Bonaire – The Dutch Caribbean Paradise

Located south of Aruba and 50 miles East of Venezuela, Bonaire is a small island in the Dutch Caribbean. It is part of the ABC islands – Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao. Bonaire is the smallest of the three, and the least developed when it comes to tourism, which is why it makes for a perfect travel destination for those who enjoy getting away from crowds.

WHY GO THERE

Turquoise blue water, picture perfect sunsets, Dutch Caribbean architecture, landscapes that vary from lush green hills to barren desserts doted with giant cactus, and not to forget some of the best dive sites in the world. If you enjoy nature, this is the place to be.

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WHERE TO GO

Kralendijk is the capital and the main city in Bonaire. It is located less than 10 minutes from Flamingo International Airport. With colorful buildings, downtown Kralendijk is a charming area with a cruise port (operating 6 months of the year), gift shops, restaurants and central amenities like tourist office, post office, police station, city hall. Surrounding residential neighborhoods and streets have theme names after musical instruments, names of countries, etc. making the city easy to navigate without many signs or even traffic lights.

Rincon is the only other city on the island. Once a town inhabited by the salt slaves who worked on the island, now Rincon is mostly a quiet residential area.

WHERE TO STAY

While there are a few dive resorts and small hotels in the area, you will not find any brand-name chain hotels or upscale all-inclusive resorts. The most beautiful hotel is Harbor Village Beach Club. Nestled on a private, four-acre peninsula, the charming Caribbean Bohemian style retreat feels more like a private estate than a hotel. Private villas and suites are surrounded by a burst of colorful flowers, yellow stucco facade, red terra cotta roofs, and golden tiled floors. Palm trees draw shade on to hammocks and beach lounges, while guests swim in the turquoise warm waters of the Caribbean. On the other side of the resort is a small harbor with a few dozen yachts and sailboats that would marvel any spot in the Italian Riviera.

At Harbour Village Beach Club, diving adventures are just steps away with Great Adventures Bonaire, the PADI five-star Instructor Development Center offering instruction courses for all levels, retail shop, a full range of services and daily boat dives from the Harbour Village dock. On site amenities include swimming pools, gym, spa and restaurant. Designed in the style of an antique Spanish ship with a dining deck located on a jetty extending over the water, La Balandra Restaurant and Bar offers diners a feeling of cruising while they enjoy daily fresh catch cooked with fusion flavors, paired with an extensive wine list.

Bonaire food

WHAT TO EAT

The restaurant scene in Bonaire is very eclectic. You can find authentic Italian, French, Indonesia, Cuban and Senegalese restaurants within walking distance of each other. Since immigrants from all over the world populate the island, there is a strong “international” culture blended in with Dutch and Caribbean. Here are some highly recommended restaurants:

At Sea – Rated #1 few years in a row, this cozy 1912 Bonairian house turned restaurant is run by a young French couple that share a passion for quality ingredients and breathtaking presentation. Each element of the plate is cooked to perfection and brought out as edible pieces of art. Enjoy daily changing menu served al fresco or inside the house.

Ingridients – Located at Buddy Dive Resort, Ingredients is a place to really treat oneself. Cool ocean breeze passes through the entire restaurant, as diners enjoy picture perfect sunsets. Diners can nibble on small plates of marinated olives, ham crostini, tuna tartare and tasty flatbread pizzas. Order the “pasta with cheese special” not listed on the menu and the server will cook tagliatelle tableside inside a 2 feet block of Italian cheese. It is a must try!

Bistro de Paris – The French food at this happening bistro located next to the harbor is some of the best you will find outside of Europe. Delicacies such as bouillabaisse Provençal, grilled tartine of snails, Foie gras, and frog legs are cooked to order by the French owner/ chef. Adjacent is an open air bar where locals hang out throughout the week.

Spice Beach Club – After a relaxing time at the beach, soak your feet in the sand, as you enjoy cocktails, typical Dutch snacks, and fresh salads. Spice Beach is a place where people come to enjoy the view, take a swim and chill through the afternoon.

Bonaire spice beach

Capriccio – This Italian restaurant in city center offers the largest wine selection on the island. It is go-to spot for homemade pasta, pizza and gelato in a relatively formal setting. Capriccio is also one of the handful of restaurants open on Sundays.

WHERE TO HAVE FUN

Twizy Tours – The coolest way to explore the tiny island of Bonaire is aboard a self-driven electric vehicle. Road Runner Bonaire offers tours of the North and South, which begin in the capital Kralendijk. South tour proceeds along the coast passing by famous diver spots, Cargill salt hills, slave houses, Atlantic Beach and Jibe City. On the way, you can stop to take photos, swim, dive, windsurf or kite board.

roadrunner bonaire

Washington Slagbaai National Park – A fifth of the island of Bonaire is a nationally protected nature sanctuary where visitors can spend an entire day hiking, walking, snorkeling, diving, swimming and bird watching. Expect to see more secluded beaches, caves, tall cactuses, giant windmills, goats, iguanas and hundreds of elegant pink flamingo parties. The geology of the coral island is also very visible inside the park, forming interesting patterns and colors, making it a photographer’s paradise.

Flamingos Bonaire

Rancho Washikemba – Horseback ride through a private ranch passing through cactus trees, dessert landscapes, open fields, and along the coast. Take a break at a secluded lagoon where you can go swimming with your horse. Rancho Washikemba offers horseback riding lessons, tours and parties and since horses are not native to the island, this is the only official, fully licensed and certified horseback riding ranch on Bonaire.

The Windsurf Place – Take a windsurfing lesson with one of the oldest companies on the island. Here you can rent gear and lockers, eat lunch, and practice on your own or with an instructor. The waters are warm, shallow and picturesque, resembling a vast swimming pool.

dive city Bonaire

Buddy Dive Resort – Beginner and expert snorkelers and divers will enjoy watching the underwater Coral Restoration project at Buddy Diver. Help plant, cut, and clean the coral farm, while enjoying a swim in the Caribbean waters. The dive shop offers classroom training, certifications and personal instructors. It’s a great way to give back your time and skills while on vacation.

Bonaire coral

Klein Bonaire – An undeveloped little island makes for a perfect day out. Pack your picnic and beach gear for trip to Bonaire’s west coast. Water taxis and dive boats transport passengers who want to swim, snorkel, or explore the beautiful beaches and clear blue waters. Some natives claim this is their favorite spot to getaway.

Mangazina di Rei – Visit this cultural center in Rincon to get a feel for Bonaire’s history. Aside from the nice views of the valley, you will also find a museum, gift shop, live music and interactive tours.

Bonaire culture

WHAT TO BUY

Sea Salt Bonaire – After driving around for a few minutes you know the island relies heavily on the production of salt as one of its exports. Run by a Dutch guy nicknamed “The Saltman”, this tiny shop off the main square sells everything made of salt. Boxes, tubs, salt mills, grinders, loose salt and bags of colored bath salt are available for personal consumption, gifts and souvenirs. You will also find Bonaire Sea Salt at most local restaurants.

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Elements – Here you will find handmade dichroic glass jewelry designed by South African, Charlene Bosch while her Italian husband, Gabriele Tixi manages the store. Shop from a vast collection of glass bracelets, earrings, pendants and household gifts. Themes of designs included Africa collection, Ocean collection Sunset collection and many more. Each piece is beautifully done and no two pieces looked alike.

elements Bonaire

Dock Yourself at Blue Haven Resort and Marina

Tucked away at the northeast side of the island of Providenciales in Turks and Caicos (TCI) is a boutique resort where you can have your entire family over for a destination wedding or a family getaway. While most tourists stay at one of the large resorts (Sandals, Beaches, etc) in Grace Bay, the solace traveler may prefer the quieter residential neighborhood where Blue Haven Resort and Marina is located. Its easy to rent a car and drive to the property, which is only a few minutes from restaurants and attractions.

First glimpse from the lobby of the white sandy beach and turquoise water is enough to take your breath away. The resort overlooks the mangroves directly in front and to the open Atlantic water on the right. The property, designed in elegant Caribbean fashion, was built as a condominium complex, but after the economic downturn, it was converted into a hotel.

blue haven resort TCI

Every room at Blue Haven is a fully equipped condo with separate bedroom and living areas. A modern looking kitchen and dining area is perfect for those who like to eat in during those extended stay vacations. King size bed and walk in closets, a bathroom large enough to fit a New York City apartment, and a private balcony with cozy lounge chairs – why would you ever leave?

Blue Haven is not an all inclusive resort (although meal packages can be purchased), but there is grocery store and deli where you can pick up breakfast, salads, sandwiches, coffee, juices, as well as fresh ingredients to cook with. For fun, lay by the infinity pool, play bocce ball, or watch a movie under the starry skies. Pamper yourself with a massage or facial at Elevate Spa or burn off those rum punches at the gym.

blue haven resort TCI

There are two additional restaurant on the property. SALT is an open air, casual eastern where you can walk into with sandy feet, and cricket playing on the background television is a subtle reminder of the English influence on the island. Taste the local flavors such as conch fritters, jerk shrimp and tuna tartare with a backdrop of the marina. For a more refined evening atmosphere, have dinner at Fire and Ice, a locally acclaimed restaurant serving Caribbean inspired international cuisine.

blue haven resort

You cannot visit the third largest barrier reef in the world without indulging in water sports. Located at Blue Haven are Big Blue Unlimited, a water sporting facility that offers stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, kiteboarding, snorkeling, diving, private boat charters, biking and cultural eco-tours across the islands, and Caribbean Cruisin that organizes day trips to other islands, North and South Caicos ferries, fishing charters and Jet Skis right off the hotel’s lagoon.

blue haven resort

The marina at Blue Haven is one of the only two on the island that can accommodate yachts, sailing and deep sea fishing boats arriving at the official port of entry into the Caribbean. Blue Haven Marina is an Island Global Yachting (IGY) destination, offering gas, utilizes, customs/ immigration and all hotel amenities to the guests.blue haven resort

Blue Haven Resort is one of the newest properties on Turks and Caicos, and the ideal place to relax in sand, sun and water anytime of the year. Don’t just dream of it – go!

Book your stay at the Blue Haven Resort now with TripAdvisor

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Some Like It Hot at The Del Coronado

Regarded by critics as one of the finest American movies ever made, Some Like It Hot continues to delight audiences 50 years after it debuted in 1959; in fact, the American Film Institute named it No. 1 on their list of the 100 best comedies of all time.

Filmed in 1958, the United Artists movie was shot on location at the Hotel del Coronado, Southern California’s landmark Pacific resort. The Del’s iconic Victorian architecture made it the perfect backdrop for the film’s 1929 setting, along with acting icons Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis.

Marilyn Monroe at the Del Coronado

Says author and scholar Laurence Maslon, who released Some Like It Hot: The Official 50th Anniversary Companion in September 2009 during the 50th anniversary celebration at the Hotel del Coronado (published by Collins Design, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers in the US and Anova Books in the UK), “There have been a lot of movies shot on a lot of locations, but only a few marriages of celluloid and place can be considered truly legendary. Chief among those magical moments is the sight of Marilyn Monroe cavorting on the beautiful beach at the footsteps of the Hotel del Coronado.”

Plot

The Prohibition-era story follows the exploits of Lemmon and Curtis, out-of-work Chicago musicians who accidentally witness a gangland slaying. Making a run for their lives, the men disguise themselves as women and join an all-girl band traveling by train to Florida. Here, a ukulele-strumming singer, played by Monroe, catches the eyes of both men, but it is Curtis’ character who assumes still another identity – an unlucky-in-love millionaire – to successfully woo and win Monroe.

Lemmon’s cross-dressed character, meanwhile, is vigorously pursued by a bona fide millionaire, played by Joe E. Brown. The hilarious gender-shifting romantic romp is played out at California’s famed Hotel del Coronado, which director Billy Wilder found to be the perfect substitute for Florida in the Roaring Twenties.

Sunshine … California-Style

At least one Floridian was less than happy about Wilder’s decision to shoot the movie in San Diego. Miami Mayor Robert King High reportedly said it was “a sacrilege” to let Southern California play the role of Florida’s “Sunshine State.” This sour criticism was ably met by Coronado’s mayor, who wired back, “Some like it hot, but not as hot as Miami in September.” The mayor’s rebuttal also referenced Florida’s gnats, mosquitoes and hurricanes, none of which plagued the temperate island of Coronado.

Marilyn Monroe & Tony Curtis

An “Uproariously Improbable Set”

Like all American resorts, the Hotel del Coronado had endured some tough years during the Depression and World War II, but it was this period of benign neglect that helped preserve the resort, making it the perfect setting for Wilder’s 1929 story, which he co-wrote with I.A. Diamond. Said Wilder, “We looked far and wide, but this was the only place we could find that hadn’t changed in thirty years. People who have never see this beautiful hotel will never believe we didn’t make these scenes on a movie lot. It’s like the past come to life.”

Although at least one critic didn’t believe the hotel was real, describing The Del as “an uproariously improbable set.” The hotel’s 1888 Queen Anne Revival-style architecture does tend toward the fanciful, with rambling white clapboard, lazy verandas and red-turreted roofs, which an earlier writer had characterized as a cross between an ornate wedding cake and a well-trimmed ship.

Although only exterior scenes were filmed at hotel, the interior scenes do look very Del-like (right down to the placement of the lobby elevator and stairs). This probably explains why so many Some Like It Hot devotees – even after seeing the Hotel del Coronado for themselves – absolutely refuse to believe that the movie’s interior scenes were not filmed at The Del.

Favored by the Fans, Overlooked by the Oscars

The movie was a box office success, grossing over $8 million initially and earning several million more over the next few years – somewhere between $10 and $15 million.

Monroe’s financial deal – she received between $100,000 and $300,000, as well as 10 percent of the film’s gross profits – was a very lucrative arrangement in its day, and Some Like It Hot turned out to be her most profitable venture.

The movie was also a critical success. Variety called it the biggest hit of 1959; Monroe received a Golden Globe for her performance, as did Jack Lemmon. The film itself also won a Golden Globe for “best comedy.”

In spite of its financial success and public accolades, the film received only one minor Academy Award for “Best Black and White Costume Design.” Today it is thought that Some Like It Hot was just too risqué for 1959, when the big winner that year was Ben-Hur (also in the running for various Academy Awards were the likes of Diary of Anne Frank, Room at the Top, Pillow Talk and Porgy and Bess).

The Some Like It Hot story line is racy, and Monroe’s costumes are incredibly revealing, even by today’s standards (though, according to Wilder, Marilyn was not interested in fashion … as long as the costumes revealed “something,” she was satisfied). Ahead of its time perhaps, present-day reviewers marvel that the movie still comes across as such a wholesome film; this was Monroe’s forte: she was sexy, but childlike.

Although this is the Monroe film most shown on television today, the actress reportedly never liked her performance.

~ Story and photos courtesy of Hotel Del Coronado, San Diego. 

Book your stay at The Del now with TripAdvisor

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Southern traditions continue in coastal Georgia

Most people don’t see Georgia as a vibrant tourist destination. Yet Georgia has beautiful scenic mountains, beaches, lakes and small towns; the crowds are not overwhelming and southern hospitality is abundant. The King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort at Saint Simons Island is one such place in Georgia where generations of families have been vacationing, keeping it sort of a family secret. Continue reading “Southern traditions continue in coastal Georgia”

Florida’s village by the sea

I discovered Delray Beach totally by accident (and what a pleasant one it was!). My husband and I were recently won a trip to Hollywood, Florida on The Marriage Ref. Up until now the only Hollywood I knew of was in CaliforniaJ. After some investigation, I found out it’s a Miami suburb resort town where people getaway for the weekend to play golf, relax on the back or pamper themselves at the spa. Works for me!

While looking for things to do near Hollywood, I discovered Palm Beach County. Delray Beach is located 20 miles south of Palm Beach, 28 miles north of Ft. Lauderdale and 50 miles north of Miami.  It is by far, my favorite small town in all of South Florida! No wonder Delray Beach was named All-American City in 1993 and in 2001, the only city in Florida to receive the award twice. (Only 10 communities in the U.S. receive this award each year.)

With a population of 60,000 (more than that of the entire country of Iceland), there is a very strong community feeling in Delray. Being greeted by familiar faces at restaurants and shops is commonplace. People who have live here once come back to stay for good. The surprising fact is that the average age of the citizens in Delray use to be 74 in the 1980’s & is closer to 40 now. Younger people are deciding to bring up their families in this small, organized and unique town which boasts numerous beaches, hotels, restaurants, spas, fitness centers and art galleries. Travel Holiday magazine voted Delray’s Beaches as the top public beaches in the southeastern United States for swimming and one of the top 35 beaches in the entire country!

So what makes Delray so special? The Downtown Development Authority has taken upon to put Delray on the map. They keep coming up with new and creative ways to attract visitors and entertain residents.  The key word is “grand”.

The marketing promotion is themed differently each month in Delray and there are merchant specials, activities, promotions and events based on the theme. An example, March is Savor the Flavor month where five blocks of East Atlantic Avenue are closed off for Florida’s largest dining table at Savor the Avenue serving 1000 guests. Think about Thanksgiving times 100! The restaurants create their menu, serve the food at their location on the avenue. It is yet another of Delray’s efforts to bring the community closer together.

Tastemakers of Delray Beach is a 5 hour long restaurant crawl held every August. For only $25, foodies can sample food and wine at 24 downtown Delray Beach restaurants, each representing a different country from around the world.

In December, Delray puts up a 100 foot tall Christmas tree. Made up of metal arms and decorates with 15,000+ LED lights, elves, historic scenes and a toy train, the tree is yet another example of how the community comes together every holiday season. There are also festivities with Santa arriving by chopper, live concerts, and kid’s activities.

I guarantee a trip to Delray Beach will have you coming back for more. What I like most about this town is that it had a small town charm, friendly people and easy accessibility, yet there is so much to do and see that you will never have a dull moment.  This Florida’s Village by the Sea or the Hamptons of the South will not disappoint you, so make sure you plan a trip there next time you are in South Florida.

(Photos courtesy of the Delray Beach Downtown Development Authority.)