Aruba Trip Reports

Manchebo Beach Resort

February 7 – February 14, 2007 by Karla

Let me start off by saying that what we want from a vacation is a non-stop flight from our home town, a small hotel with a beautiful beach - just far enough from town to have peace and quiet, yet close enough that town is easily accessible. Oh, and no rental car. With that stated, we chose the Manchebo for our first visit to Aruba. What a GREAT choice!

Wednesday, Feb. 7th

On our way...

Actually got to sleep in til 5am-woohoo! We must be on vacation! Went to let our dog out, and there was a dusting of snow on the ground. Watched the news as we got ready and heard numerous reports of accidents on I-95 – all on the way to Philadelphia International. Leaving with what should have been plenty of time. PENNDOT decided not to salt overnight, but to close 95 during AM rush hour instead – of course this is when we were on the highway. No warning, just closed it without giving folks a chance to exit.

So, our 40 minute drive from suburban Philadelphia took an hour and 40 minutes. Still ok, on time. Parked at a different spot this time instead of the economy lot at the airport. Got a free coupon for a week’s worth of parking at Central Airpark less than ½ mile from the airport’s econo-lot. Gentleman greeted us in lot, told us where to park and said a shuttle would come to us. Driver came over in a flash, we weren’t even out of the car yet. We were never rushed and we were loaded on to the shuttle and whisked to the airport-did not have to ride around the lot to pick up other passengers. This was great, especially since we lost some time on the highway.

At the airport...
Line was relatively short for US AIR. Checked our luggage and proceeded to security. Line moved fast since everyone was prepared with shoes off, etc. Went to gate and it is only 8:55. Not bad, flight scheduled to leave at 10:10am. Grabbed a sandwich for the plane and some snacks. Started to board about 9:30. Flight was not sold out, so plenty of room on plane, seat next to ours was empty. Pulled out of the gate right on time – WOW, things are really working out considering the mess on the highway. And then, waited 1hr on the runway to de-ice. Hubby was anxious to get there, but I figured considering we go to the Caribbean every February from the East Coast, and this is the first time we have been delayed because of weather, I can’t complain. I just kept telling him that we would be leaving the 9 below wind chill in Philly for the next 8 days!


Bummed that we’re an hour behind but so happy to be in Aruba! Luggage came out fast, but in the fluorescent lighting I didn’t realize this was our luggage. The blue looked green so I kept telling my husband that it wasn’t ours. And the orange string I tied on the handle wasn’t visible. Everyone has their luggage, and there goes the lonely green luggage again. I keep asking my husband whose luggage he thinks it could be and where is our luggage. He starts thinking that someone has ours, so he grabs the bag to read the tag, hoping to find out where they are staying so we can swap luggage. Low and behold-it’s our luggage! My poor hubby! This is somewhat typical for me - I had to laugh! Eventually, he did too. Boarded transfer provided by DePalm Tours (included in our package). We were the third hotel, so our travel time was about 15 min from the airport, with the stops.

Here we are- the Manchebo – 4:45 or so local time

Open air lobby, with teak furnishings, small gift shop, and book exchange. Greeted warmly by Mike at reception. He explained the restaurant hours, happy hour, etc and asked if we wanted our towels right away so in the morning we could get right to the beach-great idea! Stayed in room 76, garden-view but we had a view of the ocean from the balcony and from the front door. This room is on the second floor, close to the beach by the Spa. The rooms have all been updated with fresh paint, new furniture, and wall mounted flat screen TVs. This is not a luxury resort so for those looking for one, this is not the place for you. The rooms were all recently updated with new furniture and flat screen TVs. The rooms were immaculate, and had more than adequate space for clothes, luggage etc. There are small refrigerators, a microwave, hairdryer and a safe in each room. For us, this was PERFECT!

Quickly unpacked, and took a quick stroll out to the gorgeous beach and explored the hotel grounds. They were impeccable. Walked over to Bucuti for a quick peek too. Back to the room to get ready for dinner.


Had reservation for French Steakhouse. Tried sangria, just ok. Shawn had a perfectly chilled beer and we both ordered the Ambassador’s Special. This is a 5 course meal for $30 each. The price of a steak is $27, so this is a great deal. We each had the filet as our main course and it was cooked to perfection – tender and moist. Service was excellent, and Chris, the Maitre’D was charming. Cost with 15% service charge plus additional tip was $90 (all restaurant costs will be w/ 15% service charge and additional tip in this trip report unless stated otherwise). Will definitely return on our next visit. Walked over to Alhambra casino and played some slots for about an hour. Headed back to Manchebo to end a long day.

Thursday, February 8th

Woke up early to the sound of birds singing. Jumped up and got ready for breakfast next door at the Pirate’s Nest at the Bucuti. Breakfast was mediocre-omelet & bacon for Shawn, eggs, bacon & potatoes for me, but the view was nice. Cost $20.

Spent most of the day on the beach. It rained for about 2 minutes about 10:30 and then was beautiful for the rest of the day. That was the only rain we experienced during our stay.

Lunch – Had lunch at our hotel, Pega Pega Beach Bar. Grilled chicken sandwich, Balashi (sorry, didn’t like the beer too much) for me and Hubby had a "Cheeseburger in Paradise", both sandwiches were very good. Cost - $32.

We decided we had enough sun for the first day and thought we’d head to the supermarket. I walk an average of 7- 10 miles a day on my job so I figured we could walk to the market and then cab it back to Manchebo. If you like to walk, it is walkable – it’s not the easiest walk because there are no sidewalks for most of it. It was REALLY hot that day as well and we should have just hopped on the bus. Now we know for next time. Purchased a six pack of Diet Coke, six pack of Coors Light, a six pack of Smirnoff Ice, some water, Pringles, and Granny Smith Apples. Cost was $32.82 and we received 2 free Carnival t-shirts with the Coors light and Smirnoff purchases. The lady at customer service called a cab for us to go back to Manchebo, fare was $7 and gave the driver a tip.

When we got back to the hotel, we enjoyed a cold drink on our patio and relaxed for a bit before getting ready for dinner.

Dinner – This was probably the meal I was looking forward to the most. We had a reservation for 6:30 at Passions at the Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort. Took a cab, cost with tip - $9. The tables are set up on the beach and you enjoy your meal with a fabulous sunset view, toes in the sand. There are only ten tables and they are spaced far enough apart that you feel you have some privacy. The view is breathtaking.

The food was great. The service was the best we had on the island for the week. There was a gentleman who serenaded the guests for the entire evening. I had the Seafood Chowder to start. There was no skimping on the amount of seafood in the soup. Delicious! My main course was the catch of the day, Red Snapper. Shawn started off with a Caribbean Crab Salad and Grilled Chicken or Surf N Turf (Can’t remember now). We had a bottle of wine (I found the price comparable for the same bottle as it would be in Philadelphia restaurants), and shared the Passion Surprise dessert for two. The surprise is cute. I could go on and on about everything here. It was just a perfect evening! This will be a "Must-Do" for each visit! Cost was $124, which I thought was very reasonable for what we ordered. We have spent more than that at home with no view. We were able to catch the bus back to Manchebo soon after dinner. May have stopped in at the Alhambra Casino, can’t remember now. If we did, we didn’t win.

Friday, February 9th

This was the day of our full-day ABC Jeep Tour.

Breakfast – Dushi Bagels, just a 2 minute walk from Manchebo’s entrance - 2 Bagel, egg, bacon & cheese sandwiches & 2 coffees with tip - $16.50
Picked up for Jeep Tour, picked up another couple (which wound up being Jessica and her husband from this BB), and taken back to ABC office to confirm payment/sign waivers. Most people were scheduled for a half-day tour, so me and Jessica and our spouses got to have our own jeep. Raymond was our tour guide/driver. This was a really great way to see the island. The ride was rough sometimes but that was all part of the fun. Be sure to bring small bills to tip the people at some of the sites on the tour like the Ostrich Farm. And if you get Raymond, be sure to tip him well. He’s an entertaining guy.
Raymond took us to Charlie’s Bar at the end of the tour to end our day. The guys enjoyed all the ladies undergarments in the Men’s Room. Tried an Amstel Bright here and liked that beer a lot.

Happy Hour – Arrived back at the Manchebo just after the beginning of Happy Hour. Found a spot at the bar and ordered Frozen Mudslides. Happy Hour turned into Happy Evening and then Happy Night – pretty sure we closed the beach bar. Had good intentions of continuing our fun (and maybe heading to dinner), but quickly realized that taking a nap was what I really wanted to do. Shawn wound up having pizza by himself because his frozen drink imbibing wife was fast asleep! He took a picture of the pizza so I could see what I missed! Think we spent about $50-60 at happy hour w/tips. Pizza from Manchebo was $10.

Saturday, February 10th

Breakfast – Had breakfast at the Garden Terrace at Manchebo. Cynthia, our Happy Hour Bartender, was our server that morning. She talked with us for a while and told us that she would be in the Lighting Parade that night and to look for her. We would be in town so we were planning on watching part of the parade. We both had some much needed coffee and Shawn had an omelet, while I had two eggs over easy with potatoes. Delicious! Total was $23.

Spent most of the day on the beach, reading, relaxing and swimming in that perfect ocean.

Lunch – quick stop back at the room and heated up some of that pizza from the night before.

Dinner – Reservations were made from home for El Gaucho. Took a cab into town ($10), arrived a little early for 8:30 reservation so had a drink at Garufu ($12.50). Sign on the bar promoting free bottle of wine with dinner at El Gaucho for the month of February. Sounded good to me! Beeper flashed when our table was ready and we headed across the street.
Let me just say this was my husband’s favorite place next to Passion’s. The steaks were incredible! The service was great. The atmosphere was fun. Pretty sure we each had the Gaucho steak (memory is failing me) with three sides and dessert. I could have eaten here twice that week and I generally do not like to repeat restaurants on vacation. Cost was $116. The free bottle of wine was a really nice white wine too.

Lighting Parade – Well, it is 10:30 or so and we are making our way to the sounds of the parade. The energy is great and it seems like the entire island is out! I felt very safe. Everyone just wanted to enjoy and have a good time. No craziness or acting out. No disorderly conduct. How rare to see. We both commented that a big crowd like this in Philly (like an Eagles game) would be completely out of control at this point. Many little bars have beer tubs set up out front selling 6 packs. My husband bought 1 beer and then decided to get a 6 pack so he could get the free Carnival T-shirt. I just think he wanted to help the cute girl keep her sales quota up. That’s ok, she gave me a t-shirt too. This was $25 with tip. We walk the streets and finally find a place we want to land. Couldn’t even tell you were we are, but know how we have to head out when it is time to go home. The parade starts shortly after. The bands are great and everyone is really enjoying the night. We are looking for Cynthia from Manchebo and Raymond from ABC. We see Raymond and call to him. He greets us by name and stops for a picture. We say goodbye and catch the parade for another 40 minutes. No sign of Cynthia yet. The parade can be seen stretching down the street as far as the eyes can see. We decide to call it a night and walk back to a main street that is open to traffic. We easily get a cab and head back to Manchebo ($13).

Sunday, February 11th

Breakfast – Tired from a late night, Shawn runs to Dunkin’ Donuts to grab a quick breakfast that we can eat in the room or on the balcony since we are still quite tired from the festivities of the night before. Bagels, coffee, and 1 juice was $11. Thankful that I could nap some more, and then headed to the beach to relax even more.

Lunch – Heated up some leftovers from El Gaucho for a light lunch. Made me think of how delicious our meals were the night before.

Dinner – Hopped a cab up to the High-rise section for an early dinner at Salt-N-Pepper. We were really disappointed with this restaurant. The quality of food was just adequate. I may be spoiled by the Tapas restaurants in Philadelphia. It wasn’t for us, and I don’t think that I would return. The sangria was better here than at Manchebo. Cost=$36. We get a Christmas ornament on every vacation, so we found a nice one at T.H.Palm. After some shopping and exploring the hotels in the high-rise section, we had some ice cream, $5. Decided to head back to Manchebo on the bus, $2.50.

Monday, February 12th

Breakfast – Tried the breakfast buffet at Calypso at the Casa del Mar a few doors down from Manchebo, pleased with the selection of fresh fruits and omelet station. Cost $23.

This was our day to go shopping since no cruise ships were in town. We decided at home that we would buy our Valentine’s Day presents here if we found a good deal. Shawn had been wanting a particular ESQ watch for quite some time. We often watched for it to go on sale at Macy’s, but the price was never really lowered. We found the exact watch at Little Europe (location in the little square facing the Renaissance Mall). We saved nearly $200 by purchasing this watch in Aruba. Our salesman was Kelly and he was a pleasure to deal with. We’ll visit Kelly again on our next trip to Aruba.
I did find an unusual necklace in Diamonds International and that was my present.
We also bought the usual t-shirts for friends at home.

Lunch – Looking forward to Iguana Joe’s, everything smelled so good. We both had a burger and they were probably the best burgers we ate. Also had a free pink iguana with the coupon we got in the Little Switzerland bag. Yummy. Cost=24.50. My mother collects hot sauce and I always get her a bottle whenever I travel. I picked up one from Iguana Joe’s but it got confiscated at the airport because I forgot to pack it in my checked luggage. That was my fault, so I’ll get another bottle for her next year. Cost $5.15.
We took the bus both ways and we did stop at the factory outlet stores near the supermarkets so transportation for the day was $6.50.

Dinner – Made reservations at home for Madame Jeanette’s, confirmed when we arrived on island. Very busy, had a great Margarita at the bar and were seated shortly after. We were slightly disappointed with the service and the food. The atmosphere was nice, but I don’t know that I would try on the next trip. Cost $118. Cabs=$20. Since I am finishing this report so long after the trip I can’t remember what we both had. I believe I had the Filet Gianna Versace.

Tuesday, February 13th

Breakfast – Grabbed bagels at Dushi $6.30, and coffee from Dunkin’ (Shawn loves their coffee) $4.20. Ate and headed to the beach for our last full day.

Lunch – Ate lunch at the Pega Pega Beach Bar again, used our free drink tickets provided by Manchebo and tried the Pina Colada-very good, but aren’t all frozen drinks in the Caribbean ?. Shawn had a burger, I had a club sandwich, cost $24. Back to the beach.

Happy Hour - Went to the Manager’s Cocktail party and met some really great people. Decided to stay close to home and enjoy our last night. Cooled off after the beach with a few Margaritas, Mudslides, and Polar Beers, cost $25.

Dinner – Since we were feeling nice from Happy Hour, decided to keep it low-key and try Pizza Bob’s. This place was packed every night we walked by. Still a little busy, but able to get a seat. Ordered a pizza and a bucket of Polar Beer, cost $36. Had enough pizza left over to take back to the room. Walked around the resort after dinner, wishing that we didn’t have to go home the next day. There was a terrible storm in the east and there was a chance that our flight would be canceled. We checked the availability of our room and it was possible to stay an extra day. Here’s hoping for snow!

Wednesday, February 14th – Last Day

Breakfast – Again, just grabbed some coffee etc at Dunkin’. Went to the beach for a while and then got ready to pack. Checked with US Air, and our flight would get home, but people in Philly wouldn’t get out. Darn! We did have the option to take a flight the next day, but we figured it may get worse at home and then we may be stuck for a few days. As much as we wanted to, we figured we should take the safe bet and just head home while we could.

Lunch – Ate our leftover pizza on the beach before the van came to pick us up. Got our last look at the ocean and headed to the airport.

Airport – Took a while to go through, but pretty much hassle-free. Had the hot sauce confiscated cause I forgot to pack it-oops! Luckily I didn’t cause a big delay. Did some shopping at the airport for goodies to bring home-Gouda cheese, cookies, and chocolate. Cost $25.50.

Had to wait a little bit for the plane because we got through security faster than anticipated. Before boarding we got some more pizza and a soda, cost $11. Boarded on time and headed for home.
Philadelphia International-Philadelphia received snow, sleet and freezing rain that day. We got in about 11pm. We were in a holding pattern for a while before landing. Picked up luggage fast and got to car in no time. Car was covered with about 5 inches of ice on the windshield-WAH! We want to go back to Aruba! Took more than an hour to defrost the car and chip ice away. Broke the ice scraper. Employee at lot helped us out tremendously. Then he and my husband helped another motorist get out of their spot. The man at the lot said that it was terrible all day and the frigid temperature was not helping matters.
This is what they mean by back to reality. Already, we are discussing our next trip to try and block out all the ice and snow around us as we drive home.

Our must do list for the next trip:

  • Passions for sunset dinner
  • El Gaucho
  • Supermarket for snacks, wine & beer – can really save some money this way
  • Snorkel trip and/or deep sea fishing

Restaurants we want to try next trip:

  • Le Dome
  • Chalet Suisse
  • Cuba’s Cookin’
  • Flying Fishbone

We also decided the next trip will be 10 days and we would like to go the same time in February because we really liked the Lighting Parade. Thanks to everyone on this board for all the suggestions!