In Love With Aruba: One Happy Island
By Melanie Reffes
With recovery in full swing after the unwelcome arrival of Hurricanes Irma and Jose and assessment continuing due to Hurricane Maria, the islands that were spared the wrath of Mother Nature are open for business. “Tourism is the quickest way to rebound an economy,” said Karolin Troubetzkoy, president, Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA ), “by working together, we will build a better and more resilient Caribbean welcoming couples who come to celebrate their romantic special occasions.”
Affectionately dubbed ‘One Happy Island’, Aruba sits pretty fifteen miles north of Venezuela in the warm waters of the southern Caribbean. Perennially popular with the romance crowd, twosomes come to tie the knot, enjoy a honeymoon, celebrate an anniversary and renew vows. Whether you say I Do on the beach, on a cruise at sunset, in a green garden or at an elegant resort, getting married is a breeze and whether you choose a honeymoon stay in a resort, hotel or guest house, the island is ripe for romance. Getting there is also a breeze with plenty of flights from the U.S. and American pre-clearance at Queen Beatrix International Airport (AUA) which means you clear Customs in Aruba rather than upon arrival back in the States.
Rolling out the red carpet for the romance market, the island offers a host of resources for couples planning a wedding. The Aruba Wedding Blog http://weddings.aruba.com/ is chockablock with wedding planners, venues, florists, photographers, and happy ever after tales from couples worldwide. For tips from A to Z, click www.visitaruba.com/things-to-do/weddings-and-honeymoons/
One Happy Honeymoon
With umpteen awards like TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice 2017 # 1 Hotel for Romance in the Caribbean, Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort is the hands-down favorite for twosomes. Whether it’s a honeymoon stay, vow renewal ceremony, anniversary celebration or leave-the-kids at home vacation, the seaside resort aims to please with 104 rooms, suites and penthouses including the newly-renovated Tara Wing. Couple-pleasers run the gamut from shady sunbeds, freshwater infinity pool and spa to the oceanfront Elements restaurant, Tara Lounge, open-air Sand Bar and private dining on the beach.
Adults-only on Eagle Beach, the cozy resort is a tranquil hideaway without cheesy disco nights and music blaring on the beach. “We cater to couples who come here for a peaceful getaway, “says Ewald Biemans, owner, “our style is laidback luxury which is why so many of our guests are repeat guests vacationing at the resort year after year.” Breakfast is included in room rates with packages offered in many of the room categories. For couples, ‘Bucuti & Tara’s Romance Package’ is five nights in a standard room with A-game inclusions like a private dinner on the beach, couples massage, welcome bottle of bubbly and parking for a rental car. Priced at $2125.00 and bookable through December 23, the package is inclusive of taxes and fees which at other resorts can add up. www.bucuti.com/
First opened in 1987 with 63 rooms and a few suites, the perennially popular resort is now home to 104 rooms, suites and penthouses. A favorite honeymoon haven, forty-four Tara Suites, penthouse suites, bungalow suites and the Tara Wing’s lobby and lounge areas made their renovation debut in July with pops of color like dusty orange rugs and artwork by local artist Elisa Lejuez whose colorful work can be seen in banks, restaurants and hotel chains worldwide.
Interiors are impressive with wet bars, comfy sofas, floating nightstands and Wi-Fi that works resort-wide. Sweetening the suite pot, add views of Eagle beach from the balconies and a soothing collection of Aruba Aloe amenities.
“We renovate long before wear and tear begins to appear because we believe our guests deserve the best experience for choosing to spend their vacation with us,” adds Ewald Biemans, owner, “Tara Wing renovation reflects our dedication to our guests and to romance, wellness and sustainability. For added privacy, one garden-view and two ocean view Bungalow suites fit the bill with a wraparound terrace, daybed and gorgeous green garden. Between the main Bucuti Wing building and the infinity pool, the Bungalow suites are in a stand-alone building on the pathway that leads to Eagle Beach.
Worth the splurge, Tara Penthouse Suites on the rooftop of the Tara Wing come with mesmerizing vistas of Eagle Beach and expansive terraces with daybeds. Picture-perfect for privacy-seeking couples, the suites are large with a bedroom, dining room, kitchen and living room. “Our penthouse suites are upscale and exclusive, “said Tisa LaSorte, director sales and marketing, “and as an added bonus, each penthouse comes with a reserved palapa on the beach for daytime relaxing and a romantic dinner as the sun sets.”
Fine dining with a fusion menu of Aruban and European fare, Elements opens early for a breakfast of pumpkin bread, waffles and fruit and vegetable smoothies, midday for lunch and dinner with a sunset seating at 6:00 pm and a moonlight seating at 8:30 pm. Chefs work their magic with the Mediterranean Mezze with addictive chili hummus, pasta shells stuffed with grilled artichoke and garlic-infused arugula, burgers to-dine-for and for couples who like to share; Chateaubriand is grilled to order and served with a creamy Hollandaise. Save room for the High Five Chocolate cake with a scoop (or two) of house-made chocolate ice cream.With restaurant manager Lino van der Biezen at the helm, service is stellar and non-intrusive just the way couples prefer. So friendly you’ll think you’ve met them before, servers are expertly http://premier-pharmacy.com/product-category/antidepressants/ trained and eager to please. Upping the ante, dining in a seaside palapa is a guilty pleasure priced at $190.00 per couple and includes wine or champagne, choice of appetizer, main course, dessert and tea, coffee or espresso. “Couples look forward all day to dinner because they are treated like VIP’s, “smiles Lino van der Biezen showing guests to their table.
Next to Elements, Sand Bar is a casual open-air perch on the beach. Open from 11 am to midnight, Happy Hour from 4 pm to 6 pm and 9 pm to 10 pm is the perfect prelude to dinner or a late snack although you can enjoy a full menu at any time. Palate-pleasers include Ahi Tuna Tartar and seared beef kabab gussied up with mango-passion chutney and a chili drizzle. A steel pan player performs during happy hour as the resorts parrots keep the beat from their comfy cage. On Sunday nights, ‘Local Arts and Local Eats’ showcases an Aruban menu with island specialities like the hearty cheese and chicken casserole called Keshi Yena and local artists selling one-of-a-kind crafts.
Go For the Green
Eco-astute before that was trendy; the resort prides itself on attention paid to the environment. Home to protected sea turtles, the resort is one of the Caribbean’s greenest honored by Green Globe as the World’s Most Sustainable Hotel. “We’re proud to have initiated the first Green Globe 21 certification of hotels in Aruba in 2000”, said Ewald Biemans, owner and sustainable tourism visionary, “we go far beyond towel and electricity-saving programs, and have made significant investments in eco-technologies and environmentally-safe products.”
The resort also lays claim to the lowest per-occupied-room electricity usage in Aruba, significantly reduced carbon footprint from sourcing local suppliers and the use of solar panels that heat water for the rooms and the laundry. The resort also supports community programs like the volunteer-run Donkey Sanctuary, Turtugaruba Foundation that protects giant sea turtles and Animal Rights Aruba.
Relax and Refresh
Taking wellness to new heights, stress just isn’t allowed with a variety of chill-out options for couples like en-suite massages, yoga on the beach and healthy choices on the menus. For massage aficionados, take your pick from treatments inside the Purun Spa or outside in the gazebo on the beach. Signatures include the Aloe Crystal rubdown, Ocean and Sand Foot massage, Mescal Bucuti using a mix of lavender, violet and sandalwood oils and an 80-minute couples massage. “Couples love yoga and Pilates on the beach, “says Isabel Struve Rasmun, wellness specialist, “our programs help our guests stay healthy, fit and feeling their best as we offer personalized fitness training, nutritional counselling, beach tennis and wisdom walks which are nature walks in total silence.” Open 24 hours every day, there are plenty of free weights, treadmills and rowing machines in the Fitness Center.
Those Little Extras
- Check out our list of those little extras that go the distance!
- No music blaring on the beach
- Refillable water bottles are gratis as plastic water bottles are not recycled
- Cold towels are delivered to the beach
- Menus at Elements are on the IPad
- Qigong lessons (like Tai Chi) on the beach. Price is $10.00 per person
- Mini-statues of owls are on the outside tables to shoo away the blackbirds
- Breakfast buffet is not overloaded with food reducing the amount of waste
- Wine selection at the Sand Bar and Elements is impressive
- Movies on the Beach with a popcorn machine and beach chairs in the sand
Out and About
The team of expert concierges arrange tours and excursions like sailing, horseback riding, golf and tempting Lady Luck at a casino (Alhambra Casino is across the street from the resort). Also, popular, a day in the capital city of Oranjestad with its designer boutiques, craft markets, souvenir shops and restaurants like West Desk revered for crunchy conch fritters, sticky sweet barbecued ribs and vistas of the sea from the tables on the deck.
For underwater explorers, diving tours take the brazen to see the Antilla wreck blanketed in giant tube sponges while landlubbers rent a Jeep and pack a picnic lunch for a day of sightseeing to the Alto Vista Chapel, Bushiribana Ruins, Casibari Rocks, California Lighthouse and the Arikok National Park where you’ll find the remains of the Natural Bridge that was the largest of its kind until its collapse in 2005. For partyers, Palm Beach is a popular strip lined with high-rise hotels, beach bars, restaurants, sports kiosks and folks playing beach volleyball. “Tell us what you’d like to do and what your interests are,” smiles Mary-Ann Middleburg, personal concierge, “and we’ll arrange it for you.”
Save the Date
September 15 – 16: Renaissance Festival Plaza hosts the Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival with salsa singer Ruben Blades, funk and soul jazz saxophonist Maceo Parker, Habana Vieja All Stars and a special tribute to Aretha Franklin performed by Dutch Caribbean vocal powerhouse Shirma Rouse. www.caribbeanseajazz.com/
For couples who plan ahead, Soul Beach Music Festival during the Memorial Day weekend May 24-29 is the place to be for top-notch acts rocking The Soul Beach Amphitheater, Havana Beach Club and Hard Rock Café. http://soulbeach.net/2017/