Windsurfing in Bonaire: January 2007


We spent a week in Bonaire (January 13 – 20).  Our primary objective was to get in some windsurfing and perhaps get a little better at it.  If the wind failed to materialize, then we would partake of some of the other offerings of Bonaire, such as snorkeling and several types of nature tours. 

Getting there and back:

Travel arrangements were made with the assistance of Ann Phelam (Caribbean Wind and Sun Vacations) , who is very knowledgeable of Bonaire, especially for windsurfers.  Flights to Bonaire are somewhat limited with connecting flights required.  We used Air Jamaica which flies out of Atlanta and connects in Montego Bay to and from Bonaire.  Our flights were comfortable and reasonably close to on time, typically ending up 30 – 60 minutes late.  Well, comfortable except for the seats on the aircraft (Airbus 321) used from Montego Bay and Bonaire: the seat cushions badly needed renovations.  On the return flight a different, newer, aircraft was used and it was fine.  Ann had reserved a car through Budget but no car was available when we got there, so they gave us a “quad-cab” pickup instead.  It was a little rough around the edges, but functioned just fine.

About Bonaire

Bonaire is the easternmost of the "ABC islands":  Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao. Bonaire is the middle sized island of the three, and has the smallest population (about 15,000).  It is about 50 miles north of Venezuela and the weather (and surrounding water) is always warm.  It is mostly a dry desert-like island with lots of cactus growing in the open areas. However, we were there during the rainy season and we got some a little rain several days, but it didn't really get in our way very much.  Much of the local vegetation was green while it will be brown during the drier months.  Besides tourism, the main industry is sea salt; there are large salt evaporation ponds on the eastern end of the island.  There are some hills on the northern and western sections of the island and they offer some nice views.  The island is very rocky (it appears volcanic, but is not) in nature and the soil is hard and relatively poor.  As in Aruba, most of the population speaks English, Spanish, Dutch, and the native Papimento so there are seldom any language issues.  US dollars are welcome, but you will often get change in N.A. Florins (also referred to as Guilders).  The exchange rate is about 1.8 Guilders to the US Dollar.


We stayed at the “Bellafonte Chateau de la Mer” and had a very comfortable “junior suite” with a nice living area with kitchen facilities and a slightly small bedroom with the bath.  We had a great view over the ocean and part of the harbor and several times we relaxed on the small dock over the water.  The Bellafonte is very new and I believe it is actually a group of condominiums (20 units) which are normally rented as hotel facilities.  It was very comfortable except for one factor: it is about ¼ mile from the end of the airport runway.   I didn’t really expect this to be a problem as I assumed there would be no flights leaving late at night, but I was wrong.  From 2 to 4 loud jet aircraft took off each night between midnight and 7 AM..  If it had just been the jet noise, we probably would have usually slept through it.  However, the sound wave pressures caused our entry door to vibrate in its’ frame, creating a rather loud and “wakeful” noise.  I suspect this loud vibration noise was unique to our unit as others reported not being bothered.  The good thing was that, after windsurfing much of the day, we usually got back asleep quickly. 


The main reason we went was for some windsurfing.  Bonaire’s Lac Bay has a large very shallow area on the windward (eastern) end of the island and is well protected by a reef. The result is an almost ideal windsurfing environment: a good onshore wind, shallow water, and little waves. Although Bonaire is best know for its’ diving, the windsurfing environment and facilities now attract a significant number of visitors. 

There are two windsurf outfitters at Lac Bay:  Jibe City” and “Bonaire Windsurf Place”.  For several reasons, we chose Windsurf Place this time and were glad we did.  We used Jibe City on our first visit in 2004 and the two outfitters are right next to each other on a limited section of beach so they are easy to compare.  While they both offer quality equipment and good instruction, Windsurf Place provides much more comfortable “off the water” facilities with both lounge chairs on the beach and a comfortable covered deck with chairs and tables.  They also have a simple but very good “Beach Bar” that serves drinks and both normal snacks (salads, sandwiches, etc) and meals of local foods.  While all the food we had was good, I highly recommend the local variety that the beach bar offered each day.  They also had a weekly (Wednesday evening) bar-b-que with windsurfing videos and pictures.  We had the opportunity to talk to the owner (Rogér) and chief instructor and, I believe, partner, Elvis (yes, Elvis) and were impressed by both  their business sense as well as their almost total dedication to providing the best windsurfing experience possible to their customers. They had many stories to tell that kept us entertained between windsurfing sessions.

Of the six days available for windsurfing, we had 4 good days (17 – 23 knots), one mediocre day (12- 16 kts) and one slow day (8 – 12 kts).  We used the slower days to practice our jibes and such, so the time certainly was not wasted.  There is also a very good snorkeling spot in the bay within wading distance of the windsurfing facilities.

Other activities on Bonaire

There are many other activities available on Bonaire, either for the slow days or possibly for a non-windsurfing spouse.  As previously mentioned, SCUBA diving is “king” in Bonaire.  Probably 75 – 85% of the visitors come for diving or snorkeling.  The “standard” rental car is a pickup truck to carry the diving gear.   Many of the diving locations are accessible from the shore, so the pickups also come equipped with a simple wooden frame to hold diving tanks in place in the bed of the truck.  There is also a large national park that has sights to visit, many walking and biking trails, sailing charters, kayaking, and just plain relaxing. 


In our two trips to Bonaire we have not had a “bad” meal: certainly some were better than others, bit all were good.  Breakfast options are limited.  Most visitors who are not in a large resort visit a local store and stock up on breakfast materials and just take breakfast in their rooms.  We ate lunch most days at the Beach Bar mentioned earlier (except for days we were eating “leftovers”.)  I’ll provide a brief “day by day” review of where and what we ate.

Saturday: “It Rains Fishes”

Because of the flight times, we were a little off schedule and decided to grab an early dinner.  We found and chose “It Rains Fishes” and Susan had a good grilled fish dinner while I felt like a large Greek Salad.  Both were good and prices reasonable.

Sunday:  Capriccos

We went to Capriccos on out first visit, and it was just as food this time.  We had a table inside in a little “romantic” nook and enjoyed our meals.  Their wine selection and knowledge is impressive.

Monday: Mona Lisa:

We had tried (unsuccessfully) to get to and into Mona Lisa on our first visit, so we made sure we got there this time.  Although they featured a three course special, we just ordered ala-cart and had a very nice salad plus an entree.  I had a Barracuda dish and Susan had Wahoo.  Definitely recommended, but either make reservations or get there early.

Tuesday: Casablanca

Casablanca bills itself as a Argentina Steak House, and it probably comes close.  We decided to go for the “mixed grill for 2” but I think we’d order something different if we return.  The mixed grill featured quantity over quality: there was a tremendous amount of meat, including a whole chicken, several sausages, two different varieties of ribs, and several kinds of steaks.  There was probably over 5 pounds of meat: but although it was all good, there was nothing special or exceptional.  While it is certainly a good “price performer”, we definitely prefer “El Gaucho” in Aruba for our Argentina Steakhouse.  As we have done at El Gaucho, the “leftovers” from Casablanca provided lunch for the following  two days. 

Wednesday:  Beach Bar BBQ

The BBQ offered your choice of three of the four available meats:  fish (Wahoo), chicken, sausage, and ribs along with some salad.  At $15 (USD) per person, it was one of our least expensive meals and was all very good.  Of course, it does have a “unique” atmosphere: very open-air, sand floor, and picnic tables.  But for a bunch of avid windsurfers, it was just perfect.

Thursday:  Salsa-International Cusine:

While the food and service was very good, the high-point of Salsa was the view.  The dining area is on the 2nd floor overlooking the harbor area.  During or just after sunset it offers one of the best views in town.  We had a mixed fish platter for two and, although it was good, the method of serving it in 3-tierred serving trays made it a little challenging.  Any couple ordering this should know each other well.

Friday: La Guernica

They offer Spanish style tappas and full meals.  We had two different tappas, then the entrees.  Susan had Barracuda and I had Dorado.  Both were very good and were actually probably the best prepared and presented dishes we had all week.  Highly recommended, but get there early or make reservations.


I suspect it would be difficult to get a bad meal in Bonaire.  All our eating experiences have certainly been good.  With the possible exception of the mixed grill at Casablanca, the emphasis is definitely on quality, not quantity.  We seldom left a restaurant feeling “stuffed”, but more like “pleasantly full”. 

The people you meet:

One thing I have to comment on is the interesting and very nice people you tend to meet on a trip like this.  I don’t know if it is because people that go to Bonaire are just “different” or if we’re just lucky, but we met and got to know slightly a number of people.  Although I don’ know many of their names, we will remember them.  The couple (one of three couples) we sat next to on the flight from Montego Bay to Bonaire who were also staying at Bellafonte and who made some excellent recommendations for dining.   We also saw and talked to them on the return trip.  The windsurfing couple from Calgery who we talked with between sessions on (and in) the water were very interesting.  (Their first time to Bonaire.)  The lady next to us on the flight from Montego Bay to Atlanta, originally from England, now living in S. Carolina, had been in Bonaire and was just a please to talk to.  Both Rogér and Elvis at Windsurf Place were personable and always had an interesting story to tell: especially Elvis, including about his three times meeting and “escorting” the Queen of the Netherlands (one time barefooted). The woman who ran the Beach Bar at the Windsurf Place was also very pleasant and helpful.  She “loaned” us $2. one day for ice cream snacks when we didn’t have change. 


Something always goes wrong, and of course we had a couple this time. 

While Susan had a windsurfer board in use, she noticed that the front 40% had basically broken off.  Not completely, but the bottom fiberglass layer was acting as a hinge and the whole front of the board was flopping up and down.  Rogér charged us a reasonable damage/repair fee.  We’re pretty sure Susan did not cause the break (it must have been badly cracked previously), but as the “user of record” when the break appeared, we were responsible. 

On our last morning (Saturday) we didn’t really have time to windsurf or do many other activities before we had to check out, so we decided to take a drive through the central and northern part of the island, stopping at places with good views or such.  We stopped at one such place, along a relatively isolated section of the road, got out, locked the doors, and immediately realized the key was still inside.  There were some divers nearby, but they didn’t have a cellphone or other means of calling the car rental agency.  Time was getting short… we had to get back to check out and head for the airport; we couldn’t wait much longer for help to arrive.  So, I grabbed a large rock and hit the rear side window… it bounced off!  I hit it harder, and it bounced off further!  I finally found a larger rock, wrapped it in the plastic floor mat (to protect my hands) and after repeated HARD swings, finally broke the window in thousands of small and smaller pieces. We cleaned the glass from the inside of the truck cab, picked up what we could from the ground (and placed a mound of rocks over what was left) and drive off… I can report that Budget Rent-a-car charges $147 to replace the rear side window of a small truck

Such mis-adventures just make the trip all the more memorable (and more expensive). 


All in all, an excellent trip…  We got in some good windsurfing and improved our windsurfing skills considerably, which was our intent. We had numerous good meals and plenty of time to just relax.    We plan to return soon…..

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