Bonaire vs Curacao

Old Oct 4, 16, 5:59 pm
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Bonaire vs Curacao

I am looking into a March vacation to either Curacao or Bonaire. We are flying from Atlanta. I am a diver. My wife is not. I have read on scubaboard that Curacao is where vacationers dive and Bonaire is where divers vacation. I want a place where I will enjoy the diving, but will not have a dive buddy (need ease of finding one, or using a shared boat/dive master).

Also of concern is getting to each place. Both are expensive to fly on the major airlines. Delta only goes to Bonaire direct on Sat and Sun. But, I thought they added a Tuesday flight in Feb and March of 2016. Right now, that option is not available.

Curacao is equally expensive on AA, but has more options for days. I am not really sure I want to spend a whole week in either destination. Five days would be perfect. There is the option of flying DL to MIA, and then catching Insel Air to CUR. This saves about $1,000 for two tickets. The reliability of Insel making it to/from Curacao within 12 hours of schedule seems to be an issue though. I would hate to lose a day getting there, or miss my Delta connection coming back. Jet Blue flies to CUR from JFK, but the Atlanta leg doesn't work for same day flights.

Right now, I am leaning towards Curacao. I think that gives the best of both worlds for me and my wife. I am leery about doing the Insel air option, but it would also save baggage fees (no fees on Delta and one checked bag pp on Insel). Bags would be an added expense on AA - not huge, but it's another $100.

So, what's your opinion about Insel? Will it get me to/from CUR without a huge hassle?

Do you think DL will add a Tuesday flight in Feb/Mar 2017?

What is your opinion of the two islands? Specifically, for a diver and non-diver.

Will I be able to find a dive buddy easier on either island? I know this isn't a dive forum, but I am throwing it out there based on other posts.

How about expense of lodging and meals on one compared to the other?

Thanks in advance.
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Old Oct 5, 16, 11:32 pm
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I can't answer all your questions, but I'll give you my view on what I can. I can't tell you much about Bonaire - I was only there for a day trip over from Curacao. Looked pretty quiet. Too quiet for my taste, and I'm a boring old guy. Other than diving and the beach I didn't see anything to do. I'm sure there are Bonaire fans that would disagree - maybe someone will jump in here and give us a more in-depth assessment.

I've been to Curacao several times (going again next week), and gone diving a couple times. Curacao has plenty to keep a non-diver occupied. A good-sized town with museums, restaurants, shopping, etc. A large mall with both American and European stores, multiplex movie theater, food court, live entertainment, and so on.

There are large resort hotels with tour desks for day excursions - Island tours, Aquarium tour, ATV trail rides, hikes, and more.

For the diver there are plenty of dive operators with daily trips to the prime sites. They should be able to put you in with a group. The Hilton has a dive shop on-site with trips several days a week. Some of the trips used to be mixed dive/snorkel. If your wife just wants to paddle around on the surface you could see if they still do that.

Air fare to the island is high, but once there hotels and food are about the same as any of the other islands. Shopping in town was actually fairly inexpensive. Some very good prices on clothing and shoes. Last trip I got some Nikes for considerably less than at DSW.

I've never flown Insel Air MIA-CUR but I've always noticed when looking at the Arrival/Departure board at the airport most of the delayed flights are Insel. I'd like to fly JetBlue (I'm in BOS) but it's not daily and my schedule never matches theirs. I'm not a huge fan of AA but I've always ended up on them and so far never had a problem. Their 2x daily from MIA is convenient and if one of your travel days is a Saturday AA also has a CLT flight which is a lot easier than MIA. Also, AA includes the $39 Curacao Departure Fee in the ticket. Insel Air does not - you have to pony up at a desk in the airport. So there's 78 bucks toward your luggage fees.

If you decide to go to Bonaire but can't get good flights, you could fly to Aruba or Curacao and hop over. It's pretty easy. I think the Curacao Departure Fee to Bonaire is only $10.

Hopefully some more people will offer insight here to help you make your decision. Whatever you decide, hope you have a fun and safe trip.
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Old Nov 27, 16, 4:39 pm
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Insel Air has nonstop flights CUR--BON & v.v. If you buy their ticket MIA--CUR then days later--BON they will count CUR as a (nearly-)Free Stopover & charge you a thru fare MIA--BON.
If the price & schedule are right, try to make BON--ATL/ DL your return flight, because clearing Customs in MIA is no fun !
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Old Nov 27, 16, 5:03 pm
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If I had a non diving spouse, unless it was one who wanted to sit by the pool all day, I'd choose Curacao. Having spend only a few hours there. There really isn't a lot to do on Bonaire other than dive. I've been to Bonaire probably at least 20 times; it's mostly diving. The beaches aren't that great either. There aren't any resort hotels (tho I think Marriott or someone is building one); they are all dive hotels.

Unless you did guided dives, or paid for boat dives, it might be difficult finding a buddy. Most of the diving is shore diving. You can always dive solo; it's mostly easy diving on the west side. One advantage of Bonaire, if you were willing to dive solo is that you aren't restricted to anyone else's schedule. There are some lovely condos with diving right off shore. You could pick up a tank and go out for an hour or so whenever you wanted.
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Old Nov 27, 16, 5:24 pm
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The brand new Courtyard Bonaire looks like a 5--8 minute walk from the beach on Google maps. It has been very recently changed from Cat. 4 to 3 !
BTW, Manneca, by "dive hotels" do you mean "hotels that cater to diving" OR low-end as in "dive bars/ pubs?" Or both ?

Last edited by Brendan; Dec 4, 16 at 4:09 am
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Old Nov 27, 16, 7:30 pm
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Curacao is great for a one day cruise ship call but beyond that the island is nothing more than a dupe of the Jersey Turnpike with all the oil wells where oil is brought in from Venezuela and refined before shipment to the States and Europe. Curacao is also shark infested, many beaches "caged" in.

Bonaire is much more of a resort island, very lazy laid back atmosphere. I highly recommend.
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Old Dec 1, 16, 8:04 am
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I stayed on Curacao for a week. Most unfriendly people I experienced. We were not at a resort like the Hilton so if I HAD to go there again I'd stay at a resort. I found the people in the main quite surly except at the casino where I ran into dealers/pit bosses I know from Aruba. We only went by cruise ship to Bonaire and will actually be back there on Thursday. We'll have lunch at Rum Runner's at a dive place. Last time we toured the island and saw many people diving from shore. With all that said - I'd probably pick the Hilton on Curacao as it is a really nice property and I'm sure your wife could hook up with some tours there as well as meet people around the pool. JMHO
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Old Dec 5, 16, 7:55 pm
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Originally Posted by worldspan View Post
Curacao is great for a one day cruise ship call but beyond that the island is nothing more than a dupe of the Jersey Turnpike with all the oil wells where oil is brought in from Venezuela and refined before shipment to the States and Europe. Curacao is also shark infested, many beaches "caged" in.
Yes, the harbor area has a large refinery, some freight terminals and other industrial stuff, as well as Coast Guard and Navy bases. However, that is a very small part of the island and the resorts are nowhere near it. Staying in the Piscadero Bay or Westpunt areas you will never see any of it. Staying in town or over by the aquarium you will see it on the way in from the airport, but not from the hotel. The refinery can be smelly, but prevailing winds are such that you will almost never smell it at the resort areas. Also, the refinery was recently sold and will be modernized to make it less smelly.

The rest of the island has varied terrain. There are salt flats, rocky coastlines, sandy coastlines, small mountains, forested areas, desert areas, etc.

As for the shark infestation and caged beaches - You made this same assertion in another thread a couple of years ago and several FT'ers familiar with the island refuted it. Since then I have been to three resorts, several dive shops, and a dozen beaches all over the island and have asked locals about this everywhere I go. I just get a lot of funny looks. No one has ever heard anything about it. So unless there is a vast conspiracy to hide some extraordinary shark danger from the tourists, can we put this one to bed?
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Old Dec 6, 16, 2:24 am
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I went to Curacao in 2014 for a week for Mardi Gras/ Karnaval from previous Wednesday--Ash Wednesday. I spent the first 2 nights money-paid at the Marriott resort which is now closed for remodeling, then 5 nights at the Renaissance DT Willemstad to be in walking distance of the thick of the Karnaval action. I swam at the first of these without hearing warnings of sharks.
However, way back in 2000 or 01 I went to Aruba, where I took a bus tour to the far side of the island. I remember the guide pointing out the prison & the garbage-treatment plant. He explained that they discharged the remains there to attract the sharks to there to deter prison escapes by sea & to keep the sharks away from the resort beaches!
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