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Thread: 20th Wedding Anniversary Trip June 22-29 (long)

  1. #1
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    20th Wedding Anniversary Trip June 22-29 (long)

    (I really do try to be succinct but it doesn't work too well as I am a story teller, so be warned before you dive into this post)

    Hi. My wife and I have found this forum so useful I thought I'd share our Aruba experience, or experiences, really. For our 20th wedding anniversary we visited Aruba for the fourth time. We have stayed at Bucuti in the Tara suites each previous time and found no reason to try anything else, so our fourth would be the same as the others. We absolutely love it at Bucuti and it's perfect for us as we don't have children and primarily are there to relax quietly.

    Our First Aruba Trip:

    A brief overview of our previous trips. Our first trip in 2010 was one of exploration and getting familiar with the island. We researched diligently before the trip, mostly on this site and tripadvisor, so we had a plan of things we wanted to do. We aren't really into activities (water sports, nightlife, etc.) too much but we did want to see and learn about the island. We did a lot of walking around, looked at other nearby resorts, visited a grocery store to get snacks and food for light lunches, walked the beach end-to-end in the low rise area.

    Rented a Jeep one day and packed food and drinks for a long day exploring. It was so much fun and a little nerve wracking at times Since we had a Jeep our biggest goal was to go to Natural Pool. I had researched extensively and knew the risks. One thing we quickly learned was that getting around the island, especially on the northern and eastern side was a bit of a learning experience. We got into some pretty gnarly spots but eventually found the correct path and made it to the pool without damage. Thankfully, because I never would've lived it down with DW. It was so worth the trouble. What an awesome site to see and enjoy!

    We also visited the lighthouse, chapel, ruins, Natural Bridge and Baby Bridge, Arikok Park, several beaches and seemingly most other things on that side of the island. We spent most of the day exploring and had a blast. It's amazing the stark differences of the two main sides of the island. As much as we like the beautiful white beaches, the rough side is just amazing to see. Nature is truly amazing.

    We drove through the residential areas and the various towns. While many of those areas are obviously a bit rough looking we never felt threatened or any danger and to this date we never have. That's something most other Caribbean islands can't say. To finish the day we visited the high rise area, walked around some of the resorts and Palm Beach and did some shopping. While the high rise area is beautiful and busy and vibrant, this really helped confirm that we had made the best decision for us choosing the low rise area.

    Since we had the vehicle we found a supposedly popular restaurant down in Santa Cruz. I don't recall the name but we got reservations and we were the only people there for a long while. We began to wonder what we had gotten ourselves into. The chef/owner talked to us about our options and we ordered from him. More people did eventually arrive and while our food was good it definitely didn't live up to the advanced billing. Luckily, with only two other exceptions (French Steakhouse and La Trattoria), most of our dining experiences during all our visits has been fantastic.

    The rest of the visit we mostly did the same thing each day. I would get up early to workout or run while letting DW sleep in. We'd eat the wonderful buffet breakfast at Bucuti and then head straight to the beach. Around 1pm go to the room and eat a light lunch, usually a sandwich and some chips or crackers, then head back down to the beach until time for dinner. Most dinners were within walking distance and we found some favorites we've been back to time and time again.

    By the end of the trip we were planning our next one. I know that is a common theme Getting home was a nightmare. One of, if not the, worst travel experiences we've had. Multiple delays and problems and so comical I could write a mini novel. Luckily, it wasn't enough to deter us from coming back!


    Our Most Recent Trip:

    Fast forward a few years and a third trip later. Trips 2 and 3 were similar to the first in that we rented a vehicle one day but otherwise spent most of the time around Bucuti and the various Eagle beach restaurants. We haven't rented a Jeep since the first trip but have rented a car each time to travel the island and eat at a restaurant too far to walk to. This has worked well for us as there are plenty of restaurants within walking distance to satisfy us and we aren't big into the nightlife. Our primary purpose of visiting Aruba is to relax and enjoy one of God's greatest creations.

    For this fourth visit we once again chose Bucuti. The prices have risen a fair amount over the years but we still find value and the beach and tranquility is perfect for us. Even though it was our 20th wedding anniversary we didn't really plan anything out of the ordinary. Simply being in Aruba is a gift. We decided to make plans on-the-fly as we usually do.

    Our arrival to Aruba was on-time and we got through customs and were at Bucuti and checked into our room in record time. It was strikingly flawless. For the first time we were able to visit the beach on our first day. On our way to dinner we found out that turtles were possibly hatching. We have tried to catch these since our first visit but have been unsuccessful. We waited over an hour at the site and finally decided to leave. Never saw confirmation if they moved or not that night. This again happened a couple nights later but saw nothing. The next evening the "turtle people" cleaned out the nest, as we understand. We didn't get to see the magic but never learned if it actually happened or not. Maybe next time.

    During our first visit we easily discovered Ellioti's, Pizza Bob's and Matthew's. We have frequented these each trip, several times each time. DW is fairly picky and she loves Ellioti's, so we have been there 3-4 times each trip. Contrary to many of the reviews on various websites, we don't expect authentic Italian there. It really would be silly to go to Aruba and expect authentic Italian, but I digress. We go because their seafood dishes are outstanding. We have yet to have a dish we haven't been satisfied with and 95% of the time the service has been great.

    Pizza Bobs is well-known and popular and fits the bill for quick, great meals, especially lunches. We love it and usually visit 2-3 times per trip.

    We've been to Matthew's for lunches and dinners and find it very positive. Not the best in the world but certainly very good. Service is similar to what we have grown to know in Aruba - it's mostly slow. One happy, slow, island!

    The first couple days we did the same as we've always done. Enjoyed breakfast, beach and then dinner nearby. On the third day we rented a car again and first headed toward Baby Beach. We love that area - Seroe Colorado, Baby Beach, etc.. While we enjoy the sandy, white beaches, we really enjoy seeing the incredible power of the sea on the non-inhabited areas. For the first time we walked south of the lighthouse structure on Seroe Colorado down to the water. It was INCREDIBLE! I don't know how we had missed it in the past but this was the highlight of our trip. The power of the water and beauty of the area was just phenomenal. If we could have a house atop that area it would be ideal!

    We drove on around to other areas north/west of SC that we had seen before. We found a bunch of folks wind surfing. That was new. We had been in that area 3x before and never seen anyone out there but there were a dozen people or more enjoying water sports there. So exciting to see.

    We headed back into town and stopped in Oranjestad, for the first time. We finally decided to brave the shopping and tourist area for the first time. We had a good time after finally finding parking, which wasn't easy at all.

    Had lunch at Iguana Joe's, which we both enjoyed. This was actually some of the best service we've received at a restaurant with regard to speed. Pleasant surprise, even though it was busy and hopping!

    I forgot to mention that on the way to Baby Beach we took a slightly different route than we had taken before. Not on purpose just happenstance. On the way down we say the sign to Flying Fishbone. I had seen this over the years in many restaurant reviews. And the Old Man and the Sea was virtually next door.

    We once again drove around the high rise area and Malmok to the Lighthouse. Not much has changed but the Ritz finally opened, it seems. We want to explore the beaches more on this side of the island, so we have future plans. It IS nice to see so much activity up there which tells me tourism in Aruba is growing.

    We had planned on going to Passions that evening, which we had gone to on previous visits and really enjoyed, but after seeing where these were located we decided to try to go to one that evening. After getting back to the room and reading a few more reviews we decided to try FB and were able to get a reservation for that evening. I understand this would be nearly impossible during the high season but it worked for us this night.

    We arrived there and got a spot in the sand in the middle. We were very pleased. DW would've haven't wanted the water tables anyway (as she mentioned after we got there), so it worked out perfectly. Service and food was really excellent. We even got to experience the sunset, although over four trips to Aruba we've found out that true sunsets are somewhat rare due to the hazy evenings. It didn't matter because DW and I were with each other in a great place eating a wonderful meal on our anniversary. It was an incredible evening.

    Each visit during our car-rental day we have seen something we haven't seen before. One would think such a relatively small island would be easy to cover during a single day. Not so, as we have learned. We can't wait to see the new things we will discover!

    The rest of the trip was the same as the first part. Nothing but relaxing and eating. It was truly enjoyable.

    Trip back to the airport was uneventful and Aruba customs/immigration/security was easy but a way longer wait than normal. The US Customs/Immigration was RIDICULOUS. It was by far the worst we had experienced there. Felt more like Cancun than Aruba. Really bad. The line snaked 8 rows deep and we hadn't experienced more than 4 rows in the past. Very few agents working during peak time. Very disappointing, though the agent we dealt with was very friendly. Just took an hour to get to him.

    Flight home was mostly uneventful and capped off a great trip. We are trying to talk several friends and family to coming with us and renting a house for the next trip but I will post other threads about that.

    If you've made it this far, bravo! We love Aruba and would love to spend a good part of our retirement years there. Hopefully, we can make it happen, but regardless, we will be back.

  2. #2
    Aruba since 1979
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    Andrea J.'s Avatar
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    May 2007
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    welcome and happy belated 20th anniversary!

    thank you for a great story.

    your situation with US CUSTOMS in aruba is the situation that is becoming more and more frequent and more and more frustrating.

    i am not sure which is worse.......the long line in aruba for US CUSTOMS OR having to go thru US CUSTOMS in the USA....i know that I think my preference would be to deal with it in Aruba, and not have to have the hassle of it in the USA.

    Thanks so much for posting.
    Quote Originally Posted by IronScott View Post
    (I really do try to be succinct but it doesn't work too well as I am a story teller, so be warned before you dive into this post)

    Hi. My wife and I have found this forum so useful I thought I'd share our Aruba experience, or experiences, really. For our 20th wedding anniversary we visited Aruba for the fourth time. We have stayed at Bucuti in the Tara suites each previous time and found no reason to try anything else, so our fourth would be the same as the others. We absolutely love it at Bucuti and it's perfect for us as we don't have children and primarily are there to relax quietly.

    Our First Aruba Trip:

    A brief overview of our previous trips. Our first trip in 2010 was one of exploration and getting familiar with the island. We researched diligently before the trip, mostly on this site and tripadvisor, so we had a plan of things we wanted to do. We aren't really into activities (water sports, nightlife, etc.) too much but we did want to see and learn about the island. We did a lot of walking around, looked at other nearby resorts, visited a grocery store to get snacks and food for light lunches, walked the beach end-to-end in the low rise area.

    Rented a Jeep one day and packed food and drinks for a long day exploring. It was so much fun and a little nerve wracking at times Since we had a Jeep our biggest goal was to go to Natural Pool. I had researched extensively and knew the risks. One thing we quickly learned was that getting around the island, especially on the northern and eastern side was a bit of a learning experience. We got into some pretty gnarly spots but eventually found the correct path and made it to the pool without damage. Thankfully, because I never would've lived it down with DW. It was so worth the trouble. What an awesome site to see and enjoy!

    We also visited the lighthouse, chapel, ruins, Natural Bridge and Baby Bridge, Arikok Park, several beaches and seemingly most other things on that side of the island. We spent most of the day exploring and had a blast. It's amazing the stark differences of the two main sides of the island. As much as we like the beautiful white beaches, the rough side is just amazing to see. Nature is truly amazing.

    We drove through the residential areas and the various towns. While many of those areas are obviously a bit rough looking we never felt threatened or any danger and to this date we never have. That's something most other Caribbean islands can't say. To finish the day we visited the high rise area, walked around some of the resorts and Palm Beach and did some shopping. While the high rise area is beautiful and busy and vibrant, this really helped confirm that we had made the best decision for us choosing the low rise area.

    Since we had the vehicle we found a supposedly popular restaurant down in Santa Cruz. I don't recall the name but we got reservations and we were the only people there for a long while. We began to wonder what we had gotten ourselves into. The chef/owner talked to us about our options and we ordered from him. More people did eventually arrive and while our food was good it definitely didn't live up to the advanced billing. Luckily, with only two other exceptions (French Steakhouse and La Trattoria), most of our dining experiences during all our visits has been fantastic.

    The rest of the visit we mostly did the same thing each day. I would get up early to workout or run while letting DW sleep in. We'd eat the wonderful buffet breakfast at Bucuti and then head straight to the beach. Around 1pm go to the room and eat a light lunch, usually a sandwich and some chips or crackers, then head back down to the beach until time for dinner. Most dinners were within walking distance and we found some favorites we've been back to time and time again.

    By the end of the trip we were planning our next one. I know that is a common theme Getting home was a nightmare. One of, if not the, worst travel experiences we've had. Multiple delays and problems and so comical I could write a mini novel. Luckily, it wasn't enough to deter us from coming back!


    Our Most Recent Trip:

    Fast forward a few years and a third trip later. Trips 2 and 3 were similar to the first in that we rented a vehicle one day but otherwise spent most of the time around Bucuti and the various Eagle beach restaurants. We haven't rented a Jeep since the first trip but have rented a car each time to travel the island and eat at a restaurant too far to walk to. This has worked well for us as there are plenty of restaurants within walking distance to satisfy us and we aren't big into the nightlife. Our primary purpose of visiting Aruba is to relax and enjoy one of God's greatest creations.

    For this fourth visit we once again chose Bucuti. The prices have risen a fair amount over the years but we still find value and the beach and tranquility is perfect for us. Even though it was our 20th wedding anniversary we didn't really plan anything out of the ordinary. Simply being in Aruba is a gift. We decided to make plans on-the-fly as we usually do.

    Our arrival to Aruba was on-time and we got through customs and were at Bucuti and checked into our room in record time. It was strikingly flawless. For the first time we were able to visit the beach on our first day. On our way to dinner we found out that turtles were possibly hatching. We have tried to catch these since our first visit but have been unsuccessful. We waited over an hour at the site and finally decided to leave. Never saw confirmation if they moved or not that night. This again happened a couple nights later but saw nothing. The next evening the "turtle people" cleaned out the nest, as we understand. We didn't get to see the magic but never learned if it actually happened or not. Maybe next time.

    During our first visit we easily discovered Ellioti's, Pizza Bob's and Matthew's. We have frequented these each trip, several times each time. DW is fairly picky and she loves Ellioti's, so we have been there 3-4 times each trip. Contrary to many of the reviews on various websites, we don't expect authentic Italian there. It really would be silly to go to Aruba and expect authentic Italian, but I digress. We go because their seafood dishes are outstanding. We have yet to have a dish we haven't been satisfied with and 95% of the time the service has been great.

    Pizza Bobs is well-known and popular and fits the bill for quick, great meals, especially lunches. We love it and usually visit 2-3 times per trip.

    We've been to Matthew's for lunches and dinners and find it very positive. Not the best in the world but certainly very good. Service is similar to what we have grown to know in Aruba - it's mostly slow. One happy, slow, island!

    The first couple days we did the same as we've always done. Enjoyed breakfast, beach and then dinner nearby. On the third day we rented a car again and first headed toward Baby Beach. We love that area - Seroe Colorado, Baby Beach, etc.. While we enjoy the sandy, white beaches, we really enjoy seeing the incredible power of the sea on the non-inhabited areas. For the first time we walked south of the lighthouse structure on Seroe Colorado down to the water. It was INCREDIBLE! I don't know how we had missed it in the past but this was the highlight of our trip. The power of the water and beauty of the area was just phenomenal. If we could have a house atop that area it would be ideal!

    We drove on around to other areas north/west of SC that we had seen before. We found a bunch of folks wind surfing. That was new. We had been in that area 3x before and never seen anyone out there but there were a dozen people or more enjoying water sports there. So exciting to see.

    We headed back into town and stopped in Oranjestad, for the first time. We finally decided to brave the shopping and tourist area for the first time. We had a good time after finally finding parking, which wasn't easy at all.

    Had lunch at Iguana Joe's, which we both enjoyed. This was actually some of the best service we've received at a restaurant with regard to speed. Pleasant surprise, even though it was busy and hopping!

    I forgot to mention that on the way to Baby Beach we took a slightly different route than we had taken before. Not on purpose just happenstance. On the way down we say the sign to Flying Fishbone. I had seen this over the years in many restaurant reviews. And the Old Man and the Sea was virtually next door.

    We once again drove around the high rise area and Malmok to the Lighthouse. Not much has changed but the Ritz finally opened, it seems. We want to explore the beaches more on this side of the island, so we have future plans. It IS nice to see so much activity up there which tells me tourism in Aruba is growing.

    We had planned on going to Passions that evening, which we had gone to on previous visits and really enjoyed, but after seeing where these were located we decided to try to go to one that evening. After getting back to the room and reading a few more reviews we decided to try FB and were able to get a reservation for that evening. I understand this would be nearly impossible during the high season but it worked for us this night.

    We arrived there and got a spot in the sand in the middle. We were very pleased. DW would've haven't wanted the water tables anyway (as she mentioned after we got there), so it worked out perfectly. Service and food was really excellent. We even got to experience the sunset, although over four trips to Aruba we've found out that true sunsets are somewhat rare due to the hazy evenings. It didn't matter because DW and I were with each other in a great place eating a wonderful meal on our anniversary. It was an incredible evening.

    Each visit during our car-rental day we have seen something we haven't seen before. One would think such a relatively small island would be easy to cover during a single day. Not so, as we have learned. We can't wait to see the new things we will discover!

    The rest of the trip was the same as the first part. Nothing but relaxing and eating. It was truly enjoyable.

    Trip back to the airport was uneventful and Aruba customs/immigration/security was easy but a way longer wait than normal. The US Customs/Immigration was RIDICULOUS. It was by far the worst we had experienced there. Felt more like Cancun than Aruba. Really bad. The line snaked 8 rows deep and we hadn't experienced more than 4 rows in the past. Very few agents working during peak time. Very disappointing, though the agent we dealt with was very friendly. Just took an hour to get to him.

    Flight home was mostly uneventful and capped off a great trip. We are trying to talk several friends and family to coming with us and renting a house for the next trip but I will post other threads about that.

    If you've made it this far, bravo! We love Aruba and would love to spend a good part of our retirement years there. Hopefully, we can make it happen, but regardless, we will be back.

  3. #3
    Senior Member bradrobster's Avatar
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    Very nice report...thanks for sharing !

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrea J. View Post
    welcome and happy belated 20th anniversary!

    thank you for a great story.

    your situation with US CUSTOMS in aruba is the situation that is becoming more and more frequent and more and more frustrating.

    i am not sure which is worse.......the long line in aruba for US CUSTOMS OR having to go thru US CUSTOMS in the USA....i know that I think my preference would be to deal with it in Aruba, and not have to have the hassle of it in the USA.

    Thanks so much for posting.
    Thank you! I should've joined a few years ago given how much I've learned here.

    I do love getting customs out of the way in Aruba. It's very nice to not have to deal with it after a long flight. If I recall correctly Toronto and maybe some other Canadian airports have the same thing. Handy for sure! I was just shocked how bad the line was this time. I hoped it wasn't a trend but it seems to be.

  5. #5
    Senior Member WaltVB's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing your trip with us! Sounds like you had a great anniversary and Happy 20th!

  6. #6
    Senior Member cpjones's Avatar
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    Wonderful report... thank you. We experienced an exceptionally long wait with US Customs/Immigration yesterday. Only 2 agents working and a long wait.

  7. #7
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    Mango Halto, East Coast jeep riding, Palm Beach
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    Great trip report. We also waited an hour in US customs last Tuesday. Great to see you get out and enjoy the island.

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