Because of their location, The Dutch Leeward Islands Aruba, Bonaire, CuraÃ§ao, and Trinidad and Tobago to the east, are generally safer bets for travel during hurricane season. Located just off Venezuela's north coast, the islands offer a host of activities -- especially diving -- both in the water and on the land, whether it's bird watching in rain forests or just sipping an umbrella drink on the beach or viewing the colorful architecture of CuraÃ§ao's capital city, Willemstad.
A number of specials and promotions are available via Aruba's tourism website (tel. 800/TO-ARUBA; www.aruba.com). Specialized vacation ideas -- family travel, romantic getaways, weddings and timeshares, abound. For example, the "One Cool Family Vacation" (www.aruba.com/coolprograms/family.html) promotion offers bed and breakfast free from the kids' menu in participating hotel restaurants, free kids activities, and complimentary family gift. Children must be 12 and under to be eligible and must be accompanied by one or two full paying adults.
American Airlines Vacations (tel. 800/321-2121; www.aavacations.com) has an offer for the Mill Resort and Suites , advertising three nights/four days from $199 per person, including airport transfers. The price reflects travel now through December 16 and the property is an apartment-style resort located near the beach. Other hotels included in the sale included the Divi Aruba all-inclusive, priced from $474 per person for three nights from July 10-August 31 for a garden view room. For all the offers listed, you can receive AAdvantage equivalency miles.
Expedia (tel. 800/397-3342; www.expedia.com) is offering a fare sale from $240 round-trip to select destinations in the Caribbean, including Aruba. New York City-Aruba is priced from $288 and reflects travel in late September.
Vacation Travel Mart (tel. 800/288-1435; www.vacmart.com) is offering some deals to Aruba, starting from $389 for three nights to the Holiday Inn Sunspree. The price reflects accommodations and round-trip airfare from Miami; other cities are possible for more than that (New York, $429; Boston, $469; Chicago, $509). You can also choose a five night trip from $489 or seven nights from $579. The prices are good for travel August 19 until December 22, but you must book by July 14. The property has a pool and easy access to the beach. The company is also offering a few other specials. The most expensive is for La Cabana Aruba (www.vacmart.com/ct/thespecial.cfm?sid=2070), an all-suite beach resort and casino, priced from $549 for three nights, $759 for five, and $959 for seven. The booking deadline is also July 14 for travel August 19 through December 14. The promotions are held in conjunction with American Airlines.
Chances are, the average American has never heard of the island of Bonaire, unless said American is perhaps a diving enthusiast. The island's coral reefs, which have been protected since 1979, begin close to shore so diving access from the beach is easy, and there is little current.
It seems that the best source for travel specials is Bonaire's Tourism Corporation portal (tel. 800/266-2473; www.infobonaire.com). The site lists a number of different types of accommodations and lists specials, too (www.infobonaire.com/specials.html). One of the properties, Captain Don's Habitat (tel. 800/327-6709; www.habitatbonaire.com), a.k.a. "Home of Diving Freedom," offers a couple of deals. The first entitles kids up to age 16 to stay for free, and kids 12-16 can also dive for free, receive a free introductory scuba lesson, or receive four open water dives. This offer is good up to August 26 and each child must be accompanied by a paying adult, and up to two free stays for kids with two paying adults. Additionally, from September 2-30, the oceanfront diving resort has a one-night free promotion: if you stay for six nights you get the seventh night free with the diving package, starting from $727 per person based on double occupancy. The promotion includes accommodations, a welcome drink, daily breakfast, six dives, and six days of unlimited shore diving.
Island Dreams Dive Travel (tel. 800/346-6166; www.divetrip.com) has a few packages, but the most notable special is the free diving offer listed at Plaza Resort Bonaire during August and September 2006. The first diver pays but the second, sharing the same room, pays only the non-diver price and receives an identical diving package, free. The property's rooms face the lagoon or the ocean, a new casino, restaurants, and water sports. The free dive offer is available with several of the resort's packages, including Villa Dive and Drive Deluxe packages, which gives you a seven-day car rental with unlimited collision and damage waiver included -- the vehicle is a pick up truck large enough to hold all your necessary diving gear. The Dive and Drive offer is good through December 15, 2006, and priced from $1,100 for a one-bedroom villa, with one dive per day, per person.
The tourism site for Curaçao (tel. 800/3-CURACAO; www.curacao.com) gives you an overview of its beaches and secluded coves, its architecture, access to great diving, and more. If you travel August 15-November 15, you'll be right in the throes of the Culture, Cuisine and Heritage Experience, which celebrates the island's music, cuisine and art, with special gallery and museum events.
Habitat CuraÃ§ao Resort (tel. 800/327-6709; www.habitatcuracaoresort.com) gives you the chance to dive every day of the week, every hour of the day. The resort is located about 20 minutes from the capital Willemstad, with quick access to the reef. Nightly rates for travel in summer -- that's through December 15, 2006, are priced from $140 for a garden view room, $160 for ocean view, based on double occupancy and inclusive of taxes. Special promotions at the hotel include a kids stay and dive free offer, good through August 25, with a minimum 7-night stay and two kids maximum with two paying adults. Kids receive a free introductory scuba course or four open water dives. For stays August 26-October 4, the resort is offering free room upgrades from garden to ocean view based on availability for five-night stay or longer.
In conjunction with American Airlines, Orbitz (tel. 866/540-7058; www.orbitz.com), is offering a few last minute packages, including the Curaçao Marriott Resort priced from $620 per person for round-trip, nonstop airfare from Miami and three nights' accommodations with an early September Monday departure. The hotel is located within ten minutes of Willemstad and the airport, and is situated on a private beach and has a pool, casino, tennis, and restaurants.
For an even cheaper stay, Orbitz offers the Royal Sea Aquarium Hotel from $474 per person, based on round-trip airfare from Miami and double occupancy for three nights. It's a deluxe ocean view room and the resort is surrounded by dolphins and adjacent to the Sea Aquarium -- guests have unlimited admission.
Vacation Travel Mart (tel. 800/288-1435; www.vacmart.com) has a special for the Curacao Hilton. Choose from three nights from $429, five nights from $579, and seven nights from $719. (The package is based on flights from Miami for travel September 1-December 14. You must book by July 14 and blackout dates apply. Other departures are possible.
Trinidad and Tobago
As a starting point, the Tourism site for Trinidad & Tobago (tel. 868/675-7034; www.visittnt.com) features a downloadable accommodations guide, among other useful information. The nation is known collectively for beautiful beaches, nightlife, shopping, and tropical rainforests.
Blue Waters Inn (tel. 868/660-5445; www.bluewatersinn.com) in Tobago is offering a dive package that is good through October 31, 2006. The deal is priced at $985 per person based on double occupancy and includes roundtrip airfare from New York-JFK to Tobago, seven nights' accommodations, five dives, tanks, weights, boat trip, dive guide and all taxes.
Coco Reef Resort and Spa (tel. 868/639-8571; www.cocoreef.com) is located on Tobago's southwestern coast within five miles of the capital city, Scarborough. For summer and fall, there is a package that includes deluxe ocean view accommodations, full buffet breakfast, non-motorized sports, and all taxes, for $270 per night, based on double occupancy. The offer is valid until December 20.
The Palms Villa Resort (tel. 800/809/5118; www.thepalmstobago.com) offering guests opportunities for bird watching in the protected rainforests, home to many different species of birds. The bird lover's package includes seven nights of luxury accommodations and four days of professionally guided tours at three of Tobago's bird habitats. Rates are $1,686 per person during September and October; $1,885 per person for July and August. Airport transfer fees are included.
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