Learn to windsurf on Bonaire: Lac Bay is the best place in the World for Beginners

Learn to windsurf on Bonaire: Lac Bay is the best place in the World for Beginners

In our completely unbiased opinion, Bonaire is the best flat water windsurf destination in the world and best place for beginner windsurfers. Granted we haven’t explored every destination in the world but Bonaire has a LOT going for it. Why should you learn to windsurf on Bonaire?

  • Onshore wind: You can’t really get blown out to sea. Learning to windsurf here is safe for that reason. All you need to do is stay in the light turquoise water, which is shallow, and no matter where you are you can walk you and your equipment back to shore. It is so safe that none of the windsurf shops employ a boat to bring people back. It just isn’t necessary. The wind pushes you back to shore.
  • Shallow water: When you fall off of your windsurf gear, you just hop back on. You don’t have to swim to your gear. You don’t have to swallow salt water that is washing over your head. The shallow water also means you can talk to your instructor or fellow windsurfers while standing in the water. Because you don’t have to swim to your gear your learning curve is faster. You are less tired. You can try more times. It is safer. Learn to windsurf on Bonaire in absolutely ideal conditions.
  • Warm water: See above – if it’s warm you aren’t in any hurry to get out. Some people stay in the water for hours and hours.
  • Flat water: you can learn to windsurf in easy conditions, without waves washing over your head when you fall in.
  • Sandy bottom: You fall off your gear onto sand when you learn to windsurf on Bonaire. You may want to wear booties anyway in case you land on a shell but most locals and tourists windsurf barefoot.
  • No motor boats in Lac Bay: in most windsurf destinations you need to watch out for other boats, bigger boats, motor boats. This isn’t an issue in little Lac Bay.
  • No kite surfers. Kite surfing is a very popular sport on Bonaire but it is prohibited in Lac Bay. Windsurfers got there first – and when kiting became popular it became clear that Lac Bay was too small for kiters and windsurfers. So the kiters now sail at Atlantis Beach on the west coast of Bonaire. They have to deal with offshore wind. Learn to windsurf on Bonaire without the worry about running into a kiter’s lines.
  • World Class windsurf instruction: there aren’t many places in the world where your instructors are sometimes ranked among the top in the world. If they aren’t instructing you there’s always opportunity to meet world class and ranked windsurfers. They are here year round and they are at the same beach you are at.
  • Ease of equipment rental: When the wind is high and you are just learning, you’ll want a smaller sail and as the wind dies down, you may want to try a bigger sail. On Bonaire you won’t have to figure this out for yourself. The crew at the different windsurf locations will help you change your sail and board and offer recommendations based on the conditions they’re seeing that day. There is no cost to change your sail an unlimited number of times during the day. All the gear is ready and rigged for you. You just have to ask. Don’t forget to tip the crew who take care of you at Jibe City, Bonaire Windsurf Place or Dunkerbeck Pro Center.
  • Reliable wind: the island is windy almost all year round. September through November are the months with the least wind but even then conditions are OK for learning.
  • Tranquility: The peaceful feeling of being out on the water in Lac Bay is unmatched in all the world.

 

learn to windsurf bonaire    learn to windsurf bonaire

learn to windsurf bonaire    learn to windsurf bonaire

Tolo: Off-The-Beaten-Path Beach on Bonaire

Tolo: Off-The-Beaten-Path Beach on Bonaire

We thought we’d share a few photos from another gorgeous off the beaten path Bonaire beach. This one is the dive site called Tolo.

What makes this Bonaire beach a little more off-the-beaten-path than many others is that you have to commit to it! Once you continue past thousand steps on the road toward Tolo there’s literally no turning back. The Queen’s Highway becomes a one-way road at a certain point before arriving at Tolo. To get back to wherever it is that you came from you have to continue North toward the little town of Rincon and then double back. Really for anyone from anywhere that’s not Bonaire, this should not be a big deal. You are guaranteed to not encounter traffic – probably not a single other car for miles. But still, it’s hot and isolated and the two way road back towards civilization is kinda on the beautiful side making it hard to commit to getting back via the “back road.”

But Bonaire is for adventurers. And Tolo is worth it. The two little cement benches under the trees have been there as long as we’ve been visiting the island.  So if you don’t have chairs you know you’ll at least have a place to sit that’s not on thorns and with a bit of shade.

The only real novelty from previous years is the amount and density of the sea urchin population. If you plan to swim plan your entrance carefully. It is possible to dive, swim and snorkel here. There’s even quite a bit of open space for playing paddle ball or having a slightly larger group of people than at a smaller and thornier beach like Jeff Davis.

Tolo is the perfect off the beaten path Bonaire locale. Have a picnic, get some shade and get away from it all. If you are  exploring the Queen’s highway on a day trip we’d suggest a stop at Tolo after having a swim at Oil Slick Leap, checking out the little sandy beach at Jeff Davis, having a snorkel at Weber’s Joy and making the descent down to Thousand Steps.

If you continue on through Rincon after stopping at Tolo, stop for a Bonairian style lunch at the non-touristy, off the beaten path Bonaire local restaurant Rose Inn.

queen's highway bonaire scenery; off the beaten path bonaire divi divi tree on bonaire at Tolo; off the beaten path Bonaire

tolo dive site off the beaten path bonaire sea urchin invasion bonaire 2018; off the beaten path bonaire

Souvenir shopping on Bonaire. More options now than ever before.

Souvenir shopping on Bonaire. More options now than ever before.

Just a couple years ago there was basically no option for souvenir shopping on Bonaire. Back then you could choose from  a few fairly hideous, oversized generic t-shirts and maybe a flamingo or lizard key chain. Possibly you could find a turtle pot-holder made in China from an overpriced souvenir shop on Kaya Grandi.

Fast forward to today and you have quite a few, and much better Bonaire souvenir shopping options – and you don’t need to go too far out of your way to find them. Not all are necessarily made on Bonaire – but still these items will likely be appreciated by those you left back at home while you took your Caribbean vacation.

Dutch food and drink has hit Bonaire big time. So bring back Stroopwafels. Or try Stroopwafel flavored liquor – or Stroopwafel flavored milk chocolate! Actually – honestly – just go for the plain old stroopwafels and forget the gimmicks. Your gift recipients will thank you. If the stroopwafel liqueur isn’t on your list, another alcohol option for a gift is the egg nog flavored Advocaat liquor. Drink it at room temperature or heated up and mixed with whipped cream. It’s delicious, Dutch and it’s something different.

And again, without even entering a gift store you can get all your souvenir shopping done. Just hit the local grocery store and you’ll find adorable mugs adorned with scenery from Bonaire and even mounted professional photos of scenery from around the island. If you shop at Van Den Tweel supermarket regularly during your trip you can even get a punch card and for every $10 you spend you get a stamp on your stamp card. A full card means you can buy a mug for $4.99 rather than $10. It’s all explained in Dutch and seems fairly complicated for a $5 mug – but if you’re looking for a nice gift at a great price that could be it right there. Also available right at the supermarket are Bonaire calendars, Bonaire books, Bonaire mouse pads, Bonaire candy, Bonaire liquor, and of course different varieties of Bonaire Sea Salt. For “made on Bonaire” options go for the Sea Salt or the Kadushi Liquor – or look into the books and artwork made by locals.

Speaking of the grocery store – sometimes the simplest things make the best gifts. Widely available are souvenir re-usable grocery bags. Easy and lightweight to bring back – some have colorful photos of Bonaire on them, some are made of organic cotton and come from the Netherlands – and all are a useful gift that any eco-conscious adults in your life would appreciate. Especially those that have been to Bonaire and like the reminder of the pretty scenery, iguanas and donkeys.

If you still want a T-Shirt we think the ones they sell at Pirana Joe at the little mall downtown are pretty sweet.  T-shirts have a little stuffed piranha hanging off of them – not exactly made in Bonaire – but something the kids back home will probably enjoy if you decide to forego the sugary stroopwafel option. Another mall option in town is the color changing shop Del Sol. Gimicky but fun – everything from color changing shirts to shoes, jewelry, towels and nail polish.

Souvenir shopping just got easier on Bonaire – Shop till you drop!

advocaat liquor bonaire stroopwafels bonaire souvenir souvenir of Bonaire sea salt  souvenir bonaire photo mugs  souvenir calendars available at the grocery store  big selection of stroopwafels at Van Den Tweel supermarket

 

The Best Ice Cream on Bonaire – Gio’s Gelateria

The Best Ice Cream on Bonaire – Gio’s Gelateria

Yesterday we went for a run so today it’s time to indulge. Gio’s Gelateria is a huge favorite among locals and tourists alike. Gio’s is located on the equivalent of what we’d call Main Street –  in downtown Kralendijk, Kaya Grandi. Although the view is better from the newly opened Luciano’s – Gio’s Gelateria has still got it – definitely the best place to go for Ice Cream on Bonaire. Cute chandeliers as decor, plenty of seating inside and out, and most of all – the ice cream is just plain delicious. On cruise ship days this place is packed as is most of downtown. The hustle and bustle that really isn’t a part of your typical Bonaire experience isn’t a bad thing though.  Sit outside and do some people watching. Gio’s is also the perfect spot for your morning cappuccino which comes with a little dash of gelato on the side! You can also try the dutch apple pie with your coffee as a breakfast option. In Dutch,”Koffie and Vlaai”. Try Gio’s pie and cappuccino special for $5. We also love a Gio’s ice cream after a dinner downtown. Rather than ordering dessert at the restaurant take a walk along the water front and then head over to Gio’s for dessert and an espresso. Gio’s Gelateria is central to most restaurants and lodging on the island.

Gio’s Gelateria also has a small refrigerator with gourmet chocolates and other delicacies.

Portion sizes for ice cream are small compared to the equivalent in the United States. Current prices: One scoop is $1.75 and each additional scoop is another $1.75. Add whipped cream for another $1.00. Savor every bite!

coffee and dutch apple pie at Gio's Gelateria            outdoor seating at gio's gelateria in downtown Kralendijk bonaire    Gio's Gelateria ice cream on Bonaire   coffee cappuccino bonaire - prices for ice cream at gio's Gelateria

Running on Bonaire

Running on Bonaire

One of our favorite places to go running on Bonaire  is the coastal road “Queen’s Highway”  where you find the dive sites Thousand Steps, Jeff Davis and Witch’s Hut (Weber’s Joy.) We suggest parking your car at Caribbean Club Resort which you’ll come across just before the dive site Oil Slick Leap and right across the street from Stinapa Bonaire Headquarters. From Caribbean Club start your run or walk down the short hill towards the water. You can stretch a little at Oil Slick Leap and take in the views before starting your run. From Oil Slick to Thousand Steps is under a mile so round trip you’d only do a two mile run if you stop at thousand step but you can go much further and the road continues to be just as beautiful. This run is better in a group of two or more as the road can be pretty isolated as you head farther north, off the beaten path…  From Oil Slick Leap to Thousand steps there will be a few cars driving by now and then but further north you may not pass anyone at all. The road becomes especially quiet as you pass Karpata and are on a one way street. (Surprisingly the Queen’s Highway is a two way road until you reach Karpata.) In our opinion this is the prettiest place to go running on Bonaire.

Go early before it’s too hot, bring water, stop in at Caribbean Club afterwards to check it out and get a drink or have breakfast at their restaurant. Another idea is to pack a bathing suit and go for a swim at Oil Slick leap after your run. Oil Slick has a deck with a ladder down to the water – a gorgeous place for a swim and a cool down after your workout.

 

Pastechi. The best snacks to taste while visiting Bonaire

Pastechi. The best snacks to taste while visiting Bonaire

Taste something new while visiting Bonaire. The favorite Bonairian snack for locals and tourists alike is the Pastechi. These are half moon shaped fried dough pockets filled with your choice of gouda cheese, ham and cheese, salt fish, tuna fish, ground beef, chicken and possibly some vegetable or vegetarian options. Some of the chicken and beef pastecchi are made with raisins.

Pastechi are available at Van Den Tweel grocery store at the front counter. You can also get them at many of the smaller local shops such as Zhung Kong supermarket. Many offer pastechi that are made by locals and sold directly at the cash register out of tins brought in fresh daily. In our opinion the best pastechis come from The Flamingo Airport restaurant Techno Bar. So if you don’t have a chance to try them during your trip, stop by the Techno Bar before departure and pick one up to stay or even to take with you on your flight home.

Van Den Tweel Supermarket has the option to eat-in as does the Techno Bar at the airport. Try your pastechi with a cold beer or coffee. Perfect, not-so-healthy snack for kids (and adults.)

Other interesting snacks you’ll find on the island of Bonaire are fried Dutch treats. The most popular, frikandel is fried skinless sometimes bite-size sausage that is a sort of Dutch comfort food often served with curry ketchup and/or mayonnaise.

Other snacks typically served alongside frikandel and also considered Dutch comfort food are bitterballen and kroketten. (The “en” at the end makes Dutch words plural but we think bitterballen sounds tastier than bitter balls… so will leave it at that). More on Frikandel and these Dutch snacks in another post but suffice it to say we recommend sticking with the pastechi! If you’re going to try the other Dutch snacks we recommend having them with an actual Dutch person who can explain their goodness to you. And barring that – wash them down with a few beers. Enjoy!

Scuba Diver Crossing Bonaire

Scuba Diver Crossing Bonaire

How many places on Planet Earth can you find a Scuba Diver Crossing sign like this one? Can you guess where this one is located on Bonaire? Read below to find the answer.

The Scuba Diver Crossing road sign is located at the start to the Queen’s Highway north of Kralendijk, just past the dive site Oil Slick Leap.

Because Bonaire is the perfect shore diving location – a place where you park your car and walk into the water – a sign like this actually makes perfect sense! The Queen’s Highway on Bonaire is also an ideal place for a bike ride, hike, walk or running and jogging. Stops and dive sites along this road include Thousand Steps, Tolo, Jeff Davis, Witches Hut and Karpata.

Donkey crossing, iguana crossing and permanently cemented to the ground…diver crossing! All we need now is a sign with a surfer crossing the road with kite or windsurf gear.But seriously, please slow down for all of our wild animals – including our scuba diving friends.

Have a great day in the water everyone!

 

Beach Tennis Bonaire

Beach Tennis Bonaire

Beach Tennis Bonaire has completely taken over any form of beach volleyball played on the island. Beacn tennis is super popular with locals and is growing fast in Bonaire and in the Caribbean. Play beach tennis on a volleyball court using stringless paddles with holes and non-pressurised tennis balls. On Bonaire the sport is pretty much all doubles.

Beach tennis scores are the same as tennis but with no-ad after deuce. A team needs six games to win a set and best of three sets wins the match. In tournaments on Bonaire usually just one set is played to seven games. The players that win move on to the next round.

Tournaments and practices are held at Coco Beach Bonaire near the north traffic circle. The parking entrance is at Eden Beach – Spice Beach. Beach Tennis Bonaire organizes about one tournament per month and anyone can join in the fun. Players pay $15 per person to compete.

Don’t know how to play, want to improve your skills? Every Thursday night for only $5 a trainer coaches at Coco Beach from 7-8pm for beginners and 8-9 pm for intermediate players. The four courts themselves remain open all day every day free of charge until 9pm. If you need equipment it’s available for you to borrow. You can also buy a beach tennis racquet by getting in touch with Beach Tennis Bonaire. Everyone is welcome to join in the beach tennis fun.

bonaire beach tennis at coco beach beach tennis at coco beach  beach tennis bonaire tournament

 

Jeff Davis Dive Site – The perfect off the beaten path beach day on Bonaire

Jeff Davis Dive Site – The perfect off the beaten path beach day on Bonaire

On arrival at the popular Thousand Steps for a little snorkeling one Friday afternoon we stumbled into about seven or eight cars in the “parking lot” – that’s a crowd on Bonaire! We put the car in reverse and drove back toward where we’d come from to choose a spot with a bit more privacy and elbow room – Jeff Davis Dive Site.

Our brief search took us about a half mile down the road to the dive site Jeff Davis. This special place is named for medical researcher, war veteran, and NASA scientist Dr. Jefferson Davis, an American medical doctor who pioneered the use of hyperbaric oxygen in the treatment of decompression sickness in divers.

What a beautiful spot to go for a swim, snorkel or just to take in the view. There was one couple at the beach – one scooter parked in the “parking lot” and an entire beach for our own private enjoyment. Amazing snorkeling, shocking crystal clear blue water and even some sand, unusual on Bonaire. This beach is the perfect off-the-beaten-path place to beach for the day.

The entrance into the sea is pretty rocky – you will need to step down a few steps on rocks – there is no ladder or any easy access. There is a small amount of shade in some thorny trees. No facilities nearby so water and snacks are a good idea.

Jeff Davis Dive site is marked by one of the iconic yellow stones that indicate all marked dive sites on the island of Bonaire. It’s located on the Queen’s Highway along the same road where you will find Thousand Steps, Weber’s Joy, Tolo and Karpata. This is a wonderful road for biking, running, walking or just going for a ride to check out Bonaire’s amazing scenery.

Tip: bring beach chairs  and watch for thorns on the ground!

   

Where to go on your first day on Bonaire? Bachelor’s Beach

Where to go on your first day on Bonaire? Bachelor’s Beach

Bachelor’s Beach Bonaire; it’s close to pretty much everything on Bonaire and is a no stress place to just stop and take in the crystal clear Caribbean Sea. It’s the perfect place to break in your new mask and snorkel.

Just landed? Want to take in some of that turquoise water but it’s already late afternoon? Here’s the perfect beach to go on your first day! Or any day…

Bachelor’s Beach is a quick ride from the airport or from Kralendijk or Belnem. The beach is not visible from the road – it’s looks like a little rocky parking lot with a couple of cement and thatched beach huts. Park your car or bike right there and take the ladder/steps down to the secluded sandy beach. If the tide is in there may not be any sand but swimming there is always gorgeous. If there’s no beach visible you can leave your things on the steps. Never crowded. Great place to snorkel – super easy, fun, zen away from it all but yet so close to it all.

Bachelors beach is located on the main oceanfront road – the same road as the airport – EEG blvd.  If you make a left turn leaving the airport it will be on your right just past the road to Sorobon. Two cute little huts with a thatched roof mark this location. The huts are basically in the parking lot for Bachelor’s beach and are for public use.

Bring towels, beach chair and definitely don’t forget to bring a mask and snorkel gear. Entrance into the water in any location on Bonaire is easier with a mask so that you can watch for coral and rocks as you get in. Bachelor’s beach is particularly sandy for a Bonaire beach, so the entry into the water is fairly easy. This is also a good spot for catching some small waves on a windy day.

bachelors beach bonaire   Bachelor's beach - drive up and go for a snorkel

 

 

Sargassum invasion Bonaire at Lac Bay – update: all cleaned up!

Sargassum invasion Bonaire at Lac Bay – update: all cleaned up!

Over the course of the last week at Lac Bay a sea of Sargassum has come in over the reef and invaded Lac Bay. The invasion is being described as a disaster by STINAPA, the environmental conservation organization that runs the national park and Marine Park on Bonaire. This is the largest sargassum invasion Bonaire has ever faced.

A massive clean-up is underway as well as a donation campaign by Stinapa to collect money for purchasing supplies related to the clean-up. The Sargassum is weed that has broken off from the sargassum weed floating in the enormous Sargasso Sea. Normally the sargassum seaweed is a beneficial weed that floats in the waters of the North Atlantic.

Other mass influxes of Sargassum have hit Bonaire in recent years but not of the severity of this one. Researchers say the algae blooms have exploded in extent and frequency lately, apparently causing the largest sargassum invasion Bonaire has ever seen. It’s difficult to know what the future holds. Sargassum invasions have been causing destruction on other Caribbean islands and also in the US since around 2014.

More research will be done  to better understand the trends and patterns of this seaweed.

volunteer cleaning up after sargassum invasion sorobon bonaire   volunteers cleaning up sargassum invasion in bonaire march 2018

Update: Lac bay is back to it’s former beauty and splendor. There are tiny bits and pieces of Sargassum weed found here and there but to the point of not even being noticeable. See photos below from July 2018. The photo of the group clean up is taken in the same spot in March 2018 as the photo below with the palm tree. It is the little pathway where windsurfer’s normally take their gear out into Lac Bay from Jibe City to go windsurfing. In March it was completely blocked by the sargassum. Volunteers worked night and day to clear the sargassum and save reef animals. Lac Bay is now looking like it’s old amazing, crystal clear turquoise water self.

no more sargassum invasion bonaire jibe city  no more sargassum invasion bonaire update july 2018 windsurf place

Outside The Hurricane Belt; Damage from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Jose

Outside The Hurricane Belt; Damage from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Jose

With all eyes focused on Hurricane Irma and the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and with Hurricane Jose now looming, we have been receiving messages asking how things are on Bonaire. How much if any have we been affected by the destruction of these storms. The short answer it that life on Bonaire, for the most part has not been impacted. We are lucky to be outside the hurricane belt.

The only inhabited islands outside the hurricane belt are considered to be Barbados, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Providencia Island, San Andres and  the islands off Venezuela like Isla Margarita.

Damage to reefs and the underwater environment on Bonaire, however, are yet to be determined. We risk wave action and/or wind reversals related to these monster storms that are still looming.  We’ve heard rumors of the Dutch Government sending aid to St. Maarten and that planes from St. Maarten and several other islands in the storm’s path were on Bonaire for safekeeping ahead of the hurricanes.

Historically the ABC Islands, Bonaire, Aruba and Curacao have seen little hurricane activity.  The ABC’s are considered to be outside the Hurricane Belt. The Hurricane Belt represents an area in the Atlantic Ocean including the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico that experiences hurricanes during the Atlantic hurricane season. Hurricane season lasts from about June 1st to November 30th.

Here is a summary from Storm Caribe regarding historic hits and misses of tropical storms and hurricanes in the Caribbean.

According to the summary Bonaire and it’s nearest neighbor, Curacao, are tied for last place in the Caribbean region for number of storms in recorded history. The two islands have each had a total of two category 2 hurricanes between 1944 and 2010 and 4 tropical storms in the same period. In the last 150 years (since 1851) only 12 named storms have passed by these two islands, none of which was considered severe. The chart hasn’t been updated since 2010.

Bonaire did have quite a scare with the edge of Hurricane Matthew brushing the island on September 29th, 2016. Reefs were damaged but most residents saw little to no damage to their property.

Our thoughts and prayers are with those suffering the wrath of the current storms. There are no words to express our despair as this unfolds.

The 50th annual Bonaire Regatta

The 50th annual Bonaire Regatta

October 2017 marks the 50th annual Bonaire Regatta. The sailing festival takes place October 11th – 14th. Regatta,a significant holiday on Bonaire has the entire island in celebration mode for one full week. The festival is so important on Bonaire that schools are closed for the week. Regatta themed activities, parties, food, games, drinks and celebrations for all ages take place all over the island.

The basecamp for regatta festivities the last two years has been Coco Beach, formerly Sunset Beach near Den Laman Resort. But, according to the Regatta 2017 Facebook page, this year the festivities will be right along the waterfront promenade in Kralendijk. The promenade is where the festivities traditionally take place.

Expect entertainment galore, including local and international musicians performing live. There will be drinks, food, a playground for kids and much more. The line-up of artists performing at Regatta has not yet been announced but we will update here with more information when it’s available.

Racers of all ages participating in Regatta will be competing for class championship in their division. Here are some from the five to ten year age division participating in a sunfish race in Lac Bay.  This younger division also competes in the windsurf division during Regatta week.

Races will take place in-between Bonaire and Klein Bonaire, as well as north of Klein Bonaire and other venues on the island. For most divisions there are two short courses followed by one long course. For Sunfish and Optimist boats the races take place between Bonaire and Klein Bonaire.