Bonaire forms a central and integral part of what is commonly called the ABC's -- the group of three Netherlands Antilles islands in the Caribbean, Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. The fact that you can't fly here non-stop from the U.S. (except for one weekly flight from Houston on Continental Airlines) is perhaps what has saved this paradise island from being overrun with tourists. Getting there isn't too strenuous though with regular flights routed through Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Curaçao and Aruba.
The island offers year-round tropical Caribbean sunshine, pristine coral reefs, protected marine parks and the most abundant fish population in the Caribbean. Although best known as a diving haven, it is also a highly attractive snorkeling destination featuring arguably the best shore diving in the world with over 60 dive sites in easy swimming distance from the shore line. Add to that windsurfing, kayaking, kiteboarding, sailing and fishing, and Bonaire becomes an ultimate water-based vacation destination. Back on dry land, if you tear yourself away from your sun lounge, eco-adventure activities abound including mountain biking, nature tours, hiking and bird watching. Landsailing is another growing sport, with Bonaire having recently built the world's largest landsailing track. It is also a family friendly destination, with several hotels offering kids program that include marine life education and water based activities.
If you are a real dive enthusiast and would like to vacation with like-minded people from around the world, visit Bonaire this June for a water-logged week of festivities. "Dive Into Adventure Bonaire 2006" is the island's celebration of scuba diving. It takes place from June 17 to 24, 2006. Open to divers, snorkelers, nature lovers and adventurers, Dive Into Adventure Bonaire recognizes Bonaire as both a dive and eco-adventure destination. The event schedule will feature daily diving as well as land and water-based activities like kayaking, kiteboarding, landsailing, windsurfing, and mountain biking. Every morning and afternoon participants can participate in a host of dive-related adventures like technical diving, underwater videography, digital photography workshops and free diving. In the evenings participants can attend parties and presentations by featured speakers like Philippe Cousteau.
The festival begins with the food and music festival -- A Taste of Bonaire. Special packages to coincide with the festival are available through BonairePros.com (tel. 800/748-8733; www.bonairepros.com), Caradonna Dive Adventures (tel. 800/330-3322; www.caradonna.com), and Maduro Dive Fanta-Seas (tel. 800/327-6709; www.madurodive.com). Package prices vary depending on accommodation locations, which include Captain Don's Habitat (www.habitatdiveresorts.com/bonaire) from $819, Golden Reef Inn (www.goldenreefinn.com) from $549, Plaza Resort Bonaire (www.plazaresortbonaire.com) from $797, Port Bonaire (www.portbonaire.com) from $757 and Sand Dollar Condominium Resort (www.sanddollarbonaire.com) from $810. All event packages include seven-nights' accommodations, breakfast daily, six days of one-tank boat dives, unlimited shore diving, round-trip airport transfers, hotel taxes and service charges. The registration fee for people purchasing Dive Into Adventure Bonaire hotel packages is only $75 per person and that includes entrance to all evening events, A Taste of Bonaire and a Dive Into Adventure Bonaire welcome packet. For more information visit the event's official website at www.diveintoadventurebonaire.com.
If soothing tunes and brewed beverages are more your style, visit Bonaire this May for the Bonaire Heneiken Jazz Festival (www.bonairejazz.com) which takes place from May 25 to 28, 2006. Performances include a free opening concert with Jazz, Papiamentu songs and poetry at Fort Oranje with Ced Ride and Merietza Haakmat, another free presentation of different bands in front of City Café, late night jam sessions at Little Havanna nightly, concerts at Plaza Resort, late night shows at City Café, a concert at Bongos Beach, a Jazz Brunch at Restaurant Den Laman, a concert at Kontiki, jazz masterclasses and student performances. Performers include local Bonaire musicians and international acts. Concert tickets are priced at $25.
Cardonna Dive Adventures (tel. 800/328-2288; www.caradonna.com) features several options for seven-day diving and accommodation packages in Bonaire. All package prices include seven-nights' accommodations with quad occupancy in two-bedroom condos or apartments (double share at Harbour Village Beach Club), hotel tax and service charges, round-trip airport transfers, and use of tanks, weights and belts. Sample packages include:
- Belmar Apartments -- spacious two-bedroom accommodation, on-site five-star PADI facility, pool, private dock, and spectacular views. This package also includes weekly truck rental and unlimited shore diving from $663 per person quad share.
- Buddy Dive Resort -- a five-star PADI Gold Palm resort with hotel rooms as well as studios, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments with fully-equipped kitchens. This package also includes unlimited shore diving and daily breakfast from $723 per person quad share.
- Captain Don's Habitat -- including unlimited shore diving from $593 per person quad share.
- Eden Beach Resort -- a family-owned and operated facility with a laid-back atmosphere, spacious accommodation, on-site full-service dive shop and 400 feet of natural sandy beach. This package also includes unlimited shore diving and daily breakfast from $645 per person quad share.
- Harbour Village Beach Club -- Bonaire's most exclusive property with 13 courtyard and marina-front rooms and 17 oversized beachfront suites. Nestled on a lush four-acre peninsula along a private white sand beach and marina. This package also includes unlimited shore diving and daily breakfast from $1075 per person quad share.
- Lighthouse Beach Resort -- privately-owned two-bedroom townhouses with a pool and partial ocean view, fully-equipped kitchens and balconies, just off the beach. This package also includes weekly truck rental and unlimited shore diving from $549 per person quad share.
Air Jamaica Vacations (tel. 800/568-3247; www.airjamaicavacations.com) offers packages to Bonaire that include round-trip airfare from New York on Air Jamaica, seven-nights' accommodations at the beachfront Divi Flamingo, round-trip airport transfers and all taxes and fees for $1,150 per person based on double occupancy. This price reflects a Saturday departure during the month of June 2006. Stay at Captain Don's Habitat for the same seven-night period and pay $1,156, the Sand Dollar for $1,323, the Plaza Resort Bonaire for $1,342 or the luxurious Harbour Village for $1,870.
Captain Don's Habitat (tel. 800/327-6709; www.habitatbonaire.com) is offering a pay for six nights and stay the seventh night free deal. Stay at this oceanfront dive resort and Home of Diving Freedom on Bonaire from April 29 until July 1, 2006, and the seven-night dive package is available from just $727 in summer (per person/double) and includes accommodation in a villa ocean view room, welcome drink, buffet breakfast daily, manager's rum punch party, six boat dives, six days of 24-hour unlimited shore diving, tanks, weights, belt, taxes and service charges.
Continental Airlines (tel. 800/231-0856; www.continental.com) flies to Bonaire from Houston each Friday and returns on a Saturday. It's a perfect excuse to take a seven-night vacation as you will arrive in very early on a Saturday and leave a week later. Round-trip flights during the months of May and June 2006 are priced at $699 plus taxes.
Delta Airlines code shares with Air Jamaica for flights to Bonaire via Montego Bay. Weekend departures for New York during the months of May and June 2006 are priced at approximately $813 including taxes.
Travelocity (www.travelocity.com) has some discounted deals on midweek flights to Bonaire from New York, via Washington, D.C. or Boston for travel from now until July, 2006. Round-trip fares start from $579 plus taxes flying American Airlines.
For more information on Bonaire, contact the Tourism Corporation Bonaire at tel. 800/BONAIRE or visit www.infobonaire.com.
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