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planning first trip... advice appreciated

virginia
posts: 13
reviews: 4
planning first trip... advice appreciated

Hi! I am planning a trip with my husband and another couple in the first 2 weeks of November. We all love to snorkel, none of us have ever dived. We stumbled across Bonaire as it is out of the hurricane belt so seems to fit with our available vacation time. I have done some research and have a few questions. As a little background, we are all in our late 20's, not into the nightclub/ cancun type of vacation but do appreciate good restaurants, local music in the evening, beach bars, or just hanging around playing cards. Bonaire seems to fit our pace from what I've read. That being said, these are my questions:

1. Is it ok to go in November? From what I've read, it is the rainy season but that just means brief downpours. Is there any reason not to go at this time of year?

2. Accomodations- We are going for 2 weeks and could either stay at the same place both weeks or split the time between 2 facilities. We want to stay somewhere with a kitchen, pool, and snorkelling out front. Would it be good to stay 2 places to get a better idea of the island or are all the dive/snorkelling spots accessable even if you are not staying at the facility in front of the reef?

It'd be nice to stay somewhere w/ a knowlegable person at least for the first week to get an idea of where to go. We do plan to do a couple guided tours by boat also (perhaps Woodwinds?) and get the book that lists spots. Buddy Dive is a bit expensive for us, Eden and the Plaza seem to be invaded by cruise ships. I've read reviews and from what I can tell the following places seem to meet our standards: Bellafonte, Belmar, Sand Dollar, Captain Don's, Den Laman. Any reason to cross any of the following off our lists or choose one over the other (i.e. better reef, etc)?

3. Diving- none of us have ever done it. We all think we may try it but that would require about a week of vacation to get certified. Is Bonaire a good place to learn? Are most of the diving sites just as good for snorkelling or are they too deep? I'm pretty sure I'd be happy just reading, snorkelling, and exploring but would appreciate feedback as we are toying with the idea of diving.

Responses to any of my MANY questions would be appreciated. Any other advice anyone has is also appreciated!

New England
Destination Expert
for Bonaire
posts: 1,516
reviews: 183
1. Re: planning first trip... advice appreciated

Let's see if I can help with some of your questions.

1. November is a fine month to go to Bonaire.

2. All the places you listed to stay have good reputations. Some are larger than others, some have restaurants but nothing in Bonaire is far so you with a vehicle you will find it very easy to visit many snorkel sites. You could stay at one for a week and be happy.

Because you mention wanting to stay with someone who is knowledgeable and you also mention boat trips and possibly learning to dive you might want to look at Deep Blue View at least for your first week. You would not have a kitchen but breakfast is included and there is a guest refrigerator, dishes,etc. The owners do fabulous guided snorkels, great boat trips and are incredible instructors if you want to try diving. It is not on the water but the views over the island and sea are gorgeous. Check out the reviews here on TA.

Another idea would be to contact Ann at www.bonairecaribbean.com. She lives on the island and specializes in trips to Bonaire. She has access to a wide variety of lodging options that you might not have considered.

3. Bonaire is a great place to learn to dive. Many people do all of their course work at home and then take their referral to a dive shop in Bonaire for their final certification. It takes up less vacation time. Check out the PADI website for info. If you choose not to dive you will still have an amazing experience. You can see so much in even 5 feet of water in Bonaire!

Marietta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Beach Vacations, Bonaire
posts: 3,083
reviews: 19
2. Re: planning first trip... advice appreciated

I haven't been in November, but from what I've seen/heard, I think it would be a good time to visit. (We're windsurfers and Nov. is a low-wind month, so we don't go then.) Most rain, when it does come, is brief and moves on quickly.

My only direct experience with the resorts you mentioned is Bellefonte. If the two couples will be sharing a 2 bedroom unit, then I would definitely recommend Bellefonte. We had a 1 bedroom unit and had a problem with airport noise that I think was unique to that unit, but the Bellefonte is very close to the airport.

Most of the smaller rental/condo units have hosts/hostesses/managers who can help you with any local information and arrangements. Lacking that, if you go through Ann, as BlueWater suggests and I agree, she can provide a lot of helpful information also. We stay at the Sonrisa now and Jackie, who manages it, is very helpful but it is not on the water and is about a 5 - 10 minute walk to the beach and snorkeling. (We're on/in the water all day so don't feel the need for oceanfront now, but I certainly understand wanting waterfront on your first visit.)

If you want to see some pictures, restaurant reviews, and a general windsurfer's view of Bonaire, check my (multiple) trip reports at www.hammocktree.us/ms/trips.html

Bonaire
posts: 5,948
reviews: 137
3. Re: planning first trip... advice appreciated

Welcome soon!

1. We had the rainiest season Nov. until March. It was really weird. Having said that I find Nov. lovely.

2. There are a plethora of nice condos on the water with pools and dive shops. Take a look at www.bonairecaribbean.com for a few.

3. I do not dive but have sent many newbie clients. If you are serious, take the dive course class work in then do the open water referral in Bonaire. All the dive shops also do resort courses if you are unsure.

Woodwind is AMAZING. My friend Darlene is a regular and they all swam with a pod of dolphins in March. One dolphin kept pushing a piece of sponge at Dee, the owner, in an attempt to play. Dee knows where to find turtles and now dolphins.

virginia
posts: 13
reviews: 4
4. Re: planning first trip... advice appreciated

Thanks so much for the help! I really appreciate everyone's advice- it sounds like Bonaire is gonna be great. Deep Blue View looks amazing but I think we're really set on oceanfront. Perhaps on our second trip... :)

Ann sounds like a great resource so once our group talks a bit more she is someone we'll contact!

AmateurGo... thanks for the link to your trip report. Sounds like you guys have loads of fun! You provided tons of information with all the experience... now I just don't think I can wait for November! In the meantime, I'll just keep combing trip advisor for tips:)

SW Florida
posts: 20
reviews: 61
5. Re: planning first trip... advice appreciated

Some additional suggestions to the already good ones you have received:

1. Learn everything about Bonaire by going to BonaireTalk.com Be prepared to spend hours there !!

2. Check out VRBO.com. Look at the rentals by owners at Lighthouse Beach Resort (LBR)

I think someone else advised ordering the book Bonaire Shore Diving Made Easy. www.bsdme.info A must have guild.

You'll love Bonaire.

Edited: 4:41 pm, May 17, 2011
Dallas, TX
posts: 352
reviews: 83
6. Re: planning first trip... advice appreciated

I purchased this e-book guide that was just recently written with details on the best snorkel sites and other helpful travel info about Bonaire. I think it's a better source for snorkeling than the BSDME book that is always recommended here.

…tropicalsnorkeling.com/bonaire-snorkeling-g…

New York City, New...
Destination Expert
for Yucatan Peninsula
posts: 18,470
reviews: 54
7. Re: planning first trip... advice appreciated

I would look at Hamlet Oasis. The only thing I didnt love about Coral Paradise was that it was a row back from ocean front.

Every night I would go to watch the sunset in front of the villas at Hamlet Oasis thinking this would be a great place to stay with a group of friends

The best snorkeling I did was right in front of Hamlet Oasis/Captain Don's

if you want to check out my trip report with pictures - its on suitcaseready.com - on the home page below the post about a weekend trip to the North Fork of Long Island (NY)

Edited: 5:40 pm, May 18, 2011
California
posts: 85
reviews: 86
8. Re: planning first trip... advice appreciated

If you like to snorkel, you will probably love to dive. So much more to see down in the water vs. on top!!

The “referral” mentioned above is a great way to find out if you may like diving and also doesn’t use a lot of your vacation time in a classroom or a pool.

Most local dive shops run a referral something like this:

A week or so on your own reading a book and watching a DVD.

About two full days A) classroom study with a group and B) training in a pool

(some shops do this part over a several week nights spread out over a couple of weeks, some do it over a full weekend, some have both)

Then you would be set for 2 days (4 dives) in the ocean training in Bonaire. That’s it—not difficult – and at the end you are certified for the basic level of diving.

The classroom & pool training will give you a good feel for the gear and what it is like to breathe underwater. Most of the time in this part of training is spent on safety procedures/techniques. If you don’t like it, you can stop with minimum $$ spent.

Once you get in the open water (ocean), you spend time learning stuff you can’t learn in a pool and a lot of the time in the water will be looking around and actually diving!

You don’t need to buy all the diving gear up front—nearly all can be rented at your local dive shop and also in Bonaire.

Your local dive shop can give you all the details—they love to help new divers!! (gets them started with a future customer that will buy lots of dive stuff!!)

Note: Bonaire is not completely free of hurricanes—we caught the outer edge of one when we were there at the beginning of Nov 2010 and thankfully it only limited one day of our vacation. Unlikely to happen two years in a row?!

Gilford, New...
posts: 136
9. Re: planning first trip... advice appreciated

There is perhaps no better place in the entire Caribbean to learn how to dive than on Bonaire. And there are many many great spots to snorkel (right in front of our beachfront condo VINIBU is one of them). I'm sure your group will have a great vacation. And don't forget about some of the great spots for dining on Bonaire.

Tuitjenhorn...
posts: 3
reviews: 24
10. Re: planning first trip... advice appreciated

I was born in the Village Rincon on the beautifull island of Bonaire. We unfortunately left to Holland in 1990 but fortunately my parents kept their house there and rented the place out. Now they got early retirement and got back to this island, so I visit them twice a year, Two weeks in the summer hollidays and two weeks during the christmass period.

The "best" period to visit climate wise is in the months februari, march and april. In those months you virtually see no rain normally.

But weather is never really bad and never cold. In October the rainy season starts. But even in the rainy season you got an average of 6 hours of sunshine a day, mixed with a couple of impressing rainshowers. In November this is already less than in October. On average you can expect 3 days with rain if you stay here for 2 weeks in that season. But not all day, just for a hour orso. So yes, you can go to Bonaire in November and have a great time.

Diving and snorkeling are great, but also discovering the island by car, quad or a bike if you are a sportive person. The entire region south of the Airport is as flat as Holland. The rest of the island is hilly. In the north you have the Washinton Slagbaai national partk. Nice to drive throug by an SUV(would not recommend a normal car in the rainy season).

Although the island is not famous of sandy beaches there are a few nice ones. The one I recommend is the long sandy beach on Klein Bonaire (Little Bonaire), just 800 meters (half a mile) out of the coast from the island capital of Kralendijk. You can find dozens of vids about Klein Bonaire's beach on youtube. And access is easy by Watertaxi, a ticket will cost you a mere 5 usd, they leave from many pears. One is run by a cousin of mine,from the Divi Flamingo beach resort.

From what you discribe, I would recommend the Hamlet Oasis apartments, although run by Dutch people and most customers are Dutch, this will be no problem as most Dutch people are able to speak reasonable English.

Hamlet Oasis is 1. Not expensive, 2. Just north of Kralendijk and 3. 50 meters from the Carribean Sea.

Off course there are more apartments that are nice, but most of the other reasonable priced apartments are situated on locations more inland. Although you're never far from the sea, I think being in Kralendijk is more cosey. Example: Lagoen Hill Apartments. They are really nice but they are situated in the middle of the island (middle of Nowhere?). Especially in the evening it is extremely quiet there. Off course you can drive the 5,5 kilometers to Kralendijk Centre, but remember: The roads in the Kanuku (countryside) have no lights and are very narrow. Very dark to drive at night, and you always have to mind the wild donkeys who walk the roads.

And as one person already told you, very sometimes Bonaire gets a visit from a hurricane. But this is exceptional. The worst one of my lifetime was infamous Omar that hit Bonaire in October 2008. Just look the videos of Omar Bonaire on youtube. But even, if you were on vacation on Bonaire in October 2008 you would have seen 26 exellent days and 2 omar days.

Hope you enjoy your stay on Bonaire

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