GETTING THERE: United has seasonal nonstop flights from Washington Dulles to Aruba on Saturdays only, from December through April, with March departures starting at $850 round trip. US Airways and American Airlines have midweek flights starting at $600 round trip, with connections. Continental, Delta and Northwest also serve Aruba from the D.C. area, with connections.

WHERE TO STAY: Most beachfront lodging starts at about $200 per night during high season (through April) and drops to $130 per night and up in late spring and summer. For example, the Renaissance Aruba Resort in Oranjestad (800-421-8188; has doubles starting at $209. The Occidental Grand in Palm Beach (800-858-2258, has doubles starting at $228 and dropping to $185 off season. Many hotel rates include breakfast.

Prices at many of the low-rise hotels are similar: The Best Western in Manchebo Beach (800-528-1234, ), for one, has doubles starting at $200 during high season, with occasional promotional rates of $140. The caveat: March and April require a seven-night minimum stay.

To save money, consider an apartment. We got lucky with Sunset Boulevard Studios (800-813-6540, www.aruba-sunset, which offers doubles across the street from the beach starting at $104 per night. Cheaper beds are available, especially if you don't mind driving to the beach. Aruba Harmony Apartments (011-297-588-6787, lists small apartments in Oranjestad from $85 per night in winter and $65 per night off-season. Note, however, that Oranjestad is a congested city housing a massive cruise ship dock.

Most lodgings, including villas and private rental homes, are listed on the tourism office's Web site at, with links to each property's Web site.

GETTING AROUND: Shuttles serve the major hotels and taxis are plentiful. If you want to rent a car, expect to spend about $160 a week for a compact. I paid $180 for a Jeep for four days and could have done better per day had I rented for a week.

WHERE TO EAT: My most scenic meal was at Ventanas del Mar at the Tierra del Sol Resort and Country Club in Malmok. The property sits on a hill -- so go early, grab a fruity drink and stroll the terraces at sunset. The grilled tuna with Oriental mango-tomato chutney and soy sauce is a winner, as is the seafood ceviche appetizer. Dinner for two, with wine, runs about $100.

La Trattoria el faro Blanco,next to the California Lighthouse, has perhaps the best sunset vantage on the island. The prices seem high for Italian food -- entrees average $30 -- but the mood is romantic.


* Sail boarding. The owners of Sunset Boulevard Studios also own Aruba Boardsailing School, south of the studios. Look for gear-packed trailers along the beach (the "office"). Rentals start at $30 per day for guests, $40 for non-guests. Other rental operations, with similar rates, include Aruba Sailboard Vacations (800-252-1070,

* Snorkeling is average along the Malmok coast, and the best beach in this area is Boca Catalina, about 11/2 miles north of the Marriott. The best snorkeling I found was outside the breakwall at Baby Beach, on Aruba's southern tip. Red Sail Sports rents gear for $10 per day. Info: 877-733-7245,; located at the Hyatt Regency, Allegro Resort and Marriott.

* Touring the east coast is a must, in a four-wheel drive Jeep (as I did) or on horseback or mountain bikes. Numerous outfitters offer horseback tours, including Rancho del Campo, with tours from $50 a person. Info: 011-297-585-0290;

INFORMATION: Aruba Tourism Authority, 800-TO-ARUBA,

-- John Briley