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If you're interested in Buddy Dive, they also have two affiliated properties - BelMar condos in Belnem (where we stay) and Caribbean Club which is off-water up the hill near Buddy Dive. For boat dives either property uses Buddy's boats. From CC you'd drive down to Buddy's dock, from BelMar they might bring the boat down depending on demand. Buddy has the only drive-thru tank pickup on the island - located streetside at the back of the property. Guests from all 3 resorts can exchange tanks there from 8-5.
I haven't priced it lately but Caribbean Club used to be quite a bit cheaper than either of the other two locations.
BelMar is all about being 50' from the water off your west-facing patio. However it's about 15' above the water on an ironshore bluff - there's stairs down to the divedock. Their house reef isn't as good as some of the others - Buddy's Reef would likely be better. The advantage BelMar has is it's literally under 5mins. to the start of the best of the south side divesites. There's no food near BelMar - everything is a 5min. drive past the airport and around the lagoon (where Caribbean Court is located) to either the Plaza or the south end of Kralendijk. Belnem is really quiet at night, it's a residential area mostly with some on-water small condo complexes.
If you still want a beach, Buddy's has one - sort of. It's a strip of sand in front of the resort but there's ironshore between it and the water - good for sunning anyway. Click the Resort link on the Buddy Dive site and the overhead shot shows it - it's the strip of sand to the right. The pool/strip of sand to the left is the former Lions Den resort now also owned by Buddy Dive. As you can see both have short ironshore "cliffs" between them and the water. I think the Buddy's side has some ladders. The dive shop is where the boat is moored at the dock.
One other thing to know is all the parking is in the lots to the rear of the property. IDK if it matters except when you carry your gear/luggage in and out to shore dive. I think you can temporarily park behind your condo to load - someone who's been there recently (oly5050user?) verify that?
The road at the very top of the picture is the main road that runs along the dive resorts and continues north to all the north side dive sites. South on it about 5+mins. is Kralendijk.
We dove several of the other resorts. We just rented tanks from each of them, it saved having to carry them from the parking lot(s) and made us paying customers. At Habitat there's a small usage fee (was $5) but you get to use their lockers/showers etc. You can swim north from there to the Cliff site, there's also a public access point between it and the next complex if you know where to turn.
Thanks for taking the time to reply,diversteve. I was thinking that maybe the way to go would be to rent tanks/etc from each resort to dive on their house reef...we plan to go for two weeks, so one week we could buy a 6-day package for our shore dives not affiliated with a resort...and then pay as we go for the resort diving. I'm not worried about a beach, particularily. Whichever way we go, it's bound to be good!
Keep in mind that as long as you aren't too far from the water, you almost have a house reef almost anywhere on Bonaire.
Even near BDA where you can't dive off their dock, you can still access the reef just south of the Den Laman (sp?) property. Although diving with BDA is a good options anyways.
Admittedly it does mean you have to have tanks ready to go. We didn't find that to be any problem, get new ones every time you drop old ones off, regardless of your plans. Want to get in the water? No problem!
I'll definitely have to think more about the "house reef" vs the "DIY package". At the end of the day, the money "saved" by the DIY route may not mean all that much versus the convenience of a resort like Buddy's. It's difficult to make a decision sometimes when you've never been to a place. A confession: I tend to cheap out sometimes and regret it later.
@cathycalg: After 2 trips to Bonaire taking the DIY package route, we figure each person has saved up enough to do another trip to Bonaire (or elsewhere).
oly5050user takes large groups to Bonaire. Moving a group of approx. 20 human beings is like herding cattle. I can certainly understand why someone in his position (trip organizer) would want to streamline transport from airport to resort. There's also something to be said for dealing with one entity for all components of the dive/drive/stay package. A large group bringing a lot of business to the resort has more leverage when it comes to customer service issues. The larger resorts may also comp one or two spots for a larger group. However, even if the comped spots are spread out as a shared "discount" across all group members, the overall price per person is still hundreds of dollars higher than a DIY package at a property not on the water. If you're on a budget, that price difference is significant.
FWIW, our group hasn't had any issues at all diving off the Buddy Dive dock on our past two trips to Bonaire. We asked for permission and received it for day and night dives. To avoid schlepping gear, we dropped off all the scuba gear at the turnaround right by the dock, then re-parked the cars in the parking lot. No big deal.
If you aren't sure whether the DIY or large resort package route is more appropriate for your group, why not just choose one and then do the other on Bonaire trip #2?
While you are on-island, during a surface interval, you could pop your head into a few different resorts and ask to see their rooms. Think of it as recon for subsequent trips.
Thanks, Bubbletrubble. I think we are going the DIY route. No matter what resort you stay at...you're going to go to other dive sites anyway. Plus, I like the idea of shaving costs on two or three trips to pay for a third or fourth. WE plan to keep on diving as long as we can.
Cathy, check you VRBO® is Vacation Rentals By Owner. they have a lot of listings in Bonaire where you deal with the owners of the condos. I have done the DIY thing for years and it has saved me mucho dinero. It also gives you more freedom to do what you want. Like what akirawut said, there is a house reef all over Bonaire.