Sunday, March 18 , 2018, 11:42 am | Fair 56º


Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts the Perfect Place for Authentic Aruba R&R

Honeymooners, couples of all ages fan out to enjoy the island — then return year after year

Weathering coral produces stunning white sand beaches. Juxtaposed with the aqua blue ocean and swaying palm trees, it feels like you’ve found paradise. Only 20 miles long, Aruba is an island of the Lesser Antilles, in the southern Caribbean Sea. From the United States, visitors fly two and a half hours south out of Miami.

Local license plates sing the slogan One Happy Island, a seemingly true sentiment. There is no unemployment and the average resident enjoys a comfortable standard of living. With the exception of minor aloe production, tourism is the only way islanders make money. As a result, the 106,000 residents host nearly 1.5 million foreign guests annually.

In 1986, Aruba became one of the constituent countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands, along with Curaçao and St. Martin. At the time of their succession, Aruba had no natural resources to export and nearly 40 percent unemployment. The Netherlands government did not want to support this flailing economy so it offered loans to those who wanted to build the infrastructure for a tourism industry. Ewald Biemans, along with fortunate others, queued up and received a $3.5 million loan to actualize his dream property: Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts.

Located halfway between the harbor and the high-rises, Bucuti offers a smaller and more intimate experience. It has become a favorite for honeymooners and couples of all ages. The 104-room resort recently became adult-only to further cater to the couples looking for a romantic getaway, and it offers several proposal packages for those looking to pop the question while on vacation.

Some of the most out-of-the-box proposals include:

» Beach Proposal: Guests wishing to follow a traditional route can propose on an isolated stretch of Eagle Beach. Resort staff set up the scene with candles, roses, chilled champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries.

» Treasure Hunt: Those seeking fun and games may choose an adventurous scavenger hunt to lead their soon-to-be fiancée to the ring. Guests coordinate with Bucuti staff on a location for the ring to be buried, and then create clues leading their significant other directly to where X marks the spot of the buried treasure.

» Snorkel I-Do: Another unforgettable moment leads the couple to a surprise proposal while on a snorkel excursion in the Caribbean. The ring will be packed into a special box and hidden beneath the water. Bucuti staff will coordinate drop anchor at the ring’s location where the soon-to-be fiancée will discover this treasure beneath the sea.

Bucuti has been a leader in promoting sustainable tourism in the Caribbean for more than 30 years. In addition to incorporating the highest level of eco-friendly practices into Bucuti’s daily operations, Biemans spearheads a number of widely recognized environmental initiatives on the island and is committed to educating guests and the local community on the importance of conservation. Biemans has developed Bucuti into a model for other Caribbean hotels looking to go green, and he encourages everyone — from the housekeeping team, to the guests, to the community — is involved in the process.

Examples of Bucuti’s commitment to the environment are everywhere. All rooms are equipped with separate waste bins for recycling, energy-saving lamps, in-room light sensors, and water-saving toilets, showerheads and taps. Other room features include solar-heated water and bulk dispensers for toiletries (to eliminate all those wasteful plastic bottles). All water used in showers, sinks and baths is collected and then re-used to irrigate the grounds. To limit his footprint, Biemans serves beverages cups made from corn and locally brewed beer. Bucuti also uses vegetable oil to manufacture soap and to produce its diesel fuel.

Bucuti averages a 90 percent occupancy, which Biemans attributes to the personal service and attention to detail he orchestrates. Guests come year-after-year and rave about him on TripAdvisor, which drives a good amount of traffic. He has taken a unique approach. Bucuti doesn’t offer a slew of on-site activities or multiple restaurants, nor does it subscribe to all-inclusive pricing like the larger resorts. Rather, his concierges are in the know and guide guests to discover the island outside the resort.

On the property, the Intermezzo Spa offers a full range of pampering treatments, although it doesn’t have soak or steam facilities. My 45-minute neck-and-shoulders rub was the perfect way to release all the tension earned through my long commute to the island from Santa Barbara. During the winter season, rooms run $393 to $579 and reduce after April for the summer season.

Bucuti’s own Pirates’ Nest Restaurant offers fine cuisine and open-air service. Guests dine on the outdoor deck or enjoy a special menu for two under a palapa on the sand. The Pirates’ Nest has an expansive dinner menu featuring fresh seafood, prime steaks and island specialties like Keshi Yena. For an added taste of Aruba, guests can participate in a Dine Around Program for $38 per person, per dinner. Eighteen nearby restaurants have special three-course menus as part of the Dine Around, including the Pirates’ Nest.

During my stay, we chartered a sailboat, which goes for $150 an hour with a three-hour minimum for up to six guests. We sailed out through the channel along the thick, lush mangroves and docked in waist-high water so we could snorkel. The sailboat provided snorkel gear, drinks and lunch. The water was crystal clear and I must have seen at least 30 different brightly colored fish, along with the native brain coral. For the more adventurous, diving certification is also offered on the island through Red Sail Sports.

The second day in Aruba, we went on a Jeep tour of Arikok National Park via ABC Tours. A vast preserve, the park covers 18 percent of the island and costs only $5 to enter. Cactus spring up everywhere as we climbed the rocky hillside, a reminder this truly is a desert island. We viewed the natural bridge and rock pools, where you can stop off and take a dip. The terrain is extremely steep, so you’ll need a four-wheel drive or an ATV, which are also available for daily rental. Last stop on the tour were the caves, which have carvings dating back hundreds of years. Stalactites and stalagmites are in the process of formation as the limestone drips slow and steady in the dank cavern.

Our last night in Aruba, we ventured down to the high-rise area. All the major chains have large hotels, which face a string of shops and recognizable American restaurants. There is more energy at this end, which also hosts the nightclubs and significantly more college-age guests. We attended an entertaining dinner show called D’Licious at a club called Zissles. The crew of nine dancers and four singers were assembled and rehearsed in the Netherlands before coming to the island for a nine-month run.

Bucuti has a nice, comfortable vibe. Click here to see for yourself via the hotel’s inviting daily photo. Click here for more information, specials and bookings.

Click here for more photos on Noozhawk’s Pinterest page.

Noozhawk contributing writer Jenn Kennedy blogs at and is a contributor to HuffPost, and as a writer and photographer. Click here to see more of her work. Contact her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and follow her on Twitter: @jennkennedy.

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