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Underwater housings can be quite pricey ... but suppose I didn't really want to use it underwater, I just wanted to be able to use it on the beach and not to have to worry about being splashed by a wave if I'm taking shots right on the shore or wading into the water. Any recommendations?
Yes, a good UW housing for a dSLR typically costs more than the dSLR. But they do make a kind of heavy plastic bag with a glass window for maybe $200.
For years I caries a Nikonus. A waterproof 35mm film camera. I'd literally clean sand from it under the tap. You can buy water proof P&S cameras now.
Or just buy a used D70 and an old 35-80 kit lens from a film body and have a $200 dSLR setup and figure that is cheaper even than the cheap plastic bag type housing
What I do now in conditions like that is keep my camera in a Pelican case. Take it out and take a shot, then put it back.