As soon as you leave behind Miami’s heat and touch down in one of the most under-the-radar Caribbean hot spots called Bonaire there’s an island secret right in front of you.
You don’t have to drive to the other side of the wee Dutch Caribbean island in order to find it either.
After a 2.5 hour flight from Miami the laid-back chilling out atmosphere of the Courtyard Bonaire Dive Resort is the hidden secret. But then again as I found out on a recent stay the entire island teems in hidden secrets.
The 115-room property, part of the Marriott brand, personifies ‘everything’ today’s sun thirsty crowd is seeking. There’s a low-keyed vibe evident as soon as you arrive. A yellow painted curb stone announces “Dive Friends” – as your complimentary airport shuttle transfer arrives at the resort.
The bright yellow stone signage is only one of the many island signs that symbolizes the island’s philosophy. No catchy billboards. No traffic lights. No landmark signs on poles. Not even a McDonald’s or Starbucks – Bonaire’s all about leaving behind big box store madness and exploring Mother Nature’s best.
Dubbed the fifth best dive spot in Latin America, the crystal clear azure waters wash away stresses instantly.
I know. As a busy travel scribe who is tied to deadlines, the Courtyard Bonaire Dive Resort became the perfect rest pad to recharge batteries. Opened in 2016, the new property is the island’s first resort to combine sophistication, design and comfort with the needs of beach and dive lovers.
It’s also the first Courtyard resort in the world with a dive center on site.
Now why should you stay:
Location, Location, Location
The new resort is situated at the doorstep of the island’s airport. You are literally under 5 minutes from the sun vacay you’ve been waiting for. Bonaire is also a 2.5 hours direct flight from Miami. So for the crowd that’s done Florida over and over, and for the crowd seeking a new Caribbean island – and for the divers who crave unspoiled pristine reefs, this spot’s for you.
Unlike other island resorts near airports where the sights and sounds of airplanes are sometimes an endless barrage, you don’t get that feeling here. That’s because the island is currently under the radar compared to other Caribbean islands that are heavily trafficked.
Bonaire is the tiniest of the ABC islands – a destination best known for its lesser-known tourist spot in comparison to Aruba and Curaçao. It offers everything from slow travel and relaxation to water sports and adventure travel. It’s also a very gay friendly island.
Courtyard Bonaire Dive Resort Highlights
Guests big on diving get rooms and facilities aimed to please them. You can bring your own gear or rent and meet up at the resort’s dock with local outfitter Dive Friends for a blast into the azure sea. The dive fun starts under 15 minutes when you hit your first dive spot, Klein Bonaire.
For the GRAMMAR crowd and those seeking sunset shots, the west facing infinity pool that overlooks a tranquil lagoon will guarantee terrific sunset shots.
For the wellness seekers, the Courtyard Bonaire Dive Resort schedules on-site wellness-style activities from yoga to zumba classes throughout the week.
Meanwhile the foodie crowd, you’re in for a treat on the sushi scene. On Sundays, the Courtyard Bonaire Dive Resort offers Sushi Sundays. The Sushi chef prepares a 3-course menu full of the freshest catch of the day topped in colourful caviar varieties.
The rooms are quaintly located inside eye-candy casitas in a rainbow of colours from canary yellow to aqua blue to flamingo pink. Choose from 115 rooms that boast floor-to-ceiling windows with canal views. Each room is high-tech savvy with the traveler’s needs in mind. Find big shower stalls in each guest room. The rooms each have a large work desk, closets with ample hangers, a fridge, and a coffee machine.
For a hotel that can easily gain ’boutique’ status due to the low room inventory you will see there’s a huge menu of room categories.
My Island View King room overlooking the lagoon was spacious, enough to accommodate an extra rollaway bed if needed. The pillow top mattress turned into the best crash pad after a day of sightseeing and sea activities. The mini-fridge came in handy for keeping drinks chilled. Bonaire boasts clean drinking water so don’t shy away from turning on the tap. I liked the furniture in its soft grey tones that blended with the pop of aquamarine blue wall color that nicely channels an island vibe.
All rooms have irons, ironing boards, a safe, a coffee maker but the new hi-tech adds-on like free Hi-Speed Internet, free Wi-Fi. For international departures, Bonaire requires printed boarding passes. The wide flat screen TV, amazing! One night I watched a fascinating doc on the disappearance of aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, the next night it was a thrilling bio-pic film starring Tom Cruise, called, “American Made.”
This winter a new apartment concept will debut. Geared to families, groups, and especially the dive-guest who want that high-living suite experience– these guests can rent an entire casita. Enough space to put your dive gear, the two-floor apartment has living space of a kitchenette, dining room, lounge as well as the master bedroom located on the main floor and more rooms upstairs with a special private balcony. On the main floor, you can open the sliding glass door and enjoy the outdoor amenities like a picnic table, BBQ, and lagoon views. Iguana sightings are abundant!
Courtyard Bonaire Hotel Perks
As a PADI 5-Star IDC Dive Center, the hotel caters to divers of every skill level and age. Together with Dive Friends Bonaire, one of the top local dive operators in Bonaire, the resort provides guests a thrilling chance to experience over 100 dive sites scattered around Bonaire. The incredible clear water and unspoiled ecosystem translates to fabulous underwater photography and a chance to explore pristine reef and abundant sea life. Bonaire locals like to say it’s ‘the number one place to shore dive in the world.’ The Dutch Caribbean Island has protected its marine resource for 35+ years resulting in a scuba diving paradise that is home to over 470 fish species.
So many around the clock perks like the fitness center, a lobby market for drinks and snacks, a business center for printing boarding passes, and dive shop lockers for storage – all amenities are included.
For transportation – don’t worry. The hotel has a complimentary airport service plus free shuttles to downtown and the nearest beach, all of which is reachable under a 5 minute drive.
Once a month the resort features “Sea Turtle Talk,” a chat on the turtle residents in Bonaire. Every three months, the resort undergoes a Clean-Up Drive where divers are able to pick up trash. Guests who participate in a debris-free Bonaire effort receive a gift.
Bonaire Hotel Diversions
For blissfully blue warm bathwater, hit the Te Amo Beach via the hotel shuttle. Spend the day there snorkelling, swimming and beach combing along the white powder sandy beach.
For town experiences like dining and shopping, take the free hotel shuttle to the capital of Kralendijk and prepare to see a charming colonial streetscape styled in bright bold colors. No building is over 2 storeys tall making the experience that much more delightful for the urbanites living in concrete jungles.
Rent a new vespa at the hotel and hit the one-lane road that criss-crosses the island. The nicest rides are along the water’s edge to the south, home to pink flamingos and the finest blue sea.
On the north side Vespa drivers snake up the hilly slopes for soaring views. Park by the 1000 Steps, a rocky staircase that plunges into a soft sandy beach, home to more dive sites and great for turtle sightings.
Enjoy a new boat charter to Klein Bonaire, meaning ‘little Bonaire,’ a small desert island popular with snorkelers due to the shallow water and sandy white beach.
Dining at Courtyard Bonaire
The hotel has one anchor restaurant, MOOD open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfasts vary from small Continental style to buffet style where hot food stations fill you up on hashbrowns, scrambled eggs, bacon and bangers and an egg station for omelettes or fried eggs.
It’s a sun paradise that’s a cinch to get to and even better to stay at as this winter’s windshield-scraping Northerners escape the Deep Freeze.
You can make your booking at the Courtyard Bonaire Dive Resort website, Expedia or Travelocity. Room rates are seasonal. For a standard room double occupancy, the low season rates start from $159 up to $239 in high season. The Casita apartment rentals start from $695 per person depending on the season and number of guests. See Stay and Dive package promos
Photography by Ilona Kauremszky + supplied. Ilona Kauremszky was a guest of Courtyard Bonaire Dive Resort which did not approve this editorial.