The Real Deal: Round-trip airfare, transfers, seven nights' accommodations from $779 per person—plus an estimated $196 in taxes.
When: May 1-June 30, 2008; add $100 for now through April 30. Rates are based on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday departures; add $50 round-trip for departures on other days.
Gateways: Miami; add $100 for Dallas; $160 for Seattle; $170 for L.A. Rates for departures after May 1 may vary.
The fine print: The Nicaraguan government charges a departure tax of about $33. Lodging taxes are an additional $64. Airport taxes and fees are an estimated $99 per person. You must book at least one week in advance of your departure. Based on double occupancy; single supplement ranges from $450 to $475, depending on your departure date. Read before you book any Real Deal.
Contact: Capricorn Leisure Group, 800/426-6544, capricorn.net
Why it's a deal: In a recent Kayak search of Tuesday through Thursday departures in early May, the lowest round-trip fares between Miami and Managua, Nicaragua, start at $318 (Taca Airlines; fare includes airport taxes and fees of $90). For an additional $461 (after accounting for taxes and fees), or about $94 per night, Capricorn covers seven nights' lodging, including breakfast daily, as well as transfers.
Trip details: The Nicaragua Adventure package includes flights on American Airlines and transfers between the airport and the 21-room La Gran Francia Hotel in Granada; between there and the Pelican Eyes Piedras y Olas Hotel and Resort in San Juan del Sur; and between there and the airport.
You won't be roughing it on this trip, which features stays at hotels that are luxurious by Nicaraguan standards. The first half of your trip is in Granada, one of the oldest European-founded cities in the Western Hemisphere. Your hotel, La Gran Francia, is next to the main square.
Granada is the Nicaraguan town that attracts the largest number of tourists from the U.S. because of its pretty colonial architecture, inventive restaurants, and access to Lake Nicaragua's volcanic island Ometepe and Las Isletas.
The second half of your trip takes you over to the Pelican Eyes resort, which offers lodging in whitewashed bungalows and an infinity pool.
Nicaragua is a politically stable, underdeveloped country; much of what you see is what Costa Rica and other tourist destinations in Central America were like 20 to 30 years ago. Regulations and law enforcement are uneven, so you have more freedom to explore than elsewhere. But you also take more risks when you hike, swim, or explore the city.
Late spring is a dry time in Nicaragua. Days are typically sunny but the foliage is not at its peak lushness. The rainy season usually arrives in June; cloudbursts are common, and temperatures drop on average from 85 degrees Fahrenheit to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.