In July, we ventured to the Dutch Caribbean again and visited our favorite of the ABC islands - the island of Bonaire. This was our second visit to Bonaire and we are already counting down the days until our next visit!
You can read about our last visit (and Curacao) in this post from August of 2021.
Curacao + Bonaire - August 2021
We started our trip with an overnight layover in New Jersey. We flew standby on Thursday night so we could enjoy an awesome 36 hour layover with our friends Ron & Jean. Best. layover. ever.
We enjoyed a walk on the boardwalk and lots of time in their pool. Dinner at one of our favorite restaurants was just the icing on the cake!
No trip to visit Ron & Jean is complete (literally) without a trip to Patricia's of Holmdel. Not only is their food incredible, but it's also BYOB. Perfection!
We started with a margarita pizza as our appetizer.
They have the BEST chicken parmesan, and I've had a lot of chicken parmesan! We also enjoyed the chicken francese, money bag pasta and pappardelle Bolognese.
We shared everything with plenty of leftovers!
We enjoyed some affogato back at the house. Mmmmm...
On Saturday morning, we were off to Bonaire!
Ron & Jean were our early morning transportation to the Newark airport and we had an overall seamless travel experience.
Most people have never heard of Bonaire, let alone know where it's located. Just think, due south of Maine and 50 miles off the coast of Venezuela. It's in the Eastern time zone and their currency is the American dollar. So convenient!
We absolutely LOVE Bonaire and this post cannot capture the overall mood of the island. This hidden gem is not so hidden to the divers of the world. Considered “A Diver’s Paradise” the underwater world of Bonaire is magical.
This time, we stayed a glorious 8 days on the island. Once again, we stayed at the only chain hotel on the entire island. Thank you Marriott points! The Courtyard Marriott is very comfortable and cute with a nice pool overlooking the waterway.
While this is a diver's paradise, we love the ease and affordability of snorkeling and it's one of our favorite things about this part of the world. We snorkeled 3-4 sites every day. The diversity of the sites, the depth and the beauty of the fish was simply fascinating.
There are 63 official dive sites on the coast of Bonaire and another 26 on Klein Bonaire. Each is identified by a yellow rock. Some are strictly for divers, but we tried as many as we could and at the end of the trip, we had snorkeled 15 different sites. Our favorites are Aquarius, 1000 Steps, Red Beryl and Andrea #1.
We rented a golf cart for our entire stay. It was so much fun and we were the envy of many. Divers typically rent a truck so they can keep all of their tanks and gear in the bed of the truck, but for someone who is only snorkeling, a golf cart is the way to go.
While the snorkeling was the highlight of Bonaire, the food and restaurants were another favorite. Coursed meals with wine pairings are our favorite way to enjoy food and Bonaire had no shortage of these.
Our first day in Bonaire did not disappoint. After checking into the hotel, we picked up our golf cart and visited the local grocery store. An afternoon drive was followed by a sunset and then a surprise six-course dinner with wine pairings.
Broccoli and miso macaron
Pumpkin ginger Madeline
Bread with yogurt curry dip
Lion fish wrapped in zucchini with zucchini balls (and more!)
Cauliflower on a bed of barley
Quail breast and leg with beets and balsamic
Pork neck, pork cheek, pork belly Potstickers, and spinach-wrapped rice and some kind of foam with crispy onions and a soy glaze
Rhubarb and orange tart
On day 2, we spent the morning driving the southern part of the island and landed at Lekker Thuis Bonaire (meaning: tasty and cozy at home) where we indulged in their Sunday lazy brunch. This included a 4 course brunch, which spanned from 11:30-3:30 pm (yes, FOUR hours!!) The chef prepared our meal right in front of us and in between each course, we took a dip in the pool. The epitome of lazy.
Smoked salmon and egg croissant with fruit and yogurt
Edamame cream soup
Seared tuna with pasta, crispy potatoes, tomatoes and balsamic
That night we shared a meal at Capriccio. This paled in comparison to the Italian we enjoyed just a few night's before at Patricia's in New Jersey.
We shared the meatball appetizer and gnocchi
On our 3rd day we snorkeled 4 different sites on the south side of the island. Driving down the lonely road with the pink salt pans on one side and the gorgeous turquoise water on the other is something that’s impossible to describe.
Food trucks are another staple on Bonaire. Divers migrate to the trucks after their underwater adventures and indulge in one of many options, including tuna burgers, beef burgers, and hot dogs.
We enjoyed lunch from the King Kong food truck nearly every day. They could be found on Bachelors Beach and had great burgers, hot dogs and garlic fries.
Dinner that night consisted of a 5-course chef’s tasting menu at Brass Boer restaurant. Even though Brass Boer was recently named the #1 restaurant in the Caribbean, it is our 2nd favorite restaurant on the island.
Bread with freshly grated garlic and oil
Kingfish with fennel, lime leaf, unripe strawberry and tomato broth
Roasted avocado with piccalilli, macadamia, ginger and olive
Monkfish with rollmops, beetroot and lavas
Duck breast and stew with carrots and gravy of hay and star anise. The highlight of this dish was the duck leg crackling with cream in an egg shell. So decadent!
Chocolate with blueberries, mango and tarragon
One. Final. Course. I don't even know what it was!
On day 4, we took a ferry to Klein Bonaire, which is an uninhabited island not far off the coast of Bonaire. A local restaurant packed us a nice picnic lunch along with chairs and towels to bring with us. We snorkeled for about 45 minutes and I have to have say, the beach at the end was one of the best we’ve seen!
Dinner that night included some of the best sunset views on the island at Sebastian's.
Curried lobster bisque
Steve ordered the Wahoo on spicy spaghetti. Apparently it's a signature dish? It was far from spicy!
I ordered the queen red snapper with a lobster sauce, baby shrimp, leek and carrots.
Finally, we ordered the dessert tasting, which provided a small sample of everything.
Day 5 was another beautiful day, which included 3 more snorkel sites on the north side.
We finished the night with a dining experience to remember at Chefs Bonaire! This is our favorite restaurant on the island and was recently named the #7 restaurant in the Caribbean. With reservations 3 months in advance and only one seating of 16 patrons per night, I made reservations for 2 nights during our trip. It did not disappoint.
They started us off with a welcome drink, which was a sake mojito/mule.
The amuse bouche was a crispy arancini with white fish stock, wahoo and a lemon saffron aioli.
Next up was a black fin tuna sautéed in garlic oil with garlic crisps, sesame oil, sun dried tomatoes and cucumbers. This was served with 100% Riesling from Germany.
This was a red snapper filet with couscous in a creamy scallion soup with lemon - served with a mild Chardonnay.
They cook right in front of you!
Next was a pulled pork neck with a Coca Cola braise, served with carrots and a crispy polenta cake. The wine was a northern Italian red wine - lagrein grape varietal.
Only 16 guests per night
Our beef course was an oyster steak prepared two ways. One slow braised with red wine and finished with French cheese on top, the other sous vide and then grilled. Both were served with a red wine and braised steak reduction and chopped heri covert. Served with a Portuguese red wine.
Dessert was a Liquor 43 cheesecake with poached pineapple, raspberry sauce, dried passion fruit crumble and a cookie. Served with a Bordeaux dessert wine.
On day 6, we snorkeled a few more sites on the south side. We saw 100's (maybe even 1,000's) of little sea urchins. They were everywhere! The pictures don't really capture it, but all of the little black spots are sea urchins. It was hard to navigate when getting into the water.
That night, we enjoyed a nice sunset before having a few drinks at a Tiki bar and then dinner at La Cantina Bonaire.
The wings were great, the fish and chips were awesome, and the burgers was terrible. I guess you can't win them all!
Day 7 was my 43rd birthday! Steve and I continued to explore the island and snorkeled 3 sites on the north end, including 1000 steps, which is one of our favorites. On this day (my birthday, of course!) we saw an enormous sea turtle and even more enormous sting ray.
That night, we enjoyed another fabulous dinner at Chefs Bonaire. It’s pretty clear coursed dinners with wine pairings are my weakness. The environment, food, warmth and authentic love for their craft puts Chefs Bonaire at the top of the list. They even wrote me a nice birthday card :)
It was pure culinary joy.
A few of our dishes were the same from the dinner prior - no complaints here! They did offer us a different wine for nearly every course, which was a nice gesture.
The amuse bouche was a similar arancini.
We had the same black fin tuna, but this time they served it with a Portuguese white wine.
This was a Yellow fin snapper filet with couscous in a creamy scallion soup with lemon and prosciutto. It was served with a Chardonnay from the Burgundy region in France.
Chicken with basil and prosciutto served red with with mushrooms - Served with a Sicilian Davilola red wine.
We had the same Oyster steak preparations.
...and the same Liquor 43 cheesecake. Still Yum!
Day 8 was our last day and we started off with a drive to the east side of the island to Jibe City. There is something so incredibly relaxing about sitting in an Adirondack chair, watching wind surfers and sipping on a cold beer. Relaxation at its best!
We almost visited the donkey sanctuary (which Steve was trying to avoid...) but when we arrived, they hadn't opened yet. Maybe next time!
We snorkeled one new site and returned back to a few of our favorites.
After a morning of snorkeling, we enjoyed our last lunch at the King Kong food truck.
That night, we enjoyed beautiful views from the beach at the Ocean Oasis Beach Club, followed by an average dinner. Haha. It's hard to compete with the best!
For our entrée, we ordered the fish of the day (I think it was barracuda) on top of a lime risotto with herbs, roasted vegetables and parmesan cheese.
Bonaire isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely for us.
Truly our paradise.
It’s rustic, beautiful and unassuming. It's laid back with flip flops, pony tails, food trucks and golf carts. It’s the wind in your hair and I don’t care kind of place. The underwater world is like no other and the entire island creates a feeling of total relaxation where kindness and respect are reciprocated. Thank you for being our hidden gem and surprising us again. We can’t wait until next time!