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Seeking bike friendly island with good food and snorkeling/diving

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Jan 21st, 2012, 01:15 AM
  #1
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Seeking bike friendly island with good food and snorkeling/diving

Hey all, I could really use some help here.

Traveling with new bf who loves to cycle, run and hike and i'm used to mostly being in the water. Trying to find some common ground that we're both happy with:

1. I'd love if we could bike on cruisers most everywhere - to restaurants, markets, explore, etc. If he can go off on his own for more serious cycling that would be great, but not necessary.
2. healthy reef for snorkeling, maybe diving
3. good food (fresh fruit juice stands, cake sellers, street food, local to higher-end restaurants)
4. light hiking that wouldn't kill me or otherwise end burgeoning relationship
5. smaller wld be much preferred over cruise ship locales although not ruling anything out if I could find the other stuff

Guadeloupe offers serious cycling excursions but doesn't look like we could both just casually bike around as part of our daily routine. (plz correct me if I'm wrong about this.) Food and snorkeling sound great on Basse Terre side but things look far apart and would require being in a rental car quite a bit if biking everywhere is unrealistic.

Considering Curacao and then hopping to Bonaire for few days but again looks like mountain biking excursions rather than casually being on bikes everyday?

I'm almost be tempted to go back and split a trip between Ambergris and Caulker in Belize except I was just there 2 weeks ago. Surely, there must be other intimate islands where cruising around on bikes is the norm and bike rentals abound? A place with good food, a healthy reef, maybe light hiking ops? I've seen mention of both Barbados and Bermuda -- are these worth researching?
fishee is offline  
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Jan 21st, 2012, 05:06 AM
  #2
 
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Briland.com a small flat island with little chance of becoming
road kill on cruisers unlike many of the others.
pinksandsresort.com runawayhill.com valentinesdive.com
Other Bahamas Out Islands Anguilla Bermuda maybe St. Barts.
Grand Terre Guadeloupe fine more of a road cyclist island.

Happy Hunting!
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Jan 21st, 2012, 06:31 AM
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I'd take a harder look at Bonaire. The roads are pretty narrow, but, there isn't much traffic. Lots of great snorkeling.

You could bike easily around Kralendijk, your boyfriend could make longer excursions.

Excellent restaurants. I was surprised how great the food was for such a relatively small island.
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Jan 22nd, 2012, 07:01 AM
  #4
 
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You will see lots of Dutch people on cruiser type bikes in Bonaire. Except when you head to the northern end of the island, it is mostly flat (but very, very sunny and hot out on the roads for running and biking).

Good hiking in the Mt Branderis park- but no Viking death march type hikes. I am married to a crazed hiker, so I know what you mean about worrying about the level of hiking. You will likely still want a rental car or truck to explore and seek out different dive/snorkel sights. The water in Bonaire is wonderful but there aren't too many white sandy beaches.

For an island, the food scene is very good with lots of choices, including a big influence from nearby South America with lots of grilled meats.

They have seen a big upswing in cruise ships since we started going there 20 years ago. When a ship is in town (maybe 1-2 days per week), the cruisers are everywhere in Kralendijk and seem to take over the Lac Bay beach areas. We tried to plan days diving in the far north or south ends of the island to avoid all the crowds.

Another option: Dominica

Unlike flat, sunny Bonaire, Dominica is all mountainous, lush rain forests. It provides more of an adventure vacation. There are local operations that lead mountain biking trips for your BF (these are serious steep mountains!).

The snorkeling is good, the diving is spectacular! No really sand beaches though. Lots of moderate hikes to waterfalls and hot pools in the jungle, as well as some really challenging hikes.

The food in Dominica is more local/island style than Bonaire, which is much more varied and restaurant quality. You will find fruit drink stands, local snacks in tiny rum shops, and a few nice restaurants on the island.

Dominica is much more of an adventure/exploring a culture type vacation with much, much less tourist infrastructure, while Bonaire is more geared to diving and relaxing, with adventure type stuff if you want to seek it out. Just driving in Dominica is an adventure (and you won't really be able to cruise around town on a cruiser bike- this is serious mountain terrain). The diving is seriously just amazing- I recommend Nature Island Dive in Soufriere. The coral is what Bonaire was 15 years ago.

Bermuda would be a good choice too- although very expensive. Lovely beaches, decent diving and snorkeling (not great but worth it), some hiking trails that aren't too challenging, excellent food. I don't know about the biking situation in terms of safety but it would be a lovely place to bike scenery wise. We just use the busses and ferries.
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Jan 23rd, 2012, 09:35 AM
  #5
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thanks so much everyone -- I'll look into these options now but Curacao/Bonaire combo sounding very feasible with award tix. Based on our interests, should we head to straight to Bonaire or hang out in Curacao 3 nights, Bonaire 4 nights?

Also, would it be possible to rent a car for just part of the week or hire a driver for days we want to explore? Neither of us thrilled with idea of rental car but maybe we'll get over it.

I've been curious about Saba or Dominca for awhile now -- thx again!
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Jan 23rd, 2012, 10:07 AM
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I've done Bonaire many, many times and Curacao only once but if you are interested in diving and snorkeling, Bonaire is much better- more accesss, easier, better overall reefs. There are some good dive spots in Curacao but it is much bigger and you need to drive a long way to get to some of them.

If you want a relaxing, outdoorsy vacation, with a little bit of sightseeing, I recommend Bonaire. If you want a city experience, casinos, more sights to see, you will find that in Curacao. Curacao is more industrial mixed with really rural, while Bonaire is more charming with a nice amount of rural, rugged, desert beauty. Just my opinions!

On Bonaire, you could stay in Kralendijk and not need a car, especially if you are boat diving, but part of the magic of Bonaire is picking up tanks and throwing them in the back of your pickup, hitting the road with aqua blue water at your side, looking for the yellow painted rocks that signal a good dive/snorkel site. If you want to hike/bike in the national park, you will need to drive to get there. You may be able to find taxis, but driving on Bonaire is really easy.

If you are seriously looking at a Bonaire vacation, check out the forums at BonaireTalk for tons of information on absolutely everything.
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Jan 23rd, 2012, 07:28 PM
  #7
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Plane arrives into Curacao late so thinking of staying here at least 2 nights before flying to Bonaire. Curacao seems to offer interesting history and architecture - any suggestions about where to stay or what part of the city to check out?

Does Curacao 2 nights (history, architecture, good food?) before continuing to Bonaire for 5 nights (biking, snorkeling, diving, hiking) sound reasonable?

Bonaire rentals on vrbo are almost all rented for March -- contacting bamboo bali and Calexico. Other suggestions appreciated! The desert landscape of Bonaire is really surprising.
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Jan 23rd, 2012, 09:31 PM
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Thank you very much BlueSwimmer for that informative suggestion. I could share this information to my friend who've been planning to do the same adventure.
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Jan 24th, 2012, 06:12 AM
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If you want to stay right in Willemstad, consider Hotel Kura Hulanda. We got a nice room using Hotels.com, about half the rack rate.

On Bonaire, we stayed at Bonaire Ocean Front Apartments. Not fancy, but clean and within walking distance of downtown and nice ocean views.

I would rent a car on Bonaire. The driving is easy.
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Jan 24th, 2012, 06:26 PM
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Kura Hulanda did look nice. We rented a house about 40 minutes from Willemstad, so I don't have suggestions for in town dining/lodging but we did enjoy the market and walking around, the swinging bridge, seeing a HUGE ship come through the canal, and the little Dutch cheese shop in the fort.

Beyond VRBO for Bonaire, check out Bonaire Partners and Paradise Rentals/Remax for condo and house rentals. We've had good dealings with both.

A great budget option if you have car is Bonaire Town Homes- very clean with super nice owners. We stayed at Bonaire Ocean Front Apartments and it was clean and convenient, with a nice little pool.

If you want a resort within walking distance of town, the Plaza has nice grounds, a great dive operation, a small sand beach with a good dive/snorkel spot right there, and mediocre but pretty restaurants.

We spent one night at the Divi Flamingo once when our flight was cancelled, and the room was small but quite nice and we were treated very well.

Pretty much every place to stay on the island is reviewed and discussed at Bonairetalk.com. We like a house or condo with a kitchen to keep our own cold Polar beer and delicious aged gouda cheese- the taste of Bonaire for me!

Bonaire is not your average tropical island, though there are some palm trees, but the contrast of desert and crystal blue water is gorgeous to me. You may want to spend one day over on Lac Bay watching the windsurfers- the beach bar there has great food. Just be sure not to go on a day a cruise ship is in town-wall to wall people then! Another good day trip is a short boat ride to Klein Bonaire- we have rented a little boat at the Plaza and driven ourselves over to this uninhabited island for sunning and snorkeling. We also like driving up north for photos and rugged beauty, plus a real island style lunch at the Rose Inn (coldest beer on the island and great fish dishes- but bring bug spray).

If your boyfriend is not a diver but has any interest, Bonaire is a fabulous place to learn with gin clear water and lots to see, plus many really professional dive operations. We took the book part of the training at home and did our open water part in Bonaire on our second trip there- inspired by the snorkeling on our first trip. (Can you tell I love this place?) Just be sure to bring reef shoes, and if you are buying fins, buy the open heel kind that you can wear over dive booties- you have to walk over dead coral and urchins in many of the good spots.

Wherever you end up- have a great trip!
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Feb 28th, 2012, 08:46 AM
  #11
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thanks all -- I ended up booking a great special at Kura Hurlanda on Curacao for our first 2 nights and another 5 nights at Calexico on Bonaire. Planning on flying Divi Divi as we are flying back to Curacao on the same day as our return flight home and I heard they're more reliable with flight times than the larger airline.

BF just had shoulder surgery so he's not going to get certified any longer, but hoping he can swim a little by March. We plan on renting bikes from Macho on Bonaire. My green BF is very resistant to renting a car but we'll see how it works out when we get there. Thanks again for all your help, really looking forward to it.
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Mar 29th, 2012, 07:29 AM
  #12
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Just wanted to follow-up that Bonaire was almost perfect for biking, snorkeling, diving, and good food. Rented dutch tourist bikes for $55/week from Macho's Scooters and Bikes and we were able to easily ride to the furthest north and south dive/snorkel spots along the island all week. The island was just stunning. Will write a longer report but wanted to update the thread, thanks everyone for your help.
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