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November 2007

Bucuti Beach Resort & Casino
LG Smith Boulevard #55G
Eagle Beach, Aruba Dutch Caribbean
011-297-583-1100
Bucuti Beach Home Page

Welcome to www.weloveourlife.com. This is our page dedicated to our experiences while staying at Bucuti Beach Resort in Aruba during November, 2007.

Check our our tips section for additional links that may be helpful for planning your aruba vacation.

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Accommodations Amenities Food Bar/Lounge Service Attractions Dining Nightlife Weather Tips



Accommodations

We stayed in the Tara Suites. As the name implies, all of the accommodations in the oceanfront Tara building are suites. One-bedroom suites occupy the first four floors, and a few penthouse suites are located on the top floor. Each suite is decorated in a neutral, hip, yet comfortable style.


Upon entering the suite, the bathroom is to one side. We found the bathroom to be spacious, with a large vanity and plenty of storage on top and in compartments below. There was a separate compartment for the toilet. There was a tub/shower combination and at one end were several shelves that were handy for accessories. There is a dispenser in the shower for shampoo, liquid soap, and lotion. Our one suggestion would be switching conditioner for lotion. We were always provided with plenty of towels – at least 4 sets. A hairdryer and make-up mirror are also in the bathroom.

Opposite the bathroom was a high console table along the wall – we actually used that for one of our suitcases. There is a closet that contains a robe (another suggestion – since the suites accommodate 2 people, provide 2 robes), ironing board and iron (as if we were going to do that in Aruba!), and a safe that was easy to use and ample in size. We stored suitcases in the closet.

The living area is in the middle of the suite, and contains a sort of futon and a comfortable stuffed chair, along with a coffee table and several lamps. Along the wall was a wet bar and cabinets with dishes for 2. There was an under-the-counter refrigerator. About half of the refrigerator contained items for purchase. There was plenty of room in there for us to put in our own things. There are also non-refrigerated items for purchase (popcorn, nuts, etc.). There was a ceiling fan over the living area and a TV with remote.
The bedroom area opened onto the balcony. There was a king-size bed, bedside tables, an armoire, and TV. There was also another ceiling fan. An interesting feature was pocket doors with frosted glass on top which could be closed to separate the sleeping area from the living area. Another interesting feature was what Keith termed the “pimp light” – a pink strip of light mounted behind the bed that created a warm ambiance at night. Or – if you think like Keith does – a red-light district. The balcony was the width of the suite and had a great view. There were obviously expensive stuffed chairs and a table, along with a small latter set along one wall which appeared to be for hanging things like wet swimsuits on. We found the suite to be a perfect size for the two of us – enough space to spread out in and feel comfortable, yet intimate.

The Tara building was obviously new and had simple yet beautiful details. The guest elevator was very small and freaked Lori out a little, but she gets claustrophobic. The hallways were not air-conditioned, but while we were there, air-conditioning was being added to these areas. The tiny elevator was air-conditioned. Note that if you carry one thing around the grounds, it should be your key, as you will need it to gain access to the building. For security purposes, you also need to take it out on your balcony, as you will need to swipe it to get back into your room. We want to stress that Aruba is a safe place – this is just an upscale resort and they take security seriously.

Resort Amenities

Probably the #1 amenity of this resort is the beach. The beach at Bucuti is truly one of the nicest beaches you will find in an inhabited area. The sand was soft and not full of rocks and shells. We did not need to use water shoes.

There were plenty of little huts with tables; each had two lounge chairs. Guests are given a towel card to exchange at the towel hut for – you guessed it – towels. Up front you tell them how many you want (we said 2). You can exchange the towels for fresh ones as often as you like, but before you check out, you need to return the towels for the last time and get the towel card back to present so that you are not charged for the towels.
Anyway, back to the beach – it’s really nice. The water is a lovely teal color. There were actually some decent waves while we were there which is unusual – usually the water is calm. There was one particular guest who exaggerated the waves as “Hawaii 5-0” and told us they took off her top. Nice.
We also enjoyed the pool, which was completed in 2007. It’s a beautiful pool, the kind of thing you see on the cover of a travel magazine. It’s an infinity-edge pool. It’s square and on the deep side, with wide stone steps. There were plenty of sturdy wicker lounge chairs with thick cushions around the pool – they looked expensive.
There is also a raised infinity whirlpool by the pools entrance with jets that were always turned on. Note we did not say “hot tub” because the water temperature was the same as the pool. If we had $10 for each person who stuck their hand in the tub and said, “it’s not hot,” we wouldn’t have had to pay for any meals while we were in Aruba. C’mon, it’s a hot place, why would you want a hot tub? It was a great spot to sit in the water and read.

The pool had a unique feature – sort of a raised teak deck that extended out a little over the pool. On top of that deck were 3 large round loungers (big enough for 2) with cushions that spun. We saw people dozing on these, reading, and drying off.

There was an exercise “room” – really a covered outdoor hut in the courtyard. We saw a few people using it. There is a business center off the main lobby with 3 computers that had Internet access – well, one was really slow, so for all intents and purposes, 2 computers. There was also a store that really packed a lot of useful things into it. We bought a few keepsake things at the store and also some sun protection, snacks, and chilled drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic – because of us they kept having to chill bottles of champagne). Honestly, the prices weren’t bad for a gift shop.

There is something really out-of-the-ordinary that Bucuti does – 2 nights a week they have movies on the beach. Our second night there, we were a little late, but pulled up lounge chairs on the sand in front of the screen. We got some champagne and settled in to watch “Chocolat.” Later a server brought out some chips, which was a nice touch. Unfortunately, about 2/3 of the way through the movie, the DVD player shut off. When someone came out to look at it they couldn’t figure out how to pick up where it left off (or close to it) so they started it all over again. Needless to say, the crowd broke up. But it sure is a nifty thing to be sitting on the beach at night with a gentle breeze blowing, and watch a film.

When we entered our suite, there was a gift bag was a balloon that said “Welcome Back” (as in welcome back to Aruba). There was a box of crackers, gouda cheese, some vanilla wafers, and a large container of Aruba Aloe lotion. That was really a nice touch.

Bucuti does a nice thing – you can pre-register online. By doing so, you let them know your passport numbers and your flight information – that way they know when to expect you. You fill out all the information up front, and then when you check in, all you have to do is sign. Oh, and sip your glass of champagne.

We don’t know if this is an amenity or not, but Bucuti is an adult-oriented place. They restrict the number of minors allowed on the property (and in fact we didn’t see any kids while we were there). It’s not that they don’t like kids – they simply are trying to establish a get-away for adults. As their website says, they do not have any children’s programs – and practically every other place in Aruba does. We don’t hate kids, but we sure hate it when we go on vacation and there are a couple little brats whose parents seem to have taken a vacation from keeping an eye on them and make us (and other guests miserable). It was nice to be able to hang out in the pool and not get splashed by kids, although there were certainly some adults willing to cannonball their way in.

Resort Food

The resort essentially has one option for dining: The Pirate’s Nest. It sort of looks like a huge shipwrecked galleon on the edge of the beach (and backs up to the pool). It’s a cute concept – for a larger resort perhaps, but seems a little out-of-place with Bucuti’s upscale nature. When relaxing on the beach, or sitting at the bar, you can order food from the restaurant for lunch. We had a few things – one day, we had hot dogs for lunch; another day, Keith had a quesadilla (which he said was good) and Lori had the pizza (fine); and another day we had the burgers (good) and split a plate of french fries. Everything was fine – nothing to write home about. As with any resort food, it is a bit pricy. We did not eat at the restaurant for dinner. Note that they offer a romantic dinner on the beach that has to be reserved ahead of time.

Continental breakfast was included. There is a dining room on the first floor of the Tara building – large, open, and inviting. There were an assortment of breads, which included bagels and pastries. Beware that these are small bagels and you have to toast them – not of the New York variety. Some days they had cream cheese, and some days they didn’t. There is also cereal and fruit and cheese and cold cuts. The cold cuts freaked us out a bit – likely it was something Dutch (pinkish meat with lots of white spots). We stayed away from that. There was also coffee, juice, and water. Some of the reviews we had read said it was “plenty” – we wouldn’t go that far. It was better than nothing at all, but nothing to write home about. It was from 7-10. We definitely struggled to make it there before 10 a few days.

Resort Bar/Lounge

A very important part of the beach is the Sand Bar. It is a large octagon-shaped bar manned by friendly bartenders who really work their butts off. There are lots of chairs around it. The nice thing is that the bar is regular table height so your feet aren’t dangling off stools. Before you sit, check the cushion – if someone with a wet bathing suit sat there before you and you’re dry (or even if you’re not), you may want to put the cushion aside while you sit. Of course, you can also get drinks and food brought to you if you are on the beach (we did that a few times). The drinks at the bar are definitely on the expensive side – hey, it’s a resort. There are two happy hours (4-6 p.m. and 9-10 p.m.) where the drinks are buy one, get one free, but we quickly learned that pretty much applies to mixed drinks. Here is a tip: if you want a chilled bottle of wine or champagne or even some beer and don’t feel like leaving the resort, go to the gift shop. We paid $20 for a chilled bottle of champagne in the gift shop that cost $38 at the bar.

Resort People/Service

The resort really prides itself on its employees and the service they provide. You can do pre-registration on the web before you arrive, and we highly recommend that. They knew when our flight was due in, and when we got out of the taxi, a bellman was awaiting us with a cart. He checked us off on his list and led us to the Tara building. We were seated and given glasses of champagne (what a way to check in!). Everything had been filled out by the details we put online, so all we needed to do was provide a credit card and sign. The concierge explained things to us – continental breakfast, using a card to get beach towels, etc. – and checked on our room. We were early so we didn’t expect it to be ready. She told us to come back at 3. We changed into suits and went to the beach and had a drink. Here is one of the few things they could improve: when we returned to the Tara lobby at 3 to check in, we could not get into the lobby because all of the buildings require your room card to access them. We understand they could not give us our key cards because the room was not ready, but Bucuti should consider some sort of general access card for registered guests who have checked in but can not yet get into their rooms. We had to stand outside and wait until a worker finally let us in.

All of the people – concierges, bartenders, maids, servers, even the person who minded the towel hut – were pleasant, charming, and what Keith said he remembered of the people from our previous visit to Aruba. We must say that this is not restricted to the resort – even the taxi drivers were super friendly.

Area/Attractions

Aruba is a Dutch island about 15 miles north of Venezuela. It is part of the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao). This was the second time we had been to Aruba together, having previously visited in November 2000. Click here to see the writeup of that trip. Lori had first visited Aruba on a day trip from a cruise ship in 1988, and then again for a vacation in 1991. She has seen the island change a lot, and we noted changes from our previous visit. First of all, there is a lot more traffic. The construction continues. Although Aruba is described as a desert island, as more resorts are built, there is more vegetation, and the humidity is definitely climbing. We noted a shopping arcade along the water in Orangestad that seemed built specifically for cruise ships.

No matter what, Aruba continues to have beautiful beaches. There are activities to be had, although our major goal on this vacation was just to unwind, laze around, and read. We did take the Bucuti Sweetheart Sunset Sail on Wednesday evening ($47.50 per person when we went). It is on a large catamaran with a friendly crew who were definitely focused on their customers. They played a great soundtrack during the trip. It wasn’t a great night for sunsets, but we had a nice time. It was all couples who were staying at Bucuti. Snacks are provided, as well as open bar and unlimited champagne (which is what we enjoyed). Transportation via air-conditioned minibus was provided from the resort. The cruise departed from the downtown marine dock, and ended in the high rise hotel area. They told us usually they return to the point of departure but the dock was full that night. The nice thing was that the bus driver would drop people off anywhere they wanted within reason. Lori had spotted a karaoke bar so we asked to be taken back to our departure point.

Aruba is laid-back, but plenty of water activities are available, as well as tours and the like. If you are going to stay at Bucuti, just ask the concierge and they can help you plan accordingly.

Dining

El Gaucho - Wilhelminastraat 80, Orangestad 297-582-3677
El Gaucho Home Page
We had been to El Gaucho in 2000 and was one of our favorite dining experiences, so this is the first place we went upon our return to Aruba. We had a 6 p.m. reservation on a Saturday, which apparently was about what time the place opened up. We probably could have gotten away without a reservation so early but did not want to chance it. We recommend making a reservation. If you like steak this is a must. Argentinean steak is very good. Lori had a wonderful shrimp cocktail and Keith had a salad. The bread was garlic and very tasty. Keith had the Churrasco – a 16-ounce prime, lean cut of steak. It came with 3 sauces – spicy one, a green one that is sort of an Argentinean version of pesto, and a wonderful teriyaki-style. Lori – who has never ordered steak in a restaurant the entire time Keith has known her – ordered an 8-ounce filet mignon. We had a nice bottle of red Argentinean wine that went particularly well with the steak. We dressed up a little (OK, Lori wore a sun dress and Keith wore khakis with a nice vacation shirt). We noted people came dressed in an assortment of ways (a couple even came in with bathing suits and cover-ups) but we felt right dressed the way we were. After all, it is a nice restaurant. Keith felt it lived up to his expectations and thoroughly enjoyed this dining experience.

El Gaucho has been awarded a "best of ..." www.weloveourlife.com award.

Pizza Bob's - J.E. Irausquin Blvd. 59, Eagle Beach 297-588-9040x790
Pizza Bob’s was right across the street from Bucuti. We ate here our second night. It consists of an outdoor bar (covered) and a large patio with outdoor seating. We understand there were some tables inside. Honestly the pizza was very good. We had a large with sausage. You can have pizza and drinks here for a lot less than some of the other restaurants. Our server was very friendly. We had a nice leisurely dinner under the stars. We went back here for dinner our last night. On that day we had several downpours and one decided to hit while we were eating. We had chosen to sit under an umbrella for this very reason, so we huddled close and pulled everything under the umbrella. The server kept checking on us but we told her we were fine, and just sat there and ate our pizza and drank our wine while we watched the downpour. Lots of people get take-out and take it back to their rooms or to the beach. Good pizza, good service, good prices, and a nice alternative to more expensive meals.

Salt and Pepper - Irausquin Blvd. 368A, Palm Beach 297-586-3280
Salt and Pepper Home Page
We ate outside in the courtyard in front of Salt and Pepper one evening. This is a casual restaurant, not a reservations-type place, located in the high-rise district. Salt and Pepper is located on the end of a building that appeared to house 4 restaurants, each with courtyard seating. We sat next to each other so we could people-watch. This restaurant is mostly about tapas. Between us we had shrimp cocktail, bruschetta, taco taco (2 tacos), nachos, and mozzarella sticks. Nothing was great and nothing was bad. It was fine – not gourmet, but did the trick. Interestingly, they serve you a basket of bread – just white bread with butter. And all of the things that came with a red sauce (tacos, shrimp cocktail, mozzarella sticks) were really a little dish of ketchup – we think. We split a bottle of wine. It was very dark and we struggled to read the menu. While we were there, a guy got up on a little stage and sort of did his own karaoke to entertain people eating at the 4 restaurants. It was nice if a little cheesy – he seemed to have a fixation with the Bee Gees. There are also kiosks outside of “restaurant row” and we bought a little painting after dinner.

Gianni’s Ristorante Italiano - J.E. Irausquin Blvd. 348, Palm Beach 297-586-7794
Gianni's Web Site
We had a wonderful dinner at Gianni’s. Reservations are a must as the place was packed when we were there, and it was a Tuesday evening. Ask to eat outside. There isn’t really a view, but it’s a nice setting and the Aruba breezes at night are refreshing. The place looks very upscale, with white tablecloths and nice table settings. The service was impeccable and there must have been at least 6 different people whom we sat at our table. We ordered a bottle of sauvignon blanc and Lori had her ever-present shrimp cocktail while Keith had the mozzarella and proscuitto. They offer 3 different types of bruschetta, and we split the Bruschetta Romana – fresh mozzarella and tomatoes seasoned with basil, olive oil, garlic, and oregano. Yum! Keith had the veal with lemon, while Lori shrimp with polenta – and interesting and tasty offering. We even went for dessert – chocolate salami, a house specialty supposedly hand-made by the owner. It sounds disgusting but it was wonderful, a rolled up mixture of chocolate and nuts accompanied by some whipped crème and a few toppings off to the side, with snifters of Frangelica. This was a nice, upscale restaurant, which did an excellent job at interpreting Italian food. The menu is extremely diverse and the service really made it worthwhile. This is located in the high-rise district.

Villa Germania - Seaport Market Place, Orangestad 297-583-6161
We ate at Villa Germania on our 2000 visit to Aruba and loved it. We must admit up front we are fans of German food and can’t get it at home, so whenever we travel and encounter a German restaurant, we make sure we try it. We weren’t disappointed. We ate outside in their courtyard. Keith was looking forward to their beer selection after drinking pretty much nothing but Heineken all week, and immediately ordered a Duvel (Belgian beer) that was served in the appropriate glass. Lori ordered a bottle of Reisling – no, not all for herself. She graciously shared with Keith after his lip-smacking Duvel. We remembered the wonderful potato pancakes from before and ordered them as an appetizer to split. This time they were even better than before – crispy but not greasy, just the right amount of onion – hands down the best potato pancakes we have ever had! We have learned that whenever we go to Villa Germania, Keith is always going to prefer whatever Lori gets. On our previous visit, Keith had the Wiener Schnitzel and Lori had the Cheese Schnitzel and Keith preferred the Cheese Schnitzel. This time Keith got his Cheese Schnitzel. To keep things interesting, Lori went for the knockwurst, which surprised Keith. Lori is not a big meat eater and generally orders seafood or pasta when dining out. Keith enjoyed his Cheese Schnitzel. Lori insisted he taste the knockwurst, which was served with a tangy mustard. Well, you can guess what happened – Keith immediately proclaimed it the most tasty, tender knockwurst he had ever had and soon Lori was forking over huge portions to him. We had a delicious meal and will return if we are in Aruba again. This seems to be a hidden gem, but it’s been there for nearly 20 years so it must have a strong fan base. The prices are reasonable, it is laid-back and the service is good, and you sure get a lot of food for the money. This is a must if you love German food. Even if you don’t, there is a variety of things, so it is worth taking a look at the menu.

Aqua Grill - J.E. Irausquin Blvd. 374, Palm Beach, Aruba 297-586-5900
Aqua Grill Home Page
Our concierge made a reservation for us at Aqua Grill one evening. It is primarily a seafood restaurant. We were there on time but had to wait for a few minutes. When the hostess took us to our seat, it was in an area with lots of noisy children. She took a look at us and asked if we would like to be somewhere quieter and we said yes, so she took us to another (quieter) area. The restaurant had a bar with booths that looked inviting – if there had been nowhere in the restaurant that was peaceful we would have asked to sit in the bar (it appeared fairly empty). The décor is sparse yet upscale (the bathrooms were particularly interesting). Because of the high ceilings and wood floors, it can get a bit noisy. We ordered a bottle of sauvignon blanc. Keith had a Caesar salad and Lori had their wonderful lobster salad. Lori had shrimp gnocchi (an appetizer) as her entrée and Keith tried the swordfish, which he said was very good. Because it was one of our last nights in Aruba, Keith got dessert. Lori stuck with what was good and got a second lobster salad for dessert. Decadent but definitely worth it! After an initial false start when we had to wait and were almost seated next to screaming children, it turned out to be a pleasant dining experience. This is not a traditional seafood house but has twists on old favorites. Be sure to make a reservation, especially if your party has more than two people.

Eetcafé – The Paddock - L.G. Smith Blvd. #13, Orangestad 297-583-2334
The Paddock Home Page
We went into town on a Monday afternoon and needed to get a bite to eat, as we hadn’t had much that day. The Paddock is an open-air restaurant (yet covered) right on the water along the main street in Orangestad. We were happy to see that they served unsweetened iced tea, albeit in very small glasses that we drank quickly. After we finished our iced tea a woman stopped over and asked us what we would like. We were very hungry so we asked for the tortilla chips with side of queso cheese, figuring that would come out quickly. We also each asked for sandwiches – melted gouda with pesto on French bread. It was the last we saw of the server. Lori did see her behind the bar occasionally. We kept trying to flag someone down as we saw others order and get their food quickly. Finally Lori flagged a server down and explained we had placed an order quite a while ago and we really wanted our food. She described the server whom we had ordered from the guy said, “That’s our owner.” OK, but she did ask us what we wanted and should have given the order to someone. We ordered drinks and of course when the food eventually came out it all came at once. The server (the one who actually got us food) was apologetic and gave us a round of drinks for free. The food was just OK. After such a poor service experience we probably would not return to this restaurant.

Nightlife

Sopranos Piano Bar - Arawak Garden, Palm Beach
Sopranos Piano Bar Home Page
We went to this place (in the high-rise district) one night after dinner. It is indeed a bar with a piano in the middle. There were request slips. We met some nice people but the piano player was awful. He didn’t know (or wouldn’t play) anything we requested, and we requested some very basic stuff. The worst part was when someone put in a request he didn’t want to play, he made fun of the person who put in the request. Very unprofessional. We met a couple who told us they go there a lot when they are in Aruba and generally this place has great entertainers – but they said this guy wasn’t one of them. We hung out for awhile. The liquor selection was good. We would have had a better time if the piano player had been more oriented towards the customers.

Grand Café Tropical - Seaport Market Place 18, Orangestad
Grand Cafe Tropical Home Page
Lori saw a sign for karaoke on Wednesday evening as we passed this place on our way to our sunset cruise. Lori is a karaoke fiend and can never pass up a chance to blast unsuspecting locals with her favorite karaoke songs, so of course we had to go to this place. It was only a few doors down from Villa Germania and we headed here after our dinner. We think – but cannot confirm – that this is pretty much a bar, and not a dining destination. We sat at a table inside along a wall, not far from the corner stage. When the TV cameras showed up, we relocated to another table in the middle of the room. Yes – TV cameras. It turned out we stumbled upon Aruba’s version of American Idol and it was Week #3. Both Lori and Keith got to sing to their heart’s content. The next day Lori commented that perhaps she sang too much as she was losing her voice. There were a number of contestants and 3 judges who help up numbers (from 1 to 10) rating the singers. The crowd was really into it. The regular karaoke folk like us sang in between contestants. The drinks were reasonably priced, the people were nice, and we had a great time.

Weather

Aruba is just off the tip of Venezuela so it is hot. We were there in November – “rainy” season. You can expect a 5-minute shower once or twice a day but it’s sunny with clouds. While we were there, we had a couple days where there was a 3-minute downpour. Our last day, however, it rained a bit more – we encountered 2 15-minute downpours in the afternoon and one over dinner that was stronger. But honestly if you go this time of year it really won’t interrupt your fun. It was in the 90s F during the day and in the 70s at night. Be sure to wear plenty of SPF when you are out in the sun. Lori tans easily but even she liberally applied SPF 4 the entire time she was outside.

Tips/Suggestions

You don’t need to rent a car while you stay in Aruba. If you want to rent a jeep for a day and drive around the island, go for it. Aruba’s taxi fares are strictly legislated by district so you always know how much it will cost to get from one place to another. (Note that there is a $3 surcharge on fares after midnight, which is fair.) We found the cab drivers to be very friendly and the cabs were even much nicer than our previous visit – this time they were all air-conditioned. Some of the cabs we were in qualified as luxury vehicles – a Land Rover picked us up at the airport. Cabs are easy to come by. One day after we had lunch in Orangestad we took a cab to a grocery store and he even waited patiently for us outside while we did a little grocery shopping. He didn’t charge us any extra so we gave him a nice tip. We did note the traffic has increased considerably, so why not relax on your trip and leave the driving to others?

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