Pirates ruled Bonaire from 1800 to 1816 while control of the island was passing back and forth among the Dutch, British, and Spanish nations. Today Point Pirates are still welcome on the island and we have a great opportunity for an affordable and relaxing dive vacation. Let’s be clear here, Bonaire is most certainly a dive and snorkel destination and if you’re not an ocean enthusiast there are probably a lot better places for you to visit. But if you scuba dive, Bonaire is an epic place for divers of all skill levels. Sure the marine life, the coral, the incredible visibility are an awesome draw to the island, but the feature that has the First Mate and I returning for another visit a year and a half after our first is the shore diving. I don’t mean ‘beach diving’, it’s a rocky rough shoreline in places, but the easy access and short swim out to the walls make it so stress free for those of us used to boat diving, drift diving, and being far offshore. There is no getting lost, the worst that can happen is you might have to walk back along the shore a short distance if you don’t come right back to your truck. For those planning their first trip, the basic process is rent a pickup truck, rent your tanks from a place like VIP Diving and then in the morning you drive up and load your air or nitrox tanks for the day into the back of the truck and head out along the road that runs the west coast looking for large yellow stones that mark the popular dive sites. Park your truck, leave the window down and nothing you don’t want stolen inside the truck, then go for a pleasant dive.
One of the things we love to do when diving is hunting lionfish, and Bonaire offers classes and opportunity to hunt this invasive species while all other spearfishing is banned on the island. Quiet and relatively laid back, Bonaire is a great vacation destination but if you’re looking for night life you would probably be better off in Aruba or Curacao. On down days you can drive around the island and see the amazing pink salt ponds, the wild donkeys and the flocks of flamingos. Some of our favorite dive sites from our last trip were the Salt pier, Alice in Wonderland, Karpata, The Lake, Aquarius, and Invisibles. So many to choose from on our next voyage we still have a full list of new places to visit!
There are many popular resort areas and rental homes on the island of Bonaire, but only one Points hotel, the Marriott Courtyard Bonaire Dive Resort. While not exactly on the beach like many of the other resorts, it does have water views and a dive shop on the property. It’s new, clean with a unique dutch style appeal, and a pretty good restaurant on site. It’s close walking distance to several other very good restaurants like Joe’s Restaurant and Sebastian Restaurant and Bar. You’re going to need to rent a truck anyway to go diving so you won’t be feeling isolated there at all. The part that makes this hotel a real bargain is that only 12,500 Marriott Bonvoy points are needed a night with the 5th night free on points bookings. That means only 50,000 points for a 5 night stay and 75,000 for a 7 night stay. You’ve got a few options for signing up for Marriott Bonvoy credit cards to earn reward nights. First, there is the $0 annual fee Marriott Bonvoy Bold card that has a sign up bonus of 50,000 points (enough for 5 nights in Bonaire) after spending $2000 on the card in the first 3 months. Next is the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card which gives you 75,000 points after meeting the $3000 spend in the first 3 months, enough for 7 nights in Bonaire. The third, and debatably best offer is with this referral link for the $95 annual fee Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card which will earn you 3 nights at Marriott hotels up to 35,000 points a night, a value of 105,000 points when you meet the minimum spend of $3000 in the first 3 months. The Boundless card also earns you an additional free night at any Marriott hotel up to 35,000 points a night on every yearly anniversary of your holding the card. These 35,000 point night certificates can be redeemed at hotels with nightly rates of $180-$450 a night depending on location and date that you are using them.
Now that you’ve booked your points hotel (and you want to do that first because point stays are easily cancelled and refunded through the hotel but airlines do not refund, they only allow changes with an expensive change fee) we need to look at booking your airfare. American has regular flights from Miami and Delta has regular flights from Atlanta. A great way to get started with Delta miles after you sign up for their frequent flyer account is to get a Delta American Express card, which has quite a few options and we’ll get into in another article.
One of the fascinating aspects of Bonaire that has always amazed me, along with the other ABC islands of Aruba and Curacao, is the multi-lingual residents who speak Papiamiento at home but also speak English, Spanish, and Dutch. This makes the islands an excellent vacation spot for tourists from all over the world and give it a true international feel, just what a Pirate needs to feel at home.