Seventh Windsurfing Trip To
Setting the StageSince this was our 7th visit to Bonaire and previous visits have been covered in other reports, this will just be a quick overview and update. Ann Phelan, Caribbean Wind and Sun Vacations took care of the details in Bonaire, as usual. We had a good visit, got in some good windsurfing, met some old friends, and made some new ones.
Getting there and backWe used Delta Frequent Flyer tickets and the flight to Bonaire was on time. The return flight was about 30 minutes late, mostly because of the somewhat laborious security procedures leaving Bonaire. Customs/Immigration entering Bonaire was it's usual quick and efficient process, followed by reasonably decent baggage delivery. We made it to the remote rental car center and then to the Sonrisa Hotel within about an hour of landing. On the return trip, it only took about 15 minutes to clear Passport control coming into Atlanta, then a quick initial baggage claim, long (20 minutes) security recheck, followed by a long (another 20 minutes) baggage re-delivery. It was better than our last couple of trips, but still lots of room for improvement.
The main street through downtown Kralendijk, Bonaire's major city.
The remote rental car process went OK, except when we returned our car we found that rental agreement had been for a return the previous day. I'm not sure where the error crept in, but since the cost (except for taxes) was the same, it was not a big deal, just causing a little confusion.
Where we stayedAs in the prior 3 visits, we stayed at the Sonrisa Hotel. It is only about 2 years old and is kept very clean and orderly. It is in a very convenient location, within an easy walk to most of the restaurants in town and some food stores. There is quite a bit of construction in the area, including just down the street it is on, and a new building was started while we were there. In another year or two it will be a very nice area, but for now there is considerable truck traffic during the day. In the evening all was quiet and peaceful, except for the occasional loud parrot.
A view of Sonrisa. Our room was at the lower right.
This time we took along a few snacks that are hard to find on Bonaire and had our usual afternoon (after windsurfing) wine and cheese and snack break out by the pool. It was always one of the highpoints of the day. Jacqueline manages Sonrisa and we have gotten to know her and Roger over the past several visits.
The Sonrisa serves a nice breakfast, including a sandwich, that is really more than we would normally eat, so we generally saved one sandwich and enhanced it with cheese or leftovers from the night before. This sandwich and some fruit, such as apples, made for a simple but sufficient lunch most days.
Windsurfing commentsThe windsurfing was very good this visit. There was only one day with winds under 16 knots and most days it was around 19 - 20 kts, with a couple of days around 25 kts. The tides were running high during the day so "fin dragging" was not a problem, although a couple of days the wind was from the NE and the water became very choppy in Lac Bay. Most days I was sailing a 6.0 to 7.3 M sail and only had to go to an 8.0 a couple of times.
As usual, we sailed out of Bonaire Windsurf Place, mainly because we think they have better equipment and a better "off the water" facility.
Bonaire Windsurf Place covered deck during a rain storm. Susan is talking to Ellen (standing) and Cheryl (seated). A prototype Variable Area Sail is in the background.
While we were there Roger and the BWP guys were testing a prototype of a new invention of Roger's, a "Variable Area Sail". It allows a single sail to cover a 1.5 - 2 meter range in size (such as 5.5 - 7.0 M) rather than just be a single fixed size. It's intended for beginning to intermediate windsurfers to reduce the number of sails, booms, masts, etc. that they need to buy to cover a range of wind speeds.
The Variable Area Sail being tested. It seemed to work fine.
Susan on a run across Lac Bay. You can see an electricity producing wind turbine in the background.
Cruise Ships in Bonaire: an updateThe cruise ships continue to visit Bonaire, perhaps even more than last year. The problem we see is the mass of cruise ship people who come to Lac Bay and Sorobon beach and wade through the waters, but do not understand/appreciate the potential dangers they face and the problems they cause for the windsurfers. They tend to like to stand and loiter where the windsurfers have to come in and out. Although we try to keep our sails and boards under control, we cannot control the wind and someone is bound to get hurt sometime when a gust of wind blows a sail out of control.
Most windsurfers would not mind so much, but are frustrated because the island's tourism officials have attracted the cruise ship industry and encourage the visits to places like Lac Bay, but the government has done nothing to provide any facilities or improvements to handle the increased crowds. Last year the BWP staff tried to separate the windsurfers from the cruisers as they waded out into the bay, but this year the Bonaire "Park Rangers" (for lack of a better term) had closed down the alternate access, forcing the cruisers back to the same access as windsurfers must use. If the government is going to attract the cruise ships it should at least take some of the revenue (port fees) and use it to improve the facilities and make the area safer for all users.
One of the large cruise ships at the dock one evening.
A short tour of the Northern part of Bonaire.On the one day there was light wind we took a bit of a tour. We took our normal drive through Kralendijk and on out the NW side of town. We stopped at several sites, including overlooking some dive sites, then stopped at a little "rest stop" overlooking lake Gotomeer. At this time Bonaire had not had any rain for about 2 months and, although things did look dry, there was still surprising color all around.
A view over part of lake Gotomeer.
A flamingo in part of Lake Gotomeer
In our travels around the island we saw a lot of new construction. There are multiple new resort developments and condos under development and significant new commercial building. The construction industry certainly seems to be booming on Bonaire, even if other industries are not. Of course, construction is a very slow process on the island, with a 10 or 12 unit, 4 story condo building taking two years or more to complete, so it may look like more new buildings than there really are.
An example of a nearly completed new building. It's been under construction for at least 2 years.
After our driving tour we went out to Lac Bay to see if there was any windsurfing activity, but the wind was very light, so we pulled out our snorkeling gear and waded out to the reef in the eastern part of Lac Bay. As usual we saw some interesting and colorful fish and coral. Although much of the coral around the island has been damaged and even killed by storms, the many kinds of coral in Lac Bay seem to be healthy and in good condition.
Some of the coral and fish in Lac Bay.
Karel's pier and Cappuccino Bar, back and better than ever.
Some flowers along the waterfront in Kralendijk.
Restaurants we visitedWe visited many of the same restaurants we'd been to before and tried out a couple of new ones. I'll cover them here in no special order
Bobbejan'sWe tried to visit Bobbejan's twice. Notice I said "tried". On the first Saturday evening the place was very busy, but we were seated immediately. After 30 minutes no server had stopped by the table and we had been unable to get anyone's attention, so we just got up and left. Next Friday evening we stopped by but it was again very busy, with no tables available, so we didn't even try and just left. Bobbejan's is really primary a take-away type place that also has some tables to eat-in, but the eat-in business is not a priority.
CapriccioCapriccio is our favorite restaurant and this trip we visited three times. The first trip was for their excellent seafood and the second visit was for their yummy pasta. Both were accompanied by good wine recommended by Lola, the owner/manager.
Capriccio at night: a little hard to find, but well worth it.
The UnbelievableWe visited the Unbelievable once and we both had nice meals. We recommended Unbelievable to some other people staying at Sonrisa and they liked it so much they ate there four or five times.
CasablancaLooking for some beef to reinforce our noon sandwiches, we visited Casablanca. It was good with good service except that they neglected to tell us that the included salad is now self-serve buffet style until we had gotten our entree. The steaks (sirloins) were a little thinner and perhaps a little less flavor than last visit.
La BracaThis is very new and very interesting place that Ann Phelam asked us to check out. Nice ambience. Tall "mast" in the middle of the dining area with cloth (reminiscent of sails) spread out from there. I had Dorado in Mediterranean sauce and Susan had a seafood pasta dish. Mine was good, but it was only the Dorado and sauce, no veggies or starch or such. Susan's pasta dish was only pasta and sauce, no salad or veggies. Susan and I each split our entrees and it worked out OK. We don't use much salt in our meals and Susan's dish was relatively heavily salted. Bread was a nice Italian bread with an interesting green olive flavored butter. Although it did not exactly go with the meals, they had some Italian Sangiovese on the wine list and I had to try that. Not bad at all. Meals, wine and coffee totaled $57.50 before service charge.
Pasa Bon PizzaWe visited Pasa Bon for a good, simple, casual meal and it came through on all counts. We had the Pasa Bon salad, a medium deluxe pizza and a bottle of Amstel beer. A good salad, tasty pizza, and cold beer is hard to beat! As usual, service was friendly and prompt and we took a couple of slices with us for lunch the next day.
La GuernicaWhen we left Bobbjan's the first night we went just a little ways down the street to La Guernica, one of our favored restaurants. We had a couple of Tapas and then split a regular entree and it worked out well. Try to go early or make a reservation so you can get a table away from the street.
Wil's GrillWil's Grill is another of our favorites. Wil almost always manages to have a slightly unusual or different approach to preparing relatively standard entrees. His dishes are not really highly spiced, just noticeably different and delicious. We shared our usual mixed greens and toasted pine nut salad and then we both had the daily special, Grilled Wahoo with a mango salsa sauce. We've been there enough times now that Wil and his wife recognize us as "regulars".
SenseOn our previous visit Sense has just opened and, while good and showing promise, there were still a few rough edges. This time the edges were well finished. We met Roger and Jacqueline at Sense and we shared a very large sampler tapas platter then Susan and I both had a stir-fried shrimp and pasta dish. Very good, but Susan said it was not as flavorful as last time we ate there. Jacqueline and Roger are about to start construction on their own house so that was one of the major topics of conversation, including the problems in finding and getting items such as appliances and furnishings to Bonaire.
El MundoEl Mundo has an interesting international menu and replaces Warung Louise. We had a rather bland Bonarian Goat Stew that included a lot of bone instead of meat and an Indonesian plate with 7 different sampler dishes. The Indonesian sampler was definitely the more interesting dish of the two, unless you just have to try some goat stew. Pretty good and a very good price-performer.
Bistro de ParisOne night we tried Pasa Bon again for Pizza, but they were full, so went next door to Bistro de Paris. I had a snapper grilled filet with a nice sauce and Susan had their special, Blue Marlin filets wrapped in bacon. Very good. Only problem was that we got so relaxed that we went off and forgot our box of leftovers. .
Snapper filet at Bistro de Paris.
Ribs FactoryThe second time we tried to go to Bobbejan's we had our mouths set for ribs, so we went instead to the Rib Factory, upstairs more or less across from Karel's pier. This was our first visit to the Rib Factory and found it to be reasonably good. The ribs were not great but certainly acceptable and a good size serving, the view over the harbor was very good, and the price was reasonable. Overall, certainly not a "big occasion" kind of place, but very acceptable for a simple and affordable meal.
Paradise MoonParadise Moon is the former Papaya Moon renamed and relocated. We ended up there one night when we tried to go to the Yacht Club restaurant and it was full. The Margaritas were weak, chicken fajitas were decent, but very mildly flavored (and no salsa on the side). Susan had a grouper filet that was good. Coffee was a bit weak for a owner who used to run a coffee shop.
General CommentsAlthough both Susan and I had minor colds for most of our visit, we were very glad to be in the warm, friendly Bonaire climate rather than at home in the cold. We had about the best windsurfing conditions of any of our Bonaire trips with good winds on 12 of the 13 full days on the island. One of the best parts about our visits to Bonaire now are meeting so many friends, both old and new; and this visit was about the best yet in that regard. Another of the "best parts" continues to be our afternoon wine and snacks around the Sonrisa pool after a day of windsurfing and visiting with friends.
Perhaps we'll return again to Bonaire sometime in the future.