Travels in Aruba – part fourteen or “Top 10 Things I Love About Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort”

In no particular order, here are my Top 10 Things I Love about Aruba’s Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort:

  1. The Staff – Spence and I, as well as other guests we spoke to, all concurred that we’ve never received the level of service and sincere caring about our stay that we experienced here. Each staffer’s name tag included the languages that they speak, making this great for travellers from all over the world.
  2. Beach and Poolside Service – as simple as raising a flag on your sunbed and one of several charming servers arrive with drinks. While Spence’s choice was buckets of Balashi (Aruba’s own beer) I favored Banana Dacquiris, Pina Coladas and on our final day, an ice cream based drink called Sand in the Pants.  As we relaxed, they would stop by with cups of fresh melon and cool cloths to refresh with – lovely!

3. Adults-Only – We loved the Adults-Only aspect of this resort, it assured a tranquil and quiet environment that met our needs. There were always ample shaded sunbeds available on the beach and around the pool.  Both the pool and beach were serene and never crowded. Breakfast and dinners were peaceful and romantic.  Just couples enjoying time together…..

The pool is pristine and
The pool is pristine and the perfect temperature
Immaculate Beach
Immaculate Beach

4. Designated Smoking Areas – Though I’m not a smoker, Spence is and he found that the three designated smoking areas were comfortable and didn’t make him feel any less welcome. In fact, he met a number of other guests there, striking up friendships as he always does and one was right on the beach, just far enough away so that the non-smokers weren’t disturbed.

5. Elements Restaurant – Executive Chef, Kurt sets a standard of excellence with the quality and preparation of the food at the resort.  We were wowed every morning by the selection of choices at the breakfast and the menu variety for evening dining (they also serve great lunches – we were just too full from breakfast).  The food here is so delicious and beautifully presented that we really never needed to go elsewhere.  Dining outside, a footstep away from the beach, trade-winds blowing and soft lighting, you feel as though you are truly in paradise.  Service, as mentioned before is exceptional both at dinner but also at breakfast.  Spence, who is very non-techy even learned how to operate the iPad menu which was very cool.

6. The Property – Set in the Low-Rise Hotel area, the grounds are landscaped with care and precision, with small signs posted that tell what type of tree, cactus or shrub you’re looking at.  For a gardening buff like myself, this was so interesting.  The white sugar sand of the beach was always clean – no littering, seaweed or anything other than an occasional shell or piece of coral.  And speaking of the beach – on 14 acres, there is so much to explore along the shore.  When you reach the ocean, you step into water which is clear turquoise with sand under your feet. The hotel itself is a beautiful boutique style property.

7. Two Daily Happy Hours – We loved Happy Hour at Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts.  After day one, the bartenders and servers knew our drink preferences and again, service was prompt and always friendly.  We enjoyed talking with them as well as other couples we met while seated at the Sand Bar or on any number of attractive seating enclaves that were comfortable and afforded views of the sunsets. Each night, there was a complimentary snack for the guests as well as music – steel drums, one night a violinist who was terrific and several exotic birds in cages which added to the tropical ambiance.

8. Breakfast included –  This is not your typical “breakfast included” experience. The value cannot be fully realized until you see it for yourself.  The choices each day were extensive and we loved that you could choose one of two places at the resort to enjoy it (same selection), our favorite was the one that served until 11 a.m.  There were a number of items not limited to omelets and belgian waffles that are made to order as well as 5 chafing dishes containing hot items and two full buffets of cheeses, meats, breads and countless baked goods, cereals, fresh fruits, juices and yogurts.  If I listed everything I remember, you’d probably think I was exaggerating.  Suffice it to say, it was impressive and a fabulous start to each day! What made this a terrific value for us is that by finishing our huge brunch by 11:00, we never needed lunch.

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Fresh papaya, eggs benedict, potatoes and bacon!
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Bagel with lox, cream cheese, capers and red onion with pineapple and melon.

9. Location – We loved the convenience of this location.  It was close to the Alhambra Casino, a short, easy walk away, with nice shops and a market, several neighboring hotels – one of which, Manchebo Beach, has two great restaurants – The French Steakhouse and Ike’s Bistro. The low-rise hotel area is quieter and more laid back than the high-rise hotel area.

10. The rooms, amenities and eco-friendly policies – We opted for a “green stay” which meant twice weekly full maid-service and a daily discount for each day here. The engraved aluminum water bottles (to save on plastic and take when we go) were easily refillable at numerous water coolers on the property.  The bath products, liquid hand soap, lotion, shampoo/conditioner and body wash were provided in dispensers and were Aruba Aloe products – excellent and high quality. As a blogger, one thing I loved was the use of an iPad, courtesy of the hotel, during our stay. The rooms were designed with comfort in mind – robes, fridge and microwave, air purifier, humidifier, mini-bar snacks, wines etc, lots of closet space.  The beds and bedding were comfortable and the decor was beautiful. We loved the quality furnishings, especially dressers which afforded lots of drawer space. The hotel had provided a chilled bottle of chardonnay, gouda, crackers and Dutch chocolate for our arrival gift as well as a chilled bottle of pink champagne and champagne flutes as their gifts to us.  And it was quiet – again, adults-only equaled no noise.  We slept well here.

Travels in Aruba – part thirteen

As I mentioned in an earlier post in this series, Travels in Aruba, we were given the most thoughtful gifts by our hotel, the amazing Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts. Here are some photos of little pre-Happy Hour parties with the lovely wine, pink champagne, gouda, crackers and dutch chocolate (not pictured). We used the wine glasses they provided, saving our gift of engraved champagne flutes for after our return home.

Travels in Aruba – part twelve

Our next stop in the exploration of Aruba’s beauty is the Natural Bridge, which I recall seeing some 30 years ago on my first visit here.

The Aruba Natural Bridge was a tourist attraction in Aruba that was formed naturally out of coral limestone. It collapsed on September 2, 2005. The natural arch, measuring approximately 25 feet (7.6 m) high and 100 feet (30 m) long, was the remnant of an ancient cave. (source Google Search)

Having read this little blurb via Google explains alot as I recall it being different. In fact I’m quite sure we were able to walk onto a beach below it and across the top when I was last here.  The island of Aruba, while small, has such diverse terrain and after a long and desolate, bumpy ride in our rental car, we arrived to this rather wild part of the coastline.  Waves crash against the shore with force and it is quite beautiful to witness, if not a bit scary.  There were people there who climbed way out onto areas where the waves were coming in hard and nearly swept them away.  All in the interest of a great photo I suppose.  I was happy that Spence didn’t feel the need to climb down there.  But we did get great pics both at the Natural Bridge and at spots on the way out.

Here’s proof:

Travels in Aruba – part eleven

Even though I’d been to Aruba 30 years prior, I had not seen the Casibari Rock Formation which was recommended by our hotel, the fabulous Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts.  We were inquiring about how to best reach the Natural Bridge, which I wanted Spence to see. The Casibari Rock Formation was on our way so why not, right? (benefits of our rental car….)

Off we went to see more of this small but diverse island of Aruba. Spence ever more the adventurous one of us immediately said he would scale the somewhat scary climb to the top (no handrails that I could see) in spite of the warning signs about “climbing at your own risk”.  Spence is a highly decorated Captain from his Army days and survived Viet Nam – you can’t present him with a challenge in spite of being 72 and a bit unsteady. Here’s the photographic proof – pictures from the top are credited to Spence as I was sure I would plunge to my death of these rocks.  Instead, I walked about the gardens and rocks that were impressive from my vantage point.

But before the pictures, here’s a bit about the Casibari Rock Formation, via a Google Search:

This rock formation is clusters of huge tonalite rocks which sit together in an area just north of Hooiberg. This rock formation, unique to the more typical features of the area, inexplicably rises up from the desert soil to create an unusual setting. Some of the rocks weigh several tons and feature peculiar forms. The Government of Aruba has created walking trails and steps through the rocks, allowing hikers to reach the top to obtain breathtaking views of the island.

Travels in Aruba – part nine

Standing at the water's edge, looking back at Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort
Standing at the water’s edge, looking back at Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort. The sole blue umbrella is one of three designated smoking areas, much appreciated by Spence.
I’ve been sharing our exploration of the island of Aruba in the last few posts of this series and there’s more to come. The best part of the trip, by far, was staying at Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort.  During the majority of days, we came down late for our amazing complimentary breakfast (served till 11) and then after picking up our towels and covers for our shaded sunbeds, it was beach time.  The white sugar sand is kept immaculate by the resort, there are more than enough sunbeds for every guest.  With an adults only resort, these were set up in twos – perfect as this is a romantic destination for couples.  Many were honeymooners, celebrating anniversaries, birthdays or just spending quality time, relaxing at a place designed for just that purpose.  Everyone we met spoke as we did – in awe of this magical place, the attention to special details in the rooms, restaurants and the property – all designed for a superior stay.

This is how easy is was to get beach beverage service:

Just raise your flag!
Just raise your flag!
Robert and Orville were our servers, whenever we raised our flags, they would appear and in short order bring back iced buckets of Aruba’s Balashi Beer for Spence and banana daquiris or pina coladas for me.  And on top of that, at the most perfect time – they would bring trays of cold, damp rolled towels to refresh with and at other times, bringing cups of chilled melon as a lovely treat. Perfect!

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I can’t wait to return to Aruba!

Travels in Aruba – part eight

On of the things you see on the island of Aruba are Divi Divi Trees.  Due to the tradewinds, the trees look unique as they grow with the wind.

Aruba’s trademark: the Divi Divi or watapana tree. An interesting observation is that attempts to plant this tree in other parts of the world have proved futile – it seems the Divi Divi is most comfortable in Aruba! (source: internet search)

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Both at our charming boutique hotel, the Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts and at every turn, we saw so many flowering plants and trees.  This is a sample of the beauty:

Cacti and palm trees grow everywhere, endless varieties.  Around our hotel, many of the cacti, trees and flowering shrubs have small signs identifying them which was thoughtful (and informative) for a gardening buff such as myself.

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I had to chase this iguana around and around these cacti as he wouldn't pose for a picture. Finally got him in profile!
I had to chase this iguana around and around these cacti as he wouldn’t pose for a picture. Finally got him in profile!
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Travels in Aruba – part seven

Just up the road, situated along the coast between the low-rise and high-rise hotel areas in Palm Beach Aruba, is the Butterfly Farm.  Spence and I spied it on our way to the California Lighthouse and decided we would go there the following day.

Arriving around noon, we entered through a nice gift shop with lots of pretty butterfly related items. A young man met us and said a tour was ready to start and that if we’d proceed into the butterfly farm, we could pay the tour fee when we were done.

Our guide was a very knowledgeable and exuberant Aruban girl.  With her sparkling personality and beautiful smile, she taught us about mating practices, laying of eggs, different phases of the developement stages of the butterflies, showing us actual examples of these attached to certain plants. So much more than caterpillars! We learned of the different types of butterflies that have been brought to Aruba and the two climate zones within the farm – some with more sun, others shaded, water features and certain plants that butterflies need for food and propagating. And all this while butterflies were flying and landing on or around us.  Spence and I spent many years in Costa Rica so that when we saw not one or two but countless Morpho Butterflies fluttering by us, we were thrilled. Morphos are like iridescent royal blue holograms in flight.

Being midday and given the water features, it was very steamy and by the time we exited, we looked as though we’d jumped into a pool fully clothed.  That said, it was totally worth it and should be a place for young and old to visit while in Aruba.

The video is just a few of the many Morpho Butterflies in flight.

Travels in Aruba – part six

Our next stop in Aruba was to visit the quaint Alto Vista Chapel.

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From Wikipedia: Alto Vista Chapel is a small Catholic chapel also known as “Pilgrims Church” that stands on the hills above the north shore of the sea and to the northeast of the town of Noord, on the island of Aruba, 27 km north of the coast of Venezuela. The church painted on the outside in stark bright yellow colour makes it a conspicuous religious monument for people to visit. The present Chapel of Alto Vista was completed in 1952 and stands in the same location as the original chapel, that was built by Domingo Silvestre, the Venezuelan missionary from Santa Ana de Coro, Venezuela, in 1750.

The Alto Vista Chapel was stated to be the location where conversion of Aruban Indians to Christianity started.

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The chapel interior, intimate and charming.

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While we were visiting the chapel, local parishioners were setting up for a service. The outdoor pews arranged in a semi-circle expand the seating beyond the interior of the chapel and allow a view of the ocean beyond.
From Wikipedia: The original church was constructed in 1750 by Caquetio Indians and Spanish though the island did not have a priest yet. The pioneering work of establishing the church and converting local Indians into the Catholic Christian faith was the sole work of Domingo Antonio Silvestre of Venezuela, which he achieved with his own funds. It is said to be the first church to be established in Aruba. This first church was built with stone walls and a straw roof. It was dedicated to Mother St. Mary, the “Mother of the Rosary” and hence considered exceptional in Aruba. A one-foot cross, which was brought from Venezuela by one of the priests, was installed here. Subsequent to Domingo Antonio Silvestre’s death Miguel Enrique Albarez (a son of the second fiscal) took control of the church, and then by Domingo Bernardino Silvestre son of the pioneer priest of the church. When the tragic plague stuck the place, many of the inhabitants of Alto Vista died and the remaining residents vacated the place and moved to Noord where the second church of Aruba was built. The Alto Vista Church was deserted from 1816 and went into ruins and the old wooden cross went under possession of many priests. This cross which was at the original altar is now seen in the St. Anna church in Noord. However, Francisca, a school teacher in Aruba, with single-minded dedication proceeded to revive the historic church of Aruba by locating it amidst the ruins after she came across by chance a picture of St. Mary’s with flowers. She collected funds of about 5000 Florins from local Arubans, got a statue of St. Mary’s made in Netherlands and brought it to Alto Vista and installed it at the new church built at the site of the old chapel, between March and May 1952, after obtaining permission from the Bishop in Curaçau. The statue was adorned with a golden crown studded with gem stones in 1954 with donations contributed by several Arubians. Unfortunately this statue was vandalized by a maniac. The statue has since been replaced by a new one. With this chapel, Catholic religion made inroads into Aruba.

The present day church, rebuilt in 1952, is visited by Christians and non-Christians for meditation. Services are held weekly by the priest from Noord.

The new chapel was redesigned and built in 1952 by the Dutch engineer J.A. Hille, deputy head of the DOW (Departamento di Obra Publico), at the same location of an old chapel that measured 50x16ft and with the same orientation. The chapel is encircled by semicircular pews. There are also stone pews on the outside in order to accommodate additional worshipers. It has a few crosses enshrined in it; the ancient Spanish one is one of the oldest European pieces of art in the Dutch Caribbean. An altar statue of Virgin Mary installed after the earlier one was vandalised has local devotees. The structure does not have any stain glass panelled windows but presents a very serene atmosphere for offering prayers. At the border of the old chapel marked by stones, a few graves are also seen. White graves with crosses marking the stations of the Cross surround the chapel. Graves of Domingo Antonio Silvestre and Miguel Enrique Albarez are located near the chapel.

When the chapel was initially built in 1752, priests visited it from Coro three times every year. People used to wait eagerly to celebrate mass and perform Catholic Services such as baptisms and marriages.

A pilgrimage is undertaken on foot by local Catholics of Aruba on Good Friday from Oranjestad to Alto Vista Chapel.

Travels in Aruba – part five

Initially Spence and I weren’t going to rent a car in Aruba but a few days before leaving, we changed our minds.  I hadn’t been to Aruba for thirty years and Spence had never been. I knew there were sights I wanted to see again and introduce to him.  Driving out of the Low Rise Hotel area (where we stayed at Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts), passing the high rise hotel area, we headed out to the remote California Lighthouse.

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The California Lighthouse is located near Arashi Beach on the northwest tip of Aruba, named for the steamship California, which wrecked nearby on September 23, 1891.

Immediately adjacent to the lighthouse is a restaurant called La Trattoria el Faro Blanco (English: The White Lighthouse Restaurant) where we stopped for a cocktail enjoying lovely views from this vantage point.