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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!
Some members of our group are not divers which leads me to believe Curacao might be a better match.
Yep. Curacao keeps cruise ship people happy with their offerings. If a cruise ship came to Bonaire- they're be a lot of confused & bored pod people walking around.
However I don't want to sacrafice a better dive experience which may be in Bonaire.
Then don't because it is.
Any side-by-side comparisons aould be greatly appreciated.
Side by side? See the below image
Look at the maps- Bonaire's geography of Klein Bonaire, the little island- gives it a decided edge in terms of diving. Always a nearby lee-side of the island to escape the omnipresent winds.
I am newish to diving
Funny, you don't look newish. (an old joke by the Beatles in Yellow Submarine)
I thought diving in Coz was better but Saba beat Coz topside hands down.
Must be dependent on where in Saba that you dove. I have never been ashore, but we dove some great stuff there, better than anything I had seen at Coz. Perspective, I guess.
What kind of topside activities exactly do you think your friends would have found on Saba (or anywhere) over what Coz (party central) offers?
My husband wants try something further South. In Jan. we have encountered some nasty Norte's while in Coz and had some dives cancelled.
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.
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 sacrifice a better dive experience which may be in Bonaire. Any side-by-side comparisons would 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 canceled. Thanks again for any input!
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
Caracas Bay (tugboat)
Vaersenbaai (Police Bay)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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:
The Knip beaches are some of the prettiest I've seen any where in the Caribbean:
Even the lovely Playa Lagun, a beach barely 100 yards wide, has a dive shop and restaurant:
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:"
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:
They serve lunch and dinner at their Sol Food Restaurant Fri - Sun, and also fixed several additional meals for us:
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:
Rancho el Sobrino:
The lovely Butterfly Farm and Restaurant:
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:
We preferred the western part of Curacao, with lovely scenery: