, at the least, outdoor cooking, a nearby place to buy groceries, rinsing showers and toilets: Waianapanapa State Park, Hana, Maui, Hawaii (808-243-5354). A five-night limit wakes you from the dream of staying forever. Twelve cabins; camping for 60 people. Temperatures: 60 degrees F to 85 degrees F. T.H. Stone Memorial/St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, Cape San Blas, Port St. Joe, Fla. (904-227-1327). Miles of wild beach on the Gulf of Mexico. Eight cabins; 119 campsites. Temperatures: winter, 40 degrees to 65 degrees; summer, 70 degrees to 95 degrees. North Beach Camp Resort, St. Augustine, Fla. (904-824-1806). On a barrier island between the Atlantic and an inland waterway. No cabins; 125 sites. Temperatures: 60 degrees to 85 degrees April through October. Cinnamon Bay and Maho Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. Two popular, unspoiled north-shore beaches. At Maho: 105 cabanas on platforms (800-392-9004). At Cinnamon Bay: 40 cottages (800-223-7637); 56 tents with cots; 12 bare campsites (809-776-6330). Temperatures: 70 degrees to 85 degrees. Mustang Island State Park, Port Aransas, Texas (512-749-5246). Five miles of golden sand. No cabins; 348 campsites. Best time to visit: May and June. Spring temperatures: 70 degrees to 90 degrees. Les Sables d'Or, Guadeloupe, French West Indies (590-28-44-60). A golden crescent beach ringed by palm trees. Eight cabins; seven campsites. Best time: November to April. Temperatures: 60 degrees to 85 degrees. Tropicamp, Martinique, French West Indies (596-62-49-66). Best time: November through April. Ten equipped tents (sleep four each); includes camping around island. Temperatures: 70 degrees to 85 degrees. Moorea Camping, Society Islands (689-56-14-47). An hour's ferry ride from Tahiti, $14 round trip. This beach offers free snorkeling and canoes. Best time: June to September. Thirteen cabins; 30 sites. Temperatures: 70 degrees to 85 degrees. KaiLuum, Playa del Carmen, Mexico (800-538-6802). At this tent resort, the meals are cooked for you, so costs run $5 to $20 higher than average per day. Forty tents with beds. Temperatures: 80 degrees to 95 degrees. Murramarang Caravan & Camping Resort, Batemans Bay, Australia (61-44-78-6078). Kangaroos may hop through this campground on the Pacific. Forty-nine cabins; 150 campsites. Temperatures: 50 degrees to 85 degrees.