Fifth Windsurfing Trip To


January 2009

Setting the Stage

This will be a report on our 5th visit to Bonaire, so I will just focus on the things that were new, different, of special interest in some way. As on our last trip (in 2008) we stayed for 2 weeks. This gives us more time to get back up to speed on our windsurfing skills and then improve a little. 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

We were able to get Delta "Frequent Flyer" tickets for a reasonable number of miles (considering the normal fares for this trip) and we had exit row seats both directions. The flight down was very good and on time, with very little delay for clearing customs and waiting for out luggage. The return trip was fine until we got to Atlanta. We were about 20 minutes early and had to wait about 10 minutes for our gate to open up. Then when we got to the Atlanta Customs area, we had a rude surprise! The line was weaving around the main room and down the hall, then looped back on itself. I have never seen the line in Atlanta anywhere near that long. It took us about 40 minutes to get through the line and clear Immigration. I assumed that our luggage would be waiting for us after that long time... Wrong!! We had to wait another 20 minutes for our luggage. Then we went through the normal (for Atlanta) recheck of the luggage, security check, and then reclaim our luggage in the main terminal. We waited another 25 minutes for our luggage this time. The nonstop flight is nice, but the delays in Atlanta were bad.

Bonaire is in the process of rearranging their rental car arrangement and our rental company, AB, is now a couple of miles away from the airport and you have to take a "shuttle" to the car rental center. Normally this would not be an issue as it is very common, but apparently they did not have the routine set up and organized yet. There was no one to meet us, no signs, and we had to ask around to try to find a ride. Finally, after about 15 minutes, a regular taxi was recruited to take us to the rental center. As experienced Bonaire visitors it was not a major issue for us, but for a first time visitor or someone not used to traveling, it would have been unsettling.

Where we stayed

As on out last trip, we stayed at the Sonrisa hotel. It is a small (10 unit) hotel that 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 Rogér's girlfriend, Jaqueline, manages Sonrisa so we expected that we would get some very good, personal service as we did last trip. Sonrisa offers both hotel style units and one-bedroom units (and can combine them into a two-bedroom unit). Last time we had a one bedroom apartment but this time we tried a hotel-room type unit. Hotel rooms only have a mini-fridge and we used it to keep our wine, cheese and cold water. Since the hotel rooms do not have as much ventilation and cooling from the wind, we used the air conditioning unit in the evening and overnight. By closing the windows completely and running the AC unit we did not notice the street noises as much as we did last year.

A view of Sonrisa. Our room was at the lower right.

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, although we had a rental car and didn't use it. The furniture is a bit limited in the hotel rooms, but comfortable. Although I am sure they are considered a luxury, we did not care for the "Duck Feather" pillows and would prefer a plain foam pillow instead. (We found out later that we could have gotten other pillows for the asking.) There is a small food/general store a block away from Sonrisa, the Sunshine Market, run by a oriental 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. We continued our tradition of wine and snacks on the patio or by the pool each afternoon after returning from a day of windsurfing. It just doesn't get much better than that.

The nearby Sunshine Market. A little crowded, but everything needed.

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. It sometimes gets a bit too shallow, so we have learned to time our visits by checking the tide tables for Bonaire to make sure we have favorable tides.

Here is Susan and I actually windsurfing.

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, Patun, Kenneth, Ron and the others are all very pleasant and helpful. We continued to improve our skills but still have a long way to go. Susan was hampered by a cold that lasted the entire trip and really sapped her strength. As usual, we met old windsurfing friends (like Caprice and Cristoph) and met new friends. Two German gentlemen, Heinz and Werner, were really entertaining and we had many good discussions with Tim and Peter, from Canada.

Heinz and Warner flank Patun, one of the Bonaire Windsurf Place owners and an Olympic windsurfer.

The Cruise Ship Effect

More and more large cruise ships continue to call at Bonaire. In the past I referred to this as a mixed blessing and that is still an appropriate description. 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 days that an especially large ship is in port, or two large ships, the facilities just cannot keep up. Since our last visit some ropes and bouy lines have been placed to protect the water grass and some signs posted to warn people to stay in the swimming areas and watch out for the windsurfers and their large sails. However, the signs are only in English and Dutch. One day each week a large cruise ship docked that had come from South America with mostly Spanish speaking visitors. These people really like to visit the beaches, which I understand, but since most of them could not read the warning signs, they ended up standing right in the middle of the windsurfing areas.

One of the large cruise ships in port

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". There is bound to be a collision (both literal and figurative) soon between the cruisers and windsurfers if this pattern continues.

A busy day at Lac Bay: note the windsurfer trying to get in through the crowd.

The beach was packed with the cruisers and the next morning there was considerable 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. This many visitors certainly brings needed business and revenue to Bonaire, but if it is to continue the facilities and infrastructure must be upgraded to handle the crowds, For example, the last quarter mile of the road to the beach area needs major reconstruction and there needs to be more and better restroom facilities for the visitors. (Signs in Spanish would be a good idea also.)

The cruise ship people really overwhelm the beach and facilities.

Snorkeling at Lac Bay

On our "departure day" our flight was not scheduled to leave until about 4:30 PM, so we had much of the day available to do something. We decided to break out our snorkeling gear and head to Lac Bay to snorkel. One of the best snorkeling spots on Bonaire is in the same bay as the windsurfing. Snorklers just wade across the shallow, sandy, bay to the area where the coral reefs are.

A school of fish while snorkeling in Lac Bay.

The number and variety of marine life here is amazing. Of course, there are numerous other snorkeling sites on Bonaire, but this is probably our favorite.

One fish is obvious, but look close and find the flounder partially covered in the sand a few inches in front of the obvious one.

One unique aspect of our visit this time was the Octopus. No, not the marine animal, but the yacht. The Octopus is a 417 foot "Mega-yacht" owned by Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder. It is a beautiful and impressive ship and was docked in Bonaire the entire two weeks we were there, sometimes leaving for the day or anchoring out by Klein Bonaire (an island just off Bonaire). I did some checking and found a number of interesting facts about it, like there is a 63 ft. "tender" that is completely enclosed inside of Octopus that can be launched through the stern. It has several other smaller boats that can be launched, including a 10 person submarine, and it has two helicopters that have their own "hanger" on the main deck.

The Octopus at night, docked at Bonaire.

A tour of the island.

One day there was not much (any?) wind and the rain was threatening, so we decided to take a easy tour of the island. We've done it before, but it is always a pleasant ride and it's interesting to see what has changed. This happened to be a day when a large cruise ship was in port, so there were a lot of people in town, where usually the downtown area is very quiet. We drove up along the southern coast where several dive/snorkel sites are located.

How the dive/snorkel sites are marked along the road, this one is named Jeff Davis (a good "southern" name).

Then we drove by lake Gotomeer and on up to the town of Rincon.

For a small, relatively barren island, Bonaire has some very nice sights.

This was a Saturday and normally Rincon has an active open-air market on Saturday, but the rain had closed it down just about completely. Since there was not much activity in Rincon, we droive on up to the northern coast and were reminded how different the northern coast is from the southern. There is not much activity or many people on the very rocky and barren northern coastline.

The northern coast line is very rocky and barren. Would not want to windsurf here!.

Then we drove down around the southeastern part of the island, passing by the salt evaporation ponds and the salt works. When the water is completly evaporated, the salt is left and it is piled up in small mountains. In the final stages of evaporation the ponds take on a pink color because of the high concentration of salt.

Salt evaporation ponds with the salt piled up in the distance. Need a pinch of Sea Salt??

Several hundred years ago slaves were used to work the salt ponds. Their homes were in Rincon and they had to walk the round trip each week (about 9 or 10 miles). During the week they slept in very small concrete buildings, barely large enough to lay down in. These are now referred to as the "Slave Huts" and there are two groups of them, the white slave huts and the pink slave huts.

The Pink Slave Huts close to the salt ponds.

There is a lighthouse at the very southeastern tip of Bonaire. It is no longer in use but still makes for a nice view. The lighthouse keeper's house has deteriorated to just the shell and some walls; it is supposed to be renovated some day.

The lighthouse has been decomissioned, but it stll makes a nice picture.

The house for the lighthouse keeper is awaiting renovation.

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".


We like to go to Bobbejan's barbque our first night since we're still recovering form the flight and it is a very simple and relaxing restaurant. We both had our usual bbq'd (actually, we would call them "grilled") rib plates and a cold beer. Very good food and an excellent value. Afterwards we stopped by Karel's pier (or what is left of it after the storm this past fall) and had some wine to top off the travel day.

The neighborhood may not look great, but the food is at Bobbejans


Zeezicht had a Paella special for Sunday evening and we really like Paella, so we gave it a try. It was not great, but respectable, and the free glass of wine with it made it a good value.

Like many Bonaire restaurants, Zeezicht has both inside and outside dining


Capriccio is still our favorite Bonaire restaurant. We have gone there on each of our visits and have always had a very good meal and excellent service. We had two different variations of Wahoo, both of which were delicious. As usual the hostess/manager made an excellent recommendation for a wine to accompany the meal from their very complete wine cellar. They also have our favorite after dinner coffee.

Entrance to Capriccio at night.

The Unbelieveable

The Unbelieveable is a new restaurant that was very close (less than 5 minutes walk) from the Sonrisa and they offered very good meals served on a "rooftop" dining area. (Go just before or after sunset and watch for possible rain.) Susan had Wahoo stuffed with crab and I had the seafood mixed grill. Both were good and we took some with us to enjoy at lunch the next day. As with many of Bonaire's restaurants during the rainy season, you will probably want to take along some insect repellant.

No, not the Unbelieveable, but Karel's bar at night.


After several nights of seafood, we decided we needed some beef. We've been to Casablanca several times so we decided it was time to go to the other Argentine steak house in Bonaire, Patagonia. We both had sirloin steaks and they were both cooked as requested. We thought it slightly more expensive than the equivalent meal at Casablanca, but the view (overlooking a small harbor) was much better. We took enough steak with us to "enhance" our lunch sandwiches for the next two days.

Papaya Moon

A good friend of mine had given me a message to pass along to his friend who is one of the owners of Papaya Moon, so we headed there on Thursday. We had their Grouper Fajitas which were reasonably good, but not great. We kept our former opinion: decent value, but not worth going out of the way for.

Pasta Bon Pizza

Time for some simple (well, perhaps not so simple) pizza, so we headed to Pasta Bon Pizza. We had the large deluxe pizza and, as previously, it was excellent. Again we took enough away with us for lunch the next day.

Capriccio (again)

Capriccio also has excellent pasta and the storm clouds were threathening so we headed to Capriccio where we knew we could have inside seating, and it was a good choice. The pasta was delicious and 5 minutes after being seated the skies opened up and the rain poured for most of an hour.

Plazita Limena

A couple of new windsurfing friends had commented on how much they enjoyed a Peruvian restaurant, Plazita Limena, so Sunday we decided to check it out. The food was tasty, spicy and good, but the service was lacking. There were errors in the order, very (very!) slow service, and the coffee, when it finally arrived, was almost cold.. We also felt the cost was a bit excessive for what you get, even ignoring the poor service.

La Guernica

Although we had a medicore experience at La Guernica last year, we thought we needed to check them out again. We had a couple of very good Tapas, then Susan had blackened Tuna and I had Dorado in a mustard sauce. It was all very good. It turned out to be one of our more expensive meals, but we're restored La Guernica to our "preferred" list.

Wil's Grill

Tuesday was time for a visit to Wil's Grill, which we had enjoyed on our last visit. We split the same type salad we had last time (mixed greens with pine nuts) and we had the evening special, deep fried Yellow-Tail Snapper for two. We talked to Wil and it turns out that he had gotten six of the snapper earlier that day. He had kept one for himself and was using the other five (four after ours) for customers. It was a bit challenging to get all the flesh off the bones, but it was so good that we kept at it until there was little left. I am concerned about some of the restaurants, however, since business seemed very light. We were at Wil's for about 90 minutes and during all that time only one other table (with 6 at the table) was occupied. I doubt that they can stay in business long at that rate.

Warung Louise

There was no threat of rain on Wed., so we headed to the primarily outdoors Warung Louise, an Indonesian restaurant. We really do not know or understand Indonesian food very well, so, as last time, we just ordered the "Chef's Surprise". We got two plates, each with 6 or 7 smaller serving bowls of various foods. I'm not sure what all of it was, but it was good and we ate it all. The "Surprise" also comes with a desert which was a delicious ice cream, wipped cream and chocolate dish. Very good, and fun!

Susan at the table at Warung Louise.

Pasta Bon Pizza

Time for more pizza, so back to Pasta Bon on Thursday. This time we had their excellent Pasta Bon Salad and a medium veggie pizza. All was very good and we took some pizza with us to reinforce the next day's lunch. This was an excellent and relatively economical meal.

Bistro de Paris

Several people had told us how good Bistro de Paris is but we had not tried it yet. When Rogér happened to mention that they loved Bistro de Paris, I suggested that we would buy dinner if he and Jaqueline would go with us to help us decide what to order and to introduce us to the people running the place, whom they know well. It worked out very well. The food was great, and we all enjoyed sitting around the table talking so much that the waitress almost had to throw us out so they could close up. We had lost all track of time. A lovely restaurant and great friends to enjoy it with.

Jaqueline, Rogér, Susan, and me at Bistro de Paris

General Comments

Although Susan had a cold that slowed her down for most of the two weeks, we had a great time. As usual, we met some old friends, made some new friends, had some good meals, and enjoyed the windsurfing.

A view of Lac Bay from the air when leaving

We also continually marvel at the friendness of the Bonaire people. Aruba calls itseld "the friendly island" and it truly is, but Bonaire is even more so. We are already planning our next trip.

A fitting view of the moon as seen from the plane on the way home.