The flight from Houston was direct, but a red-eye. We left at midnight and arrived in the early morning. You immediately know you are on island time. They slowly added staff at passport control to accommodate the arrivals from our full flight. After waiting in line at passport control, we waited another twenty minutes for our luggage and another half hour to get the rental car. No one is in a hurry. You shouldn’t be either. You are on vacation. Who goes to Bonaire on business?
Bonaire is part of the Dutch Antilles. Bonaire, along with Aruba and Curacao, make up the ABC islands. This is about as far south in the Caribbean as you can get. The flight from Houston was just over four hours. There are also direct flights from Atlanta and Newark.
There was some drama on the airplane. Just before landing a “medical emergency” occurred and they had all the passengers stay seated so medical staff could come on board. Even the emergency staff moved slowly. Island Time. The Bonaire airport is small and you de-plane by walking down stairs directly onto the tarmac. Everything is open air. At no point are you in an enclosed space. There may be partitions, but something is always open, a wall, a ceiling…
Like in many foreign countries, most rental cars come equipped with a manual transmission. Reserve ahead of time if you want an automatic. Some local rental companies don’t even stock cars with an automatic transmission so be sure to ask when you complete your booking. Some of the resorts offer rental cars in their packages; these will be cars with a manual transmission. A few of the rental car companies have an office at the terminal, some pick you up and take you to an off site location. If a car is part of your hotel package, you will be picked up at the airport and not get your car until you arrive at the hotel.
We were very lucky. Even though it was not even 8 am, no one had booked our room the night before our arrival, so we were able to check into our room as soon as we arrived at the Caribbean Club. We sprang for the accommodations with two bedrooms and a water view. It is just Rocky and I, the divers in the family, but I booked a cottage that would accommodate Boris if he decided to join us. Instead, he is enjoying his independence back in Texas.
Dive orientation was at 9 am. You have to go through an orientation and purchase a marine park pass to dive anywhere on Bonaire. The entire shoreline is a marine sanctuary, something that was established 30+ years ago, the first Caribbean island to do so. The marine park pass is $25 for divers, $10 for non-divers. It is good for one year.
After orientation, we checked out our home for the next week and then headed into town to do some grocery shopping. The resort food is usually good-the breakfasts often exceptional-but we get tired of eating at the same place all week. Our room includes a full kitchen, although there is no microwave. We did bring some non-perishables from home. This only worked for us because my airline status allows me to check up to 3 bags at no charge on an international flight. Even though the food is more expensive here, it may not be economical to bring it along if you have to pay to check the bag it is in. Of course if you want something special, bring it with you.
We were excited to find that the capital city of Kralendijk now has a new grocery store. It is very modern. However, it would help if you read Dutch. Sometimes we just had to guess by the pictures on the package. The bread is out of this world. Stock up; you can burn off the carbs while diving.
If you wanted to use a regular shopping cart you had to rent it. Perhaps you got money back when you turned it in, but we could not figure it out. Most people just picked up the small basket (like the hand-held baskets at our store), extended the handle, and used the wheels on that basket.
When you checked out, you had to have brought your own bags or buy one of theirs, 39 cents for a plastic bag or $2.79 for the heavy-duty one with strap handles. We got 2 plastic ones. The food was packaged very attractively, but the quantities were small. They were not packaged for American or diver appetites (or maybe I was just really hungry having not eaten for 16 hours.) Needless to say, we ate as soon as we got back to our cottage.