Late summer Caribbean deals

/ Source: Sherman's Travel

Book by: ASAP
Travel by: Various dates in 2008

The deal
A Caribbean vacation in the dog days of summer? You bet. With package deals like the ones we found, who wouldn’t choose to close out the season luxuriating in tropical environs? Air and hotel-inclusive packages now start at just $645 for a five-night St. Maarten holiday.

Seven nights in St. Maarten/St. Martin from $579
If the white-sand beaches of this half French, half Dutch island, east of Puerto Rico, are calling your name, you’ll want to check out this deal we found. Jet Blue is offering a weeklong St. Maarten getaway package at the beachfront Cap Cariabes in French St. Martin starting at $579, thanks in part to the hotel's fifth- and seventh-night-free promotion. The upscale Westin St. Maarten Dawn Beach and Resort, on the Dutch side, is also participating in the Jet Blue deal and offering a fifth and seventh night free. Valid for departures through Oct 19, prices don’t included taxes and other fees of about $95. Even so, rates are well below what you find in the high season and discounted from spring and early summer fares.

St Croix luxury begins at $998
Explore St. Croix at significantly reduced rates courtesy of the U.S. Virgin Islands’ sizzling summer special. We recommend the four-night package found on Travelocity at the luxurious, family-owned Buccaneer resort, with airfare from Miami starting at $998. (The same trip from Chicago is $1,067; from New York, it’s $1,018.) The property, a former sugar plantation, boasts three beaches; a golf course; two pools; and stunning Caribbean vistas. The package must be booked by July 31, for travel through Aug. 15. It includes a free fifth night; $50 gift card; entry coupons for two guests valued at $200 for island activities and attractions; and a $50 resort credit per room.

A week in Barbados starts at $729
Looking for a weeklong September getaway? The Best of Barbados island-wide promotion is hard to beat. The package requires a seven-night minimum stay at participating hotels but includes breakfast daily; one free day on car rentals of more than two days; a $25 gift card to the famous Oistins Fish Fry; and other island discounts. Airfare credits of $300 (September) and $200 (October-December) are reflected in the price. We researched and found a deluxe one-bedroom suite at the 138-room Bougainvillea Beach Resort on the turquoise South coast, with airfare from Miami the third week in September, for a refreshing $830 per person, based on double occupancy. The offer is valid Sept. 1-Dec. 20, 2008, and must be booked by Aug 1.

The dollars
See details above. Other expenses to consider: meals, rental car and travel insurance.

The catch
The later you go in the season, the spottier the weather.

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