By Ann McLaughlin
A friend of J E Harper & Co Blog
This small southern island was once part of the Netherlands Antilles, it is near Aruba and close to the equator. It is outside of the hurricane belt, and is sunny and breezy. 19000 people live here. It is 110 square kms.
Sunwing does a direct weekly flight every Sunday. This began in December 2017. It takes 4h30m and costs $800. Seats are very narrow with no legroom. You should upgrade to elite plus so you can choose your seat, have priority check in and boarding, and extra baggage weight to 30kg. The cost is an extra $100 each way per person, but $25 of that is the checked baggage fee. Order your meals online in advance. There was a very easy check in process with Sunwing, no need to check in online from Bonaire.
If you stay close to the centre of the main town, Kralendijk, you can walk along the Oceanside paved walkway into town. Renting a bicycle would give you access to many places. We walked into town in about 30 minutes, stopping to see the pelicans and boats. There are taxis to take you from the airport, and to the grocery store. Your hotel or apartment office will arrange for any excursions and taxis. It was $15 from the airport and $28 return to the modern Dutch grocery store, Van Den Tweels. We did excursions to snorkel and kayak in the mangroves, and also to take a sailboat trip, and the tour operators picked us up at our apartment.
We rented a small apartment in Bonaire Seaside Apartments, with a courtyard view. It is an easy walk into town, and reasonably priced, $2300 USD for two weeks. We could snorkel there since it is close to the sea wall. During our trip we got upgraded to Den Laman Condominiums. These are 1 km North on the edge of town. The Den Laman spot would cost double the Seaside, but it is truly oceanfront, and there is a little beach and three snorkel spots within 500m. A small grocery store is just north of it, and there are 5 restaurants and some lunch spots and beach bars, ice cream, etc, a very short walk away. Den Laman is next to Eden Beach and Coco Beach, which are popular with tourists and locals. Taxi from the airport to Den Laman was $15.
Our condo had everything anyone could want. Both Seaside and Den Laman sent a form so we could have some groceries waiting for us in our apartment. This was about $50 in total, they gave us milk, cheese, yogurt, fruit, and bread so we didn’t have to scrounge for breakfast the first day.
I would recommend bringing insulated water bottles, a couple of reusable grocery bags, and an ice pack as well as two small backpacks.
We went on a Woodwind sailing trip to snorkel Klein Bonaire, I would recommend it. It included a meal, unlimited drinks, and all for a total cost of $52. We enjoyed this so much we did it twice. We also did a kayak and snorkel trip with the Mangrove learning centre. It costed $48, but be aware that you need to be a strong swimmer to snorkel against the tide there.
The condo office can book all excursions and rental cars. Excursion operators picked us up and returned us to the condo. The rental car also picked us up, when we returned the car we then took a taxi to the airport. I would recommend using AB Car Rental, they have best rates. Be sure to get comprehensive insurance, as the roads are full of potholes. We almost rented bicycles. They have electric assist bikes for $21 a day. Bring your own helmets, as we saw many close calls with scooters, but no one wearing helmets. Not sure the bike rental places would have enough to fit one on you.
Many places had a happy hour. The Breeze n Bites at Den Laman had rum punch, 2 for $7.50 from 5-6pm daily. It was lovely. Near Den Laman, at the roundabout, was Between 2 Buns. It’s an excellent breakfast and lunch spot, with many desserts and fresh smoothies. It costs about $12 for the daily specials. It’s closed on Sundays. There are quite a few good restaurants in Kralendijk, It Rains Fishes was wonderful, we watched the sunset while dining there. You can buy fresh fish there to cook at your rental apartment too.
On the last Saturday of the month there is a cultural market in the town of Rincon, which is a great spot to get some island history, music and local food. We enjoyed it. We rented a car and toured the whole island that day, seeing flamingos in 4 places!
There is a Sunday beach scene at Jibe Beach that we will go to next year. It offers windsurfing, fresh fish, good mix of locals and tourists. We were told people would barbecue fish for you there.
From our experience there, we would say that Bonaire is certainly a good vacation spot.