Fourth Windsurfing Trip To


February, 2008

Setting the Stage

Since this was out 4th trip to Bonaire and I've done trip reports on the previous trips, this one will just be a quick review and discussion of the things that we did differently this time. One major difference is that we stayed for two weeks this time. We decided that one week was just not enough time to get our windsurfing "sea legs" back and improve very much, so one solution was to stay longer. We also used a different airline, stayed at a different resort and ate at some different restaurants. As usual for our trips to Bonaire, Ann Phelan, Caribbean Wind and Sun vacations, took care of the Bonaire details and we took care of the air transportation. In general, things went very well.

Getting there and back

Last Sept. Delta announced new service, non-stop, from Atlanta to Bonaire with a special introductory fare. That was all the encouragement we needed to begin making plans. I was able to get exit row seats both ways, so the flights were reasonably comfortable. The flight down was the inaugural flight and was very close to "on-time". It offered a light meal and a snack in the "main cabin". The return flight also had a couple of snacks but was about 45 minutes late departing (late arrival combined with confused security procedures and delayed departure "paperwork"). With an ATC delay approaching Atlanta, we were about an hour late landing. Several international flights arrived at the same time and the baggage handling was very slow, taking at least 40 minutes for the first bags to start coming off. Even so, the non-stop flight was much easier and quicker than the previous best arrangement of using Air Jamaica with a stop and change of planes in Montego Bay.

Where we stayed

On each of the previous trips we stayed at a different resort/hotel. It was not that any of them were really bad, but there were details that were unpleasant enough to cause us to look elsewhere. This time we decided to stay at Sonrisa (Spanish for "smile"). This small (10 unit) hotel is owned and run by Rogér the person who runs Bonaire Windsurfing Place, where we go to windsurf. By booking both the hotel and windsurfing equipment at the same place, we got a slight additional discount. We knew that Rogérs girlfriend, Jaqueline, manages Sonrisa so we expected that we would get some very good, personal service. Sonrisa offers both hotel style units and one-bedroom units (and can combine them into a two-bedroom unit). We decided to 'splurge' and take a one bedroom unit, which turned out to be very comfortable.

A view of Sonrisa at night.

Sonrisa provides a nice "breakfast sandwich" with coffee, OJ, and other goodies that varied over time (yogurt, apples, cookies, etc.) and we always ate it sitting on our front porch overlooking the pool and courtyard. Sonrisa also provides twice a day shuttle service to the windsurfing area at no charge, although we had a rental car and didn't use it. Hotel rooms had a mini-fridge and microwave while our apartment had a full size refrigerator, range, and microwave, although we made limited use of them. One advantage of the one bedroom unit is that it provided full "flow-through" ventilation from the prevailing winds. We never even turned on the AC units while there, since the wind and ceiling fans kept everything very comfortable. The furniture and facilities were comfortable, including a very nice bed which at first seemed firm, but ended up very comfortable. Our one bedroom unit had a king-sized bed and it was a true king bed, not two smaller beds pushed together as we frequently find. There is a small food/general store a block away from Sonrisa, run by a Chinese couple, which has almost everything you might need during a short visit. We shopped there several times for various supplies, including wine and cheese and crackers. When we returned from windsurfing about 4:00 each day, we enjoyed a glass of wine and snack on our front porch. That always made for a restful and enjoyable end to the day.

Our view of the Sonrisa Courtyard during our afternoon wine and cheese and crackers snacks.

Jaqueline and Rogér proved to be very pleasant hosts. For one evening, Jaqueline organized a "picnic" in the courtyard for all the guests who wanted to participate. We all chipped in about $15 each and she bought and prepared all the food and drinks and Rogér cooked the meats on the grill. It was a very pleasant evening and was representative of the hospitality at Sonrisa.

Picnic at Sonrisa. That is Jaqueline directly across from Susan.

Certainly no place is perfect, and Sonrisa has its' faults, but we felt they were minor and did not impact our enjoyment at all. For example, Sonrisa is away from the beach and in a slightly commercial area and there was some traffic and heavy equipment noise. But remember, we had all the windows open and AC off. If we had closed up, it probably would have seemed very quiet. It does appear that other resorts and hotels are building in the same area and I expect the neighborhood to become more resort oriented in the near future. Perhaps the best summary of Sonrisa is that we intend to stay there the next time we visit Bonaire

Windsurfing comments

Bonaire's Lac Bay is one of the best windsurfing locations in the world, especially for non-experts trying to get better. It offers a reef protected, shallow water bay with very good on-shore winds.

Look closely!! This very good windsurfer has one artificial leg.

Bonaire Windsurf Place is one of the two windsurf shops at Lac Bay, Jibe City being the other. Both shops offer quality equipment and the same conditions, but we just like the facilities and people at Bonaire Windsurf Place better. Rogér and the rest of the crew, Elvis, Patoen, Ganneth, Ron and Ray are all very pleasant and helpful. Although I didn't get as good at jibes as I had hoped, we both improved our abilities and had a great time. We also enjoy meeting and visiting with the other windsurfers we meet there. We saw people that we had met on previous visits, as well as meeting new friends who we hope to see again.

A normal day at Lac Bay, Sorobon beach (no cruise ships in port)

A Mixed Blessing

We did observe one troubling mixed blessing (for the people of Bonaire). There is an increasing visitation of Bonaire by cruise ships, including some large ones. Our observation is that a single medium sized (1,000 - 2,000 passengers) ship at a time is not a major problem. The present facilities and infrastructure can handle that OK. But, on two days, there were two large ships in port, with a total of about 4,000 and 5,000 passengers.

Two large cruise ships in port

These severely taxed the facilities out at Sorobon beach and the windsurfing area. For example, there is only one men's and one woman's (single stall) restroom available to all beach visitors.

A very busy day at Sorobon Beach

The cruise passengers do not understand the implications of standing in and wading through the middle of the windsurfing area. There is a very limited pathway for windsurfers to get from the beach to the open areas and the cruisers apparently think this is a great place to "hang out".

Windsurfers and waders do not really mix well enough to allow this (safely).

There is bound to be a collision (both literal and figurative) soon between the cruisers and windsurfers if this pattern continues. The beach was packed with the cruisers and the next morning there was trash was all over the beach area. I certainly realize that the cruise ships represent a major potential economic benefit to Bonaire, but I would recommend that they strongly consider limiting the number of cruisers hosted per day, at least until more infrastructure is in place to accommodate them.

There were just too many people for the beach and facilities.

Kayak Tour of the Mangroves

On our "departure day" our flight was not scheduled to leave until 4:10 PM, so we had much of the day available to do something. We had driven around the island and visited their national park on previous visits, so we asked Jaqueline for suggestions. She recommended, and made reservations for a kayak tour of the Mangroves of Lac Bay and snorkeling in the mangroves.

At the Mangrove kayak center. (Kayaks in the backround)

This is one of the "standard" tours or activities on Bonaire which we had not done before. Our guide was very pleasant and informative while leading us around the mangroves and pointing out the unique aspects of such an environment. We did a short (15-20 minute) snorkel through a tunnel made by the mangroves where we could observe all the marine life living around and under the mangrove roots. It was a very pleasant way to spend the morning.

Our guide explains about the life cycle of Mangroves. Lac Bay is in the distance.

Restaurants we visited

We enjoy visiting different restaurants, as well as going back to old favorites. I'll provide brief reviews and comments on each of the restaurants we visited on this trip. I certainly realize that other people have different tastes and like other things, so take the following with the proverbial "grain of salt".

Papaya Moon

We had a package from a friend to deliver to the chef at Papaya Moon so we went there first. It is a Caribbean Tex-Mex style restaurant and we both had Grouper (fish) fajitas. The fajitas were tasty and fresh, but the salsa was a bit tame for our tastes and in short supply. Not outstanding, but good value for the price.


Cappricio's is one of our favorite Bonaire restaurants. We have gone there on each of our visits and have always had a very good meal and excellent service. Susan had Pasta and tomato sauce with capers and olives and I had Wahoo with a sauce containing olives and other flavors and some Polenta. They have an excellent wine list and are very good at recommending a wine to accompany any dish. They always seat us at one of two little romantic alcoves in the dining room, making the visit a little more special. One of our "must visit" restaurants.

Susan in the little alcove at Cappricios

Wil's Grill

Ann had recommended Wil's Grill as a good place to visit that we had not been to before, so we gave them a try on Monday evening. We shared a baby greens salad with some nuts and sauce then we both had the special of the day, Mahi-Mahi with a chili rub on a bed of mixed beans. It was all very good and we'll look forward to future visits. One warning: if you are attractive to mosquitoes, you might want to take along some insect repellant. As with a number of good Bonaire restaurants, the exterior appearance of Wil's does not do justice to the quality of the food inside.

The bar area at Wil's Grill. Restaurant seating to the left and beyond the bar.


On Tuesday we decided that we wanted some additional meat to go into the sandwiches we were making and taking to windsurfing for lunch and decided that Casablanca might be a good source. Despite a less than stellar experience on our last trip, we both ordered the sirloin. This time it was cooked perfectly and very tasty. It came with a small salad and baked potato. We had enough steak to take with us to make sandwiches for two days. The sangria was also pretty good, but still not as good (rich and fruity) as the sangria at El Gaucho in Aruba. Casablanca is back on our favored list again. By the way, if you are really hungry, try the mixed grill for two; you won't believe the amount of meat you get!

Entrance to Casablanca

La Guernica

On Thursday we went to another of our favorites, La Guernica, but they let us down a little. We ordered two plates of tapas (their specialty, and both very good) and we both ordered Paella, the special of the day. Susan and I both love Paella but this was a rather poor imitation. Another couple staying at Sonrisa also went there that night and had the paella and agreed with our assessment. What was surprising is that they had gone to La Gernica the previous week and had the Paella and it was wonderful, which is one reason they went back again. Perhaps they could not get some key ingredients this week or some other problem.

Susan is checking the memu at La Guernica

Warang Louise

Ann had also recommended Warang Louise, an Indonesian restaurant. We really didn't know much about all the items on their menu so we just ended up ordering the "Chef's Surprise". We were not really sure what all we were eating, but we were sure it was good and we ate it all. The Merlot wine went very nicely with the combination and we had a very enjoyable dinner. Oh, and the little fruit and melted chocolate desert was a delicious and very fitting conclusion for the meal.

Bobbejan's BBQ

Bobbejan's BBQ is only open on Fri, Sat, and Sun, so we made it a point to stop in there on Saturday. As usual, we had the ribs and fries and it was very good, also as usual. The service was prompt and friendly and this is the friendly type of place where it is not unusual to talk to the couple at the next table. The Amstel beer went great with the ribs and the total tab for the two of us was still under $30 (USD), a great value. We ended the evening by having a glass of wine out on the pier at Karel's bar.

Salsa Inernational Grill

On Sunday we were going to visit It Rains Fishes, but that was their night to be closed, so we ended up at the Salsa International Grill instead. We had the special of the evening, a Caribbean Fish and Beef (both in sauces) for two. Our experience closely matched our first visit to Salsa a year go: more emphasis on the view, atmosphere, and presentation than on the food itself. The fish and beef were in a decent, sauce, but nothing special and service seemed sporadic and disorganized. The meal was served in a three level serving tray that looks "neat" but is actually very inconvenient to use, especially getting the rice out of the container in the lowest level.

Susan is trying to figure out how to get to the rice in the bowl at the bottom of the tower.

Mona Lisa

Several days before we made a reservation at Mona Lisa for Monday evening. Frankly it was a significant disappointment. We had been to Mona Lisa a year ago and had a very good meal and overall experience and had been looking forward to this visit. Instead the head waiter was overly pretentious (he seemed to enjoy turning away people without reservations) and impressed with himself and the Mona Lisa. Actually, he made several mistakes that the apparent trainee server had to fix and overall, the service was mediocre. Susan had the Bonarian Fish Soup which was very bland and we both had the fish of the day, Wahoo, in a rémoulade sauce which was OK, but certainly nothing special. It didn't help that there was construction work going on next door causing quite a bit of noise and paint odor and about every 20 minutes a very piercing burglar alarm in a building across the street would go off and continue for a couple of minutes, during which time all conversation stopped, since you could not hear anything else. No apology or any comment was forthcoming from the Mona Lisa staff.

Coco's Grill

Tuesday we tried It Rains Fishes again, but they were full and we didn't have a reservation, so we ended up at Coco's Grill instead and had a surprisingly good meal. They were having a Mixed Grill special and we each got a sausage, ribs, chicken, fish, and beef dinner for only $18. With the included baked potato we ended up taking enough meat with us to "fortify" our lunch sandwiches for several days. There was nothing pretentious or fancy about the meal, just well grilled meats and friendly service at a good price.

It Rains Fishes

Wednesday we finally made it to It Rains Fishes. We had been looking to get some salads and had gotten good ones there on previous visits. We started off with a tasty sautéed mushroom appetizer and then Susan had the vegetarian Greek Salad and I had the mixed greens salad with some grilled fish. Both were very good, although I wish I had realized that mine would have quite a bit of cucumber, which is not one of my favorite vegetables. The Pinot Grigio was light and fruity and went well with the salads.

Cactus Blue

On Thursday we just took the short walk to Cactus Blue for our first visit there. They had a special posted for a seafood mixed grill for two, including Wahoo, shrimp, and lobster. Unfortunately, we misread the price and thought it was 79 Guilders (about $45 USD) but it was actually $79 (USD) so the meal turned out to be more expensive than we expected or planned, but it was very good. We each also enjoyed a good Caipirinha while waiting for the meal to be prepared, and a very good slice of key lime pie with the coffee after the meal. Turns out that the limes came from a tree in the yard of the hostess. All in all, a very good meal and friendly service, even if we spent more than we had planned.

Pasa Bon Pizza

On our last night, Friday, we decided to get something simple so we headed to Pasa Bon Pizza, which had been recommended by one of the windsurfers we had met. We ordered a large Supreme (substitute olives for the normal green peppers) and it was delicious. They were doing a very good business, both eat-in and take-out and I can understand why. A bottle of Amstel beer, a large delicious pizza… what else could you want??

General Comments

All in all, a very pleasent, relaxing and successful trip. We got in some good windsurfing, ate lots of good food, met several new friends and renewed some old friendships and found a excellent hotel that we'll look forward to visiting again. We're already trying to figure out when we can get back to Bonaire for our next visit.

Sample Bonaire Photo=

Tony, Ron, and Ray at Bonaire Windsurf Place.