Aruba Trip Reports

Bucuti Beach Resort

August 21st to 28th, 2002 by Paul

Trip was to celebrate our 5-year anniversary, having visited Aruba and Bonaire on our honeymoon. Having stayed at the Hyatt 5 years ago, we opted for the Bucuti Beach Resort in the low-rise section this time. My in-laws baby sat our 2 year old son for the entire week (god bless them) and my wife is expecting number two. As usual, the weather in Aruba was perfect and we had a great time.

This bulletin board was extremely helpful for us planning our vacation - we actually printed some trip reports and brought them with us. We wanted to return the favor and offer our help to vacation planners as well - hopefully this information is helpful.


Continental directly from Newark. Can't go wrong here - Continental is great and they were VERY accommodating, when the husband who planned the entire trip forgot the passports at home (it all worked out, we left one day later and stayed an extra day). The Continental ticketing agent amended our flights (which they didn't have to do because we had bulk tickets) and was kind enough to call the hotel and request they amend our dates (which they didn't have to do). Both the airline and the hotel were very accommodating and made this major snafu a minor problem.

Travel Arrangements

Booked the whole trip through Yahoo Travel (first time trying on-line reservations and my last time). My recommendation is, don't use on-line reservations. The prices are good but if something goes wrong (like mentioned above), good luck getting Yahoo Travel to help (their business hours start at 9am and our flight was out at 8:50am). Luckily Continental was so accommodating, or we would have had to pay big $$$ to get down to Aruba. The airfares they book are bulk tickets so if you miss your flight for some reason, you're out of luck. In addition, this class of airfare cannot be upgraded. Yahoo's partner, GoGo Travel was also very unhelpful when we experienced our problem - thanks Continental Airlines for being so understanding and saving the day (and our marriage). Cheap tickets via on-line agents can quickly become the most expensive tickets ever (no we're not travel agents, I work at a bank and my wife is a registered nurse).

Hotel - Bucuti Beach Resort

In the low rise section on Manchebo Beach. We stayed at the Hyatt on our honeymoon, which is very nice but commercialized, crowded and noisy. If you're looking for a quiet location, on the widest stretch of white sand in Aruba, this place is for you. The hotel is small (63 rooms), accommodations are basic (small rectangular pool, non-permanent hot tub, Pirate's Nest restaurant). The rooms are nice (basic) and clean - all have a balcony you can sit on (table & 2 chairs) which wasn't an option when we stayed at the Hyatt. Service is good and the staff is very accommodating. It was never a problem finding a hut or palm tree to sit under on the beach, as the beach is expansive. Many Europeans vacation here so there are many topless sunbathers (a nice touch). Again, this hotel is basic, but perfect if you're seeking peace and quiet.

Car Rental

Made reservation through the Internet with Economy rentals. 2 door Toyota Yaris (standard transmission w\ air conditioning) was $174 with optional insurance. Check w\ your credit card and home car insurance, as many do NOT cover rentals in Aruba. Car was clean and good operating order (had 50K miles on it). Good basic transportation - cost us $29 for gas over the course of the week (gas is sold by the liter, so one gallon is approximately $2.77) and car needs to be returned full.


Since we had the car, we did quite a bit- Many of the beaches listed below are where the snorkel sail boat trips drop you off, so save your money (unless you want to snorkel over the wreck of the Antilla) and snorkel from shore. Beware if you take a jeep tour (which we didn't) as you're going to get DIRTY with an open top jeep. Even if you plan to rent a jeep for the week (which is fun, but we didn't do this time), opt for the hard top or one with a good removable soft top as you'll get extremely dirty on the windward side of the island.

Butterfly Farm (across from the high rise hotels) - $10 admission per person, includes an interesting tour. The butterflies were beautiful and you can re-visit during your stay for free.

Tunnel of Love - $7 admission per person includes flash light rentals. Were given a tour by a strange unofficial local guide, and gave him $5 for his efforts. This cave goes pretty deep (I think 80 meters / 240 feet down). Somewhat strenuous coming back up (my wife is pregnant). If you do the hike, shut the lights near the bottom - its dark down there! Lots of harmless bats that added to the experience.

Quadriki Caves - No one collecting entrance fees and no flashlight rentals. We were the ONLY people here (VERY eerie). Every few chambers, this cave has an open roof which allows light to come in. Again, many harmless bats to add to the experience but we couldn't explore the whole cave without flashlights. We happily explored on our own, and snapped some great pictures.

Alto Vista Chapel - Everyone who visits the island needs to stop by this church and experience the wind, the quiet serenity of this location and the panoramic views.

California Lighthouse - Everyone who visits the islands needs to stop by, snap a few pictures and enjoy the view and move on. Great place for night-time star gazing - we visited the lighthouse at night on the full moon, and the view of the island (with silvery clouds streaming overhead) was spectacular.

Baby Beach - snorkeling is fair (but crowded due to the arrival of a DePalm tour bus). Yes the sand is baby soft and the water is calm and shallow but the backdrop of the smoking oil refinery spoils the romanticism of the place. Huts are available here for free (if they're not already occupied). Skip Baby Beach, instead visit Arashi Beach, just south of the lighthouse - much more scenic and much better snorkeling.

Arashi Beach - Nice beach just south of the lighthouse (you can park on the side of the road or there is a blacktop parking lot). Park in the parking lot if you want a hut (free if they're available) and if you're interested in swimming on a beautifully soft white sand beach. Head to the northern part of the beach if you're interested in snorkeling (which is very good here).

Malmok Beach - South of Arashi Beach, small parking area at the bend in the seaside road. Excellent snorkeling spot but wouldn't recommend it if you're seeking a sandy beach. We saw golden spotted eels, a school of Caribbean squid, white flounder, fire worms, angel fish, parrot fish, grunts, etc.

South of Malmok Beach (near the coral walls), park near the horse tie ups on the side of the road and snorkel here. Snorkeling is very good here - we encountered a school of thousands of bait fish, just off shore outside of the cove. They surrounded us and moved in unison as we swam through them - a spectacular sight to behold - literally thousands of fish!

Manchebo Beach - In front of Bucuti Resort, and other low rise hotels. The widest stretch of beach on Aruba. Excellent for swimming, no opportunities for snorkeling.

Casabari Rock Formations - Interesting destination with several hiking paths. Very interesting rock formations and good photo opportunities (no fee to enter). Visit this place, if you can find it!

Gold Smelter Ruins - The ruins themselves are uninspiring but the location (windward side) and the panoramic views make the trip worthwhile. Climb to the top, snap some photos and take in the view.


Here goes our listing, hope this information is helpful! Keep in mind that service is included at many restaurants (15%) and there is NO SALES TAX in Aruba. If something appears as "tax", its probably the service charge - scrutinize your bills closely or you might ending up tipping twice. Where service was exceptional, we tipped 20%.

Chalet Suisse (on Eagle Beach) - excellent meal, superior service and a very nice dining room w\ a nice view of the Aruban sunset. Escargot (shared), Chilean sea bass w\ angel hair (excellent), Caribbean chicken w\ pineapple risotto (good), 2 glasses of wine, 1 mixed drink, Toblerone chocolate fondue for 2 (a MUST for chocolate lovers), 2 cappuccinos - $107 w\ 20% tip. Would highly recommend this place - ask for a table near the window. We had a nice private table (there are 2 like this - we had #32).

Charlie's Bar & Grill (San Nicholas) - Tourist trap near Baby Beach, decorated w\ tons of 'conversation pieces' and other memorabilia. This place is CLOSE to the refinery and smells like a refinery. A good place to grab a beer and look around but skip the overpriced mediocre food. 2 shrimp plates (house speciality), 2 salads, 4 soft drinks - $52 w/ 15% service.

Chez Mathilde (downtown) - Nice French restaurant w\ New York City prices. Service, food, and atmosphere are exceptional. 2 tuna appetizers (one seared w\ sesame seeds, one served raw w\ nice sauce), 1 Chilean sea bass plate, 1 rack of lamb, 2 glasses of wine, 2 desserts, 1 cappuccino, tea - $144 w\ 20% tip. Our reservation was at 8pm and service was great - another couple at our resort had a 9pm reservation the same night, and waited 45 mins to be seated. Note - this is the only restaurant that has a dress code, men must wear pants. I forgot mine at home and had to buy some at the Seaport Mall for$54 (expensive for khakis).

Cuba's Cooking (downtown for lunch) - good lunch destination. Cuban sandwich (best I've had, even better than in Jersey City), roast Cuban pork platter, soft drink, 1 Balashi $37 w\ 15%. Service was REALLY slow due to a large party (over 25 attendees). I'm sure service is normally better, I think we just came the wrong day. Would recommend this place for lunch if you're craving Cuban food (very tasty).

Driftwood (downtown) - a good, casual fresh seafood restaurant located downtown. Interior of restaurant is rustically decorated with (you guessed it) driftwood. Escargot (in shells), coconut shrimp ($7 for 3 shrimp), grouper Aruban style (good), grouper w\ garlic sauce (delicious), 3 white sangrias (great drinks) - $68 w\ 15% svc. We like the fresh seafood here; it's casual, affordable and consistently good.

Dunkin Donuts (at Alahambra Casino) - $6 for assorted donuts and 2 coffees - inexpensive, quick breakfast, if you're planning a day in the cunucu.

El Gaucho (downtown for dinner) - a must if you're a beef fan! 1 shrimp cocktail, 1 squid Buenos Aires (not so great), Argentine grill (delicious selection of assorted meats), 1 shish kebab platter (very good), 1 crepe w\ caramel (shared), 2 complementary sangrias (look for the coupon) - $78 w/15% tip. Nice restaurant w\ strolling guitar music - worth a visit!

Faro Blanco (at lighthouse) - good lunch, beautiful view of island. 2 paninis (sandwiches on foccacia): grilled chicken w\ ham and cheese, grilled veggies (both w\ fries), 1 shared Caesar salad and 1 Balashi. $34 w\ 15% service charge. Restaurant is currently under renovation so no outdoor seating. Near end of meal, DePalm tour bus stopped at lighthouse and a parade of 40 came through the dining room to use the facilities, which ruined the meal (people standing near table waiting for restrooms). Apparently this doesn't happen when outdoor seating is available. Would not go to restaurant while construction is underway - otherwise nice.

French Steakhouse (at Manchebo Resort) - Ambassador's Dinner for two:stuffed mushroom caps (crabmeat), seafood crepe, 2 salads, twin steaks w\ shrimp, filet mignon, bottle of Cabernet, apple strudel a la mode, coffee - $69 w/ 15% service charge. A good meal at a good price - a good standby if you can't get reservations elsewhere or are staying in the low-rise section and don't want to drive.

Hyatt Ruinas del Mar (Sunday Brunch) - if you like to gorge yourself, this brunch is for you. We don't and the $75 check (w\ 15% gratuity) was steep (it IS the Hyatt). All the typical buffet fare is available, including unlimited mimosas. My recommendation is to skip brunch at the Hyatt (unless you have a huge appetite) - its overpriced, save your $ for a nice dinner or lunch.

Madame Janette's (inland from low-rise section) - finding this place is half the fun so leave extra time to find it unless you're taking a cab. Great food, decent service and a nice atmosphere w\ live guitar music the night we went (Sunday) and twinkling white lights. This place is hot despite the fans - ask to sit in the garden (on the pebbles out from under the roof), as it seems to be much cooler and going after dark helps. Wonton shrimp, Hungarian goulash, stuffed veal chop (delicious), coconut grouper Caribbean style (excellent), 1 glass of wine - $75 w/ 15% tip. Portions are HUGE here - neither of us came close to finishing and had no room for dessert. Very good place with nice atmosphere and large, tasty portions.

Papiamento (for dinner) - For a romantic setting, a delicious meal, and good service, don't miss this place! We sat outside near the pool but the inside dining room is also very nice. The twinkling lights, the tabletop candles and tikki torches all reflect off the pool and make for a truly memorable and romantic evening. 2 salads, 1 escargot, 1 nautilus (mahi mahi, shrimp, lobster served on a hot stone), 1 seafood casserole (shrimp, red snapper, scallops), 2 wines, 1 desert (choc. Cake), 2 cappuccinos - $99 w\ 15%. Pirate's Nest (at Bucuti) - ate lunch and breakfast here. Decent meals at reasonable prices - convenient if you're staying at Bucuti. Lunch was Chicken Quesidilla, chicken salad, side of fries, 2 lemonades (need sugar) - $25 w\ 15% tip. Breakfast was the full buffet (all you care to eat) for $30 w/ 15% service.

Salt & Pepper (across from high rise hotels for lunch) - seven tapas (hey they're small but delicious), 2 Balashis and a virgin pina colada - $47 w\ 15% svc. Tapas are like appetizers but eaten as a meal Good food (especially if you like to try many different things) and good service - would recommend this place for lunch but sit inside, its hot in front of this place (little breeze). Be sure to try the fried brie w\ mango chutney which was delicious!

Taj Mahal (downtown for lunch) - good Indian food but an unspectacular setting. Dining room seemed somewhat dirty and yellow walls need a fresh coat of paint. Service was very good. Samosas, Chicken Tikka Masala (good) , chicken shagwala (good), naan bread, rice, 1 mango lassi and 2 Balashis - $40 w\ 20% tip. If you want Indian food and don't care about atmosphere, this place will do for lunch.

Bucuti Balcony Breakfasts - ate breakfast many mornings on our balcony for less than $4. Shopped for groceries at Kong King (across from Bushiri) and stored them in the hotel's in room fridge. Breakfast would consist of coffee (free at Bucuti), yogurt, muffins, scones and fresh fruit. We preferred to save our $ and appetites for lunch and dinner, plus the view from our balcony was nice.