Van der Valk Plaza Beach & Dive Resort Bonaire Bonaire

Van der Valk Plaza Beach & Dive Resort Bonaire Bonaire

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Posted 2022-04-02 by Gail Clifford MDfollow


Mention the island of Bonaire and non-divers will likely give you a questioning look. In the Caribbean? A shrug. It's not very well known.

Ask any diver, and most get that blissful smile of memory displaying the great time they had.

Probably named after the original Caiquetios' word "Bonay" which meant low land, the Dutch eventually adapted the spelling to Bonaire.

Located in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, Bonaire, in the Antilles is the "B" of the ABC islands: Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. The Dutch seat of the Netherlands Antilles is in Curaçao.

Van der Valk Plaza Beach & Dive Resort Bonaire, since 1995, is a favorite among repeat visitors. One dive instructor brings his students for their open water training to earn their PADI certification.

Located less than a mile from Bonaire International Airport, also known as Flamingo Airport, this tranquil resort has everything novice and experienced divers need.

The temperature ranges from 25 to 28C with the water temperature at 27C.

Upon arrival, you will be given a tour of the property by the luggage carrier. He will show you the scooter rental, the dive center, the yoga studio (no gym), the spa, the activity center to exchange your towel card for towels, the beach on your right and the pool on your left, the Coconut Crash Beach Bar, right down to the tip for the Tipsy Restaurant, your primary dining option during your stay. Then back to your room where in the hall he shows you the ice machine, the restrooms and closest to the pool, then helps you with your luggage - especially helpful if you're on the second floor with the better view of the ocean above the pool.

Afterwards you can unpack in the spacious two king size bedrooms complete with dresser, walk in closet, mini fridge (no microwave), safe and balcony on the 2nd floor, terrace on 1st. The bathroom splits in two, W.C. on one side of the hall and a spacious two sink, tub, and shower (which leaks over the edge and causes a wet floor if you're taller than 160 centimeters).

If you manage to get into the Tipsy restaurant Bon Bini, you'll find an extensive buffet of salads, proteins, side dishes, and soup.

Breakfast starts at 7am, making it a little tight on the first day to be at the dive shop by 7:30am for the mandatory briefing prior to your first dive. Lunch starts at 12.30 and is perfectly tailored for those returning from the dive site after two dives in the morning. Dinner starts at 6pm, late for most but stays open so those returning from night dives have a chance to get some food

Vegetarians, take note. Although there are only a few items available on the buffet, the chefs were incredibly accommodating and provided tasty, good-looking meals such as avocado quinoa salad and several chickpea dishes that the vegetarians in our group really liked.

The dive shop is filled with friendly, helpful staff. After a very informative mandatory session, where you buy your National Park tags (cash) and learn the rules of the two marine parks on the island, you will have the opportunity to ask questions about the best dive sites.

The Dive Operations Manager, Hagen Wegerer, was an excellent resource for dive tips as well as the best dive sites and equipment, also available from the dive shop if you're not taking it with you. He was especially helpful when our equipment broke down. A BCD failed to hold his weight pockets, causing problems for the next dive, and then he kept blowing himself up. No wonder the poor girl had such challenges on her first dives. The staff helped her get started with a new BCD...problems solved.

There are too many dive sites to do them all in a week. The boat captains and dive masters will process the requests if possible. They try to be able to dive the most popular sites like Thousand Steps (which is really 72, although the tourist office has listed it as 67), for this you must leave before 0800 otherwise the bigger boats will come first and block you, the dive site is already occupied.

Scuba tanks are conveniently located next to the dive shop and at the dock. You can find them in the activity center, the pool area, and the Tipsy Restaurant. Wheelbarrows are available to carry your gear from the dive shop locker room to your entry point.

The house reef, named 18 Palms in connection with the 18 palm trees that originally lined the property, has a difficult entry due to the slippery rocks and pounding surf but, once inside, the reef offers excellent day and night diving. The reef slowly slopes "all the way to China" but watch your depth. There is a sand platform in the sea at the 'Coconut Crash', but it's not there in the other areas and you'll be at 60 feet before you realize it.

Other favorite dive spots include The Cliff and Something Special for fish species and Sweet Dreams for turtle watching

A long-standing favorite, Bari's Reef had no mooring during our visit before Christmas 2018. If this place is available, it is highly recommended.

The three submersibles, Green Flash, Blue Moon and Purple Rain are manned by well trained and funny captains and dive masters. While your safety remains their number one priority, they certainly make it a fun trip with anecdotes from previous trips.

Check out the activity center's weekly list. A drum band accompanied dinner one night and a Netflix movie played on a projection screen on the beach. They have Fish Identification tours and kayak tours, wind permitting.

Take advantage of the weekly night dive through the dive center. While you can go off the house reef any night, the ease of descending from the boat is a bonus, especially for beginners. It's worth the extra money.

The spa services fix a diver's misery. With a variety of massages (from Swedish to hot stone) for tired or tense muscles, for a relaxing manicure or pedicure or facial. These ladies can set you up for another exciting day.

You don't have to leave the resort during your entire diving week, if you do, there is more to see, because the cruise ships also dock in Kralendijk. In addition, you can drive south to the salt flats, slave houses and the lighthouse, or north to Rincon, or a little further the Washington Slagbaai National Park or to the eastern side to see the kite surfers at Lac Bay.

It's worth getting to know Bonaire - diver or not.

Know before you go:
Eat at your departure airport. Although it is an "all-inclusive" resort, the Scuba bar, which probably has food all day long, may be closed for a private party if your flight arrives on Saturday afternoon.

Check the ingredients of your sunscreen. Some ingredients are not allowed in the Marine Park.
How to get there:
Bonaire (BON)
From the US:
United flights via Houston (IAH)
Delta flights via Atlanta (ATL)
From Europe:
KLM flights via Amsterdam (AMS)
From Australia:
Qantas, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Singapore Airlines, United Airlines via Adelaide
Qantas or American via Sydney

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82560 - 2023-06-11 06:30:59

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