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Trip Report - Bonaire is snorkeling mecca!

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We visited Bonaire for the first time at then end of January and thought I’d post some trip notes for anyone else considering a visit.

We are avid snorkelers in our early 40’s who love a mid winter getaway to swim with the fish. Bonaire was absolutely fantastic and I can’t believe we waited this long to visit. It is really a paradise for snorkelers and given the number of sites accessible from shore and variety of sea life, we thought it topped Caymans, US and BVI’s and Cozumel.

Getting there/getting around – we took the Saturday night Continental redeye out of Newark and landed on Bonaire at 5 Sunday morning. We had rented a 4WD pick up from Bencho Car rental and they were there to meet us when we emerged with our luggage. The truck was older, but in good condition and we got a great rate.

Accomodations: We stayed at the Bellafonte which is on the water south of Kralendijk and the airport. There is no beach (there aren’t many beaches on Bonaire) or pool, but there is a pier with lounge chairs and easy access into the water. We had a junior suite which provided plenty of room for the two of us. It was immaculate and had a little kitchen with stove, microwave and fridge. The staff were very nice and helpful, particularly Maaki (sp?).

Eating: We stocked up at Cultimara and Warehouse for snacks and breakfast items, water etc. Prices were comparable with the US. Wine selection at the grocery was so-so, but we were able to find some we liked at Bonaire Gift Shop and Antillean Wine Co. I should note that a lot of the labels in the market were in Dutch, and it would have been helpful to have a Dutch/English dictionary to figure out what we were getting!

Dinner: Our favorites were Bambu, Capriccio, La Guernica and Plazita Limena. Wil’s was OK, as was take out from Pasa Bon Pizza. Service was excellent everywhere.
For lunch, we did take out sandwiches from Bistro de Paris (excellent) and The Last Bite (v. limited selection, but we didn’t get there until 12:30). We also had lunch at Rum Runners at Captain Don’s which was good – and we got to snorkel their house reef!

Snorkeling: WOW! It was incredible. On Monday morning, we did a guided snorkel with Renee http://www.infobonaire.com/reneesnorkeltrips/ . We spent 3 hours at Windsock and by the Yellow Sub pier and Renee provided a great education on where to look for fish and what we were looking at. (we also picked up a fish guide at a dive shop in Kralendijk which helped to identify other new sightings during the week). We had the Lonely Planet guide “Diving and Snorkeling Bonaire” which was great for detailing the various snorkel sites.

Our favorite sites were Windsock, Andreas 1& 2, 1000 steps, Oil slick, in front of Captain Don’s habitat, Invisibles and off the beach at the Plaza hotel. There was also great snorkeling right in front of the Bellafonte. It was awesome to be able to roll out of bed and into the water! We also did a night snorkel with Renee which started in front of the Divi Divi and continued up toward the town pier. It was initially a bit unnerving, but it was so cool to see all of the “night” creatures and colors. (would recommend a shortie wet suit for the night snorkel, it gets a bit chilly)

We also visted Washington Slagbaii park at the north end of the island. The drive through the park is not for the faint of heart or any vehicle which isn’t 4WD! The dirt roads are very challenging and make for slow-going, so it’s best to set aside a full day to visit the park. Unfortunately, the day we went the surf at the north end was extremely rough and choppy. We tried to snorkel at Wayaka and Playa Funchi and it was just too rough (had a similar experience at Karpata). We did manage to swim a bit at Slagbaii North and South, but the churn made for poor visibility. We were disappointed, but there were plenty of lizards and flamingoes to distract us.

Anything to do besides snorkel and eat? There appeared to be some great hiking trails in W-S park, though we didn’t hike. There is some amazing windsurfing at Lac Bay on the East side of the island. DH took a lesson and really enjoyed it. I relaxed on the beach and enjoyed watching the reaction of the unsuspecting folks who surfed in front of the nudist resort next to Jibe City! There is also landsailing near Lac Bay, essentially a go-cart with a windsail, which looked pretty cool. My favorite non aquatic activity during our stay was our visit to the Donkey sanctuary.

While it may not be the easiest place to get to, Bonaire is an absolutely amazing island and well worth a visit for anyone who enjoys snorkeling or diving. We can’t wait to go back!

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