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Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort Aruba
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Reviewed March 19, 2006

We too stayed at the Tara Suites of the Bucuti. It was spotless, and we were on the first floor and could walk right out onto the beach, which was lovely; I would not stay at the Bucuti unless I stayed in the Tara Suites. The cold breakfast in the Tara was excellent, and this is where we found the nicest staff; the food at the Pirates Nest is just awful, although they do try. The wine list is almost laughable. The cleanliness of the bar at the beach is questionable; no effort is made to keep out birds who quite easily sit on the bar and nibble the fruit for drinks! And I agree about the concierges; they could have been much more helpful, given better instructions and directions.

  • Stayed: March 2006
    • Value
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
15  Thank LuvNE
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 17, 2006

The only reason we chose this hotel was because Tripadvisor.com had rated it #1 for a very long time. We dont really understand where this rating came from. Aruba has some really beautiful hotels to choose from and this one is just a regular little hotel. Nothing special.

Pros:
View of ocean/sunset from the beach
Location to walk on the beach
Space on beach
Spa-Excellent Massages
Tara Lounge Continental Breakfast... Food & Staff
Helpful Staff (some, not all)
Not crowded
Free Internet
A few nice palm trees and hedges
Recycling Program/Environmental Awareness
Food & Drinks

Cons:
HORRIBLE Pool; It had a large UGLY brown stain on the bottom, gray holes on the sides & outdated & awkward steps getting in. The whole pool area and Pirates Nest should be at least painted if not completely renovated if they want to compete with the finer hotels in Aruba. Maybe they were just going for the rustic look? I dont know, but when there are stains and 2 dead crabs in your pool, it's kind of a turn off. Worse off, my husband was "scolded" by one of the rude male workers for not showering before getting in. It made my husband feel really bad. The man could/should have been a little bit nicer about it. (This behavior of a Bucuti employee was an exception however.).

NOT ALL ROOMS ARE RENOVATED:
Even though I asked to be put in a renovated room 3 mos in advance, there was never one available for us. If you are lucky enough to get into one, be happy! Our regular room was in good clean condition, however.

While we were there, they were laying new tile in the Lobby. This really baffled our minds as the existing tiles were in excellent shape. We really felt they should have been putting their efforts into refurbishing the pool instead.

One other important thing to keep in mind is the waves. While we were there, the waves were extremely rough. This made it very dangerous/difficult to get in & out of the water. Once you get past the waves crashing on the shore, it is tolerable. There seemed to be a significant amt. of erosion to the beach during the time we were there. Bucuti's beach attracts local boogie boarders because of their large waves. If you want to swim someplace calm, you can walk south down the shore to find some nice spots.

Bucuti is for you ONLY if you do not care about the pool and you do not like the high rise area. We preferred our stay at Holiday Inn last year. The High Rise area is much richer and nicer. Too crowded? That's your opinion!

I like to swim on my vacation in nice warm, calm water. We didn't get much of that this time. We still love Aruba though!

  • Stayed: March 2006
    • Value
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
16  Thank aqua-n-sand
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 13, 2006

Aruba, unlike most Caribbean islands, was hardly inhabited until a salt water desalinization plant was installed not many years back. As a result, it has none of the baggage of a former slave-based economy, and by now has morphed into an island of mostly newcomers. Jobs are so plentiful that armies of workers have to be brought in from Venezuela, Colombia, Jamaica, Hispanola and beyond, so the island teems with go-getters. Unemployment thus is virtually voluntary and real Third-World poverty is uncommon, which presumably helps account for the cheerful population and unusual degree of personal safety.

During high season the island is seriously windy -- the first comment new visitors had when we spoke to them was invariably, "Gee, is it always this windy?" So, if you don't like ceaseless wind, find another island. But remember that this same breeze is what keeps the mosquitoes down and the humidity from being a bother.

Visitors are mostly middle-class Americans, along with Dutch and Venezuelans mixed in. The local population is exceptionally helpful and friendly, and what with all the casinos and watering holes a party atmosphere pervades tourist areas of the island.

Much tourism takes place in a section of high-rise chain hotels that are quite nice, but crowded and relatively impersonal. Still, they are great for families with kids in tow, and are hugely popular.

Bucuti, on the other hand, is something of an anomaly. With only a few stories and a managable number of rooms, it specializes in personal service and, outdoors, elbow room -- particularly on its huge beach with widely separated palapas. Children under 12 are verboten.

Like The Ritz-Carlton, Bucuti uses concierges (until early evening). We hit them with countless requests of every sort during our weeks there, and except for three requests for extra hangers everything we asked for was granted promptly and cheerfully. We focused our queries on one, a young Dutchman named Anders who is married to an Aruban. His recommendations were stellar, and helped greatly in making our stay there enjoyable -- if everybody in the hotel business were like this, we'd probably never stay home! It is this concierge service, particularly from this seasoned pro, that is one of the key reasons Bucuti stands out.

We stayed in the Tara wing, which unlike the nearby original wing has no construction/renovation issues to deal with. Too, all Tara rooms face the sea and are but several feet from the beach proper. The older wing faces perpendicular to the sea, so relatively few of its rooms have a Tara-caliber view, plus it's farther back. (There's also a standalone bungalow that sounds good on paper, but up close doesn't appear to be terribly desirable.)

The Tara suites are long and narrow, necessary if all rooms are to face the sea. Except for the relatively large penthouse suites, these each consist really of one room separated by a sliding frosted-glass door to separate the bed from the sitting area and bathroom. There's no kitchen, but there is a wet bar, mini-fridge, Mr. Coffee machine (with free dreary coffee) and microwave, which was enough for us to make do for the occasional dinner in. (For this, there are three nearby supermarkets; Ling is best, but keep an eye on the baggers.)

There are two (count 'em!) televisions in each suite, with WABC-NY, CNN and the like. Also, one or two dehumidifiers in each room. Ours had two, one of which roared like a DC-3 at takeoff, but we found that if you moved it around carefully the noise would drop off sharply. These humidifiers are needed; we visited a room with only one and it had a musty odor -- this is right off the tropical coast of Venezuela, after all.

Tara suites are attractive and absolutely quiet, but not large. Yet, they are ample except for the somewhat smallish one-sink bathroom by today's standards (most have baths without slip-resistant bottoms, some have only showers). However, for whatever reason they have it backwards: The bed is alongside the glass wall facing the sea, with the seating area being farther back. So -- especially on the ground floor, with its unobstructed view of the beach -- if you want to relax with a drink and watch the view outside you need to adjourn to the terrace (ground floor) or balcony.

One niggling complaint: the beds sit atop a large slab of wood, which fits in nicely with the Japanese decor. But the wood protrudes and has sharp corners, which we all managed to hit at least once. My wife was left with a bruise and scab that lasted throughout our stay.

There's a restaurant and popular bar teeming with gregarious folks during the two long happy hour periods. We heard nothing but gripes about the restaurant's food quality, so we never tried it -- Aruba is awash in excellent food, so be sure and rent a cheap car. The bar also serves on the beach, although the drinks are ordinaire. A fellow with pans (steel drums) accompanied by a synthesizer entertains patrons most evenings.

Also evenings, on Wednesday and Sunday, there is a free outdoor movie on the beach if weather permits. It's a nice touch, and the bar even provides seat-side drinks and eats.

Breakfasts used to be optional, but room rates were recently raised $30 and simultaneously cold breakfast became included. Unlike another TripAdvisor member, we found these breakfasts to be healthy and, except for the alleged orange marmalade, very good, indeed, with something rare in Aruba -- decent coffee. The only gripe is that hot breakfasts cost extra, which seems miserly and out of character for a place of this caliber. On the other hand, service from the three ladies in the Tara breakfast room is so good and hugely friendly that each day gets off to an upbeat start.

We found the concienge service to range from good to outstanding, depending on the individual. Other employees were generally quite friendly and positive, but our experience is that if you want something done to always go through the concierge desk.

Maid service was as you'd expect, although (only) once we did have a period in which the bottom bedsheet wasn't being tucked in properly, leaving the bed lumpy when made and exposing the mattress when we slept. One day we finally just yanked the top covers off to force the bed to be made properly -- it worked.

The beach bartenders were reasonably prompt and polite, although as a TripAdvisor member recently griped the fellow with a "trainee" badge who manned the towel hut much of the time was often absent and a complete grouch. As they say, there's one in every village, and he was the one and stuck out like a sore thumb -- all others were just great.

We found lots of good, even excellent, food at several Aruban restaurants recommended by the gentleman concierge. Keep in mind that in high season service can be amateurish, have slipups and be slow even at the one four-star $125-per-person French restaurant downtown. So, best is to check with Anders the concierge for the latest report, and for goodness' sake don't rely on Fodor's which appears to be nearly clueless. Overall, our favorite was Papiemento, absolutely delightful provided you're not in any hurry. (On the other hand, avoid the Swiss food at the Suisse Chalet, which BTW the concierge didn't especially recommend but we decided to try anyway. And Le Dome, under relatively new ownership, is by and large living off its past reputation.)

There is a decent gym under a thatched roof, so it's open to the tireless winter trade winds that sweep away much perspiration. We found it to be quite nice, even if not with heart-rate monitors and such. It appears to be well-maintained, but of the two treadmills one is too small for most adults -- odd, given that no children under 12 are allowed. So because most people go straight to the treadmills, there can be a wait for the adult-sized machine. (However, there was a Dutch family with young children that used the gym occasionally and boisterously -- no idea where they came from.)

There's also a small, tidy shop that's well stocked with all sorts of useful and fun stuff, including can openers and decent corkscrews not to be found in the rooms. Finally, there's a free three-Dell computer room with broadband and a balky printer that's open 24/7; thankfully, too, as it's 25 cents a minute (!) for dial-up (!!) in your room, and don't even think about using the ghastly priced phones to call home.

The second thing that stands out most at Bucuti, after the concierge setup, is the beach. It is both wide and deep, with the expected lovely white sand that's groomed regularly. As a result, you have gobs of room, even in high season, to bask in the sun in relative privacy. There are very nearly enough palapas to go around in high season, but nonetheless the odious practice of staking out palapas and chairs in early morning means that either you get out there mighty early and mark your palapa with a couple of towels swiped from the gym, or hope for the best later on. This would be less of an issue, but a few palapas are right next to the adjacent Costa Linda condo's voleyball court, so most folks avoid them rather than put up getting clobbered with missed balls.

The water varies from fairly calm to slightly rough, but is absolutely safe -- no trace of an undertow while we were there, anyway. The only downside is that the coral reef is obviously dying, and bits of it wash ashore and dig into your feet on days when the surf's a bit rougher than usual.

The grounds are not spectacular, but are nicely kept with various cacti labeled to help educate clients, and tame iguanas thoroughly charm guests.

The hotel emphasizes environmental responsibility, and after awhile you find yourself getting into the rhythm of this and doing little conservation things you otherwise might never consider. And it's not just a question of such things as not changing towels daily unless you want. They also, alone among hotels along the beach, filed a lawsuit to try to stop a marine sport business from being set up on the other side of the Costa Linda.

Alas, the suit appears to have been only partially successful. The marine business is already in operation, but thanks to Bucuti's action floats are supposed to go in eventually to keep the resulting throngs of ski jets, banana boats and the like from coming too close to shore, as they now do. The floats also should help preserve the sea turtle nesting grounds down the beach, which it seems nobody but Bucuti is concerned about in Aruba's go-go development environment.

Downsides? Fewer than you'll find almost anywhere else. Yet, Bucuti is becoming Aruba's hole in the donut. Many afternoons, music blares from the upwind Costa Linda next door -- usually from their bar, but sometimes from residents with Venezuelan music blaring from their balconies. Too, the proliferation of ski jets, banana boats, tour boats and the like -- nearly all close to the shoreline -- are making the area increasingly like Bahamas' Paradise Island. Most don't seem to mind, but the Bucuti is clearly not the haven of calm that guests have described in past years. For that, try something like L'Esplanade in Grand Case, French St. Martin (see reviews).

But Bucuti itself earns outstanding marks. We've stayed in the Caribbean nearly every year since around 1980, and all have had this or that shortcoming(s), even those with top ratings in Fodor's and the like. By this real-world standard, Bucuti is absolutely one of the best resorts around for couples who aren't into all-inclusives or other mass-market offerings.

[Off-season cautions: Renovation of the original wing and the bungalow is to be completed this summer, according to the owner, so off-season types beware. Too, summers in Aruba are hot and humid, with greatly reduced trade winds, so you might think twice about spending your Special Moment here then (although Aruba is too far south for summertime hurricanes, no small consideration). Too, the un-air conditioned gym would likely be more like a sauna.]

  • Stayed: February 2006
    • Value
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
24  Thank Cochon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 12, 2006

Our 10 day stay at Bucuti was fantastic! We stayed in the Tara Suites again and felt it was well worth the money - especially for the sunsets. Dehumidifiers are noisy, but necessary to prevent dampness. Bring a "plug in" air freshener to help. We did see a renovated room in the older building and felt that they did a great job. The beach was superb; you can always get a hut - no matter what time of day. The staffing at the towel hut was inconsistent, and towels were not always available - a minor problem. Everyone was very friendly; staff was superb. Alex and Alfonse - concierge services - did a wonderful job confirming reservations and following up with problems. Carolyn took good care of us every morning for the included cold breakfast - nice selections of cereal, meats, pate, breads, pastries, fruit, and yogurt; the fancy coffees offered were superb. We rented a car for ten days this year for convenience; taxi fares are high and it saves hassles. We were able to get to the grocery stores for snacks too. The transfers to the airport come 3 hours before your flight; with a car you can get some extra time at the beach. Go online to reserve before you get there for the best rates. As for restaurants...we ate at the French Steakhouse twice. The Ambassador special - $29.99 soup to nuts - plus $10 for an okay bottle of wine - was a great deal. The Churasso steak was excellent as was the seafood appetizer and mushroom appetizer. Madame Jeanette's (steak with lobster tail), Chez Mathilde (expensive) - ostrich a little chewy, but duck divine, Marandi's (tuna and veal osso boca), and Papiamento (fish with shrimp and steak)were excellent upscale choices. The food at Que Pasa (ribs and shrimp)and Rumba's (tuna and steak) was good but the service deplorable. (We were so disappointed after great experiences last year.) At Bob's Pizza, the pizza tasted like cardboard. Make reservations ahead online and then reconfirm. For the best prices on Aruba aloe products, go to the smaller market in the market complex across from Divi - not Ling's. What a great vacation!

Stayed: February 2006
5  Thank Island_Girl005
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
A TripAdvisor Member
New York, New York
119
Reviewed March 9, 2006

We just returned from a stay at the Tara Suites at the Bucuti Beach Resort. We had read every traveler review available prior to choosing this hotel and were disppointed at how misleading some of them were about the hotel's service. The experience we had during our stay in this hotel was somewhat mixed in that while the Tara accomodations were very nice and the beach was beautiful, the service at the hotel left much to be desired. Although the people at the Concierge Desk were generally helpful they did not provide 5 star quality service. The service (and food) at the Pirate's Nest was downright poor and at the beach towel hut service was completely non-existent. Whoever was supposed to be at the towel hut was never there. If you were able to track them down and asked for a towel change they would act as if you were imposing on them terribly and they were doing you a favor by doing their job. Bucuti has the makings of an excellent resort if it can better its service and get a decent restaurant on site.

  • Stayed: March 2006
    • Value
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
19  Thank A TripAdvisor Member
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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