Aruba Trip Reports

Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa

November 8, 2008 by M&C

Aruba Forum Profile: M&C

We went to Aruba in November of 2008 on a much needed vacation. This was one of our most rejuvenating trips in a while. We flew on US Air and were able to upgrade to first class on our way over. It really spoils you. It’s easy to get used to the extra room, the cooked meal and the free drinks. There is no need for pre arranged transport to your hotel in Aruba. We were able to walk out of the airport and easily get a private cab.

The Hotel

In 2002 we had gone to Aruba and really enjoyed our trip. That time we stayed at the Hyatt which had beautiful landscaping but I didn’t like the layout of the pool or how crowded it was. When we decided to return to Aruba we knew that we wanted to find a smaller boutique style resort. We looked around at various sites and found the perfect place. The Manchebo Beach Resort is a small intimate resort with a wide stretch of beach that is the perfect place to lie in the sun, relax and forget about the rest of the world. We spent most of days on the beach trying to perfect our tans.

The resort only has about 70 rooms and they have outdoor entrances to them. The rooms are basic but functional and comfortable. I thought that they could have arranged their closets a little more efficiently to give you more space to hang clothes up. I tend to over pack so I notice these things – LOL! We were very pleased with our room which had a nice view of the beach, palapas and the ocean. Manchebo is one of the few topless beaches in the Caribbean but only about a quarter of the woman partook.

The ocean had a stretch of shells and rocks at the entrance to the beach due to the storm that happened the week before we arrived. After we got past the shells, the floor of the ocean was smooth and sandy. There was a large pelican that flew over the ocean area at our resort and who liked to swoop down very close to swimmers. Everyone is afraid of something and I am afraid of birds…and iguanas, but I digress. One day we were in the water in the ocean and the pelican started to circle above us. I thought it was going to dive bomb us but it eventually moved on. I was very grateful.

The staff at the Manchebo is what makes the resort shine. We had the same maid all week. She got to know us and smiled and waved at us each morning when we went to breakfast. Ignacio is the bartender at the Pega Pega bar in the evenings. He was very personable and made us laugh. We went to the bar most evenings if we didn’t go out at night. They had a drink menu and my favorites were the Brown Lady and the Cobaya. One night Ignacio asked DH if he wanted to try his specialty drink, the Mosquito. It had several types of alcohol in it and was very strong and by this time we had already had a few drinks in us. Ignacio made him a mosquito which knocked him out for most of the night. Needless to say neither of us had a mosquito again.

At the Pega Pega bar they had a two for one happy hour from 5-7 PM on specific drinks. During that time they also had a duo that played. The keyboard player remained the same and had two different singers who varied depending on the night. We love listening to live music and they were very good. They knew a wide variety of music. After they finished their set, Ignacio would play music at the bar. He was very good at matching music to the taste of the guests that were there.
Our motto on vacation is "It’s noon somewhere". Good drink service on the beach is something that we really appreciate. Manchebo has flags that you put in the sand to let the waitresses know when you need something. On the days they were fully staffed, the drink service was fine.

We had massages at the Spa del Sol which is on the property. The resort doesn’t have a general Jacuzzi for people staying there. They have one at the spa but it’s for spa patrons only and if you are getting a massage, you can’t use it because of the oils. The massages were okay - not the best but not the worst.

The Manchebo has two restaurants on property. The French Steakhouse is where we ate on our first night and really enjoyed our meals. We usually take the first flight out in the morning and by the time we arrive, we’re tired so it has become a tradition for us to eat in the hotel our first night on vacation. We both had escargot and steak which were very good.

Giorgio’s is the other restaurant at the hotel. We were on the hotel’s breakfast plan and ate there almost every morning. They had both indoor and outdoor tables. If you sat outside you would probably see iguanas. I noticed that they had a marimba in the corner. The staff said that they have a marimba player on some evenings there at the Italian restaurant but unfortunately we didn’t get to see him.

The resort had a good amount of iguanas on the property. They seemed to like being in the sun. I was strangely both scared and fascinated by them. I liked looking at them but didn’t want them to get too close. One day I was the only one in the pool and an iguana came close to the steps that go into the pool. I can’t swim so this was the only way for me to get out of the pool. I splashed some water to encourage him to go away. Instead of meandering away from the pool, he brazenly took a few steps closer. I don’t know if iguanas can swim or not, but I really didn’t want to find out. One of the staff members was cleaning around the pool area so I asked him to try to scoot the iguana away from the steps and he graciously helped me out.

We take our camcorder along on vacation so we can take a video tour around the hotel. I introduce the segment at the entrance to the resort. Then we walk through the lobby and show highlights of the hotel. It is a nice souvenir for us to watch when it is cold and wintry at home. I was in the middle of narrarating the tour and was walking backwards when the second iguana incident happened. I was turning a corner and almost stepped on the biggest iguana that I’ve ever seen in the life. I gasped and the iguana scooted around a post to another area. DH warned me so I didn’t actually step on it, but it was close. Our video has me has me saying a mild expletive and running in the opposite direction – LOL!


We remembered that the food on Aruba was very notable on our last trip and we were looking forward to returning to some of our favorite restaurants this time. We went to Gasparito again because it has been my favorite dining memory of all of our vacations so far. I like to try odd food on vacation so I ordered a goat dish that was prepared like a pot roast. It was better than the goat that we had on Turks and Caicos but I wish I would have ordered the keshi yena which DH got. It is a Dutch meal with spiced seafood and chicken with melted Dutch cheese over it and it was delicious. They also made the best escargot that I’ve had in a long time. It had cheese over it that complemented the taste perfectly. The night that we went to Gasparito was Halloween and the taxi driver, Lindy, who picked us up was wearing a ghoul costume. He was funny and we asked for his card for an island tour later in the vacation.

We had had dinner on the beach at the Hyatt on our last trip to Aruba. This time we went to Passions which right on the beach and is gorgeous. We had a 6:30 PM dinner seating and sat in the front row for the sunset. We got up and took a few pictures in front of our table and then sat down to enjoy the sunset. People from the table behind us got up and took pictures right in front of our table and frolicked around in the water for the sunset while there was room down the beach that was not in front of anyone’s table where they could have gone. I could understand them wanting to get a picture or two with the sunset behind them but it was rude of them to stand in our view for a lengthy period. They sat down once the sunset ended. Their rude behavior did not stop us from enjoying our meals. We both had lobster which was delicious. They gave us so much that I could hardly finish mine. We shared a special dessert sampler that had a sparkler on it and was very festive.

We decided to eat at Amazonia on our last night since they give you so much food. This is a Brazilian Churascaria steakhouse. They have roaming waiters who bring offerings of meat on skewers to your table. You have a marker that you can put on green or red depending on if you want them to stop at your table or not. They also have a salad bar and side dishes that they bring out. We’ve been here before and we went to one of these restaurants in New York. It is an interesting way to try out a variety of food choices.

We ate at the Waterfront Crabhouse and we both had soft shell crabs. They were smaller than we usually get at home but the chef did a wonderful job cooking them. We wanted to eat a light meal one night and went to Salt and Pepper. DH had a fish dinner and I had a small Szechuan tilapia, calamari and mushroom tapas dishes.

Fun and shopping

After dinner at Salt and Pepper we went to the Soprano’s piano bar. We’ve been to several piano bars over the years on our vacations and it is something that I always look forward to. We ended up going there twice this vacation. Since our vacation bridged two different months, there were different piano players each of the two nights that we went. The first night they had a female piano player who played more country music than I would like to hear but in general she was entertaining. Barry Rocklin was playing the second time we went. He had laminated sheets of music listing the hundreds of songs that he plays. He was very talented and we really enjoyed his show. I brought a list of songs with me because when I get there I always forget fun sing along songs to request. He ended up playing almost all of them at some point during the evening.

We were in Aruba for the US election day. We were responsible and voted by absentee ballots before we left. Many of the people who lived and worked on the island supported Obama and were excited about the election results. On election night we went to the Bonbini Festival which is held at downtown at Fort Zoutman on Tuesdays. They had a small amount of Aruban food that you can buy at stalls like you would see at a fair. An emcee introduced each of the groups of performers. They had a band of elderly men who played local music on bongo type drums. A popular comedian on the island performed as the highlight act as a singer. They also had both adult and children female dancers doing traditional island dances.

One of the main reasons that we returned to Aruba was to relive a favorite vacation memory – Kukoo Kunuku. If you like to dance and drink and have a good time, you’ll enjoy it too. Kukoo Kunuku is an open air bus painted with crazy colors blaring wild party music. They pick up their guests at their hotels so you don’t have to worry about driving. They take you to a former Ambassador’s home for dinner. We ate dinner with some very nice women from Boston and New York City. After dinner they take you to three local bars for a fun night of dancing. You get a drink ticket at each of the stops. We bought their CD in 2002 and I listen to it a lot in my car. There were a few songs from last time that I was disappointed they didn’t play. I was looking forward to dancing to them again. I bought a copy of the new CD mix but I still like the old one better. They had a mixed drink called sex on the bus that was pretty potent and my forty year old body didn’t deal as well with the hangover as I did six years ago. The next day I drank a lot of Sprite – LOL! Despite the bad hangover, if we return to Aruba this will be on my must do list once again!

The morning after Kukoo Kunuku was rough. I could only get down toast, apple jelly and an English Muffin – LOL! That day the hotel had their manager’s party outside in an open air gazebo area near the Pega Pega bar. We received an invitation in our room after we got back from breakfast. The duo that played during happy hour also played at the manager’s party. There was more than enough room for dancing but it was an older crowd and no one danced.

We always have a few people that we need to get t-shirts for on the vacation. We went to the outdoor flea market on Sunday and we were able to get almost everything we needed. The most elusive item was a large grey men’s t-shirt. We found smalls and extra larges but no larges. My Dad recently had hip surgery – he’s doing great – and he asked for a gray t-shirt as a souvenir so I couldn’t disappoint him. We ended up trudging all over the downtown shops trying to find one that I thought he’d like.

We went on an island tour with Lindy the cab driver. We didn’t venture very far on the island in 2002 so this time we were determined to see more. He took us to down to a far part of palm beach that was an overlook onto the hotel zone. We saw the California lighthouse, the Natural Bridge and the Goldmine.

Our flights home were thankfully uneventful and now it’s back to the reality. This trip was the perfect mix of relaxation and fun. Now it’s time to start planning the next one.