Meet Jeynaba of Tropic of Destiny, an adventurous and inspiring spirit who followed her dream to live on the island of Bonaire. It’s not just any Caribbean island but a very special place where the natural environment and the people have given her a fresh new perspective on life. As you’ll see as you follow her on a typical evening walk, Bonaire is a wonderful place to visit and "wike" even if you have no particular plan about what to do! If this post has you planning your trip, you might want to stay at Jeynaba's beautiful apartment-- definitely look into it!
I’ve always believed in getting up and going outside while raising my daughter, and often took her and other kids to the ball park to play or to go on hikes. Some of my favorite hikes were when we’d go up the back side of the Blue hills with extra trail maps in hand and meet lost hikers to help them find their way back. The Great Blue Hill is well travelled by scouts and school groups, and there’s a good chance on busy weekends that some hikers would get separated from the group and take the wrong path down, ending up on the other side of the hill headed deeper into the woods when they believed they were close to reaching their starting point. Back in the days before cell phones and GPS, we were making a difference by just going on a hike.
Now my daughter is grown and I’ve encountered some unexpected challenges in life, and I’ve made a bold move to living in the tropics. I could spend all day writing about the challenges and triumphs, and the benefits of being able to gaze at the sky, feel the breeze on my skin, and immerse myself in the clear blue waters every day. Even though nature may have the biggest appeal, it’s the people living on this island that I’ve appreciated the most.
When I first started going for walks, I was taken aback by people I didn’t know looking at me and greeting me, as if they were friends of mine. I would wonder, have I met them? It’s actually part of the culture to acknowledge and greet everyone you meet. Even as I sat in the doctor’s office, a patient arrived and said “Bon dia”, (good morning) to me, directly. There was no one else in the waiting room so I caught on and said “Bon dia” back to them with a smile. Even teenagers would smile and greet me as I walked by a group of them, not a one of them with their face in a cell phone. I began to enjoy this smiling and greeting and it became a welcome part of my daily walks.
I invite you to experience a taste of the island life as I take a typical evening walk along the oceanfront boulevard near where I live. It’s almost exactly a two mile stretch in each direction, which is close to 10,000 steps for me.
I start out leaving my apartment and walking by the resort gate as I walk towards the ocean. I’m often greeted by the gate staff at the resort and have come to know them well. I usually stop on my way back to the apartment to chat, which we enjoy because they say it’s a boring job manning the gate at night, and I’m happy they look out for my safe return.
Depending on the status of the sunset, sometimes I’ll walk through the resort because it has the best views when the sunset is looking colorful.
Sunset view at the Plaza Resort
There’s a little side road after you pass Sebastian’s restaurant where you can get a nice view of the best seat in the house. There’s a bench where you can sit and enjoy the lapping waves and watch the clouds drifting and the colors changing on the horizon.
The best table at Sebastian's restaurant
I go back to the road and there’s a stretch where the birds are very active at this time of day. The Bonairian Lora are particularly vocal and colorful, and the homes along the way are adorned with palm trees, bougainvillea, oleander, and my favorite bright white plumeria.
This particular variety of plumeria is called "Bonairian Oleander"
After walking through this neighborhood, there’s a left turn to an area with a lovely walkway, seats and a pier where families and friends gather.
Friends sit by the shore at the end of the day
All along the shore, I encounter people coming out to watch the sun set, families spending time together to enjoy the golden hour.
When I reach the center of town, I walk past many historical buildings as I imagine the times past.
(Left: The pavilion is used by ships bringing in fruits and vegetables from Venezuela. Right: This building was once the Governor's residence.)
I pass the pier where the cruise ships tie up, on this night, there’s one of the biggest yachts in the world. It has a sailboat mounted on its side and even a helicopter pad on the back! I watch the occupants enter through the gate with their kite-surfing gear.
After passing the center of town, I encounter a tree that has been adorned with New Year’s wishes in several languages.
I encounter a tree full of New Year’s wishes.
I arrive at Kas di Regatta, a sailing center, and the site of frequent fun regattas. I’m tired, and I sit for a few moments. My mind wanders the spectrum between discouragement and gratitude. While I’m sitting there, an acquaintance arrives and of course, greets me with a smile, then sits next to me. We share some of our life experiences, and I share a challenge I’m currently dealing with. My friend stops for a moment and picks up his phone to talk to a friend, and then we continue our chat. Fifteen minutes later, a friend of his arrives who can help me out with my situation. “This is Bonaire”, he says with a smile.
For all its natural beauty, and the ability to enjoy being outside every day of the year, and the positive effect on my health, it’s the people of this remarkable island that hold its true beauty.
The Sailing Center offers sailing lessons and membership at a reasonable cost. They also have a sailing program for kids, where kids as young as five years old practice and race, and no one is turned away because of their inability to pay. The regattas are all day events filled with families, fun, great food and music.
At the Kas di Regatta, there’s also a historic fishing boat restoration project that I’ve been volunteering with. Doing this unpleasant work of scraping, sanding, tearing apart and rebuilding, more sanding and painting in the hot, hot sun was greatly appreciated by the locals. We were occasionally rewarded by local friends bringing by cold drinks or the best fish stew you’ve ever tasted. We’ve restored four historic fishing boats and have a few more before we finish. The old timers love to joke with me even though we have some challenges with the language.
My supervisor on the project congratulates me on completing the restoration of this boat, Arantsa, named after a treasured member of his family.
I continued my walk along the beautiful shore, almost at the end of the boulevard. On my left is the aqua sea, and on the right is the vacation rental property I own. I didn’t know if it was going to work out for me to stay here, and I hadn’t been able to get a job, so I went out on a limb and purchased this beautiful property so hopefully I can generate some income and continue to live in this beautiful place. Because I live on the island, I can offer my guests valuable local assistance for things to do, places to eat, and where to get emergency assistance when needed. I’m only footsteps away!
Aqua View at Elegancia del Caribe, my vacation rental property is available for bookings on VRBO www.vrbo.com/1219460
If you do decide to travel here, there are many wonderful things to enjoy that I haven’t touched on in this post.
The island is known as one of the best shore diving destinations in the world with its incredible coral reefs. You can participate in a coral restoration project, or be trained to hunt the invasive lionfish. Don’t worry if you’re not a lionfish hunter, though, you can help the environment by eating the delicious lionfish at the Kite City food truck on the beach.
Nature conservancy is a part of the culture here, and you can participate in Sea Turtle nest monitoring with the Sea Turtle Conservation Bureau, or help with the beach cleanups with the Junior Rangers.
If sports is your thing, we have one of the best windsurfing locations in the world at Sorobon bay where beginners can learn amongst some of the local professional and world champion windsurfers. You can try kitesurfing on the West side of the island, you can kayak, stand-up paddleboard around the bay, and there’s a bounty of hiking and biking trails in the national park.
I hope you’ll come for a visit someday and if I happen to see you on my walk along the boulevard, I’ll be sure to smile and say, “Bon Dia!”
As I near the end of my walk, I come across the flip flop tree. Local legend has it that if you hang a flip flop in the tree, you will always return to Bonaire.
If you’d like to learn more, you can follow my blog where I highlight interesting and fun happenings on the island, or follow me on my Facebook page or even plan your own visit to stay at this remarkable place!
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Check out the rest of our Exploring Abroad Series HERE, and share your own adventures on our Facebook page or by tagging @wikebaby on Instagram!