Divers have long known the charms of the Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire, home to some of the most marvelous diving (and snorkeling) in the hemisphere.
But, increasingly, more and more travelers are beginning to discover that there is far more to Bonaire than the world beneath its sea — from what is one of the hottest food scenes in the entire Caribbean to a vibrant, friendly cultural scene that is as diverse as it is rich.
But Bonaire is also home to a lovely collection of resorts, most of them on the intimate side, from classic dive retreats to luxury beach hotspots and everything in between. Even better? It’s also home to one of the best value hotel products in the region, meaning you can find terrific stays at rates you simply won’t find in other destinations.
And getting to Bonaire has never been easier, thanks to American Airlines’ launch of four weekly flights to Bonaire from Miami, all year round.
If you’re thinking of planning a getaway to discover Bonaire, these are 10 perfect gateways for your Bonaire vacation.
Harbour Village Bonaire The undisputed grande dame of Bonaire resorts, the Harbour Village is an elegant, refined, serene resort that just so happens to be set on the most beautiful stretch of sand of any hotel on the island. There is a mix of 43 rooms and suites (and some private villas, too), many with full kitchens and ocean views. The restaurant, La Balandra, is among the romantic waterfront dining spots in Bonaire, and the dive center offers every type of underwater experience. It’s the best all-around resort in Bonaire, the top luxury resort in Bonaire and, well, you get the idea.
Delfins Beach Resort The hottest new hotel on the island in years, the 84-room Delfins Beach Resort is an endlessly laid back, modern beach retreat with crisply designed rooms, a lovely stretch of beach and a party piece: the Brass Boer, easily the best restaurant in all of Bonaire. It’s a refreshing entry to Bonaire’s hotel sector and a new kind of hotel for the island.
Sorobon Beach Resort Lac Bay is a natural wonder, a breezy, brilliant bay with impossibly white sand and some of the best windsurfing on the planet. And it’s also home to the beloved Sorobon Beach Resort, a rustic, beachy boutique that is the essence of the castaway fantasy. This is a beach hotel for beach lovers, from the terrific beach bar to the toes-in-the-sand beach bungalows— and one that’s also home to a surprisingly good spa.
Bellafonte Bonaire Bonaire’s ease of exploration, great food and emphasis on experiences make it a popular condo-hotel destination, but no property does it better than Bellafonte Bonaire. It’s a luxury oceanfront hotel with spectacular sea views, and equipped kitchens in every room — even the studios. Amenities range fro a pool and sun deck to a regular happy hour, a private stretch of beach and a slate of options from grocery deliveries to babysitting. It’s a full-service, livable hotel — and a great way to experience Bonaire.
Van der Valk Plaza Plaza Beach and Dive Resort Do you recognize the Van der Valk name? They’re the family responsible for several of the best resorts in Curacao, including the out-of-this-world Baoase resort. Today, the Plaza is the best all-inclusive resort in Bonaire, and it’s getting even better, with the property in the midst of a renovation project that will, among other things, add a spectacular new pool. If you want an all-inclusive Bonaire vacation, this is the spot.
Buddy Dive This has become the Mecca for diving and divers in Bonaire, from its pioneering coral restoration program to what remains the most impressive offering of dive programs on the island. And did we mention the drive-through scuba tank station? Beyond the water, the rooms are bright, airy and capacious, and the there’s a wonderful, familial ambience across the property, particularly in its two excellent eateries, Ingridients [sic] and Blennies.
Captain Don’s Habitat The titular Captain Don was the man who almost single-handedly helped to turn Bonaire into a world-class diving destination, and the hotel that bears his name remains one of Bonaire’s most popular places to stay, with a deep range of accommodation options ranging from deluxe ocean view rooms to delightful bungalows and villas (yes, they come with hammocks). Unsurprisingly, the dive offerings here are vast and outstanding, whether you want to learn or are a seasoned vet. And even if you don’t stay here, a cocktail at the oceanfront Rum Runners is a Bonaire essential.
Caribbean Club For a relatively small island, Bonaire has a remarkably diverse terrain, from white-sand beaches to cacti-filled plains and sweeping rocky cliffs. The Caribbean Club, set in the raw, rugged northwest of Bonaire, is a portal to a completely different destination — but it also offers a great range of dive options right off shore. The accommodations here are a mix of garden and oceanfront rooms, all with lots of space and most with great views. It’s also among the best value stays in all of Bonaire.
Courtyard By Marriott Bonaire One of just a few major-branded hotels in Bonaire (and among the newest hotels, period), this may be the most charmingly designed Courtyard on earth. The owners have preserved the classic Dutch architecture for which Bonaire is famous, while giving travelers all of the modern amenities Courtyards are famous for. It’s all here, fast Wi-Fi, clean, comfortable rooms, a pool, an on-site dive center and nearly 3,000 square feet of meeting. It’s a 111-room property, large for Bonaire, but it’s still got a boutique feel.
Divi Flamingo Bonaire Divi has become a rather popular brand in certain Caribbean markets, particularly in the Dutch Caribbean, and that’s particularly true in Bonaire. The Divi Flamingo is among the most complete resorts in Bonaire, from a casino to a spa to two pools and easy access to the sights and sounds of the capital, Kralendijk. Make sure you go for the all-inclusive package.
Source: Caribbean Journal.