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Located just 17 miles off the coast of Venezuela, the island group that composes the Venezuelan state of Nueva Esparta takes its name and nickname, the "Pearl of the Caribbean," from a black-lipped Oyster named Pinctada Margaritifera which yields expensive pearls that ignited island economies from the Caribbean to the South Seas. It's tourism that drives the economy now, and travel deals like these won't hurt economic matters as travelers from Europe and the United States continue to rave about the island's snorkeling, the nightlife of the Porlamar which includes a casino, and adventure tours of the island's interior, coastal and marine biology and wildlife.

Moments Notice Travel (tel. 888/241-3366; www.moments-notice.com/hot_deals_destinations10.asp) has two five and seven night air/land trips to the island, one of which offers an all-inclusive food and drink option. The non-meal plan package includes airfare out of New York's JFK, daily breakfast, all hotel accommodations, airport transfers in Venezuela, and hotel taxes and service charges. Accommodations are at the Margarita Hilton, a large resort property. Prices on the five-night trip start at $919 and $1,029 for the seven-night trip. For the all-inclusive package that includes all the above plus meals and drinks, with accommodations at the Hotel Hesperia, a five-star hotel with an 18-hole golf course, prices start at $1,079 for five nights and $1,249 for seven nights. Deduct $90 if you depart from Miami. Air taxes and departure fees are additional. Call a Moment's Notice representative for travel dates and 2006 price increases.

Traveland (tel. 800/321-6336; www.traveland.com), which specializes in travel packages and tours of Latin America, has an eight-day seven-night discounted special to the Margarita Islands starting at $499 with airfare out of Miami reduced from the normal price of $999. The package includes round-trip airfare, the first and last night of your trip in Caracas, five nights on the island of Margarita at the three-star Portofino Mare Hotel, all food and drinks on Margarita, a buffet breakfast in Caracas, all non-motorized water sports, all transportation between Caracas and Margarita Island, and all ground transportation. Dates for travel are good on January 19, 26, February 23, March 9, 14, and 23, 2006. Check back at the website for dates already sold out. The same trip costs approximately $699 out of New York and $749 out of Atlanta, Boston and Dallas.

For a more in-depth at Venezuela that includes a three-day stop at Margarita Island, Go Today (tel. 800/227-3235; www.go-today.com) has an air-inclusive ten-night trip that includes hotel and intra-country transportation. Overnight stays include one night in Caracas, one night in Los Roques, two nights in the Orinco Delta, two nights in the Canaima National, and three nights on La Isla Margarita. All meals, flights, transfers, hotel service charges and taxes, and excursions are included in the cost of the trip, which starts at approximately $1,749. Trip prices increase based on hotel rating. The visit to the Canaima National Park includes an aerial view of Angel falls, the tallest waterfall in the world at 979 feet high. Travel for this package is good from January 4 to March 31, 2006 with a purchase deadline of December 15, 2005.

Questions or comments concerning this column? Chat with fellow Frommer's travelers on our Venezuela Message Boards.