Mike and I visited Bonaire with a group from Heartland Scuba. This was our second international trip with them, and it definitely did not disappoint. Heartland Scuba books all of the flights, accommodations, and makes all of the arrangements for scuba diving; so essentially all you have to do is pack your bags and show up at the airport. They really take much of the hassle out of planning a trip. It’s wonderful!
Bonaire is an island in the southern Caribbean. In fact, the island is technically on the shelf of South America. The island is an old coral reef, from when sea levels were much higher and the entire island was submerged in water. This means that the island is very rocky and dry, and not at all a ‘tropical’ island. The north part of the island is a bit mountainous with enormous cacti. The south part of the island is not hilly at all, and contains commercial salt flats.
The island is part of the so-called ‘ABC’ islands, which includes Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao. The island is controlled by the Netherlands, but loosely. And there have been efforts to break away from the Netherlands entirely. It is very safe, and very Westernized, so getting around is easy. English is widely spoken on the island, even though not the dominant language. And the official currency is the US dollar, so no currency exchange was necessary.
The climate is hot and dry, and the island sits almost right on the equator, so sunblock is a must, and hats aren’t a bad idea. We didn’t get sunburns, but we were pretty diligent about reapplying the sunscreen. But even though it’s hot and dry, the trade winds provide a nice breeze. And there were occasional rain showers while we were there, but they were extremely short-lived (like less than 5 minutes).
Bugs…oh Lord, the Bugs!
Prior to going, I hadn’t read much about the bugs, but we packed an assortment of bug repellents anyway. I was once bitten by a brown recluse spider, and have intense reactions to bug bites since then, so I don’t take chances. Most of the bug repellents that we brought didn’t work for me at all. The only one that did was Ultrathon 12-hour lotion. The spray and the pump/spritz varieties of Ultrathon didn’t work on me at all in Bonaire, despite the spray working just fine against the sand fleas in Roatan.
Others that I travelled with (including Mike) had no trouble with bug bites, but my lower legs were completely covered with them by the end of our week there. And the crazy thing was that I don’t know that I ever noticed actually being bitten. So the bugs must be those darned no-see-ums. In any case, my advice is to take bug repellant options in case, like me, you are apparently very sweet! 😉
We stayed at Captain Don’s Habitat, which is a resort geared toward scuba divers. It is not an all-inclusive resort, but does include breakfast in the room rate. There are two different sizes of rooms. We apparently were in the larger, newer rooms, which include a king sized bed and a couch. The older rooms (although they have been renovated and are very nice) have two double beds and no couch. The older rooms are also slightly smaller.
All of the rooms that our group were in had balconies or patios facing the ocean. This was a fantastic perk that we really enjoyed. The resort also has rooms that are tucked back into the trees, making them feel private as well.
Captain Don’s Habitat does have a single restaurant and bar, Rum Runners, and also serves pizza either to stay or go. The food is alright, but nothing spectacular. The best food offered was on the evening of the Manager’s Party, and included a Buffett. However the restaurant fills up with reservations (most were from people not staying at the resort), and we were not informed of this in advance. So we ended up taking out buffet dinner and setting up tables that we moved off of our patios. We had a nice time, in spite of the lack of communication on this point.
One night a group of us went to El Mundo Restaurant. The food was delicious, and the mojitos were also tasty. I tried a pineapple chicken curry pasta dish, and it did not disappoint. I don’t recall anyone being disappointed with their dinners. And cruising to and from dinner in the back of a little tiny pickup was a hoot!
We also tried a place called Eddy’s one evening. The others thought their food was alright, but I didn’t care for mine at all. It was a salmon pasta dish, which was my second choice because they were out of the catch of the day. The pasta dish tasted like something had turned sour, and I didn’t eat much of it.
Another night we ate at Cuba Compagnie. The food there was also delicious, and the wait staff was very attentive and kept us in plenty of beer. I had a salmon pasta dish that was also wonderful. However, the food was not really Cuban food that I could tell…good food, but not Cuban. The atmosphere was Cuban, though.
Our final evening we ate at Ingridients. This restaurant was a little higher end (i.e. you pay for a bottle of water, either flat or sparkling, for the table) than some of the other places we had dined. The food was good, but not outstanding.
For lunch a couple of days we ate at Between2Buns. It was a yummy little sandwich shop. They also had smoothies (flavors included watermelon and pineapple) and desserts. Tasty treats, indeed!
But perhaps our favorite meal of the trip was in Rincon at a little roadside place called Allen Snack. We had the best Chinese food here! I had chicken fried rice, and Mike had sweet and sour chicken. As tasty as mine was, his was even better. So yummy! And absolutely enormous portions. I felt like my friend rice was a never-ending container. So, so good. And worth the drive to the north side of the island.
For more information on Bonaire, check out Part Two, where I discuss the sights above the water on Bonaire, and Part Three, where I discuss the diving sites we visited.