The Hottest New Caribbean Spot for Your Marriott Points
PHOTO: Guests at the Courtyard Bonaire have plenty of diving options. (photo by Gary Crow)
If you crave turquoise water and isolated beaches and want to go where your Marriott Rewards account takes you, there’s a new island in the Caribbean to add to your must-visit list. The Courtyard Bonaire recently became the first chain hotel to ever open on the island.
Let that sink in for a moment.
The lack of chain accommodations means smaller crowds. It means unspoiled stretches of shoreline. It means Bonaire still moves to the slow pace you crave when you need to decompress.
Not Just for Divers
Bonaire has long been a mecca for scuba divers from across the globe. They come here for the protected reefs easily accessible from shore. While there have never been any chains, there are hotels—most of them focused on scuba diving.
The opening of the Courtyard comes at a time when the island is emerging from its nobody-goes-there-but-divers reputation. In recent years, the island gained several cruise ship stops per week, bringing with them the usual growth in companies that cater to tourists.
Now it’s possible to schedule activities ranging from kitesurfing lessons to cave snorkeling during your stay. There are companies that rent bicycles, golf carts and even Harley Davidsons. There are also boat rentals, off-road tours and a distillery on the island.
As for beaches, the island has a range of options from white sand to musical pebble beaches. Almost all have rocky ledges at or just beyond the water’s edge. Some of the most secluded are found in the Washington Slagbaai National Park at the northern end of the island.
Don’t Rule Out the Diving
The Courtyard hopes to merge into the diving culture that has supported the island for decades. In fact, they partnered with the island’s largest independent dive company to build the newest shop on the island, right on the premises of the hotel.
Dive Friends Bonaire General Manager, Pascal De Meyer, expects the shop to be fully operational by mid-May, offering gear rentals, retail space and a complete range of diving options for hotel guests, allowing them to experience the clear waters of the deep Southern Caribbean.
And Where There’s Shore Diving
Easy access to the reefs for divers means there is also easy access for snorkelers.
Not every dive site is ideal for snorkeling, but well over half of the island’s almost 200 shore diving locations are equally attractive for those with no desire to go deeper. Many reefs are shallow enough for snorkelers to enjoy sea turtles, octopus and even seahorse sightings.
About the Hotel
With its central location, it has easy access to and from the airport. Shopping, beaches and even groceries are within walking distance, but the staff can help arrange vehicle rentals for those wishing to explore further.
The facility has a charming, Antillean village feel, with rooms stretching along a promenade connecting the front office complex with the restaurant/bar and pool area. The rooms offer adequate space for dive gear, though the dive shop will have a storage room for guests wishing to avoid hauling stuff back and forth to their rooms.
All rooms have canal views, with sliding glass back doors that open to the canal side of the property. The infinity pool and hot tub both have canal views as well and offer a quiet spot for divers and non-diving companions to soak up the sun when not at one of the nearby beaches.
The suites have an additional half bath, large living area and a dining table while the onsite restaurant serves three meals per day in a breezy outdoor setting. Meal packages are available. The restaurant and bar make the perfect after-dive setting for visiting with fellow travelers.
The hotel complex includes meeting space, both at the entrance facility and at the restaurant. A fitness center is also located in the entrance facility.
Getting to Bonaire
United and Delta both offer non-stops on weekends—United from Houston and Newark, and Delta from Miami. American flies to nearby Curacao, but hopping onto inter-island carriers is notoriously unpredictable, making that option a bit of a logistical challenge.
The flight schedules make it difficult to plan for a stay of less than a week, but it can be done, albeit with considerable time spent in airports.
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