Three weeks of warmth and Windsurfing

Bonaire !!

Jan - Feb 2016

The Set-Up

We had decided early in 2015 that we wanted to miss as much of the coldest weather in Atlanta as possible, so we set aside Jan 17 – Feb 7 for our 2016 trip to Bonaire. We made reservations well in advance this time and coordinated somewhat with some of our friends we meet there, although that turned out to be not entirely successful. Not a lot has changed in Bonaire, so this will be a fairly short report, primarily pointing out the changes from prior visits.

Getting there and back

Delta is very proud of their non-stop flights from Atlanta to Bonaire and prices them accordingly. We got around this somewhat by using Frequent Flyer miles on a Sunday – Sunday schedule. The flights both ways were on time and reasonably comfortable with minimal delays in customs and waiting for luggage. We again used Transway limousine services to get to and from the Atlanta airport and they provided very good service. We made our Bonaire arrangements through Ann Phelan (Caribbean Wind and Sun Vacations) and she arranged the Budget rental car and our apartment at the Sonrisa. Ann ended up having to get involved when Budget caused several problems, including having the wrong car for us initially and then overcharging us at the end of the rental period. Ann was able to quickly resolve both issues because of her contacts on the island. Budget ended up making everything right and seems to be making some changes that should avoid some of the problems in the future.

The Bonaire Flamingo airport terminal is to be replaced.

Bonaire is making some fairly major changes to their airport and it will be interesting to see if the new terminal facilities are in operation next year. Our Delta flights were probably less than half full so I’m sure future Sunday flights will only be on a seasonal basis, at best.

Staying at the Sonrisa

This was probably about our 8th or 9th time staying at Sonrisa and, based on this visit, we will return again. The rooms and furnishings are modern and comfortable, the beds are very sleepable, the grounds are well maintained (by Roger, the owner/gardener) and the pool area is delightful to relax in and around after a day of windsurfing, snorkeling, or especially biking.

View of the Sonrisa pool area from our balcony

On top of that, Viktor (the manager) and his assistant make the greatest breakfast omelets and pancakes (ask him for his famous banana pancakes). Sitting under the palapa, eating breakfast, and talking to the other guests was delightful. Everything was kept very clean and neat and the daily housekeeping is very good

Having breakfastt under the palapa at the Sonrisa

The Lora Parrots were not as prevalent as last year, only occasionally visiting rather than apparently using the Sonrisa as their permanent residence. The Sonrisa (and Viktor) had bikes available for rental which we made use of, but more about that later.

Windsurfing (and socializing)

We go to Bonaire mainly for the great windsurfing in Lac Bay. Unfortunately, we had an unusual number of low-wind days this trip. Of the 20 possible days to sail, we did not even get on a board seven days, including the first 3 days we were on the island. This did give us the opportunity to do other activities, including some that we had not done before, as well as some repeats. But we did windsurf! The Windsurf Place had some new boards and sails to try, the water was warm, the sun was warmer, and the wind was wonderful, even when it was not blowing hard. What more is there to like?? The Windsurfplace crew did a great job and they, especially Ro and Kenneth, know what size sails we need better than we do.

Looking out from the Windsurf Place deck over the watter.

And we also "socialized". We had kept track of some of our windsurfing friends and met up with them out at Lac Bay and the Bonaire Windsurf Place. Tim and Peter, our friends from Canada, were there when we arrived and we caught up on things with them quickly, including joining them for a dinner at "At Sea" where Peter has apparently made friends with some of the staff and they know him.

Typical view on the Windsurf Place deck, with the chatty windsurfers.

The "New England Crew" (Ellen and Jack, Cheryl, Heidi and Armand) got delayed by the major snowstorm that shut down much of the NorthEast the weekend they were to fly down. They scrambled a bit and managed to come down the following weekend but it still messed up some of their scheduled plans. Our German friends (Heinz, brother Werner, friend Wolfgang) arrived about a week after we did and were as entertaining as ever. And they do like having their picture taken out on the water.

The german brothers: Werner on left, Heinz on right.

Our friends Sue and Ian from Guernsey (UK Channel Islands) were there when we arrived and we found them out on the water as they sail out of Jibe City. They are some of the most low-key yet interesting and friendly people we know and we enjoyed a meal at Patagonia with them one evening. There are many other friends we always look forward to seeing, like Janet (from Florida), Caprice and Christoph (from Michigan with a house on Bonaire), Walter (from Canada with a house on Bonaire), Joyce and Al, Norm and Ellie, Natalie and Pat, and many others for whom I cannot keep the names and faces straight.

We also made some new friends that I hope we see again. John had not been windsurfing long and had come from Sacramento to try to get better. He was staying at the Sonrisa and we gave him rides to/from Lac Bay a couple of times. Another guest at the Sonrisa was a young man, Antanas, all the way from Lithuania. He had windsurfed one time on a vacation and decided he wanted to try to get better at it and heard that Lac Bay was the place to go. The fact that Bonaire is just a bit warmer than Lithuania in winter might have had a little to do with it. Antanas practiced every day, taking lessons at key points and progressed from almost a pure beginner to sailing a short board, using the harness and getting up and planeing in just a little over a week: great job Antanas! We hope to see John and Antanas on future trips.

A Photo / Camera problem

If you look closely at the photos with this report you might notice that there are no photos from the first couple of weeks, such as no photos of John, mentioned above. I went out to take some photos one day, including some of John, using my normal Velcro arm strap with a pocket for the camera. I took some photos then put the camera in the little pocket and windsurfed for a while. When I got in I went to rinse the salt off the camera and… no camera! Apparently the pocket had come open and the camera escaped somewhere out in Lac Bay. I reported the problem to the Windsurfplace staff and some other windsurfers, but as expected, it never showed up. Perhaps a Bonaire turtle is taking pictures of his friends.

So the problem became: How to replace the camera so I could still get some photos. We checked some places in Bonaire but no one had small waterproof digital cameras. It was about this time that the NE crew (Ellen, Jack, Cheryl, Heidi) had their flight cancelled and Ellen and Jack were able to reschedule fairly quickly, so I figured their misfortune might be to my benefit. With Ellen and Jack’s agreement, I ordered (via Amazon) a new camera, memory card and two high-visibility floating straps. When Ellen and Jack arrived, so did my new camera that I used for the last week of our visit.


As mentioned, there were a number of days with not enough wind to windsurf. What to do?? We were considering renting bikes from a downtown shop when Viktor mentioned that he had some bikes to rent. Turns out the bikes were part of a school project for his daughters in which they were to start some kind of business. At $10 per bike per day, it was a good deal.... almost! The problem was that the bikes were all the same "average size" and neither Susan nor I are "average size". as Susan is small/short (no offense Susan!!) and I am a bit tall. So the bikes really didn’t fit either of us very well. But we could use some exercise so we figured "why not?".

The salt "mountains" and pink salt pans on our bike ride

We decided to ride the southern route out of town, around the airport, on out toward the salt pans. At the salt pier we would make a go/no-go decision whether to continue on our full circle tour. Well, as you might expect, non-fitting bikes or not, we were not going to quit, so on we went. We continued around the southern tip of Bonaire, riding into the wind most of the time, past the slave hits, past the lighthouse and then to the Lac Bay area.

The "Yellow Slave Huts" along the southernmost coastline.

We made numerous stops along the way: sightseeing, getting a drink of water, and taking pictures. (This ride was before I lost my camera.) The further we went, the more frequent the stops. We rested a while at Lac Bay and refilled our water bottle then headed back to town and the Sonrisa. Most of this leg was almost straight downwind so, although we were tired, it was relatively easy. We later looked at a map and calculated that our ride was right at 25 miles. Considering that these were relatively heavy "Mountain bikes" with somewhat soft tires and did not fit us very well, a 25 mile ride on the somewhat rough roads was quite a workout.

The lighthouse at the easternmost point: one of several on Bonaire.

About a week later we had another day of little wind with no planned activities. We figured that if we could do it once, the second time would be easier, so we rode the 25 mile loop again. Besides, this gave me a chance to get some photos with my new camera. It did seem just a little easier this time.


With the days of light wind, we had several opportunities to go snorkeling. On one of the first light-wind days we took our snorkel gear out to Lac Bay and waded out to the inside of the reef where we have snorkeled numerous times. The water was clear and most of the coral seemed healthy, but we commented afterwards that we did not see as many fish, especially the larger fish like Parrot fish, as we previously saw. Perhaps it was the time of day or tide or something such. This was before I lost my camera, so although I took several photos, none of them "survived".

Dee up front briefing everyone on the snorkeling trip.

During our last week we had several days when the wind was forecast to be low, so we figured another snorkeling day was in order. A couple of years ago we had taken the Woodwind snorkel trip and enjoyed it so we figured we’d try that again. We had a pretty full boat (25 people) and they split us up into three groups, each with a leader/guide. We made two snorkel stops, both in sort of a drift mode along different parts of Kline Bonaire.

The water was so clear, it was like swimming in a fish bowl .

At the first stop we were mainly looking at lots of fish and coral and at the end found a huge "baitball" which I had never seen in the water before. The second stop was mainly to find turtles, we saw about 4 or 5 different ones, but there were also plenty of fish and more soft corals.

The Woodwind provided drinks before the first stop, refreshments between stops, and a nice tasty lunch on the way back to the dock after the second stop. Dee, the "hostess" and lead guide, has been doing this for quite a while on the Woodwind and the crew provides a very good snorkel experience.

One of the turtles spotted during the trip.


We went to a lot of our favorites on Bonaire and tried some new/different places. I’ll cover the normal places first, then describe some changes in the dining scene.


In our three weeks on Bonaire, we managed to get to Capriccio for dinner four times, plus another night when we got a take-out pizza. Obviously, we continue to like Capriccio very much. The pasta (fresh made pasta) dishes are wonderful, the fish is consistently great and the pizza is about the closest thing I’ve had to true Italian pizza outside of Italy. And, of course, the wine list is special. One evening when I asked our server for the wine list, she jokingly said "well, it is more like a wine book." and she is absolutely correct. Although their specialty is Italian wines, they do have wines of all types from around the world. If you are unsure about what wine goes with your meal, Lola, the owner/hostess, can provide excellent suggestions.

One of two "wine walls" inside Capriccio.

And their coffee (made in a French press style) is about the best in town.  A few years ago Lola took on some new servers and the service was sometimes a little rough around the edges, but they are now well experienced and a very smooth operation. Service is great and attentive without being intrusive.  I go to Bonaire for the windsurfing, but my wife goes so that she can eat (and drink!) at Capriccio. After most meals at Capriccio I try to get back toward the kitchen so I can give Andrea (Lola's husband and the head chef) a "Thumbs Up" sign, but after our last visit this trip, I gave him a well-deserved "two thumbs up".

Wil's Grill

We always enjoy Wil’s Grill for the different touches Wil is always coming up with and this visit was no exception. We had started for a different restaurant that evening, but it was closed, so we headed for Wil’s instead. It was fairly early on a Monday evening and Sue was able to seat us at a nice table for two. We both ordered the fish special of the day and also a Caesar salad to share. As usual, the salad was unique and very good. Wil took a whole head of Romaine lettuce, wrapped some prosciutto ham around that, put some thin sliced parmesan cheese on top with a light Caesar dressing, and it was both different and very good. The fish was a bit more “traditional” but very good. With Sue and her helper looking after things, service was friendly and attentive and of course Wil came around to make sure everything was good. Another successful visit!

Joe's Grillhouse

Joe's Grillhouse in the evening

Nothing spectacular, just good food at a reasonable price. Susan had their fish special and I had the mixed grill to provide some leftovers for lunch the next day or two. As expected with a mixed grill, it was more for quantity than quality, but it did make for good lunch sandwiches the next couple of days.


We visited N-Joy (formerly Four Seasons and Bambu before that) fairly early in our 3 week stay and had a nice meal. Seafood was good and we had a table in front which enabled us to watch all the activity around a cruise ship with a relatively late departure time. Service was friendly and attentive.

Apparently it is a good thing we visited when we did, as a couple of nights after our visit, the "Closed" sign went out and they did not reopen the remainder of our visit (about 10 days). I hope they return as it was enjoyable, but things were not looking good.

At Sea

We visited At Sea with Peter and Tim and found it to be generally excellent, as always. Susan and I both had fish specials (I had Barracuda and she had Wahoo, I believe) and both were very good. At Sea specializes in little "teasers": small "just a taste" size complimentary appetizers. Then the entrée is plated with multiple small items that were mentioned on the menu, but which we could not fully identify. It is almost like a guessing game. We had a very nice meal made even better by a nice conversation with Tim and Peter over a couple of bottles of wine. You cannot ask for much more than that.


We wanted some beef and some leftovers for sandwiches, so we visited Patagonia late in our first week. We both got the sirloin and they were both slightly less done than we had ordered and a bit tough, even for sirloin, but still very tasty. Sandwiches the next day were good.

About a week later we met Ian and Sue at Patagonia for dinner and this time the sirloins were just slightly over-cooked, but more tender. The rest of the meal was good, the wine (an Argentine Malbec, of course) was excellent, and the conversation with Sue and Ian even better. Patagonia is still the "go-to" place for beef in Bonaire.

La Guernica

La Guernica, just across the road from the water.

La Guernica is known for their tapas, so we normally have a couple of the tapas and share one entrée. That worked well again as we had a good table (upper level street side) and good service. Add a couple of glasses of Pinot Grigio and all is right with the world.

Cuba Compagnia

I still do not understand the name as they do not have any real Cuban or Spanish style foods, but what they do have is good. One evening we just wanted something light, so we ordered a couple of appetizers and a large salad and it worked very well.


A couple of orders of the Bobbejan special (ribs, chicken, chicken satay) and we had both a good, tasty, filling meal and plenty of leftovers for the next couple of days lunch. Food is fresh, reasonably priced, and service is good. Only open on Fri. - Sun. and if you want a seat (rather than take-out) you better go early.


Gio's in the downtown, was always busy.

Gio's has turned into our favorite place to go for a after-dinner coffee. Their coffee itself is good, but it comes with a very small serving of ice cream, a little dish of whipped cream, and a little glass of water. It just cannot be beat for the $3.00.

And now the changes:

Blue Garden Brazilian grill and Pizza Gormet

The Blue Garden opened a month or two before we arrived in the building that used to be occupied by the Casablanca restaurant. We felt like pizza the night we stopped by and they have Brazilian style pizza so we had a large salad (very good) and one of the pizzas. Apparently Brazilian style pizza tends to go heavy on the toppings compared to Italian or even US style pizzas. It was very good (including the leftovers next day for lunch) but we could not quite agree with the server/host that it is the best pizza on the island: good: yes, different: yes, but best? Not quite ready to say that. I do understand that their mixed grill is very good also, but we did not get back to check that out.


The Unbelievable restaurant was closed while we were there with some construction work apparent. The local paper (The Reporter) and rumors were saying that it had been bought by a Chinese company/family and would he renovated and opened as a "up-scale Chinese restaurant (think Peking duck)".

The Barrel (Wine Bar)

The Barrel is not really a restaurant, but is a true wine bar, with a full "wine Cellar" with about 150 different wines available, some by the glass and all by the bottle. The Barrel just opened up about the time we arrived on-island for a three week visit and we got to know the people there through several visits. The Barrel is connected to the primary wine distributor in the island so their wine selection and availability is somewhat tied to that distributor. The young proprietor, Rajiv, is fresh out of college in Holland followed by 6 months studying wine in France. We like the idea of a reasonably priced wine bar and hope Barrel is successful. They were definitely going through a bit of a learning curve but seemed to be catching on quickly.

The patio area behind the Barrel.

Along with the wine, if you buy a full bottle, you get a very nice little cheese platter with crackers. You can purchase the same cheese plate to have with wine by the glass for only $5.50. I don't think they can make any money on the cheese at that price, but it was a very nice addition to the wine. One night we picked up a take-out pizza from Capriccio and brought it back to the Barrel, got a bottle of wine from them and enjoyed it all there. Rajiv was amused that we got the pizza from Capriccio, then came back to the Barrel to purchase a bottle of Italian wine. A couple of days later when we stopped by, Rajiv said he liked our idea and had talked to the manager of the Blue Garden. Patrons at the Barrel would soon be able to order a pizza from a short menu and have it delivered from the Blue Garden. It would be a win/win for both establishments.

Susan is about to get her next wine at the tasting from Rajiv.

One of our last nights on island they had their first "wine tasting". It was fun and drew quite a few people, but there were some rough edges and I would suggest some changes for their next tasting. 

Overall we felt it is an excellent addition to the food and drink of Bonaire and wish them good success: we want to be able to go back on our next visit to Bonaire.


Overall it was a very enjoyable three weeks in Bonaire. I’m not sure what part of it we enjoy the most, the windsurfing, the dining, all the great friends we see, or the relaxation. I guess it is "all of the above" as we were already considering how we could get back again soon.

Look carefully and you can see the sails and windsurfer wakes on Lac Bay.

I will include a few additional windsurfing photos below.

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Some windsurfing photos

Heidi sails in a relatively agressive style and is quite good at it.

Wolfgang is out enjoying a nice day on the water.

Ellen is a very good windsurfer and demonstrates a classic position and style.

Unfortunately, Cheryl bruised or cracked a couple of ribs soon after this was taken, keeping her off the water the rest of her stay..

Werner is almost always smiling when windsurfing: think he enjoys it?.

Heinz is not quite as flamboyant as brother Werner, but very good.

Natalie was a frequent visitor on Lac Bay but husband Pat pulled a muscle and was sidelined.

Susan improved her windsurfing and was moving along quite well.

As usual, I had to get a picture of myself in here.