Weekend in Aruba, Netherlands Antilles

BUDGET

Getting there

Spirit Airlines offers one-way rates from $128 to Aruba (70 square miles); 14-day advance; Saturday service only via Fort Lauderdale. The airport is two miles southeast of the capital and harbor town of Oranjestad.

Stay

Cozy Buffam’s Tropical Haven, a bed and breakfast, is a short distance from beaches, shops, restaurants and public transportation. Studio accommodations have fully equipped kitchens. Rates for two people from November-April, $73; $100 for up to four people, including breakfast, beach chairs, beach towels; www.buffamstropicalhaven.com, Pos Abao, 297-583-1157.

Eat

For a special night out, head to Driftwood. Fish served here is caught daily by the owner. Through Dec. 19, a three-course dinner is $24 each and are served with pan bati, Aruban corn bread; www.driftwoodaruba.com, Klipstraat 12, Oranjestad, 297-583-2515.

Experience

Join one of the Caribbean’s biggest parties: Carnival. The largest event of the extravaganza starts at 4 a.m. Feb. 13 in downtown San Nicolas. From 6:30-8:30 p.m. every Tuesday (all year), catch the Bon Bini Festival, a local musical celebration with costumed Antillean dancers and local foods and crafts; $3-$10; at Fort Zoutman and the Aruba Historical Museum, Oranjestad.

MODERATE

Getting there

AirTran begins nonstop Saturday service Dec. 19 (Sundays only from Feb. 21). One-way sale rates from $129; buy by Nov. 10. Other airlines match.

Stay

The Radisson Aruba Resort and Casino Palm Beach is lush with gardens, lagoons, waterfalls and two pools that never close. On site are a dive facility and a casino. Guest rooms, from $275, have teak wood furnishings, marble bathrooms and spacious balconies. Every third night is free on stays through Dec. 17 or Jan. 3 to April 10. Book by Nov. 30; www.radisson.com/aruba, Palm Beach (six miles from the airport), 297-586-6555.

Eat

Pinchos (‘skewers’ in Spanish) Grill and Bar sits picture perfect on a marina pier for romantic candlelight dining (ABC’s setting for 2005’s “The Bachelor”). If you can’t get in for dinner, come for the ocean breeze, a cocktail and live weekend entertainment. Entrees $21-$30; L.G. Smith Blvd. 7, Oranjestad, 287-583-2666.

Experience

Ride with the cool trade wind on horseback through Arikok National Park and the serene outback. The guided tour also visits the famous Natural Pool. Take a refreshing plunge in this volcanic rock depression formed by the surf. Refreshments and transportation included; $75 each; Rancho Daimari; www.visit arubaplus.com/ranchodaimari, 1-646-502-8444.

SPLURGE

Getting there

Nonstop Delta flights from $412 round-trip, mid-week departures through Dec. 10; no advance purchase required. American, USAirways match.

Stay

Visit romantic Bucuti Beach Resort, set along one of the Caribbean’s top beaches. Chill at the freshwater pool or work out at the open-air fitness center. Adjacent are a casino, shops and restaurants. Rates range from $250 superior to $416 for an oceanfront penthouse and include breakfast buffet (valid on stays through Dec. 22); www.bucuti.com, Eagle Beach (three miles from Oranjestad), 297-583-1100. An optional $38 per person, per day lets guests enjoy a three-course dinner at a choice of 18 island restaurants; www.arubadining.com.

Eat

Call ahead for an ocean-view table to take in an extraordinary Aruba sunset at Chalet Suisse, one of the island’s finest restaurants. European master chefs prepare the freshest locally caught fish. Don’t miss a dessert of Viennese Apple Strudel. Entrees $15-$42; www.chaletsuisse-aruba.com, J.E. Irausquin Blvd. 246, Eagle Beach, 297-587-5054.

Experience

Spend a day exploring the countryside on a guided Jeep Safari tour, including refreshments, a restaurant lunch and snorkel gear for swimming at Baby Beach; $85 per person; www.eltoursaruba.com, 297-585-6730.

Maerz is a retired travel consultant. Look for her daily deals on ajc.com/travel.