The Real Deal: Round-trip airfare, six nights' accommodations, most meals, and ground transportation by air-conditioned bus, from $1,096 per person—plus taxes of $238.
When: Through Dec. 9, 2008; add $251 for Dec. 10–22; $594 for Dec. 23–Jan. 1, 2009.
Gateways: Miami; add $200 for Dallas, Houston; add $290 for Atlanta, Boston, D.C., New York City; add $310 for Chicago, L.A., San Francisco; additional cities available.
The fine print: Does not include airport taxes and fuel surcharges of $238 per person. Based on double occupancy; single supplement is $288. Kids 12 and under start at $790; kids 13 and over pay the adult rate. Requires a 14-day advance purchase. U.S. citizens will need a valid passport for travel; a tourist card is required and costs $5, paid in cash upon arrival at the Nicaragua airport. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book by: No deadline; based on availability.
Contact: Tara Tours, 800/327-0080, taratours.com.
Why it's a deal: Note that the trip price, taxes included, breaks down to about $222 per person per night. Included in that rate is peace of mind—and food. During your stay in Managua, breakfast will be provided, and then during your four-night stay at Montelimar, all of your meals and drinks are included. You'll also have a city tour of Managua, with the valuable services of an English-speaking guide, and transportation between Managua and the resort at Montelimar, and to and from the airport (otherwise, you'd have to negotiate this on your own).
Trip details: The City & Beach package begins with a flight on American Airlines to Managua. The Holiday Inn Select, your hotel for two nights, provides a shuttle service from the airport, about a 20-minute ride. The 160-room Holiday Inn Select has a pool, high-speed Internet available for free, and a restaurant.
Your stay here includes a tour of lakeside Managua with an English-speaking guide. One highlight is the National Historic Park Loma de Tiscapa, where you'll learn the history of the city and its hero, Augusto César Sandino. You'll also see the ruins of the old presidential palace; El Malecón, a promenade with beautiful views; Simón Bolívar's monument; the new presidential house; and the National Palace of Culture, plus there's a stop to buy local crafts and souvenirs.
Next, you'll head to the all-inclusive Barcelo Montelimar Beach Resort and Casino, a 40-minute drive west, on the Pacific coast. You'll be transferred by air-conditioned bus or private car, depending on the group size.
The 293-room resort boasts two miles of sandy beach and the largest swimming pool in South America. Venture beyond the resort to explore the small towns of Masachapa, San Rafael del Sur, and Montelimar Beach.
The all-inclusive program at the resort includes buffet breakfast, lunch, and dinner; a midday snack (or a barbecue on the beach on certain days); nightly entertainment; all beverages (alcohol included); water sports; tennis (clay court); soccer; mini golf; basketball; and taxes and tips.
Nicaragua's climate is hot and humid, and November through May is the summer dry season; expect temperatures in the 70s and 80s. The country is famous for its volcanic terrain, coffee, bananas, and a turbulent past (most recently the civil war of the 1980s). Now the country is safe for travelers, with modest, affordable facilities and fewer crowds than neighboring Costa Rica—here's an opportunity to discover it before everyone else does.
For more information, check out the U.S. State Department's travel fact sheet. INTUR is the country's official tourism site (but break out the Spanish dictionary—the site is available only in Spanish).