Bonaire vs. Curacao

Discussion in 'Lesser Antilles' started by morecowbells, May 11, 2008.

  1. morecowbells

    morecowbells Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: St. Louis burbs
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    Looking into booking a trip in Jan. at either place. Some members of our group are not divers which leads me to believe Curacao might be a better match. However I don't want to sacrafice a better dive experience which may be in Bonaire. Any side-by-side comparisons aould be greatly appreciated. I am newish to diving and have been to both Cozumel and Saba. I thought diving in Coz was better but Saba beat Coz topside hands down. My husband wants try something further South. In Jan. we have encountered some nasty Norte's while in Coz and had some dives cancelled. Thanks again for any input!
     
  2. Doc

    Doc Was RoatanMan

    # of Dives:
    Location: Chicago & O'Hare heading thru TSA 5x per year with
    9,129
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    In Coz, the Northers or Norte storms occur pretty regularly December thru March. Coz is also dead in the sights of many Huricane tracks in the months starting in August preceding. April to July you have a pretty good clear sky guarantee.

    ABC is your best bet for storm proofing, and you're going to have all sorts of votes here for one or the other.

    If your friends can be happy with sunbathing and island vistas, Bonaire will keep them happy. Lots of local joints, very tribal. If they need a dressy-uppy nightlife and a lot of high fashion restaurants, go with Curacao.
     

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  3. ronbeau

    ronbeau Surface Interval Member

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Western Massachusetts
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    The non-divers is your group would probably be bored unless they like reading books or going to the few topside attractions in Bonaire

    The shore diving in Curacao is also very good. The following are excellent shore dives

    Porto Mari
    Caracas Bay (tugboat)
    Vaersenbaai (Police Bay)
    Cas Abou
    Alice in Wonderland

    Porto Mari has a nice beach with a full restaurant & bar so your non-diving friends could enjoy this also.

    Caracas Bay has a full dive shop, snack bar and shower facilities. This would also be an excellent location for your non-diving friends if they enjoy snorkeling. They could be snorkeling right above you while you do a very extended safety stop at the tugboat. There is also a cascading reef reef to the right of the tugboat the drops off in excess of 60 feet. The tugboat is in about 15 - 17 feet of water.
    Vaersenbaai (Police Bay) probably would not be as interesting to your non-diving Friends.

    I have never been to Cas Abou but a member of our dive club went their with his non-diving spouse and said they had full facilities.

    Alice in Wonderland is effectively located in from the the Ocean Encounters West dive shop. Not much there for your non-diving friends but a very good shore dive.

    My family has been to Curacao twice and Bonaire once.

    The first time we went to Curacao my daughter and I were certified and my wife was not. We stayed at Breezes Curacao which worked out well since one shore dive per day was included free while we were staying at Breezes. The house reef (Oswaldo's drop-off) is part of the Curacao marine park. My wife did other activities while my daughter and I did the diving locally in front of Breezes. Ocean Encounters runs the dive shop located on the Breezes property.

    Boat Dives

    Mushroom Forest (Did this with Sunset Divers - They were excellent)
    Superior Producer (Went with Ocean Encounters - Left from dock at Breezes).​

    Other places in Curacao to visit are:

    Wilemstad (made up of Punda & Otrabanda connected by the famous movable pontoon bridge) I am not crazy about shopping but I actually enjoyed walking through the shops and visiting the open-air vendor stands in Wilemstad).

    The Ostrich farm is definitely worth a visit. We did not eat there but others have said the restaurant was excellent.

    The Blue Curacao distillery is interesting.

    Mount Christoffell National Park is definitely worth visiting (watch the elevation relative to time of your last dive - 1300 foot elevation).

    Hato Caves is also worth seeing.

    We drove up to see the windward side of Curacao and found it interesting how remarkably different it was from the other side of the island. We also looked at the winds turbines while we were exploring that part of the island.

    A tour to Boca Tabla and Boca Pistol (part of Shete Boka National Park) is well worth it.

    I am not into gambling but there was a casino on the Breezes Curacao property.

    We took a 1/2 day guided tour of Wilemstad which was worthwhile.

    There is also the aquarium in Curacao but we did not go there.

    The night life in Curacao is suppoosed to be really good but we stuck with the entertainment at Breezes Curacao since my daughter was only 12 at the time.

    As far as Bonaire for the non-diver

    The Donkey Farm and Butterfly Farm were interesting.
    Lac Bay for wind surfing might be interesting for both you and your non-diver friends

    Snorkeling would be the only other non-diving activity I can remember on Bonaire.
    I did not go to the national park in Bonaire so I cannot comment on that.

    In summary, I think with non-divers in the group you would be better of in Curacao. I also don't think you will notice a huge amount of difference in the diving between Bonaire and Curacao. In other words, everybody should be satisfied in Curacao.

    If you have any other questions feel free to ask.







     
  4. CLEAR BLUE

    CLEAR BLUE Surface Interval Member

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: WEST VIRGINIA
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    Bonaire also has horseback riding, exploring the national park, the land surfing, massages, the Indian writings....several things to do.
     
  5. morecowbells

    morecowbells Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: St. Louis burbs
    599
    193
    43
    Thanks for the insightful replies. There was a lot of helpful information. When we were in Saba we stayed topside. There were a handful of restaurants and a couple of shops. We took a day off in the middle of the week to do some hiking. The hiking and scenery was wonderful. The diving was good but due to some rough seas and surge the vis was not what it should have been. We met up with divers who have been to the island many times over several years and said this was the poorest vis they ever encountered. I definitely want to return but since there is absolutely no beach, we thought when we are traveling with non-divers, somewhere else would be better.

    I have heard great things about both Sunset Divers and the Mushroom Forest. I'm not crazy about nightlife and shopping but would like to have some options for everyone else. Although the others in our group are content to snorkle, read a book and hang out. In case weather becomes an issue it is nice to have other diversions available. The shore diving is appealing since I am unfortunately prone to seasickness.

    Those were some nice photos Clear Blue! I like the ones of the horse. Dumb question, but what is landsurfing?

    Thanks again everyone! I am printing out there replies to use as future referance.
     
  6. CLEAR BLUE

    CLEAR BLUE Surface Interval Member

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: WEST VIRGINIA
    797
    1
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    They have these little car looking things with sails that race across land. Quite a few people were doing it when we were there. The shore diving is so awesome....no need for any boat dives. And there's a good bit to do for the non divers. Weather should not be a problem. We were there during the "rainy" season. One day it rained for about 5 minutes. The showers seem to pass through pretty quickly.
     
  7. morecowbells

    morecowbells Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: St. Louis burbs
    599
    193
    43
    I forgot to add that airfare R/T St.Louis to Curacao is $360. It is twice that to Bonaire. But since vacation time is precious, I don't want to split hairs either.
     
  8. rad21

    rad21 Nassau Grouper

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    That doesn't make sense Divi Divi Air is $110 RT from CUR to BON, we do it all the time. While we like Curacao for diving, snorkeling and other activities, Bonaire is our favorite and we spend twice as much time there compared to Curacao. I dive and my wife snorkels, we like a slow paced, laid island with good restaurants and excellent diving/snorkeling and Bonaire is our definition of paradise. FWIW, I don't care for Cozumel. Bonaire, Curacao, Turks & Caicos and Little Cayman would be higher on my list than Cozumel. YMMV
     
  9. dogenia

    dogenia Photographer

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Curacao, Netherlands Antilles, Dutch Caribbean
    241
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    One vote to sticky this post.

    Ronbeau I missed Watamula on your list of sites. Highly recommended and for me at least the best dive site on the island.

    Don
     
  10. alashas

    alashas Barracuda

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Charlottesville, VA
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    morecowbells,

    I spent 10 days on Bonaire in late April last yr and 11 days on Curacao this past April, doing around 25 dives on each island. The diving is similar on both islands, mostly shore diving, although the reef tends to be a bit further out on Curacao, so you might be doing a leisurely surface swim of 10 mins to the reef on Curacao, as opposed to 4 or 5 mins, or no surface swim at all, on Bonaire. A few of the outstanding sites on the western part of Curacao, such as Watamula, can only be reached by boat.

    Several of the major differences between the 2 islands. First, there is not very much beach on Bonaire, and much of the beach is ironshore, so you pretty much wear booties on the beach. Curacao, on the other hand, has around 40 beaches of various shapes and sizes, some in coves, some open shore, most with soft sand. As Ron mentioned, some of these beaches are ideal for both divers and snorkelers. There are dive shops at some of the beaches, as well as restaurants and rest rooms. Cas Abou, which Ron did not get to, even had a beautician's shop and 2 massage therapists:

    [​IMG]

    The Knip beaches are some of the prettiest I've seen any where in the Caribbean:

    [​IMG]

    Even the lovely Playa Lagun, a beach barely 100 yards wide, has a dive shop and restaurant:

    [​IMG]

    The dive shops at these beaches allow you to store your dive bags and gear with them, so there is no need to worry about things being stolen out of a rental car.

    We did our boat dives with http://www.oceanencounterswest.com/ and cannot say enough great things about this professional and pleasant dive shop, located at one of the most beautiful beaches on Curacao, Playa Kalki, site of the excellent shore dive "Alice in Wonderland:"

    [​IMG]

    We stayed at http://www.curacaosunshine.com/ a lovely 3 bedroom apartment on the 2nd story of a house owned by David and Sunshine Livingston and very highly recommend them:

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    They serve lunch and dinner at their Sol Food Restaurant Fri - Sun, and also fixed several additional meals for us:

    [​IMG]

    We don't need "dressy-uppy nightlife and a lot of high fashion restaurants" and preferred, instead, the local restaurants and casual hang outs on Curacao of which there are plenty on the island, such as Jaanchies Restaurant and aviary:

    [​IMG]

    Rancho el Sobrino:

    [​IMG]

    The lovely Butterfly Farm and Restaurant:

    [​IMG]

    The other major difference between the 2 places is the fact that Curacao is 3 times or so as large as Bonaire, with nearly 10 times the population. Most of the 150,000 Curacaons live within a few miles of the city of Willemstad, which has a deep port and a huge oil refinery. The city also has lots of shops, restaurants, bars, hotels, etc, and its 2 sides are connected by the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge:

    [​IMG]

    We preferred the western part of Curacao, with lovely scenery:

    [​IMG]

    National Parks:

    [​IMG]

    hard working people:

    [​IMG]

    breath taking sunsets:

    [​IMG]

    and fabulous diving:

    [​IMG]

    safe diving, alashas http://honeymoon2.smugmug.com/
     
  11. Carbomb

    Carbomb Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Washington DC
    15
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    We had the same dilemma a few years ago and chose Curacao. It was a good choice, CUR is a great place and Porto Mari became one of our favorite places to plop the non-divers in the sand or the bar, then dive (we could get fresh tanks right there at the dive shack).
    On another trip, we left the non-divers at home and went to BON and have been hooked ever since.
     
  12. Curacao Sunshine

    Curacao Sunshine Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Currently Westpunt, Curacao NA Previously Goffs
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    David and I looked in Bonaire before buying in Westpunt - which is out in the country and similar to living in Bonaire but with a city just a 40 minute drive away. It was much more expensive. Now, I'm glad we did, there is much more here - and better grocery stores. There is a lot do do above the waterline but your friends/family will definitely need a car. There is another forum just for Curacao on TripAdvisor. A member, Winteravoider has recently done a bang up job of listing various aspects of the island. You can find his info on the thread marked "Weather in August". We think that most of the great dives can be done from shore with the exception of a few. Watamula is in our opinion the best dive site on the island. For some reason it is not marked in many dive books or on the drive and dive map. It is possible it is not because it can not be done from shore and it is too far for many of the dive operations to do by boat. When you come, I strongly suggest you book with Ocean Encounters WEST to go to Watamula. We have an info sheet we have started for our guests. If you send me your email address, I can send you a copy. David and I got our certification in Bonaire and returned a few times. The diving is fantastic there but... it's pretty special here in Curacao. Why not spend a week on both islands and write a comparison? Please let me know if you'd like any specific info on the island.
    Sunshine
    Curacao Sunshine - Rental Property on the Island of Curacao
    curacaosunshine@gmail.com
     
  13. lmorin

    lmorin Humbolt Squid

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: New Hampshire
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    Re the quality comparison of Curacao and Bonaire dives.....It appears that there are two somewhat different sectors in both Curacao and Bonaire. In the latter, one sector would be Klein Bonaire, where the sites are reachable only by boat, and on the main island where most everything can be done as a shore dive. In Curacao, the shore dives are predominantly in the south (major exceptions, however), with dives requiring boat access predominantly along the north coast (again, exceptions noted).

    I cannot speak from personal experience about the more southerly shore dives on Curacao. But, I was very happy with most of the dives done with Sunset Divers along the coast north of Sunset Waters. These were every bit as good as any dives I have done in Bonaire. Having recently returned from a second trip to Bonaire, I am all the more of the opinion that, at least from Sunset Waters north to the Westpunt area, the Curacao diving is as good as that in Bonaire.
     
  14. dvrliz1

    dvrliz1 Dive Shop

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Bonaire, Netherland Antilles
    1,445
    3
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    Ok, the little voice from Bonaire...squeek..squeek...

    Let's see...Bonaire has guided snorkeling, mangrove kayaking, sailng, beaches, landsailing, parasailing, an amazing pink beach almost 1/4 mile long, the salt piles & salinas, amazing butterfly farm, donkey sanctuary, horseback riding, cave snorkeling, a cool whale skeleton at the museum at the entrance to the natural park, island tours, windsurfing, kitesurfing, waterskiing/waterboarding, sailing, sailing on a thai junk at sunset with munchies and drinks, day trips to klein bonaire with BBQ, some shopping, especially the local market at Wilhemina Park, the Casino at Divi, Pool lounging, tours with Jerry Ligon and amazing bird watching, Gotomeer (Goto Lake) and flamingos, prikechi's and loras.....and I know I'm forgetting more....

    Why not Bonaire?????
     
  15. dogenia

    dogenia Photographer

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Curacao, Netherlands Antilles, Dutch Caribbean
    241
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    Liz Liz Liz, tsk tsk tsk. You forgot the most important part of Bonaire, The Golden Reef Inn.
    For those wondering Liz got me pampered for my upcoming trip to Bonaire.

    Don
     
  16. morecowbells

    morecowbells Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: St. Louis burbs
    599
    193
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    Wow Alashas those photos are simply amazing! I can't get over the water clairty. I have received so much help on this forum. Thaks everybody!
     
  17. alashas

    alashas Barracuda

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Charlottesville, VA
    276
    0
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    You are welcome, morecowbells!

    If you like visibility, here is the water at Playa Kalki, where the dive site "Alice in Wonderland" is located, as well as as the Ocean Encounters West dive shop:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    You can see the reef and the mooring balls here:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Just east of Kalki is Playa Piscado:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    And just east of Piscado is Playa Forti:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    all here are all 3:

    [​IMG]

    Here are a few uw shots of the visibility at the dive site "Rediho:"

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    And here is one at the "Paradise" site:

    [​IMG]

    And I can't recall the name of this beach at the moment. Please feel free to help me if anyone knows:

    [​IMG]

    safe travels and great diving, alashas http://honeymoon2.smugmug.com/
     
  18. Kukuisa

    Kukuisa Barracuda

    # of Dives:
    Location: Curacao, Southern Caribbean
    334
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    The last picture is of Playa Abao, a.k.a. Grote Knip.
     
  19. Tennessee Slim

    Tennessee Slim Divemaster Candidate

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Mucus City, USA
    125
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    Regarding the post about cruise ship passengers enjoying Curacao, I'd say the simple fact that they're cruise ship passengers calls their judgment to question.

    morecowbells, that's a tough call. The diving on Bonaire is just simpler. So is the life. The attitude is more relaxed. Less trouble with traffic and foul-tempered locals (both of which are admittedly less problematic out Westpunt than nearer to Willemstad).

    If your companions are inquisitive and adventurous, I'd say Bonaire. If they require manufactured entertainment, ...Curacao.
     
  20. morecowbells

    morecowbells Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: St. Louis burbs
    599
    193
    43
    I have been reading everyone's comments and appreciate all input. It is such a trip for me to see the amazing water clarity and such calm seas. Sounds like either island is a safe bet weatherwise. I swear that I bring the bad weather with me. Although in Coz and Saba we had wonderful dives, we always had a Norte or rough seas. That is part of the reason why these islands sound appealing.

    I have been reading up in Undercurrent and Bonaire and Curacao are described as Macro sealife with vibrant coral. Will I still get to see the parrotfish and angelfish? They are some of my favorite things to photograph. I don't have a macro option with my camera. Does one island have larger sealife than the other? Thanks again. I really have been learning a lot!
     

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