Three top picks for divers who appreciate a touch of luxury
There’s a reason the license plates on the island of Bonaire proclaim: “Divers Paradise.” The colorful reefs that surround this quiet island are considered the best in the Caribbean. Getting to these spectacular coral gardens couldn’t be easier. The best reefs are located just yards off the western shore in calm water, adjacent to a collection of first-class resorts that provide everything a diver could want. Here are three of the best.
Plaza Beach Resort Bonaire
Sitting on one of Bonaire’s only white sand beaches, and boasting the island’s most extensive range of resort amenities, Plaza Bonaire is a destination that will please divers and beach lovers alike. Spacious rooms and suites overlook a lagoon and marina, and the expansive resort complex includes meeting and entertainment spaces, a fitness center, children’s activity center, on-site spa, sports courts and a range of water sport equipment such as kayaks, paddleboards and sailboats. An all-inclusive rate plan covers meals, beverages, activities, sports equipment and entertainment. Not to be missed is the resort’s weekly beach barbecue, which draws locals and visitors alike.
Also on site at Plaza Resort is Toucan Diving, which caters to divers of all experience levels, and is well suited to introducing youngsters and novices to the sport. Children as young as eight can take their first underwater breaths safely with the PADI Bubble Maker Program, while teens and adults can sample the underwater world with a Discover Scuba Diving class, or go on to earn a full certification. More experienced divers can upgrade their skills with a range of specialty programs such as digital underwater photography, night diving and enriched air diving. There is lively reef immediately off the resort beach, along with daily boat diving excursions.
Buddy Dive Resort
Though diving is the primary theme at this property, Buddy Dive is no spartan scuba lodge. The 11-building compound perches above turquoise shallows, offering spacious studios or one, two and three bedroom apartments, all with kitchens and living spaces that will accommodate anyone from solo travelers to extended groups of family and friends. The grounds include two swimming pools, two restaurants and an activity center. Downtown Kralendijk is a short walk away and the concierge can arrange a variety of on-island adventures and activities.
The dive center includes a retail shop stocking a range of equipment and accessories for sale or rent. Both shore and boat diving activities begin right outside the shop. Bonaire is known for the many shore dive sites that begin at parking areas along the coastal road. To support this activity, Buddy Dive has an onsite vehicle rental office, and a unique drive-through air station where divers can load fresh tanks right into their rental vehicle. Buddy Dive is also the home of the only PADI 5-star Career Development Center in the southern Caribbean, providing training all the way to instructor level.
Captain Don’s Habitat
This resort’s namesake founder was one of the Caribbean’s original scuba pioneers. It’s been four decades since the captain opened his original dive lodge near a prime reef a mile north of downtown Kralendijk, and it has remained a favorite ever since. The property has kept pace with the times, expanding to include deluxe ocean view rooms, detached one and two- bedroom garden villas and luxurious three-bedroom oceanfront suites with separate living rooms and kitchens. On-site Rum Runner’s restaurant is one of the islands best, with tables that perch feet from the Caribbean on a low bluff with spectacular sunset views.
The on-site dive center is both PADI and SDI five-star rated, and offers a wide range of specialty courses, including technical and deep dive training. Underwater explorations can begin right from the resort pier, and daily single and two-tank boat dives access sites up and down the coast and on nearby Klein Bonaire island. Captain Don was an early proponent of conservation, and instrumental in the creation of the Bonaire Marine Park. This ethos has lead to a number of eco-friendly practices at the resort.