The Real Deal: Round-trip airfare, three nights' accommodations, and transfers, from $575 per person—plus taxes of at least $95.
When: Through June 20, 2008
Gateways: New York City; additional cities available at higher rates
The fine print: Airport-hotel transfers are included. Taxes, fees, and service charges are an additional $95 per person, including a departure tax of $26. Based on double occupancy; single supplement is $166. Read before you book any Real Deal.
Book by: April 30, 2008; based on availability
Contact: St. Lucia Now, 877/542-3789, stlucianow.com
Why it's a deal: In a recent Kayak search of Tuesday through Thursday departures in early May, the lowest round-trip fare between New York City and Vieux Fort, St. Lucia, was $520 (American Airlines; fare includes airport taxes and fees of $85). For an additional $150 (after accounting for taxes and fees), or about $50 per night, St. Lucia Now covers three nights' lodging at a luxury hotel, as well as transfers.
Trip details: The Spring Sale package includes international airfare, transfers, and three nights' upscale lodging. For the starting $575-per-person package price, you'll stay at Coco Kreole, a 20-room property with an upscale French Creole motif. The rooms are spacious and air-conditioned. Free Wi-Fi is available on the premises, as is a bar, a restaurant, and a swimming pool. The hotel is located in Rodney Bay, the tourist heart of the island.
More than 20 other hotels are using the St. Lucia Now Web site to offer packages at a higher cost. For example, add $400 per person to stay at the Anse Chastanet Resort, a 49-room hotel on a 600-acre estate with two beaches, located next to St. Lucia's iconic twin peaks, the Pitons.
Another example: Add $434 per person to stay at Discovery at Marigot Bay, a set of more than 92 cabana-style lodgings that are terraced amid foliage rimming Marigot Bay, the fanciest yacht harbor in the western Caribbean.
St. Lucia is a former British colony whose main industry is banana production. Tourism is less well established here, offering a low-key feel. You'll only rarely encounter vendors hawking wares on this island, and you'll find that it's easy to hike through the rain forest, which runs along the center of the country like a spine, without bumping into other strangers.
Waterfalls are the island's most distinctive feature; it'll be easy for you to find a waterfall of your own to splash around in. Some waterfalls run hot with water heated by the island's geothermal activity; others run cold. Ask your hotel concierge to direct you to the most convenient one.
Driving in St. Lucia requires nerves of steel. Signs are almost nonexistent; prepare to get lost. Many roads are impassable without a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Traffic flows on the left side of the road, which means that your car's controls (from turn signals to brakes) will be on the opposite side from which you are accustomed. Lastly, you'll need to apply for a temporary St. Lucian driver's license for a fee of about $25. All of the hotels listed with St. Lucia Now's Web site can offer shuttle services to various attractions, and these services tend to be cheaper and more reliable than ordering private taxis.
Top activities include snorkeling (particularly excellent in the southwestern part of the island near the Pitons) and hiking. Every Friday night, a three-block street party happens in Anse La Raye, a fishing village whose buildings and boats are painted in colorful pastels. The vibe is laid-back, and the tourist crowd tends to consist mostly of married couples.
Farther north on Gros Islet, you'll find a younger, noisier vibe. The "Jump Up" street party, also on Friday nights, relies on a steady flow of rum and Piton beers to prompt visitors to dance with locals to a seamless stream of hip-hop and reggae.
When booking your trip, consider that the valid travel dates for this package fall during a pleasant weather season—April through June, when the skies are typically sunny, except for an occasional brief rain shower. Temperatures hover at 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Before you go, check the weather forecast.