Belize is one of those Latin American countries that many travelers overlook, and that's a shame. With its variety -- water, mountains, waterfalls, coral reefs, birds, diving and ecotourism in general -- the small country has a lot to offer travelers. This week's smart deal takes you on what's a relatively short plane ride from most of North America to Belize -- specifically, four nights in Ambergris Caye from $619, including round-trip airfare -- and is offered by Latin Destinations (tel. 866/645-2846; www.latindestinations.com). Ambergris Caye is the largest of Belize's islands and it provides a great starting point for the aforementioned activities. It's also a different sort of beach vacation than what you might find elsewhere in Latin America or the Caribbean in general: there aren't any traffic lights or paved roads.
The company is offering a range of packages to Belize, but this quickie is great for those wanting a relaxing trip with lots of independence and the basics covered: round-trip airfare, airport assistance, four hotel nights, breakfast daily (in most hotels that are available as part of the package), hotel taxes, and domestic flights between Belize City and Ambergris Caye. The whole package comes to $795 with taxes and is calculated based on New York City-JFK midweek departures. One of the advantages of booking with Latin Destinations is that you can see what the price history is for other travelers who have taken this particular trip, so you get a sense of things. For example, a recent traveler paid $702 from Newark airport for six nights in the past 14 days for a departure on May 7. Of course, there are ways to customize it as well, depending on the accommodations you choose, ranging from a three-star Belizean Shores Resort, whose rooms have private balconies, to Mata Chica, a secluded, all-inclusive resort a few miles north of San Pedro.