Our First week in Bonaire

First week in Bonaire

It’s been one week of freedom for us and we are savoring every moment. Here’s how we’ve kept busy and entertained in our first week in Bonaire.

Checking In

Checking in to a new county is more complicated during Covid-19. Instead of just heading right to the customs and immigrations offices, Bonaire has a few more steps we had to complete, after 2 weeks quarantine, of course. On our last day of quarantine, we had to call the health department, tell them we finished quarantine and don’t have any symptoms, and within 24 hours they provided a letter of health for us to bring to customs and immigration.

We walked from the marina to the government offices on Thursday morning. While it was hot outside, we didn’t mind at all because we were off the boat! It was our first walk in 2 and a half weeks so it was the most exciting experience for us! Kralendjik is a charming town, with colorfully painted buildings and vibrant street art, so we enjoyed the hot walk to customs.

Flamingo Statue Bonaire
Flamingo sculpture Bonaire

The check-in process was similar to all check-ins. Show your paperwork and passports, fill out forms with all the information on your paperwork and passports, get some stamps, and off you go. It took less than an hour, which is good from our experience. We are officially allowed in Bonaire for 3 months, and here we shall stay for the duration of that visa.

We have three months to spend in Bonaire, and we are planning to fill that time sightseeing, diving and socializing. With the world in a pandemic, we are happy to be here. And, knowing we have all this time, we didn’t have to spend our first week in Bonaire trying to “do it all”. Rather, we are taking our time and soaking it in, enjoying each new experience. Here’s how we spent our first week in Bonaire.

Exploring Town

The town of Kraldenjik looks different from the rest of the Caribbean islands we’ve visited. Everything is still low rise and colorful, and there’s also a touch of Dutch uniformity in the mustard yellow buildings, many of which are government offices.

Downtown Kralendjik
Downtown Kralendjik

From what we can tell, the town has everything we might need: from cafes and shops to dentists and car rentals and hair salons, Kralendjik has it. Those are on our list for week 2!

The supermarket, Van den Tweel, in the outskirts of town, is impressive. Not as good as the superstores of Martinique, but it’s better than a lot of other options in the Caribbean. We especially liked the cheese selection. Gouda for every meal!

Bonaire supermarket
The cheese selection is very good in Bonaire

Moving to a Mooring Ball

The goal of most cruisers in Bonaire is a mooring ball. Bonaire is a protected marine park surrounded by coral reefs, so anchoring is prohibited. There are about 60 moorings in the bay owned and maintained by the marina. At this time, every boat has to quarantine in the marina, and then you wait for a mooring ball. You can move to a mooring ball when someone else leaves one. We’ve heard it can be a bit competitive, with boaters arguing and jostling for position, so were worried about getting one.

Marina Bonaire
First Come First Serve doesn’t mean what you think it means

Mooring balls are “first come, first served” as the signs all over the marina say. Which doesn’t mean what you think it means. It doesn’t mean there’s a list for arriving boats to add their name to so that when one boat departs, the mooring goes to the top boat on the list. No. It means, when one boat leaves, the first boat to grab the mooring ball gets it. See why it can be competitive? Fortunately, we didn’t have a boat fight with anyone to get our mooring ball.

We were lucky: we heard about a boat that was leaving in a few days, we dinghied to meet the people on the boat, and they told us what time they were leaving. So we set an alarm for Monday morning so we wouldn’t miss it, and moved onto their ball just after they pulled away, heading to Curacao after nine months in Bonaire. The worst part of it was waking up at 5:30am but it was worth it. We like the mooring field: the sunsets are better, we’re closer to the action, and it’s a lot cooler on the boat at night than it was in the marina. And now Sava has a home for three months.

Mooring field in Bonaire
The mooring field in Bonaire

Diving and Snorkeling

What do you do in an island paradise surrounded by coral reefs? We go diving! And snorkeling. But mostly diving.

There are hundreds of dive sites and we don’t know if we will be able to dive them all, but we’re going to try. So far, we’ve done three dives and they were excellent. The water is so clear and the fish are large and plentiful. We ordered a new Go-Pro, so we’ll have underwater photos to share soon.

The water in Bonaire
This is the view from our first snorkel at Klein Bonaire. WOW

Diving here is easy and inexpensive. Since we have all our own gear, the only thing we need to pay for is tank refills, and we bought a card for 10 tank refills for $50. The currency here is US dollars and we are paying $5 a tank fill. We haven’t seen a deal that good anywhere we’ve been before! If we didn’t have tanks, we could buy a package for 10 tanks at $8 a tank. This is the place for scuba divers. We are only wondering what took us so long to get here!

Bonaire and Covid-19

Bonaire is almost completely pandemic free as of this writing. We don’t need to wear masks, and restaurants and bars are open and serving as if it were normal times. It’s a little strange to us after being on guard in Antigua, but we’re getting used to the normalcy.

Flights are coming in to Bonaire, but only from the Netherlands. It is their island, after all. We can only hope that the current situation remains the same and that no one flying in brings infection with them. We are holding onto our masks just in case.

Social Life in Bonaire

As you know, where there are cruisers, a party is sure to follow. The bars here serve $2 Coronas, or a bucket of 6 for $10. We got here at the right time: Hurricane season, so the place is busy with cruisers. Glad we got that mooring when we did! The cruisers’ net just started up again, and get-togethers are frequent.

It seems like there is no shortage of things to do at night. Tuesday night there’s a music jam at Diver’s Diner, Wednesday is Open BBQ/bring your own food to grill at another spot, and we haven’t even been to most of the bars and restaurants in town. The brewery is closed until early August, but that’s not too far off, is it?

Diver's Diner Bonaire
Diver’s Diner is home to a music jam and cheap Coronas!

For anyone worried that Brian and I will be bored, don’t. We’ve met a lot of very nice people already in our first week in Bonaire and we have lots of plans for the rest of the weeks too. Bonaire is a diver’s paradise and more. I’ll wait until we’ve been here a few weeks before I start posting about the Best of Bonaire, but so far, so good.

Have you ever been to Bonaire and have any recommendations? If so, share in the comments please!

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Author: Mel

Living aboard a sailboat, blogging about the places we visit and the adventures we have. Love hiking, cycling, scuba, animals and adventure.

17 thoughts on “Our First week in Bonaire”

  1. As always I really enjoyed your post. The adventures continue.. sounds like these are going to be a very enjoyable three months. Most importantly, no COVID. xx

  2. Sounds lovely! Glad you got a mooring ball and can get settled in. Looking forward to your diving photos! Am sad that we won’t get to dive again for a few months so I want to live vicariously through you! ???? Enjoy your time.

  3. Bonaire looks like a beautiful place to visit. But the two week quarantine definitely limits short-time stays. When I arrived in Pakistan three days ago, I only took a COVID test (which was crazyyy painful!) and luckily I tested negative. However, I do think that two-week quarantine for incoming travelers is definitely the safer option.

  4. Bonaire has been on my diving bucket list for quite some time! I wish I had my own gear too (especially during COVID!) but I travel with so much perfume and lipstick I can’t imagine fitting a wetsuit, BCD and regulator into my backpack as well!

  5. I love the idea behind the statue! I’ve been told diving here is amazing! Would love to visit one day. Thanks for sharing your experience

  6. Gorgeous. I suspect the next week will be as good. Great to see the details of travel in the pandemic.

  7. Great post! Bonaire sounds lovely! The Flamingo sculpture is so cool and I loved the fact that you referred to the Covid-19 in the the area. I find it hard to know what’s going on exactly in the places I want to visit.

  8. So glad you enjoyed your time despite COVID! The cheese selection looks like HEAVEN. I’ve always wanted to go to Bonaire, it seems so lively and fun.

  9. Bonaire looks adorable and such a nice place to relax! By the way, the Flamingo sculpture is so cool.

  10. Bonaire looks so great! I am craving some island travel! I have actually never been to the Caribbean! I need some fun in the sun for sure. Great info on the diving, something I have been meaning to try!

  11. I always thought about the ABC islands as a cruise destination, since a day should be enough, but I think I should reconsider and spend a while longer when I manage to go, if only for the diving! ????

    1. And I can’t imagine 1 day being enough to spend anywhere! Probably explains why I live on a sailboat – we can’t travel fast!

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