Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa

March 6, 2013

The Arubian Welcome Salutation is ‘Bon Bini’ or Welcome to Aruba, One Happy Island.  I was curious about this saying as I made the trip to the Manchebo Beach Resort and Spa.

What I found was not only one happy island, but a Caribbean jewel in the making as the Manchebo Beach Resort and Spa is not only one of the oldest resorts on the island, but indeed, one of the happiest as well.

Aruba, a member of the Kingdom of the Netherlands lies 15 miles off the coast of Venezuela.  The temperature is on average 82-85 degrees and the island is located on the outer fringe of the Hurricane belt, so travel in the June to November months is still very popular.

The drinking water is good, right out of the tap and the food has many influences.  The population of Native Indian culture, Spanish, Dutch, and other varieties, create a culture rich diversity.  Papiamento, the native language is spoken by about 70%, with Spanish, Dutch, and English also widely used.  The US dollar is accepted as cash or credit.  Change may be returned in Florin or Dollars depending on the amount.  Overall, this is an easy island for Americans to acclimate to very quickly.

One caution in regards to tipping.  Check the bill for a service charge, this is understood as a partial tip, so only the difference needs to be added to the total amount.

The island is 19.6 miles long and only 6 miles at it’s widest, so very maneuverable.  The east side is rugged and desert like with cactus and rocky terrain.  The wind off the sea from the east makes the waves raw and turbulent, a complete opposing energy from the sandy beaches of the west and south parts of the island.

The Manchebo Beach Resort and Spa lies on the southwest point of the island making it the perfect place to be.  The beach at Manchebo is the best Aruba has to offer with soft sand, palapas, lounge chairs, and towels.  And guess what else, no crowd.  Whether you make it the beach after breakfast or wait until sunset, you will have a place to relax and enjoy the view.   You can watch the sail boats cruise by, take a dip in the cool water, and listen to the free music played at Pega Pega Beach Bar every night while watching the setting sun under a palapa with a cool drink.

For the couple who wants a well rounded vacation or the yoga teacher who wants the perfect Caribbean retreat location for their students, Manchebo caters to both. 

It is perfect for those who want to relax, practice daily yoga, partake in sailing or fishing or exploring the island, receive spa treatments, and just lounge all day in the sun.  A full service wellness resort offering healthy food options, relaxation, yoga, and spa treatments to leave your experience feeling rested and transformed.

The exceptional friendly service begins at check in which complimentary Mojito and luggage service to your room.  Lodging has undergone recent upgrades and renovations.  The beds are comfortable, the Keurug machine is a great way to start your day with a hot cup of coffee, and free wifi is included.  Organic shower products were hand picked by the CEO and the European like walk in rainfall shower feel like you are getting ready in a spa every day.  There is even a beach cooler to stock with refreshments to take with you as you make your way to the sun.

All of the rooms have been recenlty renovated, interior design by Rachel Bowden, the Design Yogi, with upcoming changes to the outside appearance and décor.  Plans to refurbish the restaurant, pool, and beach bar are to come and will only deepen the quality of the resort, matching the five star energy of the existing resort.

The staff are extremely friendly and genuine and take pride in you enjoying your time in Aruba.  There is a Manager’s Happy Hour every Tuesday where guests can enjoy a cocktail in the Pavilion and connect with the staff, making and deepening the friendships they have formed.  Manchebo has regular, repeating customers, some over 30 years, come every year and some multiple times a year to this special place in clear blue water of the Caribbean.

Here are just a few examples of recent guest comments: “I shared my review of Manchebo Beach Resort in 2011, and just recently returned from another visit. Besides great accommodations, the Resorts' staff is one to remember, because they remember you and your name! The guests you meet at Manchebo will become life-long friends. Many repeat guests that you meet will see you year after year at an annual reunion. If you need to feel like your home, while away, You'll enjoy your visit at Manchebo...try it you'll love it! The Great atmosphere brings everyone back.”

“We had such a great time at the Manchebo in Feb. 2012, we returned again this year for another great week. We arrived Feb. 2nd for a sun filled week and great it was! The staff at Manchebo was so helpful and took care of our every need. The beach is the best on the island, with no areas crowded with people. We reserved our rooms for 2014 before we left!”

There are several meal choices with a variety of restaurants to sample.  The property has three restaurants: Pega Pega Beach Bar open for lunch, happy hour and dinner, Ike’s Bistro open for breakfast and dinner, and the French Steakhouse open for dinner. 

Start the day with the breakfast buffet and or an a la carte option with a healthy smoothie.  My favorites were the homemade granola with yogurt and fruit and the Island Detox Smoothie.

One evening, we embarked on a culinary journey with the Chef’s Choice, led by Ever de Pena.  Everything was delicious starting with the Spanekopita with Red Hummus.  A modern version of the Caprese salad and the Mushroom ravioli with Falafel as the second and third courses, followed by a four bite dessert including espresso cake and coconut ice cream.  The wine list at Ike’s is very robust for a vacation destination, so expect a complete and lovely evening poolside under the stars.

I also recommend the fish tacos from Pega Pega (Papiamento for Iguana) for a late lunch after sunning on the beach.  At Manchebo, you can order and receive this right from your beach lounge.  Seriously, I don’t think it gets ANY better.  Whether it’s a clean towel, beach chair, or a snack, Carlos is there to make you as comfortable as you can possibly be.

The food in general in Aruba is currently under transformation.  Most products are imported, making the choices a challenge so costs can be managed.  Manchebo is a resort taking the lead on not only offering healthier choices on the menu, but last fall installed a Greenhouse on the property to grow herbs and spices.

A local resident takes care of plants; chamomile, parsley, rosemary, mint, cilantro, chives, oregano, basil, lemongrass, cayenne pepper are all used in the dishes prepared by Chef Ever sourced right from the property.  Plans for expanding the garden are in the works for sweet pepper, jalapeños, tomatoes, and green peppers.  The management team at Manchebo is committed to offering healthy and vegetarian choices as part of being a full service Wellness facility.  A buffet style offering is available for Retreats and Workshops.

Another benefit to staying at Manchebo is access to the Spa del Sol.  I literally left my beach chair at 1:55PM to arrive, barefoot, to the spa for check in and a 2PM appointment. 

Spa del Sol offers plenty of treatments from facials, to massage, to body scrubs, including the Garra Rufa Footspa with the little fish to tickle your feet.  The products, made by Aruba Aloe, made my hair extremely soft after laying on the beach.  They are locally sourced and can be found at the airport post customs if you wish to take something home with you.

The treatment rooms can not be beat!  Right on the ocean with the view, the breeze, and the sound of the waves.  A light gauze curtain keeps the space private while enjoying all the feel of the Caribbean.  A truly amazing way to relax.  I recommend the body scrub right before you head home to clear away the sand and leave skin feeling soft and supple to show off that amazing tan.

Enjoy your treatment, then relax on the one of the comfortable lounge chairs and watch the sea.  Ahhhhhh….it’s so nice to exhale completely.  Prices are very reasonable, so treat yourself to more than one.  Tips are cash only, be prepared ahead of time, US Dollars are accepted.

Daily yoga,  can be found either at the Pavilion near the pool or the Yoga Deck on the north side of the property.  Both are beautiful spots to practice on the beach with a view of the ocean without the challenge of the sand.  There are a variety of teachers and styles to choose from led by Director Rachel Brathen, including Pilates and Paddle Board Yoga. 

I had the fortune of taking classes from four different teachers; three site teachers, as well as, one guest teacher from Boston.  What a treat is it to be away from home and still maintain a healthy practice.  Back home in New York City, as we transition from winter, all I have to do is close my eyes in my pose to see that sparkling blue water, soft white sand, and swaying palm trees, all before me.

Sunday night brought a special class on the beach of Full Moon Yoga including candles and tiki torches.   I could have practiced Chandra Namascar all night under that beautiful full moon falling on Eagle Beach.  In Trikonsasa, we were instructed to reach for a star and there..indeed…it felt as if we could.

The Manchebo also values the community and traditions of Aruba and the connection to the local people.  The last Sunday of every month, guests and locals are invited to a free concert on the property.  Whether it’s local musicians or the complimentary Mother’s Day lunch, Manchebo believes that a strong tie to community and bridging guests and locals, is a great way to share in the Arubian spirit.  Experiencing the local culture enhances the memories we make when we travel.

If you feel like exploring the island there are plenty of options.  A day trip to the east side is easy by car or ATV.  See wild goats and donkeys, visit the Natural Bridge, and experience the raw turbulent energy as the wind and waves move in from the east. The Manchebo offers a full service concierge to help you book all of your activities. Whether you want to do something or nothing, the Manchebo offers both delightful options.

I recommend the snorkel and sunset cruise by Blue Melody, Albert Monna and team.  Sailing, snorkeling, and an amazing sunset from the water all from comfortable chairs while sipping cools drinks.  Only around 15 people capacity, so the boat has plenty of space to lounge.   You’ll visit a reef to explore by snorkel, then enjoy snacks and drinks while the sun drops into the sea for the night.

For Sushi, I recommend Tatami Sushi.  A bit off the beaten path and just a short drive from Manchebo, this family owned restaurant has very reasonably priced and delicious food.  Try the Crispy Eel and Vegetarian Rolls or ask the server for the current specials, her recommendation turned out to be one of our favorites.

Within walking distance from Manchebo is the Alhambra Market.  Dine at Fusion Wine Bar or Ginger, then hit the Market for provisions to fill up your cooler for the next day at the beach.  Manchebo is not only the perfect location on the beach, but has plenty of walking options if you feel like expanding your horizons without getting into the car.

Having been to the Caribbean few times, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Aruba.  What I found was a perfect beach on the best part of the island, daily yoga with a view of the ocean and a tropical breeze as I practiced my poses, a delicious smoothie to start my day healthy, and an incredible spa with a wide variety of treatments and an experience that most only dream about. 

What I found as well was the perfect place to get away, whether I am visiting with loved ones for relaxation, on a yoga vacation with yoga friends, or bringing a group of students for a retreat, Manchebo Beach Resort and Spa, a special place, with special people, to make the most special memories.

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