The Real Deal: Round-trip airfare and seven nights' accommodations from $899 per person—plus taxes of about $240.
When: Jan. 4-Mar. 15, 2008.
Gateways: Miami; add $20 for Dallas; $70 for New York, Portland, Ore., Seattle; $80 L.A., San Francisco; $196 from Chicago; additional cities available.
The fine print: Breakfast daily and all transfers are included. Hotel and air taxes and service charges are an additional $240. Based on double occupancy; single supplement is $430. Starting rates are valid for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday departures; add $25 each way for travel Friday-Monday. While visas are not required for U.S. passport holders, a $5 tourist card must be purchased upon arrival. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book by: No deadline; based on availability.
Contact: Capricorn Leisure Corporation, 800/426-6544, capricorn.net.
Why it's a deal: In comparison, according to a recent Kayak search, the lowest round-trip fare between Miami and Managua is $338 for travel from early January through mid-March (Taca Airlines). For an additional $561 (about $80 per day), Capricorn provides hotel accommodations for a week divided between Granada and San Juan del Sur, breakfast daily, and all ground transfers—plus the time-saving perk of enabling you to book everything at once.
Trip details: The Nicaragua Adventure package includes round-trip airfare to Managua on an American Airlines carrier and accommodations for a week divided between Granada and San Juan Del Sur.
Once you arrive in Managua, you'll be transferred to Granada by bus or car (about a 40-minute drive) for a three-night stay at the Hotel La Gran Francia, located close to the main square of the colonial town. The 21-room hotel is a historic site in its own right, dating back to the founding of Grenada in 1524. But don't be fooled by its ancient heritage—the hotel features modern trappings such as air-conditioned rooms, a pool, a restaurant, and two bars.
Must-see attractions in Granada include the Convento San Francisco Museum; the towers of La Merced church, which offer panoramic city views; the Mombacho Volcano; and the Masaya Volcano National Park. Most hotels in Granada can arrange tours of the Masaya Volcano for about $58 per person.
After a few days in Granada, you'll be transferred by car or bus (a 50-minute ride) to the village of San Juan del Sur on the Pacific Coast, where you'll spend the next four nights at the Pelican Eyes Piedras y Olas hotel, a short walk from downtown. The hotel's architectural design and decor feature ecofriendly construction: straw bales high cane ceilings, exposed natural wood, handcrafted furniture, and displays of regional artwork. Upgrade to an ocean-view villa for $45 per person, plus taxes of 15 percent.
San Juan del Sur is Nicaragua's main beach resort, with ideal conditions for surfing and fishing. The area's most popular attractions include Playa Marsella, a picturesque beach that's great for snorkeling, and the 19th-century church, Iglesia San Juan Bautista. From San Juan del Sur, you'll take a car or bus to Managua airport, which is about two hours away, to catch your flight home.
Not ready to leave? You can add extra nights in Granada for $48 per person at the La Gran Francia and in San Juan del Sur at Pelican Eyes Piedras y Olas for $70 per person.
The best time to visit Nicaragua is during the dry season from December through March, when this package is available (another reason it's a good value!). Temperatures cool down a bit, with lows of about 70 and highs in the mid to high 80s. The downside is that the pleasant weather means the tourist crowds tend to be at their peak. Before you go, check the weather forecast.