Our annual Windsurfing Trip to

Bonaire

January-February, 2014




The Setup

We had lots of other things going in in late 2013 so did not get around to making our Bonaire arrangements until early December. That ended up dictating some aspects of our trip. I had kept in contact with some of our friends who we frequently see in Bonaire and we were able to schedule our visit to match up with many of these friends. We ended up with a Jan 25 - Feb 8 schedule and it worked very well this year.

Getting there and back

Delta has decided that their non-stop flights out of Atlanta are very precious as their fares were running right around $1000 round trip. We considered going through Aruba as we did last year to save some dollars but decided to spend some Delta Frequent Flyer miles and buy one ticket, so, on average, it was not too bad. The Nonstop from Atlanta is very convenient for us as we can get on the plane just 30 miles from home and, four hours later, get off in Bonaire. The flights both ways were on time and reasonably comfortable. I had attained Delta Silver Medallion in 2013 so we were able to snag exit row seats both directions for a little extra leg room. We had also recently signed up for the "Global Entry" program which got us through US customs faster on the return. It would usually also get us through TSA security faster, but the fancy new Atlanta International concourse did not have a TSA Pre-Check line to take advantage of.

When departing Bonaire we could see the windsurfers on LacBay.


We had a rental car from Budget. When we picked it up the quoted price was a bit more than our reservation, but it was a larger, more comfortable car also, so I decided not to make an issue of it.


Where we stayed this time

Because we were late making travel arrangements our normal hotel, Sonrisa, was fully booked. I started looking at alternates and the first several I tried were also full. Somehow I came across the Wanapa Lodge. We had watched the Wanapa Lodge under construction on the "back road" to Sorobon for a couple of years and wondered what it was going to be. I soon found that Wanapa Lodge is a small (12 units), very new resort. Most of the guests are Dutch; during our two weeks we only met one other couple there who were not Dutch and everyone is friendly. (That other couple turned out to also be from the Atlanta area, living only about 12 miles from us.) Certainly not everything was perfect with the Wanapa, like they do not accept credit cards, so we had to go through a rather tedious international funds transfer process, and I realized they did not have screens over the windows so we would be rather exposed to mosquitoes.

The main buildings and courtyard ofWanapa Lodge.


When we checked in it was fairly obvious that screens had been installed on our windows, unlike the other units. Apparently we were a bit of a test case. All the rooms, including ours, had a mosquito net over the bed, but we prefer to keep the mosquitoes out of the room, not only away from the bed and the screens worked well, with only a few insects making it into the room.



Ground level view of the courtyars.


The bed(s) were a bit of an issue. Like many Caribbean resorts, the "king bed" is actually two single beds shoved together. But while most resorts doing this have a "T" shipped "bridge" between the beds and they then make the two beds as one, Wanapa just made the two beds as two separate beds, creating a bit of a gap or valley between us. The grounds of Wanapa are very nicely done, with a nice pool slightly elevated and chairs/lounges around it and effective landscaping. Each unit has a small sitting area that opens into the common area, some overlooking the pool. One type of landscaping plant that was commonly used was attracting humming birds. When we sat on our little patio for breakfast or afternoon snack we could watch the humming birds coming within about 3 or 4 feet of us.


The whole facility was kept clean and rooms were cleaned with fresh bath towels every two days. Wanapa is quite a ways outside of town with very little around it. This means that there was practically no street or traffic noise, unlike resorts closer to town like Sonrisa. However, there are noises out in the country. A couple of nights two or three dogs in an adjoining tract of land decided they need to bark at the wild donkeys much of the night and if you think that rooster only crow at dawn, wrong! They crowed from about 3 AM on. We got used to the roosters in a few nights and the dogs only got loud a couple of nights. In the mornings we could barely hear the goats from a nearby farm as they headed out to their grazing areas for the day. After the dogs barked the first night we turned on the air conditioning the second night to ensure more quiet. Wanapa charges $7 per day the AC is used, which is really not much, but we took it as a challenge to do without the AC so after the dogs were quiet, we didnít turn the AC on again.


The view of the pool from our patio. Hummingbirds liked the blue flowers in foreground.


Wanapa is classified as a "Bed and Breakfast" because they offer a full breakfast, although for a $14.50 cost. We didnít partake of that breakfast but talked to others who said it was very good. We normally saw a number of people having breakfast on the front porch as we were leaving to head to Lac Bay. They also offered dinner a couple of nights a week. We participated one evening and it was a pleasant meal, but as the only native English speaking people, we were a little out of place. Besides, there were a lot of restaurants that we needed to visit, so, speaking of restaurants"..


Restaurants we visited

There were several new restaurants so we decided to try as many of them as possible, although of course we also had to make sure we got to our favorites.

Cuba Compagnie

Cuba Compagnie is a new restaurant which had taken over a building on the back side of the little square, between the square and Kaya Grande. The bar area faced Kaya Grande and most of the restaurant seating was along the square. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Cuba Compagnie is that it did not offer any Cuban food. There was a mix of various types of food and our meals were good, although nothing special. The City Cafť had closed a couple of months previously and it had been our "back-up" in case none of our other favorites were available and it looked to me that Cuba Compagnie may well take on that role. .

Capriccio

Capriccio is the one restaurant in Bonaire that we usually visit more than once per trip. Besides an early visit we have established a tradition of visiting Capriccio for our last dinner on the island. We used to focus mostly on their seafood, which was very good, but recently we have discovered the wonderful fresh pasta dishes which we enjoyed on both our visits this time. All the dishes were delicious and the basket of bread as well as the plate of crisp, thin flat bread were excellent additions.

Capriccio restaurant across from the waterfront.


A discussion of Capriccio would not be complete without mentioning the great wine list (listed by Wine Spectator as one of the very best) and Lolaís knowledge of the wines. On our first visit she seem pleased that I asked for a Barbara wine as she thinks that is one of the most under-appreciated wines of Italy. On our second visit I had scallops in my pasta so Lola steered us toward a Pinot Noir (Pinot Nero in Italy) blend that worked very well. We say that we go to Bonaire to windsurf, but I kid Susan that she really goes to Bonaire so she can go to Capriccio; it is that good.

Grill House Emanual

We noticed the sign for the Grill House while walking along Kaya Grande and looked up a little information on it and we decided to give it a try. It is upstairs, in the shopping mall building. We were there for an early evening meal and were apparently the first customers of the evening. We got the impression that they had not been open very long as the waitress spoke little English and seemed unsure of just what she should be doing, but was very sincere about what she was trying to do. Service, while a bit spotty, was overall good and friendly. I had BBQíed ribs, which were tasty, plentiful and some of the better ribs Iíve had on-island. In general the food was good, the portions generous, and the price very reasonable. We took enough away with us for a nice lunch the next day. It is definitely worth a return visit. :

Sebastian's

During a discussion one day at the Windsurf Place deck, Elvis mentioned that he has been catching some fish for his friend who had recently opened a new restaurant, Sebastianís, at the location that used to be Richards. We had never been to Richards and I did not realize what a relatively large restaurant was tucked away behind a very inconspicuous entrance. It is a restaurant with a very nice view over the water. We both had fish dishes which were very good; after all, we had to taste some of the fish that Elvis had caught. Service was occasionally a little slow, but not so much as to be a problem; I suspect the staff were still all finding their places. It was a lovely evening as the view across the harbor was lovely. Peter and Tim had also decided to try Sebastianís and came by the same evening.

At Sea

We met our windsurfing friends, Tim and Peter, (who were leaving the next day) for dinner "At Sea". We ended up sitting next to two other windsurfing friends so we had a bit of a party. The food was very good, bordering on amazing with several small excellently presented mini-appetizers and main courses that were tasty and almost too pretty to eat. This does bring up our only complaint: our table had very poor lighting so it was sometimes hard to see just what you were eating; it was good, you were not sure just what it was.

Peter, Tim, Heinz, Wolfgang, and Susan are enjoying At Sea..


Service was great and they even remembered some of our group from a visit a year ago. The wine list was a little short in number for such a good restaurant, but the wines that were included seemed very good and well chosen

Wanapa Lodge

As previously mentioned, the Wanapa Lodge served dinners two or three times a week. We attended one of these and it was pleasant, if a little awkward for us. We were the only native English speakers, with all the other guests being Dutch; everyone was polite and one couple especially sort of adopted us for the evening as they were very good English speakers. The food was a traditional Dutch stew that was tasty, if a little bland for our somewhat warped taste. The $25 cost was reasonable and included an initial class of wine (or beer). We noticed the dinners had good participation on other evenings as we headed into town to eat.

Dinner on the front patio of Wanapa Lodge.


La Guernica

Although you can usually get a table at La Guernica without a reservation, if you want one of the better tables, up higher and further off the street, you should reserve it ahead of time. We were meeting Jacqueline for dinner so we made a reservation for a good table. La Guernica specializes in tapas so we ordered a selection of tapas dishes of various kinds. All dishes were tasty and fresh. I do wish we had instructed the server to bring a couple of dishes at a time at a time as some were getting cool by the time we got to them. On other trips we have ordered a couple of tapas and then split one regular meal and that generally works well also. We enjoyed a good table/view, good food and good company for a very pleasant evening.

La Guernica; the best tables are on the upper level, outside.


Wil's Grill

Windsurfers Ian and Sue had helped both Susan and I with our windsurfing so we wanted to treat them to dinner; besides, that is a very good excuse to spend a pleasant evening with a very nice couple. I had called the prior day for reservations and Sue, Wilís wife, answered and took the information. (If you are getting confused, that is OK. We now have 3 ladies named Sue/Susan involved; my wife Susan, our guest Sue, and hostess Sue.) Turns out that 6 more windsurfing friends also made reservations for the same night and time so we all showed up at the same time.

Wil's grill building in the evening.


The appetizers were delicious and the fish special of the night (fresh tuna) was excellent. As usual service was very good. We sat there long after finishing our coffee and Sue (the hostess) occasionally came around refilling water glasses and making sure all was well. Wil's has been one of our "must visit" places just about ever since they opened and, based on our latest visit, will remain in that category.

Casa Portuguesa

Some of our friends said that they had a good meal at Casa Portuguesa and we were trying out as many new restaurants as we could, so we gave it a try. Casa Portuguesa is located in what used to be Cactus Blue and they had done minimal physical upgrades. We arrived there about 6:30 and during our dinner we were the only two people eating in the restaurant. There were two young men at the bar for a while, but otherwise, no apparent customers. This is really a shame because we had a very good meal. The catch of the day was grouper and we ordered that fixed two different ways and both were delicious. It was perfectly cooked, well-seasoned and the accompanying items were good, including the toasted garlic bread. At one point I noticed the young chef looking out to see if we were enjoying the meal, so we gave him an enthusiastic "delicious" report. I certainly hope their business improves as we would like to see them there on our next visit.

Unbelieveable

On past visits to Bonaire we have come to consider the Unbelievable restaurant as a good fallback, in case nothing else is available: good and reliable, but nothing outstanding. After our meal there this time we may have to change that opinion; it was very good. We both had the fish of the day (Wahoo); Susanís was grilled with a fruity salsa like sauce and mine was blackened with a pepper sauce and both were delicious. The accompanying veggies were nicely done and the seasoned rice (for Susan) and flavored mashed potato (for me) worked very well. We also had a fried calamari appetizer; the calamari was very good but the sauce could have used a bit more spice. The servings were generous and we took some of the fish with us for part of our lunch the next day. Bobbejanís

Bobbejan's

We popped in on a Sunday evening and were able to get a table for 2. Susan got the ribs and I ordered the Bobbyjan's Special: ribs, chicken and chicken satay. Our plan was to take enough away with us for lunch another day and that worked well. All food was good, french fries were crisp, chicken satay really good, but the ribs seemed to have a little less meat than previously.† Service can be a bit spotty, but there was a young man who seemed to really be moving and he provided everything asked for and reasonably quickly.

Patagonia

After eating quite a bit of fresh fish we decided we needed some beef and perhaps some leftovers for steak sandwiches. We were the first people in the restaurant (no reservations so we went early) and had great service, well, at least until a large group was seated and things slowed down a little.† We both had the sirloin and both were perfectly cooked and very flavorful. I expect sirloin to be a little chewy and this was just a little, but that allows the great flavor to come out. The baked potatoes were large but wife's was a little underdone and still a little hard in the middle. We had a glass of wine and they poured a very generous glass. We left with enough steak for several sandwiches the next couple of days.†The setting is not as pretty or romantic as their old location, but the food is at least as good as ever.

Windsurfing

Our primary reason for visiting Bonaire is for the excellent windsurfing conditions, and we were not disappointed this year. We had good wind on about 10 of the possible 13 days and only a couple of days with tides that were a bit too low (shallow) for comfort. The shallow (2' - 3í deep), white sand bottom, reef protected bay with an on-shore trade wind just makes for great windsurfing conditions. The availability of excellent equipment and facilities just tops it all off.

Our friends on the BWP deck: Tim (seated), Ellen, Wolfgang, me and Susan.


As usual, we sailed out of Bonaire Windsurfplace mainly because of the excellent equipment and better off-the- water facilities, but I did notice that Jibe City, the other windsurf outfitter, has significantly improved their equipment the last couple of years and appeared to be very busy this year. The cruise ship people were still there several days, but they did not seem as much of a problem this year. Either they are being better controlled, or we are learning to work around them better. As usual, only the people from one of the cruise ships caused any problems and the people from other ships were very courteous and tried to cooperate with the windsurfers. Although we enjoy the windsurfing,, perhaps the most fun is seeing our friends and making new ones. We time our visit to Bonaire to coincide with several other people and it worked out very well this time. We had not seen Tim and Peter (from Canada) in several years and it was really great to visit with them again.

Bonaire Windsurf Place from out in the water. .


With Tim and Peter we experienced the two extremes of Bonaire cuisine, from the very local style of the Maiky Snack to the very international glitz of award winning At Sea. As with many of our other Bonaire friends, it seems that we can pick up and extend a friendship even after a gap of several years. As mentioned previously, Sue and Ian (from Guernsey, Channel Islands) were there again and helped us with our windsurfing techniques. Ian especially just seems to sail so effortlessly as to make it look easy. The crew from the Northeast US were there almost exactly the same time as we were, Ellen, Cheryl, Heidi, Richie, Jack, Tom, and Armand. One interesting thing about this group is that the ladies are the primary windsurfers and while the guys do sail some, they are mainly along for the ride, and the ladies are good sailors! And we cannot forget our German friends. We normally see brothers Heinz and Werner and their friend Wolfgang but this year Werner injured his knee a couple of weeks before their Bonaire trip and could not make it. We did enjoy the company of Heinz and Wolfgang with their stories and hospitality. We also saw Janet from Coco, Florida, our senior windsurfer Norm and his wife Effie, Jen and Wayne from Michigan, and probably others that I cannot think of at the moment.

Other Activities

We took a couple of days off from windsurfing, but unlike other years, did not do any snorkeling. I scrapped my knee pretty good the first day and spending 3 hours in the water each day did not help it heal any, so on our days off I kept it out of the water and dry. On our days off we walked around town some and also toured the southern end of the island. We made our way out to Lac Cai, the point of land across Lac Bay and found some interesting areas that looked like small salt pans but which did not appear to be in use.

The reddish salt pans near Lac Cai.


On weekends there are sometimes some music and food out at Lac Cai, but during the week, as when we were there, it was very quiet. We did get an unusual view of some Flamingos on the way to and from Lac Cai. Near the "kayak in the mangroves" building there were 8 or 10 Flamingos only about 30 or so feet from the road, calmy feeding in the shallow water. We stopped for some pictures, as did several other cars. p

Flamingos close to the road to Lac Cai.


More windsurfing pictures


Christoph settles into his stance and nothing can move him.



Heidi is sailing her new submarine board.



Heinz is apparently having a good time. .



Ian always looks so relaxed while sailing. .



Jen and Wayne take a break and relax a bit.



Peter is up and on a run across the bay.



Tim is heading in the other direction .



I think Wolfgang is enjoying his time in Bonaire.