I’ve seen many fireworks in my lifetime, and they have always brought me gleeful, albeit short lived, moments of joy, but I never imagined a place so in love with these shows of light as Bonaire. The firecrackers started as soon as we arrived (on Dec 27) and did not let up until New Year’s Eve, when it seemed everyone on the island held their own hour long display (yup, I said hour and some “shows” continued well past 2am). We stood on the rooftop of the Djambo and watched all around us as the people of Bonaire competed for our attention; it was an incredible sight indeed, and was the perfect way to cap off a fantastic BBQ dinner hosted by the Djambo owners Dick, Liselotte, Martin and Isle.
New Year’s Day was equally entertaining. I must add here that I have mad respect for places that don’t bow to the whims of the tourist; everything on Bonaire is closed on Xmas and New Year’s Day including National parks and the so-called “tourist attractions”. I think if you visit a place it is because you want to experience the place in its everyday workings; I don’t want anywhere to change for me. We planned another day of exploring the beautiful reefs, and lucky for us the Cadushy Distillery was open and provided an interesting morning stop on our way to spend the day in the ocean. Run by yet another couple who came on their honeymoon and never went home, The Cadushy Distillery is Bonaire’s only distillery. They specialize in spirits and liqueurs made from cactus and other locally grown ingredients; a homage to the family of islands and the history surrounding them. The tastings, tour and accompanying history of the island makes this worth a visit, and in our case, was a great way to start off the year.
I’ve only ever stayed at all-inclusive resorts when in the Caribbean, and while the convenience of not having to worry about food or drink might seem appealing, being locked up in one place doing the same thing every day is definitely not how I like to travel. This time down south we rented an apartment; this is how most people set up shop in Bonaire, and the fact that there are really no resorts on the island testifies to the fact that this is a place for people who like to do things (scuba, kite-board, snorkel, hike, bike, etc.). There’s something great about hitting the local supermarket to stock up your temporary home with all the food and drink you love, and if you so choose, also have the option of hitting the local restaurants and bar. This, my friends, is really the best of both worlds. All the apartments here at the Djambo open up to the centre courtyard pool & bar, which (along with an outdoor kitchen) pretty much makes this the best accommodation I’ve ever stayed at.
Yesterday was a glorious day here in Bonaire. We keep meeting people who arrived on vacation and never went home, and it’s easy to see why. One of those transplants is Haiger, owner and chef of the famous Cactus Blue food truck, which finds its permanent home on Kite Beach. Although we didn’t get to taste his famous lion fish burgers, we did enjoy beer and stories with him; this was a perfect way to end a day of kicking back on the beach and watching our guys on the water.
There are many many things I expected from a vacation in Bonaire, but incredibly inventive cuisine was not one of them. On an impromptu recommendation from some locals and other visitors we stumbled into At Sea and enjoyed a Chef’s tasting menu (& wine parings, of course) that rivals restaurants I’ve visited in New York and Chicago. A fantastic surprise, and needless to say, we’ll be returning next Friday.