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Bonaire Day 1: Red Eyes from the Red Eye

"Where the hell is Bonaire?" That was the response that Mike and I received most often when we told people where we were going on vacation this year. Bonaire makes up the "B" in the ABC islands which, along with its sister islands of Aruba and Curacao, is located about 50 miles north of Venezuela in the southern Caribbean Sea. Its a Dutch municipality and the local currency is, conveniently for us, the U.S. dollar.

Our long journey there actually began the night before arrival when we left Dallas on a Continental flight bound for Houston. After a four hour layover and some strong airport margaritas from Pappasito's, we boarded our midnight flight for Bonaire with a plane full of American divers. Now the plan was to sleep on the plane since our arrival time was scheduled for 6 a.m. Bonaire time. This proved not to be much of a problem for Mike. For me, it was a little more difficult. I had the mask. I had the ear plugs. I was ready. What I didn't count on was being elbowed all night long by the guy next to me who didn't seem to understand that if he took both arm rests on the aisle seat, there was no arm rest left for me. Just as the sun rose, we swooped down from the sky and landed at the Flamingo International Airport where there is apparently only one baggage handler and one truck to unload everyone's luggage.


We finally got our bags and headed through the maze we assumed would lead to customs only to end up outside the airport. Okay. Bonaire doesn't care what we bring in to the country. I can live with that. We loaded up our four door Mitsubishi pootie truck, got out our multiple island maps, and blazed our way to our temporary island home for the week.

We had reserved a one bedroom, oceanfront condo at Den Laman with early check-in so that we could immediately go to our room and not have to wait around all day until normal check-in time.


We were assigned the Barracuda room on the third floor.

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We had an unlimited shore diving package with Bonaire Dive and Adventure, the on-site dive shop at Den Laman. Because most of Bonaire's waters are protected marine park, there is an island-wide mandatory orientation to attend and a check out dive to be performed before shore diving freedom begins.


This shore diving freedom is the reason we chose Bonaire as a vacation destination. No meeting a dive boat at any certain time. No dealing with other divers and their demands. Just load up your gear and tanks in a truck and visit one of the approximately 70 dive sites scattered about the island. Orientation lasted about an hour or so and by this time, we were hungry and exhausted. We decided to grab some lunch at Sunset Grill, the restaurant located on the ground floor of our condo. I ordered the fried wahoo sandwich.


Mike ordered the smoked salmon sandwich.


Even though this was our view,


we narrowly made it through lunch without falling asleep so we retired to our room for a while for an afternoon nap.


Notice the five hour energy drink on the coffee table. Luckily, I brought this from home and it was my way of waking the dead for our afternoon snorkel. Our condo's house reef was Bari Reef which is rated #1 for diversity of species in the entire Caribbean. The reef itself is a bit deep for snorkeling but many fish have made a home out of several old cement slabs in the shallows. We did a quick snorkel just to check things out then headed into town to the Cultimara grocery store to stock up on some breakfast and lunch items for the week. Food selection on an island can be sketchy as it depends on what shipments came in that week. We were able to find lunch meats, cheeses, unrefrigerated eggs (yes, they do not refrigerate eggs on Bonaire), some local hooch, and my personal favorite of the week, Lay's Barbecue Ham chips. By the time we returned and carted everything up three flights of stairs, it was time for dinner.

Our first dinner on Bonaire was at La Barca, an Italian restaurant on the waterfront. I know...who eats Italian on a Caribbean island? But that's the beauty of Bonaire and the many cultures represented in the restaurants there. This was no Olive Garden, trust me. We shared a bottle of pinot grigio and snacked on fresh bread with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette while we waited for our meal. Both entrees turned out to be fabulous. Mike had barracuda in a cream sauce with grilled shrimp while I had Mediterranean-style barracuda with tomatoes, onions, capers, and olives along with grilled vegetables.


The relaxed, candlelit setting on the waterfront was the perfect beginning to the week ahead.


After dinner, we drove back to the condo and enjoyed the sounds and smells of the sea from our balcony before heading off to bed.

Posted by zihuatcat 21:33 Archived in Netherlands Antilles

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Love your Bonaire recap, part 1! My husband and I were there the exact same time as you, staying in the Sand Dollar condos and diving with Bonaire Dive and Adventure, so maybe we even saw each other :) I have a recap on my site as well. I agree about the shore diving on Bonaire - can't be beat!

I haven't checked out your other posts yet, but if you ever go to Bonaire again, check out the Warehouse for your grocery needs. Sadly, Cultimara has gone a bit downhill in recent years and doesn't carry nearly as much as the Warehouse.

Looking forward to reading your other posts!

Jessie @ thehappinessinhealth.com

by Jessie

Thanks so much. This is only about 1/2 done. We still have 4 more days to add when I get home from my business trip. I'll look for your site to read your recap. We just loved Bonaire and are already planning a trip back for next year.

by zihuatcat

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