We arrived in Bonaire on a sunny morning -- this describes every day in this place, I think -- with good solid plans: a chartered boat and snorkel tour.
Let's just say "It's always a good idea to have a Plan B."
I'm a skeptical person by nature, so I always hope for the best and plan for the worst. Well, I didn't always do this, but I have been burned enough to have finally learned my lesson.
Colleen and I had been to Bonaire once before and immediately fell in love with the small feel of the island, the lack of crowds, easy vibe and the snorkeling.
Oh, that snorkeling.
Six years later, we were finally returning, this time with friends and family. So, we excitedly made plans for another snorkel outing. We just had to show off Klein Bonaire (Dutch for Little Bonaire) and the incredible drift snorkeling over the perfect coral reef that surrounds the islet.
We were pretty familiar with the island and had spent a lot of time researching Bonaire in the years between our first visit and this one (we often romanticize about how we will retire there someday). So, I had compiled a few online resources and links about the best places to snorkel (you can go in right off shore in hundreds of spots around the island) just in case we needed them.
Turns out, we needed them.
Our tour had been canceled without our knowing. Imagine our disappointment as we wandered ashore and heard a guide call out to us as we excitedly gathered our group.
"Yes, that's us!," said Kelly, my sister-in-law.
"Bon dia," Colleen said happily.
The smiles and cheery mood went flat as the guide said the captain of our boat was sick, or busy, or had a broken boat or some other excuse we didn't want to hear or didn't exactly give a rip about anyway.
The bottom line was that we were not going anywhere with this company this morning.
We were offered the chance to maybe join some other people on a boat or two in the afternoon. That's not quite the intimate day exploring Bonaire that we were hoping for. We said no thanks, got our refund and turned to Plan B.
Sometimes things work out for the best if you keep a positive attitude and make the most of the hiccups that will happen when you travel. Plus, any day in a Caribbean paradise is going to be good.
Here is what we did on Bonaire.
To get to Klein Bonaire, which you can see just about 1,000 meters across the water from mainland Bonaire (at the cruise terminal), you head to the tents and make a deal to get on one of the boat taxi services. These boats are privately operated and run routes back and forth from Klein and to other beaches around Bonaire about once an hour. But this being a Caribbean island, you typically have plenty of flexibility to discuss the timing and schedule you would like to keep. We paid $20 for our tickets that would take us to Klein Bonaire, then to a spot on two other beaches and then back to the cruise pier area. You can also rent snorkel gear from the taxis -- a mask and snorkel on our trip ran $5 per set.
We just had to mention when we expected we would be back out on the dock where we were dropped off, ready to ride to our next destination.
After piling into the small fishing boat with about a dozen other passengers, the six from our group scrambled off on a wet landing at Klein Bonaire ready to slather on the sunscreen, pull on our rash guards and hike down the shore to where we would enter for our snorkel run over the reef. Klein Bonaire is a protected reserve and there are no commercial services on the island, so bring bottled water and any snacks you need. The white sand is soft and pristine.
The Klein Bonaire reef is so magical that we could have done several passes and not gotten bored. But we stopped at one, did a little swimming in the shallows off the beach and hopped on the taxi over to Eden Beach. We were all starting to get a little hungry and thirsty, and I wanted to try a new Bonaire beer or two during our remaining time on Bonaire before heading back to our cruise ship, Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas.
We had decided to hang out and get the next one. See, that's the beauty of living on island time. Everything is flexible. You can count on having to change plans, especially when you're having fun with friends over beers on vacation in Bonaire.
We spied the water taxi making its way over toward us on the way from Klein Bonaire. Scrambling to get our towels and snorkels and cameras together, we made it down to the dock and clambered aboard the boat. Ten minutes later, we were dropped off where we had started the morning. Slipping the driver a ten, I asked where we could find the best lionfish sandwiches. Colleen had wanted to try the local delicacy, and we still had time for a little exploring before heading back to the ship.
Great news! House of Bonaire Blond became the next item on our itinerary. The only brewery on Bonaire had opened about six months earlier, and we quickly found the facility (a cozy and inviting storefront on a main street just off the town square). Ryan ordered a flight, which was a sampling of the beers on offer for the day: a porter, two ales and a Flower Power, delicious unfiltered variety. Matt and Tammy and Colleen and I chose pints of our favorites.
Thanks for reading, and always travel happy!