Living With Locals in Bonaire

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On our third day exploring all that Bonaire has to offer, we left the luxury of Buddy Dive Resort to check in to the Airbnb we had booked after much research into affordable accommodations.

We had never before stayed in someone’s home with them- we have always preferred to rent an entire apartment, but the reviews for Joop and Carine’s Airbnb drew us in and we decided their home seemed like the perfect place to test the waters of staying in a private room. Correspondence with our hosts had always been quick and friendly, and they were expecting our arrival. They were immediately warm and inviting, and their home was beautiful. Any lingering worries about the arrangement quickly melted away as we got a tour and then settled into our room.

As lovely as it was there, we didn’t stay long. We had plans to continue exploring the island! Joop and Carine’s home is in the neighbourhood of Belnam, which is towards the South end of the island. From there, we continued heading further South. Along this breathtaking route we made many stops. Here’s some of the highlights:

Salt Pans



White Slave Huts


Kite Boarders


Yellow Slave Huts

I was thrilled that on this very short drive we had already checked off many of the items that I had wanted to see in person and photograph. This included these slave huts from the 1800’s. Here, slaves would stay during the week while they worked at the salt mines and used small boats to haul mounds of salt from the island to the awaiting ships. Most of the men walked from the other end of the island each week, and would walk back home on the weekend if they had enough time.

As we continued on after taking some time to learn about and appreciate the history of the island and the people that made Bonaire what it is today, we drove toward what I had most eagerly been awaiting… just around the corner at the southernmost tip of the island…


Flamingos! We hit it pretty big when we drove up to the flamingo sanctuary at Pekelmeer lake and saw a couple of decent-sized flocks.


After admiring the flamingos from afar, and invading their privacy only through the use of our zoom lens, we continues on to Sorobon Beach area, and checked out the famous Jibe City bar, restaurant, and kite-surfing spot.





We spent some time here, enjoyed a bucket of beer, and walked along the beach until we found this beautiful abandoned lifeguard stand. My favourite travel blogger had posted some pictures at this stand which was part of what made me fall in love with Bonaire, so I was pretty excited to have stumbled upon it!


We whiled away the last of the sunshine hours here at the beach, and then headed back into Kralendijk to find a spot for dinner. Again, many places were already full or booked up, but we did find a table at Tasty Bar and Steakhouse. We ordered a combination-for two dinner. It was excellent, and it looked like this:


One day above water was enough for us. We were ready to get back underwater, and were so excited to dive with VIP Dive.






The next day brought another exciting opportunity for Scuba Diving. We had booked a Boat Dive with East Side Divers through VIP Diving, a convenient system that the two dive operations have worked out to support their clients. The reason the two outfits work together, is that no other dive company dives on the East side of Bonaire. Dive sites are only accessible by boats, and East Side Divers are the only company set up for this.

After a light breakfast with our Airbnb hosts, we headed to the Sorobon area to meet our boat captain and dive master at Fisherman’s Pier. After making our payments for the dive, and an on-deck boat briefing, we were headed out on the zodiac dive boat. As we were listening to the in-depth dive briefing, I was devastated to discover that our dive camera would not turn on! It was such a disappointing feeling, and I was desperately wishing I had checked the camera’s operation before we had left home in the morning. Trying to swallow my disappointment, I shifted my complete focus on not feeling sick on the mildly choppy ride. Luckily, we were only on the boat for about 40 minutes before it was time to get on our gear and drop (roll!) into the water.

The dive was quite spectacular- we saw 7 turtles and several of them were happy to lay around and let us look upon them in awe. It was a spectacular dive and I found myself gaining comfort and confidence in being able to slow down, take my time, and really take in my surroundings. I got a bit of a thrill each time I discovered a little creature on my own- eels, lion fish, and turtles included.

Due to the depth of our dive, we were required to do a 3 minute safety-stop a few metres below the surface, before it was safe to surface. Unfortunately, the sea can get quite rough at this depth, and today was no exception. Occasionally, this stop can leave me feeling disoriented, dizzy, and nauseous. The week before, while diving on Curacao, I barely made it back on the boat before I got sick over the edge of the boat. As I waited for my turn to climb back on the zodiac I tried to hold it together, and once back on the boat the captain told both Travis and I to focus on the horizon we could see in the distance. Only a few minutes passed before Travis was getting sick over the side of the little boat, so at that point I made my mind up that we both couldn’t get sick on the same dive! I continued to focus on the horizon as we headed back to the dock to swap out our air tanks for the second dive.

Once we got to the dock we made the very difficult decision to back out of our second dive. It was a heart-breaker as the second dive site, “Turtle City” was guaranteed to be an amazing dive filled with all kinds of sea life. Nevertheless, as we were currently still dealing with our sea-sickness, we couldn’t imagine getting back on the zodiac for a further and rougher ride this time, and the possibility of having the same situation happen as we surfaced from the second dive helped us to make our decision.

Although we drove away from Sorobon filled with disappointment, we had just experienced one amazing dive, and were comforted by the thought that after a little bit of rest we would soon be feeling better.

Rest is what we did. We pulled up in the comfortable chairs next to the pool at our much-loved AirBnb until we were both feeling ready to head back out and explore some more of the island.

The problem was, we felt really disappointed at the thought of being finished exploring the underwater world of Bonaire. Seeing as we still had our rental gear until the end of the day, we stopped in at VIP for some advice on how we should spend the few hours we had left with our rented dive gear. As has been our previous experience there, the staff were incredible and recommended that we keep it very simple and dive their house reef, which was only a short walk away from the shop.

I will admit that when I was looking into shore diving on Bonaire, I didn’t think I would like it very much due to the fact that you have to lug around your air tank. I was pleasantly surprised that it really wasn’t that difficult, even when you emerge from the sea water-logged. Instead, I was completely sold on shore diving.


The shore entry to VIP Diving’s house reef

Months later, I still lament over the loss of what surely would have been our best dive pictures to date. This self-guided dive along the VIP house reef had us giddily pulling at each other to point out all of the creatures that we were now so able to locate on our own. A highlight was the little cow fish that camouflaged right in front of our eyes as it rose from the coral and changed to match the colour of the sea. We were mesmerized with this and could see the excitement in each others’ eyes. As we emerged from the water we could hardly wait to talk about all that we had seen, and the short walk back to the dive shop went by quickly as we listed off all of the critters the dive site had shared with us.

After sadly returning our gear to VIP, aware of the fact that this would be our last dive for an unknown amount of time, we returned back “home” to get ourselves ready to head back into town. We decided on dinner at Diver’s Diner which we had noticed on an earlier walk along the ocean front, but it had been quite full. This time, we were early and had our choice on seats at the outdoor restaurant. We enjoyed the quick and friendly service, the Happy Hour drinks, mushroom triangle appetizers, and the fish tacos and steak as our two mains. We strolled around a bit before heading back home, where we enjoyed a couple of lovely drinks with our hosts.


The following morning we slept in a bit longer as we had no early diving plans. We enjoyed breakfast with our hosts (including bread with sprinkles– a regular at the Dutch breakfast table!) before setting out to Spice Beach where we planned to catch the Caribe Watersports water taxi to Klein Bonaire.


Bread with Sprinkles!

Dutch for “Little Bonaire”, Klein Bonaire is a small and uninhabited islet that sits just half a mile from Bonaire itself. There is nothing on the island except one small open shelter to provide shade to tourists. The water taxi dropped us off at the beach and then allowed us to get back on the taxi so it could drive us back to one end of the island where it dropped us off. We literally plunged off the end of the boat into the ocean, and began our snorkel back to the main beach area. We spent about 40 minutes leisurely floating along the top of the reef. We saw a bit of sea life here, but to be honest after our amazing diving experiences on Bonaire, being at the surface of the water wasn’t quite as satisfying. Some families has snorkelled back in the more shallow water, where a couple of sea turtles were spotted.


Our curious friends


Once we got back to the main beach, we had nothing left to do but laze around and enjoy the sun, sand, breeze, and views!



The views on Klein Bonaire

After about an hour on the beach, the Caribe water taxi was back with their second load of beach-goers. We hoped on and headed back to the main island and tried to hit up the Cactus Blue food truck for a lion fish burger. For the second time, we were too late in the day and the lion fish burgers were already sold out. We settled on some non-lion fish-fair and settled into enjoy more of the beautiful views while we waited for our lunch.


After another quick stop and change at Joop and Carine’s, we were back on the road. This time, heading north toward the small town of Rincon, which is the only other town on the island of Bonaire, aside from Kralendijk. What attracted us here was the Cadushy Distillery, Bonaire’s very own distillery which specializes in their signature green liqueur made out of cactus. We had a fun time learning about the process of how they make their liqueurs and alcohol, and of course having a few samples!


After the short tour, we enjoyed a drink and a snack, and continued our northbound route towards Goto Meer, the famous hangout spot for flamingos on Bonaire. It didn’t disappoint, although I let myself down by forgetting my zoom lens back at Joop and Carine’s! Here are some of the photos I got that afternoon, as well as some of the other interesting wild life of Bonaire that we spotted on our way back:





After our day of exploring the island from below and above water, we joined Joop and Carine once more on their back deck for some special before-dinner drinks. We had made reservations at Donna and Georgio’s, an Italian restaurant that Joop and Carine raved about. It did not disappoint, and we left very satisfied.

On our final day on the island, we were lucky to have most of the day to do “last-minute” things. We left our things at our Airbnb and set off for the day- driving back to Goto Meer, this time with our zoom lens. I could have spent the whole morning watching and snapping photos of the flamingos, but we had more on our list!


We drove back through Kralendijk, stopping for one last gelato and so that I could finally stop into an adorable shop whose windows I had peered in many times, but we had never been able to make it in during their opening hours. With a few extra souvenirs and our sweet tooth satisfied, we rounded back around to the other end of the island to enjoy the sunshine at Jibe City. We enjoyed lunch there, but mostly just soaked up the sun in their colourful beach chairs.

IMG_5007 2

All too soon it was time to say goodbye to our wonderful hosts and this beautiful island. We were so grateful for the experience of living and learning from locals who have called Bonaire home for many years. Staying in a “private room” Airbnb had proven to be a huge success on this trip.

We returned out rental car and were dropped off at the airport. It felt like we were leaving a piece of our hearts behind, but this was one place that we were sure we would return to one day!




Discovering Bonaire at Buddy Dive Resort

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Bon Bini Na Bonaire (Welcome to Bonaire)!

Welcome to Bonaire!

Thanks to a surprise flight change by Insel Air, we (okay, I) was giddily bouncing around the Flamingo International Airport by 8 in the morning. We had just spent a glorious week on Curacao, but were SO excited to see what Bonaire had in store for us. The smallest of the three islands known as the ABC islands (Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire), Bonaire is actually an Antilles of the Netherlands, rather than a country of its own. With under 20,000 permanent resident, and the cutest little airport you’ll ever see, we had a feeling we were about to fall in love.


We were picked up at the airport by an employee of Caribe Car Rental, with whom we had rented a small car for the week. We were in and out of the rental office with great ease and were on our way to soak up the island sun!

The only problem was…it wasn’t even 8:30 in the morning yet, and we weren’t expected to check into our Resort until 3:00 that afternoon. We decided to give early check-in a shot.


It didn’t work out. They were unable to check us in until the pre-determined 3:00. So, tired and weary, we decided to hang out in our rental car in the resort parking lot. That decision served us well, as soon after we had hooked up to the resort wifi and reclined our seats, a down pour ensued. It was more of a ferocious rain than any we had experienced while on Curacao, lasting a solid 30 minutes or more. It was just fine by us to wait it out in our Kia. We napped, planned, and soaked up the wifi until we decided to go and find a bite to eat.

As it was a Sunday, and New Years Eve, the centre of Kralendijk was pretty quiet, with the majority of the shops and restaurants closed. We came across Boudoir, a cute little cafe with outdoor seating. We ordered two different styles of club sandwiches, both described as “toast towers,” one with chicken, egg, bacon, tomato, cucumber and mayo, and the other with smoked salmon and homemade egg salad. They were A LOT to handle, but were so delicious. We decided if we came back later in the week we could easily split one sandwich between the two of us!


We were also lucky enough to be informed of what the Dutch enjoy as a New Years treat each year, oliebollen. The AirBnb hosts that we would later be staying with on Bonaire had sent us an email encouraging us to try this traditional dish. We were grateful for that tip as we would have otherwise never noticed or indulged in this delicious, deep-fried, doughy, apple-filled tradition.


We spent some time after our brunch wandering around the downtown area of Kralendijk. As mentioned, it was very quiet, as Sunday’s are traditionally family-days on Bonaire and limited businesses are open.

After the fairly short tour of the quaint and colourful downtown and boardwalk area, we headed back to Buddy Dive Resort to check out the property’s on-site dive shop, where we had a dive booked for the following day. By this time, it was close to 2:00, which is when Buddy Dive does their mandatory orientation talk with future divers. Because Bonaire’s surrounding water is a protected National Marine Park, this orientation is required before divers enter the water. We were carefully instructed on the importance of caring for the marine life found right off the shores of this beautiful island. The overall message is to take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but bubbles.

One thing that surprised us was that even though we had “booked-in” for a one-tank boat dive via the Buddy Dive website/email, we were told when we got there that we better go and look at the board to see if there was room for us on a boat the next day. Apparently, booking online isn’t a guarantee for the time you want. This information was a bit unsettling as we were only staying at the resort for two nights and would have limited opportunities to do a dive with them. I can see how this system would be sufficient for many guests of Buddy Dive Resort, who likely are staying for a minimum of a week. These guests would enjoy the flexibility of being able to sign-up for boat dives at their leisure, up to three days in advance. For us, it caused a moment of panic, but we were lucky to snag the last two spots of the limited number of dive boats that would head out on New Years Day.

The next morning, we were very excited to do the required “check-dive” on the Buddy House Reef. This dive allows divers to check their tanks and weights before heading off to do shore-dives on their own, and is recommended for divers before going on a boat-dive trip or going solo shore diving. I was very nervous about diving without a dive-master guide, but Travis was more confident, and with a rented dive-computer to let us know our time under the water, we geared up on the docks of Buddy Dive and splashed our way down the steps into our first solo dive.

I was pleasantly surprised to see a small turtle as soon as we descended along the wall of the reef. I wish I would have waited there and spent some more time watching it, but we had a plan to swim along the reef for a certain number of minutes before turning back, and I didn’t want to mess with the plan.


It was pretty invigorating to come up from our first solo dive with just the right amount of time logged, and more than enough air left over. We knew from that moment that we were going to love diving in Bonaire.

Later that afternoon, we boarded one of Buddy Dive’s five dive boats (we were lucky to secure the last two spots on the boat the day before). We had a group of about 10 divers and only one dive master, who was very quiet and I never did catch his name. Luckily, the boat captain was the one who did our dive briefing, and he did enough talking for everyone on the boat! He did a fantastic job of giving us not only a thorough description of our dive plan, but also shared with us the interesting history behind the dive site he chose for us, Carl’s Hill. We both really appreciate receiving as much information about our dive plan as we can, so for us this is always what makes a dive company stand out.

After another exciting dive where we got to hang around with several lion fish, a lobster, a weary puffer fish, and so many more beautiful fish of the sea, we hit the streets of Bonaire again so that I would have an opportunity to take some photos before the sun set on yet another fantastic day in paradise.

We wandered around until dark, then began attempting to find a place for dinner. Our first few stops in the downtown area where quite full, so we continued on walking down Kaya Grandi to the Japanese Fusion Restaurant, Osaka. We ordered a variety of rolls and each one seemed better than the last! It was a deliciously fresh meal and we were happy with our last-minute choice. We finished off the night with another walk back down Kaya Grandi and a stop at GIO’s Gelateria and Caffe for some mouth-watering gelato.

The morning of our third day, we wanted to soak up as much of the resort lifestyle as we could, as we were due to check out at noon. We were up early to return our gear to the onsite rental shop at 8 am (we didn’t return from the boat until just before 5, when the rental shop closes down, and we knew we wouldn’t be penalized if we decided to return it in the morning). After our panged goodbye to the Buddy Dive Shop, we spent some time lounging around our room, grateful for the comfortable space we had enjoyed for the last two nights. Once we’d had enough lounging inside, we moved outdoors. We decided to check out the resort’s second pool area for what was left of our morning. Have I mentioned how amazing the lounge chairs are at this resort? It might seem silly, but they were one of the highlights of the resort for me!


We soaked up every last sandy moment we could before checking out of Buddy Dive Resort. We prepared a quick lunch in our kitchenette before checking out just a couple of minutes past noon. Our next stop was an Airbnb we had booked months in advance…


Stay tuned to read about the rest of our week in Diver’s Paradise!