Overall, I had a so-so experience in Bonaire. This was partly due to the fact that we docked a lot later than usual (around 13:30), and most of what I prefer to do requires daylight. It was past 14:00 by the time we made it off the ship, and about a half hour later when we finally started our excursion.
Don’t get me wrong — Bonaire is a beautiful place. I just wish I had done more. Read on …
I opted for the Bonaire highlights and beach tour. Once we finally got on with the tour, our guide gave us a quick background on the island nation, as well as their very confusing language. Bonaire was the first nation I visited that spoke Papiamento, which is basically a big gumbo of several languages: English, Spanish, and Dutch. For Spanish speakers, it sounds like the people here speak Spanish and you’re thinking, “Cool. I can get around here and speak their language, no problem.” And then you listen to them talk more and you think, “WTF is this?” It’s cool — most everyone also speaks English in Bonaire, and you will find quite a few Spanish speakers, especially because of its close proximity to Venezuela.
Anyways, after I struggled with internal language issues, we passed the famous pink salt flats of Bonaire and were able to see a few flamingos in the distance. The flamingo is the national bird of Bonaire, and they have flamingo everything. A group of slave huts were our first stop, and there are several groups of these huts are dotted around the island. These things are sadly very small, and apparently up to 7 or so men would sleep in them at night. It’s absolutely ridiculous. My university dorm room was bigger. I stepped inside one and while you have a beautiful view of the ocean, my first-world-privileged ass would probably stroke out at having to share this space with 6 other people. Oh, and no bathrooms.
Seru Largu was our next stop, and you get a wonderful view of the city and much of the island of Bonaire from the top of a hill. There is this Christian monument at the top, but otherwise not much else. Apparently this is also the place to be on New Year’s Eve; because of the elevation it’s easy to view fireworks and other celebrations around the island. Too bad I was out getting drunk on a boat.
Last stop of the tour was Coco Beach. I quickly discovered that Coco Beach is COVERED in rocks and big pieces of coral. Leave the flip-flops on the ship and opt for some water shoes. It was also really crowded when we went there, and it was hard to find open chairs. We ended up making a spot for ourselves along the sandier part of the beach, but the sun was already setting by that time. We attempted a swim, but there were so many rocks and pieces of coral that we abandoned that idea quickly. PRO TIP: There’s a small pier in the center of the beach; walk out and jump off of that into the water. You’ll bypass the rocks that I dangerously climbed over in my Havaianas. I was later told by one of the guides that this beach is actually better for snorkeling, so take that piece of advice and don’t forget your snorkeling gear.
One thing I forgot to mention is that Bonaire is actually very famous for diving. There are several shipwrecks around the island, and tourists come from all over for a dive. I would definitely come back if I ever became a certified diver. I heard great stories about some of the wrecks scattered in the waters, like one that was found abandoned off the coast with a load of marijuana on it, and the local authorities decided to confiscate the marijuana and then burn it on the northern part of the island. My guide said it’s the reason why Aruba is such a happy island (the wind from that area blows towards Aruba).
Fast forward two long hours and we found ourselves back at the dock with several hours to spare. The Bestie was disappointed with the lack of action in this excursion (I was okay with it), so we turned our efforts to some souvenir shopping. Because of the late hour (apparently 19:00 is late), most of the shops nearest to the dock were closed for the night, so we ventured further into the town.
Walk about half a mile down the road and you can find a small open-air market with various locally-made goods and treats. Even further down the street is a mall (that was closed) and a few smaller souvenir shops. The restaurants long the route were enticing, but also very full, and I didn’t want to deal with a long wait. We happened upon Gio’s Gelateria and Caffé, which has some of the best gelato that I have tasted. Try their tiramisu flavor. I usually would have a picture of these types of delectable treats, but I guess I scarfed it down faster than I could think to whip out my phone.
So definitely come to Bonaire to dive and/or snorkel and meet the friendly people. DO NOT walk on wet rocks in your flip-flops. Have gelato and shop awhile.
I did manage to catch our ship all pretty and lit up from the shore.
I must have missed all the cooler stuff to do in Bonaire — what are YOUR favorite things to do or see in Bonaire? And where can I learn how to scuba dive? And would they require me to already know how to swim (a la Michael Phelps)? Because if so, then I also need to find someone to teach me to swim.