The vast majority of Bonaire may be a divers’ paradise, but there’s still one spot where other interests reign supreme: Lac Bay, the turquoise jewel of Bonaire’s East Coast. Most of the action is on the West side, but Lac Bay and Sorobon Beach are the heart of the island’s windsurfing scene, diving’s popular runner-up for reigning watersport of Bonaire.
It’s a quiet little area. Two windsurfing schools, a mangrove tour operator, an office-free dive operator, a few villas marketed to windsurf nuts, and a single resort centered on wellness.
We made our way to Sorobon, the area’s lone resort, in order to wake up with some early morning yoga. Yoga is not all they have on offer — we also saw signs for pilates, TRX training, stand up paddle yoga and tours, outdoor massages in an open-air spa, and even painting workshops.
They had me at SUP yoga and art class, but Sorobon really knocked it out of the park with their version of beach chic. We had a brief but serious discussion about just tossing in the towel on the rest of our lives and renting a cabana here until the end of time.
Soon, it was time for class, and once again — it was my kind of studio. Kristin and I almost wept with envy when we realized that our yoga idol Rachel Brathen would be leading a retreat here later in the summer, and had left the island just days before we arrived (she lives on neighboring Aruba.)
After class, we hit the beach. You could wade for what felt like miles in these shallow waters, and we found ourselves wandering towards Jibe City, Sorobon’s neighbor and one of the two windsurfing schools/restaurants/bars in Lac Bay (the other, Bonaire Windsurf Place, was closed for the season).
Photo courtesy of Angie
Even if you’re not a windsurfer — I don’t think I can claim that title, despite my attempts to learn in Vietnam — Jibe City is a pretty darn cute place to hang out and grab lunch or a drink. We actually returned to the restaurant for lunch on a separate day (it’s a small island!) and so I can give it a personally endorsed two thumbs up.
Our wanderings eventually brought us over to an abandoned lifeguard station that I’d seen earlier on Instagram. I was obsessed with this dilapidated turquoise photoshoot prop, and the rest of the crew humored me as I threw my bag on the ground and started scaling it. Kristin wasn’t far behind, while Angie and Steph volunteered for ground crew (and had emergency services on speed dial, I’m sure.)
It was a perfect goodbye to a morning spent exploring one of Bonaire’s most beautiful corners.
Photo on left courtesy of Kristin
But we weren’t done with Lac Bay yet — we had one more East Side adventure to go. And that was tackling the advanced dive sites of the island’s windward side with the one and only operator who can get you there, East Coast Diving. They’re a fairly untraditional dive op, with no shop and no gear — you must bring all your own or rent from another facility, and they’ll meet you there with a pickup truck full of tanks and a Zodiac.
One of the things I loved about most of Bonaire’s dive sites were that they were both accessible to beginners and impressive to old hands. These, out of the dives I experienced, were the exception: I wouldn’t recommend them to new divers. But oh, were they worth the work to get there.
We arrived in the bay bright and early on our second attempt to get out on the boat — our first had been cancelled due to high winds. Thankfully, as it was our last available morning to dive before we entered the no-fly period (you can’t get on a plane within a certain number of hours of diving, depending on your dive depth and who you ask), we got the all clear. As we loaded our gear onto the Zodiac, we once again became giddy over heading out to what many claim is the best diving in Bonaire.
Photo courtesy of Kristin
The ride out to our first site was filled by an extremely thorough dive briefing from the divemaster, thorough to the point that I saw some of the more jittery divers onboard getting a little anxious. A reassuring pep talk and squeeze of the hand (from me, not the divemaster!) seemed to sort us out and soon everyone was smiles again as we got ready to go overboard.
Our first dive was a drift dive site along the cusp of the reef wall. Hans, our fearless leader, described it as “the morning commute” — we’d be swimming in one direction, with all the bay’s busy sea creatures flying right by us in the other direction. Sounded good to me!
Morning commute was right! Fish were flying at us fast. While it was an overcast day and we were diving deep — hence, not a lot of natural light to take beautiful photos — the amount of subjects were staggering. Turtles, bumphead parrotfish, moray eels the size of small children, and even an eagle ray in the distance.
(Pssst! Using a GoPro to shoot underwater? Check out Angie’s guide to doing just that.)
See me scrolling through my shots? Photo courtesy of Kristin
For the surface interval, we headed back to shore to change tanks and catch our collective breath before heading out again. While Lac Bay is almost glass-like, once you cross the cut and enter open ocean, the waves are intense. I admit that I do not love diving off a Zodiak. Apart from the slight benefit of making me feel like I’m an extra in a James Bond movie, it’s not the world’s most comfortable diving experience. I don’t often get seasick but this day pushed me to my limits. But sometimes in life, you’ve got to get a little uncomfortable to see the best stuff — right? That’s what I told myself while I closed my eyes and counted down the moment until I could descend below the surface swell.
When I opened them again, I was in one of Bonaire’s most magical places, a dive site called Turtle City. Don’t even bother trying to count the number of four-finned friends you’ll meet on this dive — you’ll quickly run out of both fingers and toes. While the turtles ranged from itty bitty to some of the biggest I’ve seen in my life (technical terms, clearly) they were pretty darn good at camouflaging. Hence, I was grateful to Hans for not just pointing them out but more or less stage managing the dive site by pushing each diver in the direction of their own turtle as we swam along, so everyone got the turtle time a shots they craved without overwhelming any one creature.
And nope, it wasn’t just turtles! I was overjoyed to snap a clear shot of an eagle ray that shot through, and to spend some time testing out my new camera functions with a patient lionfish and curious lobster.
As so much of a challenge as these dives were, they were absolutely worth it. Because so many of Bonaire’s dive sites are accessible from the shore and thus “free,” a two-tank dive with East Coast Divers is definitely a splurge. But a well spent one — if you’re going to do just one day of boat diving in Bonaire, this should be it.
Photo courtesy of Kristin
And don’t forget to factor in an afternoon afterwards at Lac Bay and Sorobon Beach! Whenever I make my way back to Bonaire, there’s a good chance this is where you’ll find me.
Would you be up for a day on Bonaire’s East Coast?
Many thanks to Bonaire Tourism for hosting me. As always, you receive my honest thoughts, full opinions and poorly written jokes regardless of who is footing the bill.
These have to be some of my absolute favorites of all your underwater photography — they’re magical! Especially love that shot of the turtle gliding over the reef. Will be definitely be checking out Angie’s GoPro guide, too!!
Thanks Katie! This is my favorite post from Bonaire — all the colors in Lac Bay had me swooning.
I’ve read all of your posts about Bonaire and I have to go! What time of year were you visiting?
We were there the last week of July. It was pretty windy but all over fantastic!
Bonaire looks better and better by the minute – kudos that you climbed up that turquoise wooden structure. Knowing myself I might’ve climbed up, but I would’ve never managed to climb down again. Also, gorgeous underwater photos as ever, Alex! Turtle City looks beautiful!
Thanks Dominique! Climbing down was definitely a lot harder than going up, ha ha. I was glad I had Kristin for moral support!
Its absolutely fabulous, I like that hut on the beach with a thatched roof, absolute hide-away just on the beach with a nice shade, who knows, you might fall in love with the sound of the waves. a perfect place for an afternoon nap
Afternoon naps — the best part of any vacation 🙂
Wow! THOSE VIBRANT COLORS! Looks like a beautiful spot to unwind. Thank you for posting.
I know! It felt like the world was in technicolor over there. I couldn’t get enough.
Postcard perfect. One thing missing is a hot, good looking guy appearing somewhere and u girls drool. Haa..
Who needs guys when you’ve got your girls? 😉
Absolutely LOVE that shot of the lionfish!
Must have been incredible to be surrounded by such an abundance of beautiful marine life xo
It was! Bonaire’s wild side delivered as promised…
Just what I need to see to create the sunshine on a grey english sunday! 🙂
I’ll be here all winter delivering virtual sunshine 😀
I love love your diving posts! Would you recommend Bonaire for brand new divers completing check out dives or are there better options? Better yet, when can I hire you for that? 😉
Ha, unfortunately I’m just a divemaster, not an instructor! Bonaire would be a great spot for check out dives as the conditions are very calm and the water gorgeous. I’d highly recommend VIP Divers for that — check out my post about them!
This looks like heaven and would make an incredible yoga retreat. LOVE Rachel, but I looked up the price of her retreat and about fell on the floor. 😉 I totally dig this mix of activities though. You’re really selling me on Bonaire!
Yeah, it is definitely a dream trip… one that might just have to stay in the dream 😀 But who knows, we could hit the lotto!
Yes!! Everything in this post sounds just perfect. How special to be amongst so many turtles at once! I got the opportunity to see a turtle laying eggs in Costa Rica, but I would love to see a turtle under less trying circumstances! (For the turtle that is..we were just standing around watching hahah) Gorgeous photos!
Yes, sea turtles are so awkward on land and so elegant underwater. It’s a blessing to see them on their turf, for sure!
Your Photos are amazing! Thanks so much for sharing!!
Thanks Dre! It wasn’t hard to take great ones in a place as beautiful as this!
Can’t believe I’m just now stumbling upon your blog! It’s incredible.
So excited you posted about Bonaire, as I’ll be headed down there for a week long dive trip in a few months. What was your favorite site?
Also,I’m curious about your underwater camera, there’s so many options out there and I’m overwhelmed at where to start. What kind of setup do you have?
Hey Kristen! Check out my obsessions page — there’s a whole big long list of my camera gear! I’d have to say my favorite dive site was Salt Pier. A classic! Wish I could have dove it over and over again.
Coming across this a while after you posted, but YES to East Coast Divers and Turtle City. It’s just amazing. We spent 10 days in Bonaire last year with out then-15-month old (used a local, awesome babysitter while diving) and I will be forever spoiled by the best diving out there: Bonaire
Wow Ashley I love that! Good for you for not letting anything stop you from traveling and diving 🙂 You rock! I can’t wait to get back to Bonaire.