Trip Report - Bonaire is snorkeling mecca!

Mar 11th, 2008, 04:25 PM
  #1  
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Trip Report - Bonaire is snorkeling mecca!

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

We are avid snorkelers in our early 40ís who love a mid winter getaway to swim with the fish. Bonaire was absolutely fantastic and I canít 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 BVIís and Cozumel.

Getting there/getting around Ė 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 arenít 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. Wilís 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 didnít get there until 12:30). We also had lunch at Rum Runners at Captain Donís which was good Ė 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 ďDiving and Snorkeling BonaireĒ 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 Donís 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 ďnightĒ 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 isnít 4WD! The dirt roads are very challenging and make for slow-going, so itís 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 didnít 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 canít wait to go back!
ElleD9 is offline  
Mar 11th, 2008, 05:24 PM
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Thank you for the trip report--it's especially nice to read about an island that doesn't get a lot of coverage on this site. Do you know if the Continental redeye is a seasonal flight or year round? What time does the redeye leave Newark?
ejcrowe is offline  
Mar 11th, 2008, 07:09 PM
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Hi ej, I've enjoyed your posts on other islands and agree that Bonaire doesn't get a lot of traffic on Fodors. I found another site that was really helpful when planning our trip - http://www.bonairetalk.com/

To the best of my knowledge, the Continental flight is year round - it leaves approx 11:30 saturday night with a return flight on Sunday a.m. I believe there is also an overnight one night a week from Houston. If you can find convenient flights, its definitely worth a visit!

Ellie

ElleD9 is offline  
Mar 12th, 2008, 04:31 PM
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Thanks so much for posting this report. We don't get to see many Bonaire reports here. One day I will make it there to check out the spectacular snorkeling that everyone raves about.
mymoosie is online now  
Mar 12th, 2008, 07:25 PM
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Thanks for the great trip report. Over the years I've heard a lot about the fabulous underwater environment -- but I'm curious about the visual appeal of the island on land. We've resisted going to Bonaire because our vision of a great Caribbean vacation includes a somewhat lush environment. Possibly the great snorkeling makes up it all worth it. Curious what you can tell me about land attractiveness or lack thereof. Thanks.
simbam is offline  
Mar 13th, 2008, 08:54 AM
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Thanks for a nice report.

Did you notice a lot of coral bleaching on your snorkel trips? Is that what makes it better than other places?
Jimmie is offline  
Mar 13th, 2008, 09:21 AM
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Simbam, if you're looking for lush Bonaire is not the place for you. It's arid, almost desert like. I know I'll get blasted for this but I don't think the snorkeling is that great. It's an excellent dive mecca but IMHO not for snorkeling. My reasons are at places like 1,000 Steps, Oil Slick Leap, Alice in Wonderland there were plenty of fish and nice coral but we were in 30' - 80' of water. I like to "become one with the enviroment" when snorkeling. That's why we like snorkeling St. John so much. The Indians is the closest thing I've snorkeled like Bonaire and the backside is 10' - 20' over great coral. Again just my opinion which doesn't mean diddly.
Pulley is offline  
Mar 13th, 2008, 07:22 PM
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Pully - Your opinion means more than diddly to me. Sharing various points of view is what this forum is all about. I appreciate your honesty.
simbam is offline  
Mar 14th, 2008, 10:03 AM
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Thanks for the report. I visited Bonaire last April, and also spent a day snorkeling with Renee.

I have been to a lot of Caribbean islands, and Bonaire is one of the few to which I'd like to return (with Saba not far behind -- also great snorkeling).
thit_cho is offline  
Mar 15th, 2008, 05:15 AM
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Thoroughly enjoyed your trip report. Thanks for posting. Looking forward to making it to Bonaire some day.
caribtraveler is offline  
Mar 15th, 2008, 06:25 AM
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Here's another Caribbean lover who didn't enjoy Bonaire at all. We found the flamingo area mildly interesting, and did do a few of the hikes around the island. Didn't enjoy the aridity of the island; didn't think the topography was appealing. Food was mediocre. We do like fine beaches and missed having that (knew in advance, so not a surprise).
MAINLY: we thought the snorkeling was just fair-- paled by comparison to Cayman, St John, BVI's, Tobago, Cancun/Cozumel, even Hawaii.
We stayed at the Plaza (nothing like the one in N.Y. of course)mall amount of snorkeling, nothing great. Main thing we didn't like abt the rest of the snorkeling around the island is that most of it was not easy access: One had to do a fair amount of scrabbling over coral, etc to get into and out of the water. Or take a boat out-- neither of which we enjoy nearly as much as just strolling from a handsome beach right into the water, a la many of the other Caribbean islands.
It's interesting to me to hear that others (many others) find Bonaire a snorkeling paradise. Maybe it's the particular conditions that one happens to luck into? In any case-- always nice to hear when someone has a lovely vacation!
poss is offline  
Apr 20th, 2008, 01:58 PM
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Elle, Agree with you 100%. The bad thing about snorkeling Bonaire is that it spoils you for other places. We stayed at the Plaza Resort Bonaire -- the reef runs right along the beach and beyond. Best off-the-beach snorkeling we have ever found and the greatest part was that you did not have to swim out to it.
LvSun is offline  

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