Sunday, February 24, 2013

Bonaire: Where We Stayed

Since I wrote about Aruba, the last stop on our recent trip to the ABC islands, first, I figure I’ll now write about Bonaire, which was the second island we visited.

Of the three islands – Aruba, Bonaire or Curacao – that we went to, Bonaire is definitely the most “authentic.” The only chains are a KFC and a Pizza Hut, there are no big resorts and outside of town only a handful of paved roads (the island’s ring road isn't even a full two lanes all the way around).

On land it’s not a very pretty island, it’s very desert-like, but underwater is a different story. Bonaire is surrounded by a very healthy coral reef and because of that is considered one of the best places to dive in the Americas. That’s why we picked it, because we wanted to dive. Unfortunately, a week-and-a-half before our trip, while at a routine optometrist’s appointment, an issue with my left retina was discovered. While the ophthalmologist I saw just days before we left said diving should be fine, we decided it was better not to risk a detached retina and instead just snorkel.

So no diving for us. But we did do lots of other things, including spending plenty of time at our hotel.

Where We Stayed: The Divi Flamingo

We picked the Divi Flamingo for two main reasons: The fabulous reputation of its dive shop and its location, just on the edge of Kralendijk, Bonaire’s capital city.

Sadly, we didn't get to check out the dive shop but we did take full advantage of the ideal location of this resort. We could easily walk to a ton of great restaurants (I’ll write about those in another post), plenty of shops including a grocery store and the Carnival parades (I’ll also talk about those in another post).

An eel we saw at our resort
Even better was the snorkelling  The waters surrounding this resort are packed with hundreds of beautiful tropical fish, plenty of eels and, as we found during our night snorkel, lobsters. We snorkelled at the resort every day and every time we saw new things (you can also shore dive right off the resort, something that we saw a lot of people do).

As for the resort itself, it was very much of a summary of the whole island: Pretty and charming but a little on the rough side and with a very “island-time” attitude when it came to customer service.

Our room was… interesting. It actually wasn't a room at all but instead a small bungalow that was designed to be wheelchair friendly. As a result, we had plenty of space however, we also had the crappiest shower I've ever had in a hotel.  Part of the problem was that it were was no barrier between the bottom of the shower and the rest of the bathroom so the water got everywhere. There was also no hook for the shower head, it just hung there, and the surprisingly small shower stall was made even smaller by the inclusion of a fold-out seat and a pad for said seat. These two items would have been ignorable except they were in rather rough shape and weren't things you wanted to touch with your bare skin. Turning the shower on was also a physical ordeal (I guess they assume that people in wheelchairs have excellent upper body strength).

The horrible shower
Besides the shower, our only other big issue with our room, and actually the resort as a whole, was housekeeping. There were certain areas that housekeeping excelled in; Linens, floors, mirrors and the toilet were all spotless. But they sucked at washing the walls and the ceilings, something that due to Bonaire’s healthy mosquito population had to be done regularly (yes, there were squished bugs on the walls and ceilings).

They also weren't very good at keeping the room fully stocked. While we had everything we needed when we first checked in, we subsequently were missing at least one item (Kleenex, glasses) every day after.

But other than those two areas the room was fine. The TV was new and had tons of channels, the two queen-sized beds were quite comfy and the outside porch area was ideal for drying our snorkelling gear.

The Divi Flamingo doesn't have a real beach (Bonaire has only a handful of natural beaches) but it did have two pools and plenty of shaded beach chairs located along one stripe of the water as well as on the pier.  While this set-up wouldn't work for everyone, we were fine with it, especially since it meant we just steps from world-class snorkelling.

The hotel’s restaurants were also fine. Breakfast was your typical buffet set-up (yes, there was an omelette bar) while the main restaurant served a range of tasty things for lunch. We never ate an actual dinner there but we did attend “taco night,” a weekly event that takes place in the breakfast restaurant. They weren't the best tacos I've ever had but they were filling and the $3.50 margaritas were top-notch.

Also top-notch was the beach bar, at least during its daily happy hour when drinks were two-for-one. Its cocktail menu had some great drink ideas (I recommend the Flamingo) and drinks were always made quickly and on the strong side.

Overall, I liked but didn't love the Divi Flamingo. It was bit on the basic side for me and I wish that our fellow patrons were a little friendlier. A good chunk of them were non-English speakers while those who did speak English were almost all either seniors or hardcore divers who stuck to the large groups that they had come down with.

Still, the snorkelling and the location were ideal and from what I heard and read, the dive shop is great. I can definitely see myself going back to Bonaire and yeah, I think I would stay at the Divi again.

The pink drink is the Flamingo

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