Budget Trip Challenge - Bonaire

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MaxE

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What's your best budget trip plan (e.g.: airfare, room, rental truck, shore diving) for Bonaire? I hope this thread will help budget-minded divers plan a Bonaire trip. Best doesn't mean cheapest, but let's strive for cheap.

A frequent lament in the rec. dive hobby is the cost of dive trips, a barrier to recruiting and maintaining divers. A separate issue is the need for solo options; not everyone travels with a dive buddy, and some places one can dive alone. Here are some figures from my past solo trips (with airfare, tips, pretty much everything):

7-Day May 2021 Cocoview Resort (Roatan) Trip: $3,600 (roughly).
8-Day Oct. 2019 Bonaire Trip: $3,000 + food & a few miscellaneous costs, figure $3,500 total to be on the safe side. 30 Dives.
8-Day Sept. 2018 Cozumel Trip: $3,250 with food. 26 Dives.
7-Day April 2018 Turks & Caicos Aggressor II Trip: $3,350 (would’ve been ~$4,255 without 34% off Aggressor Fleet sale). 27 Dives.

I researched Bonaire options with a new emphasis on budget with the option for a longer stay (both due to retirement), and started this thread to share my findings and gather other forum members' impressions and advice. If this goes well, maybe we could try it for Cozumel, Roatan, etc... One thing at a time.

I'll lead, and go in-depth on my reasoning and cost analysis. I aimed for a 2-week stay (like 2 dive trips for the price of 1 airfare), non-oceanfront (tends to be cheaper), automatic transmission truck (I don't drive stick), unlimited nitrox tank shore diving (no boat dives), solo traveler and diver (with SDI Solo Diver cert.) and prefer big (100-cf) tanks if possible. I used Feb. 2 – 16, 2022 where possible; I gave Aqua Viva Suites Feb. 16 – Mar. 2 due availability of their cheapest room category. I chose Wed. - Wed. rather than Sat. - Sat. (or Sun.) due to @tursiops post on another thread the former tend to be cheaper. He was right! On 9-21-21 I’d decided on Wed. - Wed. so on Orbitz I booked an AA round trip flight Feb. 16 - Mar. 2 for $566.36. Then I wondered what a similar Saturday - Sat. trip would’ve run, so I ran Feb. 12 - 26. The cheapest flight was on AA, yes, but for $1,388.86 - 6 a.m. departure, 1 hour 12 min. layover in Miami, arrival 2:24 p.m. in Bonaire, so practically the same flight…at well over double the cost. Delta, with 6 a.m. departure, 1 hour 37 min. layover in Atlanta, 2:45 arrival - $1,576.36! Wow!!!
@drrich2 how many dives did you get a CoCo View in the week you were there?
 
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drrich2

drrich2

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@drrich2 how many dives did you get a CoCo View in the week you were there?
22 Dives, because I only got 1 night dive, due to night time sea conditions. While sea conditions were fine during the day, they ramped up some evenings, and night diving was either cancelled (with cause) or ill-advised. The daily 'work flow' of diving is like this. In the morning, your group heads out on the boat (fairly short trip) and does an off-site dive. On the way back, any divers who wish can do a 'drop off' dive, giant stride off the boat and dive along CocoView Wall, Neuman's Wall, or if conditions are a bit rough or you're solo and they don't know you yet, maybe right by the Prince Albert wreck. Wherever you go in, you head for the wreck, then follow the path on out to shore. In the afternoon, that boat heads out and you do it again. So 4 boat dives/day. After hours independent shore diving is available if you wish, and conditions allow.
CocoView Trip Report May 2021 - Trip Report - CocoView Resort May 8-15, 2021 My Research Notes from planning a Roatan Trip - My Research Notes from Planning Roatan Trip

Really enjoyed CocoView Resort and recommend it. While Roatan isn't the independent shore diving destination Bonaire is, the underwater topography of Roatan impressed!

Earlier I mentioned 'island time' seems to impact time-to-response contacting some accommodation providers. On 9-17-21, I sent a request for info. for dates Feb. 2 - 16, 2022 to Happy Holiday Homes (which I gather is a reputable budget alternative to Dive Hut); yesterday (9-29-21) I got the response:

"Hello Richard,

Thanks for your enquiry.

We could have arranged the whole package as requested but I feel sorry to inform you that we have no vacancy for your time frame.

Maybe we are able to welcome you some other time in the future."

Sometimes vendors get back pretty fast, sometimes...less so. If you set out to comparison shop, allow some time (and in my case, try to balance repeated contact for info. without being a pest).

P.S.: Back in 2012, wwguy (Post #5) gave an account of a good budget dive package with Holiday Homes he was quite pleased with, so please don't get the idea I'm knocking them.
 
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drrich2

drrich2

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(The reason I would suggest you want to do boat dives is that's the only way to have access to Klein Bonaire dive spots, some of which are quite good)
A fair point. In 9 trips to Bonaire, I've got on a boat once...the one boat trip I saw for a 2-tank rather than 1-tank dive at Buddy Dive Resort that week. We hit Small Wall on the main island (like the Cliff, only bigger...which made no sense) and the Klein Bonaire site Mi Dushi. But I know boats take people to shore-accessible sites, too. If a boat committed in advance to specific sites, and offered 2 or 3 tank trips instead of 1-tankers, and those sites were all Klein or main island sites like Small Wall, Rappel or La Dania's Leap (haven't done the latter two but hear good things) or sites up in the park (I've only done Boka Slagbaai), I might consider an a la carte approach.

But bothering to be at the boat at a specific time with gear for one dive just to find out we're headed to the Hilma Hooker? Nah.
Two Solo divers can room together too...not all dives have to be in buddy teams.
I've been thinking about this since you mentioned it. A variation would be to join a group trip, accept a random roommate (like my live-aboard trips), but rent an automatic pickup truck separately for the freedom to go my own way. Tropical Car Rental has an automatic Ford Ranger with taxes and 'all risk plus' (is that CDW?) included for $55/day. So an extra $385 for a week, $770 for 2 weeks. Unless the other diver liked the idea of his own truck, too, so you could split the added cost. I don't recall if CDW insurance is included on the truck with the original package.

Seems most divers got for a week; finding someone willing to go 2 weeks, and Wed. - Wed. (missing part of 2 work weeks if employed) could be hard, but if it works out, nice. From your example:

Quick example: A one-week 1BR apartment for two people at Buddy Dive during High Season (like your examples) is $1471 including 6 boat dives, or just $1261 with no boat dives. That includes truck, Nitrox, full breakfast and being on the water with a great dive off the dock.

So $1,261 + $385 (extra pickup, automatic) = $1,646 including breakfast buffet and a nice house reef. Double it to $3,292 for 2 weeks. Some organized group trips offer to put more people in a room (if you travel alone, that means committing to sharing quarters with 2+ other people).

Good numbers to have, guys. Thanks.
 

scubadada

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A fair point. In 9 trips to Bonaire, I've got on a boat once...the one boat trip I saw for a 2-tank rather than 1-tank dive at Buddy Dive Resort that week. We hit Small Wall on the main island (like the Cliff, only bigger...which made no sense) and the Klein Bonaire site Mi Dushi. But I know boats take people to shore-accessible sites, too. If a boat committed in advance to specific sites, and offered 2 or 3 tank trips instead of 1-tankers, and those sites were all Klein or main island sites like Small Wall, Rappel or La Dania's Leap (haven't done the latter two but hear good things) or sites up in the park (I've only done Boka Slagbaai), I might consider an a la carte approach.

But bothering to be at the boat at a specific time with gear for one dive just to find out we're headed to the Hilma Hooker? Nah.
Hi Richard,

My wife and I take some morning Dive Friends boats from the Sand Dollar/Den Laman pier each trip we make. The morning boats are two tankers. They go to Klein Bonaire and the north sites that are not accessible from shore (La Dania's Leap, Rappel, Bloodlet, Country Garden, Bon Bini Na Cas, Kalli's Reef, Barcadera, and Small Wall). They do not go to any site accessible from shore. They generally ask the divers where they would like to go. Some good dives by boat only :)
 

NDL_Diver

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Hey Rich,

Just up the road from where you are staying is Bruce Bowker's Carib Inn. They do al la cart single boat dives for $25 a trip (one morning one afternoon). You don't need to stay there. They go to Klien and sites not accessible by shore. Always diver's choice. Wife and I are staying there 12 Feb to 6 March 2022.
 

DustyC

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Tropical Car Rental has an automatic Ford Ranger with taxes and 'all risk plus' (is that CDW?) included for $55/day. So an extra $385 for a week, $770 for 2 weeks.
Tropical car rental is the only business on Bonaire to ever have screwed me over. I had a jeep reserved with them for the trip I'm on right now. A month out, I checked their site for a friend and noticed the jeep was gone. So I emailed them. They'd sold it. I asked if they had another vehicle and they wouldn't even answer.
 
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drrich2

drrich2

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Tropical car rental is the only business on Bonaire to ever have screwed me over. I had a jeep reserved with them for the trip I'm on right now. A month out, I checked their site for a friend and noticed the jeep was gone. So I emailed them. They'd sold it. I asked if they had another vehicle and they wouldn't even answer.
Sorry to hear that. I hope things go on to work out. I mentioned them because they offer automatic trucks; I confirmed that AB Car Rental and Budget Bonaire do not offer automatic pickup trucks.

I was surprised when a Sand Dollar Bonaire staffer told me Avis doesn't offer any insurance to go to Washington Slagbaai Park.

For those of us who don't drive stick, it seems finding a provider can be a hassle. Anybody got a favorite rental car agency for automatic trucks?

Just up the road from where you are staying is Bruce Bowker's Carib Inn. They do al la cart single boat dives for $25 a trip (one morning one afternoon). You don't need to stay there. They go to Klien and sites not accessible by shore. Always diver's choice. Wife and I are staying there 12 Feb to 6 March 2022.
Thanks for the tip! Might come in handy. In years past, I read of Bruce Bowker's as a budget place to stay (but I don't think they offered nitrox back then?), and Bowker was the go-to guy for gear repair. Was sorry to read he died. It seems odd that Bruce Bowker's Carib Inn doesn't list package deals (with accommodations, dive package and rental truck, that I can see, anyway).
 

NDL_Diver

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Thanks for the tip! Might come in handy. In years past, I read of Bruce Bowker's as a budget place to stay (but I don't think they offered nitrox back then?), and Bowker was the go-to guy for gear repair. Was sorry to read he died. It seems odd that Bruce Bowker's Carib Inn doesn't list package deals (with accommodations, dive package and rental truck, that I can see, anyway).
They still don't have Nitrox (at least the last time I was there). If you want Nitrox you can bring your own tank. Seen that done often.
 

tursiops

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For those of us who don't drive stick, it seems finding a provider can be a hassle. Anybody got a favorite rental car agency for automatic trucks?
When I was there in August, I was told there were NO automatics for rent on the island, that they had all been sold to cover bills during the period of no renters...
 

DustyC

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Allin has automatic trail blazers. AB Shows automatic quad cabs as well.
 
https://www.shearwater.com/products/peregrine/

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