Fourth Windsurfing Trip To
Setting the StageSince this was out 4th trip to Bonaire and I've done trip reports on the previous trips, this one will just be a quick review and discussion of the things that we did differently this time. One major difference is that we stayed for two weeks this time. We decided that one week was just not enough time to get our windsurfing "sea legs" back and improve very much, so one solution was to stay longer. We also used a different airline, stayed at a different resort and ate at some different restaurants. As usual for our trips to Bonaire, Ann Phelan, Caribbean Wind and Sun vacations, took care of the Bonaire details and we took care of the air transportation. In general, things went very well.
Getting there and backLast Sept. Delta announced new service, non-stop, from Atlanta to Bonaire with a special introductory fare. That was all the encouragement we needed to begin making plans. I was able to get exit row seats both ways, so the flights were reasonably comfortable. The flight down was the inaugural flight and was very close to "on-time". It offered a light meal and a snack in the "main cabin". The return flight also had a couple of snacks but was about 45 minutes late departing (late arrival combined with confused security procedures and delayed departure "paperwork"). With an ATC delay approaching Atlanta, we were about an hour late landing. Several international flights arrived at the same time and the baggage handling was very slow, taking at least 40 minutes for the first bags to start coming off. Even so, the non-stop flight was much easier and quicker than the previous best arrangement of using Air Jamaica with a stop and change of planes in Montego Bay.
Where we stayedOn each of the previous trips we stayed at a different resort/hotel. It was not that any of them were really bad, but there were details that were unpleasant enough to cause us to look elsewhere. This time we decided to stay at Sonrisa (Spanish for "smile"). This small (10 unit) hotel is owned and run by Rogér the person who runs Bonaire Windsurfing Place, where we go to windsurf. By booking both the hotel and windsurfing equipment at the same place, we got a slight additional discount. We knew that Rogérs girlfriend, Jaqueline, manages Sonrisa so we expected that we would get some very good, personal service. Sonrisa offers both hotel style units and one-bedroom units (and can combine them into a two-bedroom unit). We decided to 'splurge' and take a one bedroom unit, which turned out to be very comfortable.
A view of Sonrisa at night.
Our view of the Sonrisa Courtyard during our afternoon wine and cheese and crackers snacks.
Picnic at Sonrisa. That is Jaqueline directly across from Susan.
Windsurfing commentsBonaire's Lac Bay is one of the best windsurfing locations in the world, especially for non-experts trying to get better. It offers a reef protected, shallow water bay with very good on-shore winds.
Look closely!! This very good windsurfer has one artificial leg.
A normal day at Lac Bay, Sorobon beach (no cruise ships in port)
A Mixed BlessingWe did observe one troubling mixed blessing (for the people of Bonaire). There is an increasing visitation of Bonaire by cruise ships, including some large ones. Our observation is that a single medium sized (1,000 - 2,000 passengers) ship at a time is not a major problem. The present facilities and infrastructure can handle that OK. But, on two days, there were two large ships in port, with a total of about 4,000 and 5,000 passengers.
Two large cruise ships in port
A very busy day at Sorobon Beach
Windsurfers and waders do not really mix well enough to allow this (safely).
There were just too many people for the beach and facilities.
Kayak Tour of the MangrovesOn our "departure day" our flight was not scheduled to leave until 4:10 PM, so we had much of the day available to do something. We had driven around the island and visited their national park on previous visits, so we asked Jaqueline for suggestions. She recommended, and made reservations for a kayak tour of the Mangroves of Lac Bay and snorkeling in the mangroves.
At the Mangrove kayak center. (Kayaks in the backround)
Our guide explains about the life cycle of Mangroves. Lac Bay is in the distance.
Restaurants we visitedWe enjoy visiting different restaurants, as well as going back to old favorites. I'll provide brief reviews and comments on each of the restaurants we visited on this trip. I certainly realize that other people have different tastes and like other things, so take the following with the proverbial "grain of salt".
Papaya MoonWe had a package from a friend to deliver to the chef at Papaya Moon so we went there first. It is a Caribbean Tex-Mex style restaurant and we both had Grouper (fish) fajitas. The fajitas were tasty and fresh, but the salsa was a bit tame for our tastes and in short supply. Not outstanding, but good value for the price.
Cappricio'sCappricio's is one of our favorite Bonaire restaurants. We have gone there on each of our visits and have always had a very good meal and excellent service. Susan had Pasta and tomato sauce with capers and olives and I had Wahoo with a sauce containing olives and other flavors and some Polenta. They have an excellent wine list and are very good at recommending a wine to accompany any dish. They always seat us at one of two little romantic alcoves in the dining room, making the visit a little more special. One of our "must visit" restaurants.
Susan in the little alcove at Cappricios
Wil's GrillAnn had recommended Wil's Grill as a good place to visit that we had not been to before, so we gave them a try on Monday evening. We shared a baby greens salad with some nuts and sauce then we both had the special of the day, Mahi-Mahi with a chili rub on a bed of mixed beans. It was all very good and we'll look forward to future visits. One warning: if you are attractive to mosquitoes, you might want to take along some insect repellant. As with a number of good Bonaire restaurants, the exterior appearance of Wil's does not do justice to the quality of the food inside.
The bar area at Wil's Grill. Restaurant seating to the left and beyond the bar.
CasablancaOn Tuesday we decided that we wanted some additional meat to go into the sandwiches we were making and taking to windsurfing for lunch and decided that Casablanca might be a good source. Despite a less than stellar experience on our last trip, we both ordered the sirloin. This time it was cooked perfectly and very tasty. It came with a small salad and baked potato. We had enough steak to take with us to make sandwiches for two days. The sangria was also pretty good, but still not as good (rich and fruity) as the sangria at El Gaucho in Aruba. Casablanca is back on our favored list again. By the way, if you are really hungry, try the mixed grill for two; you won't believe the amount of meat you get!
Entrance to Casablanca
La GuernicaOn Thursday we went to another of our favorites, La Guernica, but they let us down a little. We ordered two plates of tapas (their specialty, and both very good) and we both ordered Paella, the special of the day. Susan and I both love Paella but this was a rather poor imitation. Another couple staying at Sonrisa also went there that night and had the paella and agreed with our assessment. What was surprising is that they had gone to La Gernica the previous week and had the Paella and it was wonderful, which is one reason they went back again. Perhaps they could not get some key ingredients this week or some other problem.
Susan is checking the memu at La Guernica
Warang LouiseAnn had also recommended Warang Louise, an Indonesian restaurant. We really didn't know much about all the items on their menu so we just ended up ordering the "Chef's Surprise". We were not really sure what all we were eating, but we were sure it was good and we ate it all. The Merlot wine went very nicely with the combination and we had a very enjoyable dinner. Oh, and the little fruit and melted chocolate desert was a delicious and very fitting conclusion for the meal.
Bobbejan's BBQBobbejan's BBQ is only open on Fri, Sat, and Sun, so we made it a point to stop in there on Saturday. As usual, we had the ribs and fries and it was very good, also as usual. The service was prompt and friendly and this is the friendly type of place where it is not unusual to talk to the couple at the next table. The Amstel beer went great with the ribs and the total tab for the two of us was still under $30 (USD), a great value. We ended the evening by having a glass of wine out on the pier at Karel's bar.
Salsa Inernational GrillOn Sunday we were going to visit It Rains Fishes, but that was their night to be closed, so we ended up at the Salsa International Grill instead. We had the special of the evening, a Caribbean Fish and Beef (both in sauces) for two. Our experience closely matched our first visit to Salsa a year go: more emphasis on the view, atmosphere, and presentation than on the food itself. The fish and beef were in a decent, sauce, but nothing special and service seemed sporadic and disorganized. The meal was served in a three level serving tray that looks "neat" but is actually very inconvenient to use, especially getting the rice out of the container in the lowest level.
Susan is trying to figure out how to get to the rice in the bowl at the bottom of the tower.
Mona LisaSeveral days before we made a reservation at Mona Lisa for Monday evening. Frankly it was a significant disappointment. We had been to Mona Lisa a year ago and had a very good meal and overall experience and had been looking forward to this visit. Instead the head waiter was overly pretentious (he seemed to enjoy turning away people without reservations) and impressed with himself and the Mona Lisa. Actually, he made several mistakes that the apparent trainee server had to fix and overall, the service was mediocre. Susan had the Bonarian Fish Soup which was very bland and we both had the fish of the day, Wahoo, in a rémoulade sauce which was OK, but certainly nothing special. It didn't help that there was construction work going on next door causing quite a bit of noise and paint odor and about every 20 minutes a very piercing burglar alarm in a building across the street would go off and continue for a couple of minutes, during which time all conversation stopped, since you could not hear anything else. No apology or any comment was forthcoming from the Mona Lisa staff.
Coco's GrillTuesday we tried It Rains Fishes again, but they were full and we didn't have a reservation, so we ended up at Coco's Grill instead and had a surprisingly good meal. They were having a Mixed Grill special and we each got a sausage, ribs, chicken, fish, and beef dinner for only $18. With the included baked potato we ended up taking enough meat with us to "fortify" our lunch sandwiches for several days. There was nothing pretentious or fancy about the meal, just well grilled meats and friendly service at a good price.
It Rains FishesWednesday we finally made it to It Rains Fishes. We had been looking to get some salads and had gotten good ones there on previous visits. We started off with a tasty sautéed mushroom appetizer and then Susan had the vegetarian Greek Salad and I had the mixed greens salad with some grilled fish. Both were very good, although I wish I had realized that mine would have quite a bit of cucumber, which is not one of my favorite vegetables. The Pinot Grigio was light and fruity and went well with the salads.
Cactus BlueOn Thursday we just took the short walk to Cactus Blue for our first visit there. They had a special posted for a seafood mixed grill for two, including Wahoo, shrimp, and lobster. Unfortunately, we misread the price and thought it was 79 Guilders (about $45 USD) but it was actually $79 (USD) so the meal turned out to be more expensive than we expected or planned, but it was very good. We each also enjoyed a good Caipirinha while waiting for the meal to be prepared, and a very good slice of key lime pie with the coffee after the meal. Turns out that the limes came from a tree in the yard of the hostess. All in all, a very good meal and friendly service, even if we spent more than we had planned.
Pasa Bon PizzaOn our last night, Friday, we decided to get something simple so we headed to Pasa Bon Pizza, which had been recommended by one of the windsurfers we had met. We ordered a large Supreme (substitute olives for the normal green peppers) and it was delicious. They were doing a very good business, both eat-in and take-out and I can understand why. A bottle of Amstel beer, a large delicious pizza… what else could you want??
General CommentsAll in all, a very pleasent, relaxing and successful trip. We got in some good windsurfing, ate lots of good food, met several new friends and renewed some old friendships and found a excellent hotel that we'll look forward to visiting again. We're already trying to figure out when we can get back to Bonaire for our next visit.
Tony, Ron, and Ray at Bonaire Windsurf Place.