Photos and text by Lisa TE Sonne
I went to Bonaire to dive, not dine. But then there was all this good food in fun settings! The island boasts world-class scuba, snorkeling and windsurfing, as well as being a Caribbean gem outside the hurricane zone that limits other paradisiacal tourism magnets. The bonus I didn’t expect was having my taste buds as enlivened on land as the rest of my senses are while diving.
All that good eating, and all the non-dive activities — horseback riding, windsurfing, caving, kayaking, shopping, snorkeling, road tripping — make Bonaire an alluring vacation destination to re-fuel your tanks, scuba or not.
Between watching a sea turtle flying through water, angel fish playing in purple sponges, and squids changing colors amidst dancing fractals of sunlight, here are some memorable edible morsels my husband and I enjoyed on the “B” island of the Caribbean’s ABCs (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao).
Ingridients is a delicious open-air restaurant of the BUDDY DIVE RESORT, a complex that makes snorkeling, diving, pool lounging, and other water sports easier for visitors with onsite classes, boats, dining, accommodations with balconies (ideal for drying out wet things), and even a ladder entry to the gorgeous and entertaining Caribbean waters.
I had already been excited by DIVE BUDDY’s coral restoration project, but I didn’t expect their Ingridients menu to also incorporate conservation. They serve lionfish ceviche and entrees. Lionfish, with their feathery undulations, can be mesmerizing to watch underwater, but they don’t belong in the Atlantic Ocean. They can eat (as in, “destroy”) up to 9O percent of a reef. Humans are their only predators in the Atlantic, so making them a delectable main course is a clever way to help the reefs. Ingridients (named for Ingrid van der Valk, the owner) is a worthy culinary destination for other inventive and savory menu items, too — like their parmesan truffles soup prepared in enormous cheese wheel, and a salt-crusted fish that uses Bonaire sea salts. See our video of the Coral Restoration Project: http://www.oneminutetrip.com/Caribbean.html
It Rains Fishes, a popular meeting spot on the waterfront of Playa Pabou, is meant for eating and people watching. The fish dishes were wonderful, as expected, but we are still talking about the Cheese and Onion soup. The recipe they kindly shared is simple:
1 liter Heavy Cream
½ liter of Water
2 ½ cups of grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup of honey
Salt & Pepper to taste
I am looking forward to making this rich soup at home; alas, I won’t be serving it in the same balmy air, colorful ambience, and heritage-rich setting. We sipped on the patio of a building where a well-regarded local author (Nicholaas “Cola” Debrot ) was born and where, in the yard with the tamarind tree, more than 80 boats and tall ships were built in an earlier era . As we dine, we watch locals and tourists walking the boardwalk, sailboats glide by on the horizon, and the first passenger flight to Bonaire of the giant Dreamliner plane wing overhead. Then, we return to our dreamy soup.
El Posado Para Mira (roughly translated, we were told, it’s “a good place to hang out...with a view”) is in the interior of the island near the capital and oldest city of Bonaire- Rincon. The restaurant’s hilltop, open-air ranch setting provides sweeping views and makes for a great road trip stop with authentic local people, food, and setting. It also offers good tourist t-shirts and photo ops.
If you don’t mind looking at frolicking goats while eating goat stew, you know your food is fresh and local. They also serve conch soup, and fish- of-the-day plates with comforting side dishes of yams, polenta, pumpkin, and plantains.
Bistro De Paris is a unique eatery on the yacht marina of Harbor Village. A tasty lunch with ceviche, French onion soup and a paninni sandwich with freshly baked bread comes with a side of views of yachts. This Marina also offers a “moving” happy hour aboard a sunset sail with Bowalie Bonaire. Appetizers and drinks are served while you tour the Bonaire coast, and the charming Dutch captain will even allow you a turn at the wheel, if you want.
Sonia Home Bonaire serves culinary versions of “La Dulce Vita,” with its Italian specialties and diverse wine pairings. The cozy and elegant year-old restaurant uses fresh local ingredients with modern touches on traditional Italian dishes. The menu alone may get you salivating. http://www.soniahomebonaire.com
Capriccio is a longer-time island favorite for Italian food and lives up to its reputation as a gastronomic magnet. Its talented team includes chef Andria Magni, the youngest Italian chef to receive a Michelin Star.
Sebastian’s offers profound views with delicious food. If you seek memorable romance or want a front row seat to night diving, make a reservation in advance for the one table at the end of the pier. This drama plays nightly. When the sun slides down, the under-pier lights come up to illuminate what’s in the waters – from fish to rays. The service is lovely, too.
Between Two Buns is a favorite place to eat breakfast when at the Sand Dollar Condos that come with well-equipped kitchens. But I didn’t feel like cooking. The fresh fruits and veggie omelet served at Between Two Buns are an indulgence. The restaurant scores great reviews for lunches, too.
The Windsurf Place is an experience more than food. With your feet in the sand, you can watch some soaring windsurfing on and over the turquoise waters of Lac Bay. Chomp on a burger or enjoy funchi (a bit like fried polenta). The Dutch servers are fun, and the meal is fuel for a beginner’s lesson catching the wind. See a boomer novice at her first lesson: http://www.oneminutetrip.com/Caribbean.html)
Work up an appetite in Bonaire horseback riding through deserts, on beaches, and in a lake with Rancho Washekemba. Hike to to snorkel in a dramatic cave with FLOW Bonaire. Shop in the island’s unique stores—Elements Jewelry and the Cadushy Distillary. Take a road trip to see the pink flamingos, pyramids of salt, and the Washington Slagbaai National Park.
One tourism slogan on this sea-horse shaped island is, “Once a guest, always a friend.” We arrived as guests, but we left as friends, caring like the locals about preserving Bonaire’s great natural and human resources. We stayed a week on this 24-mile long island and left with plenty yet on our bucket list. I am pleased to report that despite so much good eating, the active stay meant we gained memories, not weight.
Lisa TE Sonne has traveled all seven continents and loves exploring islands. Videos from this trip and others can be found at www.OneMinuteTrip.com. She and her husband also run a non-profit that offers gifts great for travelers or naybody who likes to help others: www.GivingCertificates.org She tweets at @ExploreTraveler
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