View of Gustavia harbor in St Barths

Can mere mortals visit St Barths? If so, what are some things to do in St Barths once you get there?

Cover: View of Gustavia Harbor in St Barths
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


View our St. Barths photo gallery


There was a period of time when we only went on beach vacations. Our work lives were crazy at the time, so we escaped to an island every couple of months, even if it were only for a few days. Consequently, we visited quite a few sun-kissed spots around the globe, and have continued to do so, even though our travel destinations are now a bit less one-dimensional.

Throughout our journeys to islands located in varying oceans and seas around the world, one has stood the test of time and travels for the top spot on our favorites list – St. Barths. Over the last two decades, we’ve visited the island countless times, from day trips to week-long excursions. We’ve arrived by plane, ferried over by boat, stayed in hotels, rented villas, and watched the sun set while sipping champagne on a boat – ok, it was a small yacht (stay long enough, and these things sometimes happen).

The incredibly beautiful Gouverneur Beach, Saint Barths
The incredibly beautiful Gouverneur Beach, Saint Barths
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Saint-Barthélemy, typically shortened to St. Barts or St. Barths, is, of course, the tiny gem in the Caribbean known for its celebrity visitors and conspicuous consumption. Like the Côte d’Azur, Bora Bora or Aspen, there’s a reason certain places are frequented by those with ample funds seeking a quiet retreat with posh accommodations and a bit of pampering. Extraordinary resorts and villas, stunning natural beauty, fabulous dining and libations, and the best in shopping usually top the “needs” list for these destinations – and are easily fulfilled in St. Barths.

Things to do in St Barths
Things to do in St Barths
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

But, can those not arriving to Gustavia harbor by yacht, still enjoy the 8 square miles of paradise without selling their house in advance to fund the adventure? Yes – it’s still not cheap, but there are a couple of ways to fit it into most travel budgets. Whether you sample the island on a day trip from St. Martin or visit during lower seasons when the hotel rates aren’t quite as outrageous, St. Barths deserves a place on your “where to visit list.”

Sun sets on the Saint Barths yachts
Sun sets on the Saint Barths yachts
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

When to visit St. Barths

As timing is closely linked to prices, your St. Barths’ dollars (yes, they accept U.S. currency) will go quite a bit further at certain times of the year. Of course, there are a few trade-offs for the lower prices – like the possibility of hurricanes.

Fort Oscar, Gustavia Peninsula, St. Barths
Fort Oscar, Gustavia Peninsula, St. Barths
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media

Mid-November to March

The highest season (i.e., costliest) to visit St. Barths is mid-November to March. Most websites will say December, but in the last few years, it seems to be creeping back to mid-November or at least around Thanksgiving. The weather is perfect during this time, St. Barths is a gorgeous alternative to the cold, and the prices are off the charts.

If want to go around December holidays, plan on booking months in advance for hotels and restaurants and you better have a high limit on your credit card. That said, carnival is really fun in St. Barths. The harbor fills with yachts and the entire island shuts down for a parade.

Day trips are a good bet for saving costs during winter months. While prices are high on all islands when it’s snowing in the northern hemisphere, they are exorbitant in St. Barths. A day trip from nearby from St. Maarten can save thousands of dollars and accomplish many of the same activities – just with you sleeping on a different island.

April and May

April to May is a good time to visit – the rain is only occasional and hotel rates start to drop.

June to late November 

Otherwise known in the Caribbean as hurricane season, prices are cheaper, but rain is more likely and your vacation could be interrupted by a hurricane. That said, historically, more hurricanes hit during August to October.

Days of the week

Most shops are closed in Gustavia on Sunday, so if shopping is on your agenda plan accordingly.

Getting to St. Barths

Gustaf III Airport, St. Barths
Gustaf III Airport, St. Barths
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media

Typically, the first step in getting to St. Barths is to get to St. Martin / St. Maarten, which is about 15 miles away. Numerous flights arrive daily to at Princess Juliana airport (airport code: SXM) from the United States, Europe, South America and other Caribbean islands. Once in St. Maarten (the airport is on the Dutch side of the island), there are two primary methods of getting to St. Barths.

Aeroport Gustave III, Saint Barths
Aeroport Gustave III, Saint Barths
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The first is by plane. Small commuter airlines deliver and return passengers daily via the short 10-minute ride between St. Maarten and St. Barths (Airport code: SBH).  A little pricey and a bit precarious, the landing at St. Barths can be an adventure unto itself, as the landing strip is short and requires special training for pilots.  A few commuter flights are also available from Antigua, St. Thomas and San Juan as well.

Plane taking off at St. Jean, St. Barths
Plane taking off at St. Jean, St. Barths
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media

The other option is by water, with the most common being the Great Bay Express ferry that leaves from Philipsburg in St. Maarten. Far more economical, the trip takes about 45 minutes, and you don’t have the added time of security and waiting at the airport.

Great Bay Express Ferry, St Maarten to St Barths
Great Bay Express Ferry, St Maarten to St Barths
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Luggage is no problem – it’s a common method of transportation for travelers between the islands. There are also a few other private charters and smaller ferries running from St. Martin / St. Maarten. For day trippers, the Great Bay Express has an option that leaves in the morning and returns in the evening, providing the option to explore St. Barths without paying the higher hotel rates found on St. Barths.

Luggage is fine on the ferry between St Maareten and Saint Barths
Luggage is fine on the ferry between St. Maarten/St. Martin and Saint Barths
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Upon arrival, whether by plane or boat, passengers must pass through customs. The airport is located at St. Jean and the ferries arrive in Gustavia. Taxis are available at both locations. Car rental locations are located at the airport, so those arriving by ferry and wanting to rent a car, need to cab over to the airport, which is about 5 or 10 minutes away. However, upon your return, most times the rental car company will transport you back to the ferry dock. For those staying on the island, the hotel will typically meet you at your point of arrival and provide transportation to the hotel.

When we first began going to St. Barths, Mini Mokes were prevalent on the island, followed by a period when Smart Cars were all the rage. Now though, everyone primarily gets around by regular cars and scooters.

Things to do in St. Barths

So, for the “Can I really afford St. Barths?” tally – the Great Bay Express is $80 RT from/to St. Maarten per person, a cab from the ferry port to the airport is about $10, and a one day car rental on St. Barths ran us $58 with tax. For our most recent experience, we did a day trip on a Sunday, so many businesses and shops were closed. Many day trippers don’t opt for the car rental – which I think is a mistake, unless you really can’t afford it. The only beach within easy walking distance from Gustavia is Shell Beach, which gets it name for the thousands of tiny shells that cover it. It’s small and nothing to write home about.

With a car, you can explore and, given it’s a tiny island, you can fit quite a bit into your day. Here are a few things that should be on your itinerary for the day….

Bask in the seclusion of Saline Beach

Sign at entrance to Saline beach, St. Barths
Things to do in St Barths: Go to Saline Beach
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media

Saline is a stunningly beautiful, long, undeveloped beach with a laid-back, isolated atmosphere. The beach is deep, with plenty of room to find a spot far enough away from the water to not be bothered by those taking a stroll near the water’s edge.

Climbing over the dunes at the entrance to Saline Beach in St. Barths
Climbing over the dunes at the entrance to Saline Beach in St. Barths
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media

While there is a parking lot at Saline, there are no facilities, so bring water and snacks. From the parking lot, it’s about a five-minute walk up and over the dunes to the beach. Although nudity is technically illegal in St. Barths, topless sunbathing is popular here and full nudity is common, especially on each end of the beach.

Saline beach, St. Barts
Saline Beach, St. Barths
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Languish over a luxurious lunch at St. Jean

St. Jean Beach, St. Barths
Things to do in St. Barths: Lunch at St. Jean Beach
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After a morning of reading and relaxing on the pristine sands of Saline, you’ll wan to head to St. Jean for a bit of nourishment.

Baie de St. Jean, Saint Barths
Baie de St. Jean, Saint Barths
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

There are a variety of restaurants available in St. Jean, both across the street and along the beach. From pizza and casual fare to restaurants where the cuisine is only rivaled by the view, St. Jean has a fairly good selection of dining choices. We like to slip into French mode when on the island and enjoy a long, luxurious lunch – and decided to splurge on the experience. One of our long-time, go-to spots is Eden Rock.

On the beach at Eden Rock, St. Barths
On the beach at Eden Rock, St. Barths
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media

A beautiful hotel, Eden Rock is perched on a rock overlooking the turquoise waters of St. Jean Bay. Constructed in the 1950’s, Eden Rock was the first hotel built on the island. Over the last 20 years, the hotel acquired adjacent properties and transformed into one of the most luxurious and diverse on the island with a variety of lodging types including standard rooms, cottages, suites, beach houses, and villas.

Sand Bar, Eden Rock, St. Barths
Sand Bar, Eden Rock, St. Barths
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media

We’ve stayed at Eden Rock and it is a beautiful resort in a fabulous location – but on this trip, we just opted for lunch, which set us back $135 + tip for two drinks and two sandwiches. Yep – a little on the insane side of pricing for a fish sandwich. But, we essentially had a few hours at a resort where standard rooms were going for over $1000 per night during the time we visited.

Lunch at Eden Rock, St. Barths
Lunch at Eden Rock, St. Barths
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media

Another beachside dining and drinking option at St. Jean is the famous Nikki Beach. If you plan to go, make reservations ahead of time and anticipate a price tag similar to Eden Rock. If the party scene is your thing, you’ll love it.

Dining, drinking, and watersports at St. Jean, Saint Barths
Dining, drinking, and watersports at St. Jean, Saint Barths
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Take a walk along St. Jean

Things to do in St. Barths: Take a walk along St. Jean Beach
Things to do in St. Barths: Take a walk along St. Jean Beach
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media

All beaches on St. Barths are public and free, so a walk along St. Jean won’t cost you a dime.

Located next to the airport on the Baie de St. Jean, the white sand beach curves around the bay and is home to an array of water activities. Snorkel in the calm waters near the shoreline or head further out for wind-surfing or surfing.

Boat at Eden Rock, Saint Barthélemy
Boat at Eden Rock, Saint Barthélemy
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media

Head over to Gouverneur

Sign at entrance to Gouverneur Beach, St. Barths
Things to do in St. Barths: Go to Gouverneur Beach
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media

After all the activity at St. Jean, it’s good to finish the afternoon with some quiet time on Gouverneur Beach.

Gouverneur Beach, St. Barths
Gouverneur Beach, St. Barths
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media

More remote, Gouverneur is a beautiful, serene beach with amazing views. Like Saline, Gouverneur can be reached by a paved road, has a parking lot, but does not have any facilities, so bring water, an umbrella and anything you wish to eat. Also like Saline, beach goers may opt for that full tan, going au natural.

Gouverneur Beach, Saint Barths
Gouverneur Beach, Saint Barths
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The drive to and from Gouverneur also yields some of the most spectacular views from the island, with a photo opportunity around each turn.

Overlooking Gouverneur Beach, St. Barths
Overlooking Gouverneur Beach, St. Barths
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Throw back a cold one at Le Select

Le Select, Gustavia, St Barths
Le Select, Gustavia, St Barths
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media

After dropping off our car at the airport, they brought us back to Gustavia and we decided to take a stroll around town.

The story has it that Jimmy Buffet, a frequent patron of Le Select back in the 1970’s, cut a deal with the establishment’s owner, Marius Stakelborough. In exchange for rights to use the “Cheeseburger in Paradise” line from Buffet’s famous song, Buffet would have his tab covered at the establishment for life. Over the years, Buffet has returned to the corner where thousands have downed a beer and burger, for an impromptu concert or an anniversary party at the bar on the quay, which has been in operation over 60 years. A great spot for people watching and enjoying a cool drink under the shade trees, Le Select is open Monday – Saturday.

Shopping in Gustavia

Shopping in St. Barths
Shopping in St. Barths
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media

A duty-free port, Gustavia is home to over 200 boutiques that line three streets in the quant village. While the names of luxury retailers range from Louis Vuitton and Bulgari to Cartier, Hermès and Chopard, many small shops offering beachwear, accessories, and t-shirts can be found as well. The shops are typically closed from noon to three but open again in the late afternoon until 7pm. Most high-end retailers are also closed on Sunday, but a few of the stores offering casual wear and t-shirt open in the late Sunday afternoon hours.

Saint Barths shopping
Saint Barths shopping
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Grab a drink and watch the sun set over the harbor

Saint Barths sunset
Saint Barths sunset
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

There are quite a few fabulous places to watch the sun set while on St. Barths, but we are always a fan of grabbing a cocktail and watching the boats return to the harbor as the sky fills with amazing hues of orange and purple.

Sunset, Gustavia Harbor, St. Barths
Sunset, Gustavia Harbor, St. Barths
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media

For those leaving the island, the ferry returns at dusk to whisk you back to St. Maarten. For those staying on, the island changes after sunset. The day trippers leave, the stores close and a quiet settles over the island as visitors enjoy casually elegant dinners, before retiring to their hotel or villa or opting for a little nightlife at one of the late night cocktail bars.

Harbor Station, Saint Barths
Harbor Station, Saint Barths
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

How much did that day in St. Barths cost?

Let’s tally up our one day in St. Barths. Even with our splurge lunch, we spent just over $400 for the two of us. If we had opted for a not-on-the beach pizza for lunch, we could have easily cut it to $300. On the other hand, as it was high-season, if we had stayed on the island even one night, it would have run well over $1000. So, for us, an enjoyable day on one of our favorite islands for a couple of hundred bucks a piece was well worth it.


Disclosure & Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

St Barths Harbor sunset
St Barths Harbor sunset
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures @Chasing Light Media
Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort pools, Curacao

Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort Curacao: A pleasantly unexpected diversion

Cover: Santa Barbara Beach &Golf Resort pools, Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


While island hopping in the Caribbean, we found ourselves in Aruba with an extra day before we were due in Bonaire. So, we did the logical thing – we decided to go to Curaçao!

Colorful buildings of Willemstad, Curaçao
Colorful buildings of Willemstad, Curaçao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With that, I kicked into overdrive finding all the spots we needed to cover in the 24 hours we’d be on the ground on our first visit back to Curaçao in over a decade. Following a quick 35-minute flight from Aruba that landed mid-day, our plan was to head to the hotel we’d found, drop the bags, and set out on a whirlwind visit to the island.

Arriving at the gate of the resort, we looked at each other and said, “Wow, this place is nice.” A change of plans was in the air.

Pools at Santa Barbara Beach Resort, Curacao
Pools at Santa Barbara Beach Resort, Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort Curacao

Fountains, Santa Barbara Beach Resort
Fountains, Santa Barbara Beach Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located on the southeast side of Curaçao, Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort Curacao is a fabulous resort with a great staff, a beautiful sprawling hotel, a spa, seven restaurants & bars, a golf course, a long private beach, three pools, a fitness center, two marinas, a dive and water sports center, and hiking trails.

White sand beach at Santa Barbara Beach Resort Curacao
White sand beach at Santa Barbara Beach Resort Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull , Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With 350 rooms and suites, there are numerous room options. In addition to standard room plans, the resort also offers various levels of inclusive plans including a bed and breakfast option, a plan that includes all meals and beverages, an activity plan that includes water sports, tennis and the kids’ club, and one that combines the meal and the activity plan.

Santa Barbara Resort lobby in Curacao
Santa Barbara Resort lobby in Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The rooms and suites

Guest room, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Guest room, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our room was a standard, garden view room. Decorated in upscale Caribbean with wood accents, the room was spacious and quiet, with a large, private balcony overlooking the garden.

The bath was modern, with plenty of towels and locally-sourced shampoo & conditioners supplemented with The Spa Collection toiletries. The room also had large closets, a large safe, a hair dryer, a coffee maker and plush bathrobes.

Guest room bath, Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort, Curacao
Guest room bath, Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort: The resort

Mango daiquiris at Splash pool bar, Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort, Curacao
Mango daiquiris at Splash pool bar, Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We did end up dropping our bags as soon as we checked in, but instead of roaming around the island, we headed straight out to the Splash pool bar, ordered a couple of mango daiquiris and some fish tacos, and lounged by the pool.

Santa Barbara Beach Resort pools, Curacao
Santa Barbara Beach Resort pools, Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With two large main pools and a third in the exclusive Sea Traditions area of the resort, there was plenty of space to relax and enjoy a Caribbean afternoon in the sun.

Pools at the Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Pools at the Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The beach

Standup paddle boarding in the beach lagoon, Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort in Curacao
Standup paddle boarding in the beach lagoon, Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort in Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Just steps from the Santa Barbara’s white-sand beach, we eventually vacated our poolside oasis and ventured out for a stroll along the water’s edge.

Wildlife at Santa Barbara Resort in Curacao
Wildlife at Santa Barbara Resort in Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our journey took us along the long private beach that borders the resort’s lagoon. Set against the natural backdrop of Curacao, the lagoon’s crystal clear waters are a tranquil spot for swimming or perhaps some standup paddle boarding.

Relaxing on the beach at Santa Barbara Beach Resort, Curacao
Relaxing on the beach at Santa Barbara Beach Resort, Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Finding a lounge chair and shady spot under an umbrella, we lingered, watching the sailboats and yachts pass and occasionally taking a dip in the warm Caribbean waters.

Marina activity at Santa Barbara Plantation, Curacao
Marina activity at Santa Barbara Plantation, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The marinas

The Marinas at Santa Barbara Plantation, Curacao
The Marinas at Santa Barbara Plantation, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The boat traffic captured our attention, so we decided to take a walk down the long, floating pier toward the marina.

The resort is actually home to two marinas, Barbara Beach Marina and Seru Boca Marina, enabling watercraft up to 180 feet to dock in the same waters where the Spanish Armada set down anchor years ago when they first discovered Curacao.

Marina, Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort, Curacao
Marina, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As the afternoon wound to an end, we headed back to our room to get ready for dinner and, upon reaching our room, we found a surprise welcome greeting from the hotel!

Welcome surprise from Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Welcome surprise from Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After devouring the sweet treat, we made our way to the lobby – a beautifully designed, open-air great room with magnificent views looking out over the property.

Lobby seating, Santa Barbara Beach Resort in Curacao
Lobby seating, Santa Barbara Beach Resort in Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We grabbed a couple of chairs, watched the sun disappear for the day, and then our thoughts turned to dinner and drinks.

Sunset, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Sunset, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The restaurants, bars, and cafés

Santa Barbara has several dining options on the property…

Splash Bar & Grill – near the pool, serving drinks and casual fare throughout the day and evening

Splash Bar and Grill, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Splash Bar and Grill, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Jun’s Sushi Bar – located in the great room, offering specialty cocktails and fresh sushi in a casual atmosphere

Shore – Caribbean fine dining with stunning views

Shore Restaurant, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Shore Restaurant, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Medi – a popular spot open for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Medi, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Medi, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Medi Veranda, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Medi Veranda, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We selected Medi for the evening and dined on the veranda, where we enjoyed a vast selection of buffet offerings.

The following morning, we had a lovely cappuccino and croissant at Bella Italia, which operates a small store and restaurant on site at the property.

Cappuccino at Bella Italia, Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort, Curacao
Cappuccino at Bella Italia, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Things to do at Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara has countless things to do, from aquatic adventures to hitting the links on one of the best courses in the Caribbean.

Water sports

Ocean kayaking, Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort, Curacao
Ocean kayaking, Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and snorkeling equipment can be rented at the Beach Activity Center near Splash Bar & Grill. Scuba diving and boating excursions with an outside tour operator can also be arranged at the hotel.

Watersports, Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort, Curacao
Watersports, Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Tennis

Santa Barbara’s Tafelberg Tennis Center features four Hydrogrid® clay courts which are automatically irrigated by an underground system. Court are available for play throughout the day and into the night, with lighted courts available for those who prefer to get their game in during cooler times of day.

Walking, hiking, jogging & biking trails

Stroll the walking paths of Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort, Curacao
Stroll the walking paths of Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort, Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With its sprawling design, there are plenty of walking paths throughout the resort, from oceanside walkways to strolls amidst the resort’s gorgeous landscaping.

Oceanside walking paths, Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort, Curacao
Oceanside walking paths, Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For those seeking a bit more adventure, Santa Barbara Plantation includes 2,000 acres of natural landscape beckoning to be roamed, with rock formations, caves, caverns, and incredible plants and flowers. Guided hikes provide the opportunity to learn more about the plantation and Curacao’s rich history or trail maps are available on the Santa Barbara website for those seeking some peaceful solitude.

Bikes are available for rent at the resort for use on the trails.

Bike rentals at Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort, Curacao
Bike rentals at Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Fitness center

Keeping up with your gym routine is a snap at the Santa Barbara, whose 24 hour fitness center has a wide selection of cardio equipment, free weights and other fitness equipment.

Fitness center, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Fitness center, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Atabei Spa

Atabei Spa, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Atabei Spa, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A tranquil day at the spa is a peaceful escape and time of rejuvenation. The Atebi Spa at the Santa Barbara offers a full menu of treatments, including massages, facials, and body wraps.

Rugged coastline area, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Rugged coastline area, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Old Quarry Golf Course

Santa Barbara Golf Resort's Old Quarry Golf Course
Santa Barbara Golf Resort’s Old Quarry Golf Course
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Designed by Pete Dye, Santa Barbara’s Old Quarry Golf Course delivers 18 holes of golfing paradise that has earned the distinction of being named one of Golf Week’s best courses in the Caribbean and Mexico.

18th hole, Old Quarry Golf Course, Santa Barbara Golf Resort, Curacao
18th hole, Old Quarry Golf Course, Santa Barbara Golf Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Named after the Santa Barbara plantation’s 19th-century limestone quarry, the par 72 golf course meanders through the rugged terrain, winding its way from the sea, through the hills and valleys near Tafelberg Mountain, and back to the Spanish Water Bay.

Santa Barbara Golf Resort's Old Quarry Golf Course in Curacao
Santa Barbara Golf Resort’s Old Quarry Golf Course in Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Santa Barbara Golf Resort's Old Quarry Golf Course Pro Shop
Santa Barbara Golf Resort’s Old Quarry Golf Course Pro Shop
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Tee times can be arranged at the Old Quarry Pro Shop, which also offers equipment rentals, lessons and has a great selection of golfing attire – worth a visit for golfers and non-golfers alike.

Old Quarry Golf Course at Santa Barbara Golf Resort, Curacao
Old Quarry Golf Course at Santa Barbara Golf Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Old Quarry Golf Course pro shop, Curaçao
Old Quarry Golf Course pro shop, Curaçao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Exploring Willemstad

Willemstad, Curaçao - awash in color
Willemstad, Curaçao – awash in color
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Curaçao sign, Willemstad
Curaçao sign, Willemstad
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We stopped by the charming capital of Curaçao, Willemstad, on the way to the airport.

Whether visiting for a morning or a full day, Willemstad’s markets, winding streets, narrow passageways and charming neighborhoods are fun to explore and a delight to photograph.

Willemstad, Curaçao colorful buildings
Willemstad, Curaçao colorful buildings
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Known for its brightly colored buildings that line the harbor, Willemstad’s two districts of Punda and Otrobanda are separated by the Sint Anna Bay, with the beautiful Queen Juliana Bridge spanning the bay and connecting Punda on the east side and Otrobanda on the west.

Queen Juliana Bridge, Willemstad, Curaçao
Queen Juliana Bridge, Willemstad, Curaçao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Getting to Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort

Lobby area, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Lobby area, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort is located at the Santa Barbara Plantation, Porta Blancu, Nieuwpoort about 40 minutes from the Curaçao airport.

Consider taking a shuttle, which can be arranged from the hotel website and is available 24 hours a day / 7 days a week. We rented a car and only used it getting to and from the airport, with only our stop in Willemstad.

Should you want to venture out during your stay for a day, cars can be rented at the hotel.

Beach lagoon, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Beach lagoon, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort and the island of Curaçao – Wow! We love you!

We loved our, albeit brief, time at Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort. The resort was beautiful, the food was delicious, and the staff at the Santa Barbara were exceptionally nice and helpful, from the restaurants to the bars to the pro shop.

 

“Curacao, Wow, We love you” sign
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We must agree with the sign that sits on the opposite side of the harbor across from the beach at Santa Barbara – “Curaçao. Wow! We love you.”

Evening at Santa Barbara Resort in Curacao
Evening at Santa Barbara Resort in Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The content & opinions expressed in our Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort Curacao review are entirely our own.We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, Fajardo, Puerto Rico

El Conquistador Resort Puerto Rico – a kid-friendly resort

Cover: El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Each time we fly into Puerto Rico, I marvel at how green it is. On approach, huge green hills suddenly appear out of the miles and miles of blue ocean. While we’d been to Puerto Rico many times, we’d never ventured outside of San Juan, typically staying in Old San Juan for a day or so in route to another Caribbean island.

San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

This time was different, as we were heading to Fajardo on the eastern coast of the island and our destination was the El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort.

El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort

El Conquistador Resort, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
El Conquistador, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A huge resort on a 300-foot bluff above the ocean, El Conquistador has it all: 23 restaurants, bars and cafés, a private water park, 7 pools, a spa, a golf course, a private island, shops, and five areas of hotel rooms across the El Conquistador, and the adjacent sister property, Las Casitas Village.

Las Casitas Village, El Conquistador, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Las Casitas Village, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

El Conquistador Resort: Getting there

We took advantage of the hotel’s shuttle from the airport ($78 pp roundtrip, reservations required). It saved us the car rental, the parking fee at the hotel and greatly simplified our arrival and departure. Since the resort is about an hour away from the hotel, we didn’t have to navigate across the island and, once we arrived at the hotel, we didn’t think about leaving once during our three day stay. However, if you want to venture out, car rentals are available at the hotel, in addition to day tour excursions.

View from lobby area, El Conquistador, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
View from lobby area, El Conquistador
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The rooms

We had an ocean view room in the Las Vistas wing, near the golf course & spa. Accented with tropical touches, the large, well-appointed room included a couch, desk, large flat-panel TV and refrigerator.

Ocean view room in the Las Vistas wing, El Conquistador Resort, Puerto Rico
Ocean view room in the Las Vistas wing, El Conquistador Resort, Puerto Rico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The bath also was large, with a nice sized closet and a large safe.

Bath, Las Vistas wing ocean view room, El Conquistador, Puerto Rico
Bath, Las Vistas wing ocean view room, El Conquistador, Puerto Rico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

From watching the resort quietly spring into action each morning as the sun began to rise, to the bustling activity at the main pool complex throughout the day, the view was spectacular.

Sunrise, El Conquistador, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Sunrise at El Conquistador
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

El Conquistador Resort Puerto Rico: The resort

Promenade level walkway, El Conquistador Resort, Puerto Rico
Promenade level walkway, El Conquistador Resort
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Strolling around the sprawling resort’s 500 acres is an activity in and of itself, with a different, stunning view waiting around every corner. Leading to the back of the resort, where the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea meet, the boutique-lined Promenade level walkway provides amazing photo opportunities.

View from Promenade level walkway, Puerto Rico
View from Promenade level walkway, Puerto Rico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

At the end of the promenade, a tram provides easy access to La Marina Village, where additional rooms, shops, restaurants, the water park and access to the ferry to Palomino Island are located.

El Conquistador Tram
El Conquistador Tram
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
La Marina Village
La Marina Village
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Not a resort that shuts down with the sun, the seven pools are open 24 hours a day.

Pools at night, El Conquistador
Pools at night, El Conquistador
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Sunset in Puerto Rico
Sunset in Puerto Rico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

El Conquistador: Activities

Palomino Island

Ferry to Palomino Island
Ferry to Palomino Island
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A short, ten-minute ride across waters once sailed by Spanish conquistadors, the resort’s private island, Palomino Island, awaits with a wide variety of activities.

Even the ride on the boats over to the island is a big adventure for children staying at the resort. Overheard on one of ferry rides to the island – the little girl sitting in front of us asked her mother, “So, where are the fairies?”

Palomino Island, Puerto Rico
Palomino Island, Puerto Rico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

From an array of water sports to horseback riding to shopping, or relaxing on the beach with a beverage in hand, Palomino Island is one of the resort’s most popular attractions.

Kim Hull at Palomino Island
Kim Hull at Palomino Island
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Coqui Water Park

Coqui Water Park
Coqui Water Park
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located at La Marina Village, Coqui Water Park is 2.4 acres of water adventures.

Coqui Water Park, El Conquistador Resort, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Coqui Water Park, El Conquistador Resort, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Named after Puerto Rico’s Coqui frogs, whose loud mating call can be heard each night, the Coqui Water Park has slides, a lazy river, pools, a restaurant & bar, and other fun activities, such as getting a temporary tattoo. Appropriately, I got a coqui frog (it lasted a little over a week).

Kim Hull getting a temporary tattoo
Kim Hull getting a temporary tattoo
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Coqui frog temporary tattoo
Coqui frog temporary tattoo
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Arthur Hills Golf Course

Arthur Hills Golf Course, Puerto Rico
Arthur Hills Golf Course, Puerto Rico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Designed by Arthur Hills, the El Conquistador golf course is an 18 hole, par 72 course with rolling terrain and beautiful rainforest views.

Want to improve your game while in paradise? Get in some practice at the three-tier driving range, improve your short game at the putting green and chipping area or take a private lesson from a PGA instructor. Equipment rentals and golf attire are available at the Golf & Tennis Pro Shop.

Arthur Hills Golf Course, El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Arthur Hills Golf Course, El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Tennis Center

Tennis Center, El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Tennis Center, El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Game, set, match. El Conquistador has seven tennis courts, four clay and three hard surface, for guests to enjoy. Equipment rentals and private lessons are available through the Golf & Tennis Pro Shop.

Waldorf Astoria Spa

Achieve tranquility and rejuvenation at the Waldorf Astoria Spa, which offers a wide range of spa treatments and packages, a traditional Japanese bath, and a fitness center. Located next to the spa, the Spa Labyrinth invites guests to take an introspective journey “to the balanced centered part of ourselves, leading us to peace and inner knowledge.”

Namaste.

Spa Labyrinth, El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Spa Labyrinth, El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

El Conquistador: The restaurants, bars, and cafés

With 23 restaurants, bars and cafés ranging from casual to elegant, there’s something for everyone and every taste. Our favorites…

Café Bella Vista. We ate at Café Bella Vista the night we arrived and returned multiple times. Excellent service by Ramón and the shrimp mofongo was amazing.

Starbucks. Located in the main lobby and one of the more economical spots at the resort, it was great to be able to pick up a chai in the morning or stop by for a cappuccino.

Starbucks, El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Starbucks, El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Las Brisas Restaurant. Albeit a bit pricey, Las Brisas serves an amazing breakfast buffet with a huge assortment of foods from hot to cold.

Las Brisas Restaurant, El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Las Brisas Restaurant, El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Bar at Chops Steakhouse. Always fans of eating at bars in upscale restaurants, we thoroughly enjoyed an evening at Chops. For beverages, the Lemongrass Drop (vodka, St. Germain, lemongrass syrup, fresh lemon juice, pineapple juice and mint leaves) and the Secret Kiss, basically a French Kiss with vodka, Chambord, and pineapple juice) were divine. The lobster bisque is killer and, of course the Waldorf Salad is a must. Great service and grown-up atmosphere.

Chops Steakhouse, El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Chops Steakhouse, El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

El Conquistador: Nearby things to do

View of El Yunque Rain Forest from El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
View of El Yunque Rain Forest from El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The only rain forest in the U.S. National Forest Service, El Yunque Rain Forest has 24 miles of hiking trails, allowing visitors to explore the exceptionally diverse forest with hundreds of plant and animal species.

Camuy River Cave Park, is one of the largest cave systems in the world. The network of limestone caves features an underground river, the Río Camuy.

One of Puerto Rico’s three Bioluminescent Bays is located near Fajardo. A Bio Bay contains micro-organisms which glow in the dark, emitting a blue light, when agitated. Kayak tours to observe the phenomenon are available most evenings.

Wildlife, El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Wildlife, El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Know before you go

Expansive lobby area, El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Expansive lobby area, El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Puerto Rico is a U.S Commonwealth. The currency is the U.S. dollar and U.S citizens do not need a passport.

El Conquistador is very family-oriented. With the water park and many children’s activities, El Conquistador is great for families.

WiFi. Internet access is available throughout the resort and is included in the resort fee.


Disclosure & disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own.We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Lobby, El Conquistador, Puerto Rico
Lobby, El Conquistador, Puerto Rico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire

Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba in Bonaire

Cover: Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Driving over on our way for a horse ride and swim at Rancho Washikemba in Bonaire, we had no idea what a cool morning we would experience.

Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We expected a horseback ride along a trail, followed by a brief swim, then a ride back to the stables. Boy, were we surprised!

Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rancho Washikemba in Bonaire offers a chance to ride a horse while the horse swims in a lagoon and it is truly an amazing experience.

Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rancho Washikemba

Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located on the rugged, eastern side of Bonaire in the Bara di Karta nature park, Rancho Washikemba is a horse ranch offering ride/swim tours, riding lessons, and children’s parties.

Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We arrived a little early to get a chance to meet the horses and the owners, Bregje and Marc. Originally from the Netherlands, they moved to Bonaire 12 years ago, built the ranch in 2010, and now operate the only official, fully licensed and certified horseback riding ranch on Bonaire.

Lady, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Lady, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Sophia First of July, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Sophia First of July, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Upon our arrival at the ranch, some of the horses were finishing their breakfast, amidst wandering chickens and the ranch dog, Vlek, while others were playing in the horse pen.

Vlek, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Vlek, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Blaze's Joseph, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Blaze’s Joseph, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The 10 horses at Rancho Washikemba live in cheerful bright yellow stables that were exceptionally clean and the horses are very well cared for by Bregje and Marc.

Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We’d never ridden a horse before and the only horses we’d been around were racehorses at the track so this would be a first experience.

Bregje and Marc had selected horses for us that fit our riding experience level, which obviously was none, and provided riding instructions, such as the distance to keep, how to tell them to turn, etc.

Kim on Blondy Studebaker, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Kim on Blondy Studebaker, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We then mounted up and headed out into the gorgeous Bonaire countryside.

Horseback riding with Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Horseback riding with Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Rancho Washikemba Lagoon Tour

We did the Lagoon Tour, which winds through the Bonaire backcountry to the eastern coastline and Lagoon Bay, then back to the ranch. Bregje led the way on Allreckdup, also known as Tango, an American Thoroughbred born in Maryland and now living in Caribbean paradise.

Bregje on Allwreckdup, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Bregje on Allwreckdup, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Along the way, Bregje would point out things along the trail and shared information about Bonaire and the Washikemba area.

Bregje on Allwreckdup, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Bregje on Allwreckdup, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

I rode Blondy Studebaker, who was born on Curacao and is a crossbred Paso Fino mare. Greg rode Poco Blonde Princess, an American Quarter Horse mare who was born in Florida.

Greg on Poco Blonde Princess, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Greg on Poco Blonde Princess, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We both took photos throughout the ride and both horses were very easy to ride and gentle, making a first time horseback riding adventure a breeze.

Greg on Poco Blonde Princess, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Greg on Poco Blonde Princess, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Along the way, we saw iguanas and a few goats, who generally kept a safe distance, but for the most part, it was a quiet ride through the peaceful, natural environment.

Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As we reached the top of a small hill, Lagoon Bay suddenly appeared – a very quiet, beautiful body of turquoise water rimmed with mangroves and rocky ledges.

Lagoon Bay, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Lagoon Bay, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We rode to a large rock formation next to the lagoon and dismounted.

Poco Blonde Princess, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Poco Blonde Princess, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Greg was staying on shore to capture shots of me riding in the water, so Bregje and I stripped down to our swimsuits. Marc, who had met us at the lagoon unsaddled Greg’s horse, Poco, who they told us loves the water and would be the horse I would ride into the lagoon.

Blondy Studebaker, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Blondy Studebaker, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Bregje led us into the water and told me to hold onto the mane. When we got into the water, she told me I’d feel Poco push off when she started swimming.

Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

It was truly spectacular! Poco loves it so much that when Bregje would try to lead her back out, she’d pull back and wanted to stay swimming.

Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After our swim, they saddled Poco back up, we got dressed, and continued our ride.

Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Greg on Poco Blonde Princess, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Greg on Poco Blonde Princess, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In the distance, the Spelonk, Lighthouse, which was built in 1910, stands regally above the rough waters and barren landscape.

Spelonk, Lighthouse, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Spelonk, Lighthouse, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After heading down the coastline, we turned inland, past the oldest tree on Bonaire, then by the rumored-to-be haunted, Plantation Washikemba, then continued on the trail back to the ranch.

Bara di Karta nature park, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Bara di Karta nature park, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Oldest tree on Bonaire, Bara di Karta nature park, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Oldest tree on Bonaire, Bara di Karta nature park, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Plantation Washikemba, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Plantation Washikemba, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Know before you go to Rancho Washikemba

Location: Rancho Washikemba is about 8 km /5 miles from Kralendijk on the eastern side of the island.

Booking a tour: Reservations are required and can be made by calling +599 788 8668 or +599 786 7321, via email at info@rancho-washikemba.com or by visiting the Rancho Washikemba website.

Horseback riding with Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Horseback riding with Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Attire: Wear a swimsuit under your clothes. The ride is more comfortable with long pants and closed-toe shoes, preferably with heavier soles to keep your feet from getting sore from the stirrups.

Sunscreen and a hat: The ride is fully exposed with no shade and the Bonaire sun is very hot, so sunscreen is a must and taking a hat and water are probably also a good idea.

Watch the video: Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba

Rancho Washikemba captured my ride/swim on video – see for yourself what a cool adventure swimming with horses is!

Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Rancho Washikemba for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Il Tigretto - Hank the Tank, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Il Tigretto – Hank the Tank, Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Harbour Village Beach Club, Bonaire

Bonaire – More than just a diving island

Cover: Relaxing in Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


The island of Bonaire is known for diving and, even though we’ve been to the Caribbean upwards of 30 or 40 times, we don’t dive so we’d never been to Bonaire. But, this year, we wanted to check it out and see what the island had to offer.

Known as one of the top spots in the world for diving, Bonaire is a paradise for those seeking to explore the colorful kaleidoscope that lives below the sea. For years, we’ve wondered if the “B” in the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao) was worth a visit for non-divers.

The answer – if you like a relaxed island with 22 quiet beaches, turquoise waters, fabulous resorts, and so many activities you can’t fit them all in during your visit – then, yes, Bonaire is a true resort vacation destination – above and below the water.

A Bonaire resort vacation

Harbour Village Beach Club, Bonaire
Harbour Village Beach Club, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We believe that the perfect resort vacation should include a fabulous hotel, some beach time, a bit of island exploration, a few local activities, and, of course, some island flavors in the form of food and drinks. Here’s how we put our Bonaire resort vacation together.

Bonaire iguanas
Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Bonaire: Where to stay

Harbour Village Beach Club, Bonaire
Harbour Village Beach Club, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Bonaire has a wide selection of hotel options, ranging from locations offering an intimate retreat to world-class resorts with full amenities. For our Bonaire resort vacation getaway, we stayed at the upper end of the luxury scale with a visit to the Harbour Village Beach Club.

Harbour Village Beach Club, Bonaire
Harbour Village Beach Club, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Situated on a private beach of powder white sand, Harbour Village Beach Club is the definition of beach resort vacation with luxury rooms and suites, a great restaurant and bar overlooking the water, a spa, marina, an attentive staff, and a long, private beach.

Our stay at Harbor Village Resort was fabulous – learn more about Harbour Village Resort and check out the photos »

Harbour Village Beach Club, Bonaire
Harbour Village Beach Club, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Bonaire: Things to do

Harbour Village Beach Club, Bonaire
Harbour Village Beach Club, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While it was quite tempting to laze away under the blue skies and warm Caribbean sun, we also wanted to fully experience Bonaire while on the island, so we pulled ourselves out of our beach chairs and headed out for a few cool adventures.

There’s no shortage of things to do on Bonaire – hiking, biking, horseback riding, sailing, snorkeling, canoeing, and, of course, diving.

Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba

Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Neither of us had ever ridden a horse before (yeah, who would have figured), so we decided a first-time horse riding experience on a Caribbean island was a good place to start.

What a fabulous morning with the folks at Rancho Washikemba! Experiencing Bonaire on horseback, including a swim through Lagoon Bay while on your horse, was simply amazing. Learn more about horseback riding and swimming with horses in Bonaire with Rancho Washikemba »

Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Rancho Washikemba, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Watching the Bonaire sun set with Compass Bonaire

Compass Bonaire Sunset Sail
Compass Bonaire Sunset Sail
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Always a fan of sailing, we next headed to Compass Bonaire for an afternoon sail and sunset dinner cruise.

Captain Wim and his crew entertain guests with an open bar, snorkeling, a delicious BBQ dinner and a beautiful Bonaire sunset. A sail with Compass Bonaire is not to be missed while visiting the island!

Learn more about Compass Bonaire’s snorkeling, sunset and dinner cruise »

Compass Bonaire Sunset Sail
Compass Bonaire Sunset Sail
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Exploring the island

After a leisurely breakfast, we set out on a drive to explore Bonaire.

To the north of the capital city of Kralendijk is a winding road along the coastline with numerous spots to park and take a short hike down to the water.

Bonaire
Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The clear waters provide ample opportunity to view a vast assortment of the colorful fish in the warm Caribbean.

Bonaire fish
Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Bonaire fish
Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

At the northern end of the island is Washington Slagbaai National Park and Brandaris, the highest peak on Bonaire at 241m / 784 ft, which provides beautiful views of the island. With multiple trails for hiking and mountain biking, Washington Slagbaai National Park has a wide variety of terrain ranging from flat roads near the coast to steep, rugged hills. Not for the faint of heart or out-of-shape, the temperatures can get very hot in the exposed environment and require lots of water and sunscreen.

Bonaire
Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Thousands of donkeys roam freely on the island of Bonaire. Originally brought to the island by the Spaniards in the 17 century to perform labor, the donkeys must fare for themselves, which can be difficult with many facing starvation, dehydration and the threat of being hit by cars.

Bonaire wild donkeys
Bonaire wild donkeys
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

When driving in Bonaire, be sure and use caution as you may round a curve only to find a couple of donkeys standing in the road. If you stop and roll down the window, don’t be surprised if they stick their head in the car – many are very accustomed to people, others are much shyer and may run to hide.

Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire has rescued over 600 donkeys and a visit to the sanctuary, which is located south of the airport, is a great way to spend a few hours up close with the donkeys, along with iguanas and tortoises. The sanctuary is open daily and can be toured by car, scooter, bike or on foot.

Bonaire wild donkeys
Bonaire wild donkeys
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In addition to donkeys, iguanas, goats, and other animals that call the island home can be seen scurrying across the road, so stay alert and keep your speed low when driving.

Bonaire iguanas
Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Bonaire iguanas
Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

On the east side of the island at Bara di Karta, several hiking and biking trails offer the chance to explore the rugged side of Bonaire. Like other trails on the island, the trails are very exposed and can take a toll in the hot sun, so early mornings with a good amount of water and sunscreen are a must.

Washikemba Hiking Trail, Bonaire
Washikemba Hiking Trail, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Flamingos can be spotted around the island and, on the south side of the island, The Pekelmeer Flamingo Sanctuary is one of only four areas in the world where flamingos breed.

Bonaire flamingos
Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Near the salt pans, the water appears pink from the many brine shrimp in the water. The brine shrimp are the flamingo’s meal of choice and are what gives flamingos their pink color.

The Pekelmeer Flamingo Sanctuary is home to thousand flamingos, but unfortunately, most of them cannot be seen from the road and the sanctuary is not open to the public. However, a few wandering flamingos may make their way to viewing distance on occasion.

Bonaire flamingos
Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Further down the road from the salt pans, are several groups of small, structures – one set yellow, one white, pinkish/red. We couldn’t figure out what these little buildings were for – they are near the sea turtle breeding beaches, so we thought maybe they’d built them for that.

When we returned to the hotel that evening, we asked the bartender, and he had one of the staff that had lived on the island his entire life tell us the history. The structures were slave houses. Five or ten people would call this “home” while they worked at the salt pans. Once a week, they would be allowed to walk to home to Rincon, about 35 km away, to see their families. The slaves, the majority of them government “owned”, were freed on 30 September 1862.

Bonaire slave huts
Bonaire slave huts
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Just a bit further down the road at the southern end of the island stands a beautiful lighthouse, Willemstoren, also known as Lacre Punt Light, which was built in 1837.

Willemstoren lighthouse, Bonaire
Willemstoren lighthouse, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Visiting Klein Bonaire

Klein Bonaire is an uninhabited island just off the west side of Bonaire and home to many snorkeling and diving sites. Klein Bonaire is about 800 meters / 1/2 mile from Bonaire at its closest point and can be accessed via boat, water taxi, sailing tours or kayak. As part of the Bonaire National Marine Park, Klein Bonaire is protected and subject to the park’s fees, rules, and usage regulations.

Bonaire
Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Snorkeling at Klein Bonaire, Bonaire
Snorkeling at Klein Bonaire, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

Bonaire: Know before you go

Languages: The official language is Dutch. English and Spanish are widely spoken on the island.

Climate: Bonaire’s average temperature is 83º F /30º C, with the trade winds keeping it quite comfortable. The average water temperature is 80° F. Located so close to the equator, the sun is very strong and sunscreen with a high SPF should be worn and reapplied frequently.

Currency: The U.S. dollar is Bonaire’s official currency.

Electricity: 127 volt, 50 cycle.

Rental cars and driving: Multiple car rental companies are located at the airport. Driving in Bonaire is on the right side of the road.


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Harbour Village Beach Club, Bonaire

Relax and recharge at Harbour Village Beach Club in Bonaire

Cover: Harbour Village Beach Club, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


When it’s time to relax and recharge, a fabulous resort is unquestionably needed. A resort that is tranquil, with an incredible ocean view and a quiet, private beach.

Harbour Village Beach Club beach, Bonaire
Harbour Village beach, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A resort with a full menu of spa services to truly get pampered.

he Spa at Harbour Village, Bonaire
The Spa at Harbour Village, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A resort with spacious, luxurious rooms and suites that beckon you to stop, unwind and enjoy.

Spacious, luxurious rooms and suites at Harbour Village
Spacious, luxurious rooms and suites at Harbour Village
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A resort with a tropical paradise for leisurely strolls.

Beautiful gardens at Harbour Village in Bonaire
Beautiful gardens at Harbour Village in Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

And, just in case you decide to get out of that beach chair or hammock, a resort on a casual, friendly island that has plenty of things to do.

Harbour Village Beach watersport
Harbour Village Beach watersports
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We found it…

Harbour Village Beach Club in Bonaire

Harbour Village Beach Club beach, Bonaire
Harbour Village Beach Club beach, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

When visiting an island, the resort can make or break your experience and, in this case, we credit Harbour Village with causing us to recently fall in love with Bonaire. Having been to Aruba or Curacao multiple times before, we’d never been to Bonaire and jumped at the chance when we were invited to explore a new Dutch Caribbean island and a luxury resort.

The top resort on Bonaire, the Harbour Village is filled with lush greenery and flowers and has a long, serene beach, all the amenities you could ever want or need, a fabulous restaurant and bar, and an attentive staff.

Harbour Village in Bonaire
Harbour Village in Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our suite in paradise

Our premier, oceanfront one bedroom suite was a huge, well-appointed apartment with a balcony overlooking the beach. It was simply outstanding.

Harbour Village Beach view suite
Harbour Village Beach view suite
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A romantic, netting-draped king size bed took center stage in the majestic bedroom retreat. With two closets, a desk, comfortable chair and ottoman, and a flat-screen TV, the bedroom was spacious, relaxing and well-equipped.

Romantic, netting-draped king size bed
Romantic, netting-draped king size bed
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The bath was huge with a large standalone shower with rainfall head, granite double vanity and a claw-footed tub that was perfect for leisurely bubble baths.

Large bath, Harbour Village, Bonaire
Large bath, Harbour Village, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Claw foot soaking tub, Harbour Village, Bonaire
Clawfoot soaking tub, Harbour Village, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With a stunning beach view, the living room was decorated with upscale Caribbean furnishings, including a couch, overstuffed chair and ottoman, dining table, and a cabinet housing another flat screen television. Sliding doors lead from the living room to a table and chairs on our private balcony overlooking the ocean.

Living room in suite at Harbor Village, Bonaire
Living room in suite at Harbor Village, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A fully-equipped kitchen with Bosch appliances and a full-sized refrigerator was more than ample to prepare a meal or snack and also contained a Nespresso coffee maker.

Kitchen in suite at Harbor Village, Bonaire
Kitchen in suite at Harbor Village, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Resort

Harbour Village's Luxurious garden
Harbour Village’s luxurious gardens
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We like to explore a hotel upon arrival and set out for a walk around Harbour Village’s four acres of grounds.

As the palm trees swayed and the ocean breeze cooled the afternoon, we strolled along the beach. Tranquil and serene, the private beach runs the length of the property, with La Balandra, the resort’s restaurant, on one end of the beach and Great Escapes, the resort’s water sports and dive center, on the opposite end.

The beach at Harbour Village in Bonaire
The beach at Harbour Village in Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
The Dive Shop, Harbour Village Beach Club, Bonaire
The Dive Shop, Harbour Village Beach Club, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Continuing to wander, we located the main swimming pool and then moved on to the hotel’s courtyards with their fountains, benches and lush landscaping. Every pathway was lined with meticulously maintained plants and flowers as we wound our way throughout the resort.

Swimming pool, Harbour Village Beach Club
Swimming pool, Harbour Village Beach Club
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Fountain, Harbour Village Beach Club, Bonaire
Fountain, Harbour Village Beach Club, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Tropical foliage
Tropical foliage
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located on the inner side of the resort, the Harbour Village Marina has 60 boat slips or docks for yachts and is a fun spot to sit and watch the marina activities.

Harbour Village Marina
Harbour Village Marina
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
The Marina at Harbour Village
The Marina at Harbour Village
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Harbour Village Marina Bonaire
Harbour Village Marina Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

La Balandra

La Balandra, Harbour Village Beach Club, Bonaire
La Balandra, Harbour Village Beach Club, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Styled like a ship, the resort’s bar and restaurant, La Balandra, overlooks the water and beach and serves great food and drinks. While at Harbour Village, we dined in the restaurant for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and had drinks in the bar on numerous occasions. The food was excellent and the staff was helpful and friendly.

How fresh was the catch of the day? Each morning during breakfast we’d learn what the fish for the daily special would be as it arrived and the chef would make his selection.

Catch of the day arrives at La Balandra
Catch of the day arrives at La Balandra
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
La Balandra, Harbour Village
La Balandra, Harbour Village
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

When evening rolled around, we’d return to La Balandra to discover how the daily special had been prepared and enjoy the delicacy by candlelight next to the sound of the waves gently lapping on the shore beside us.

Dining at La Balandra
Dining at La Balandra
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Dining on the beach at La Balandra
Dining on the beach at La Balandra
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Things to do

Water sports activities at Harbour Village Beach Club, Bonaire
Water sports activities at Harbour Village, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Watersports

Bonaire is watersports paradise and Harbour Village operates a water activities center on the property called Great Adventures Bonaire. A PADI, five-star Instructor Development dive center, Great Adventures offers an array of dive services as well as snorkeling equipment, underwater camera rentals, air-tank filling, kayaks, paddle boards and other related gear.

Great Adventures Bonaire
Great Adventures Bonaire 
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Kayaking at Harbour Village, Bonaire
Kayaking at Harbour Village, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Spa services

A day at the spa is a necessity to reach full rejuvenation and The Spa at Harbour Village offers a full menu of massage and salon treatments.

The Spa at Harbour Village
The Spa at Harbour Village
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Bird, fish, and animal watching

Bonaire wildlife
Bonaire wildlife
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While Bonaire’s underwater world is truly spectacular, for those that would prefer to experience Bonaire with a Piña Colada in hand, a vast assortment of fish, birds, and animals can be seen above ground at the resort – and many from a chair at the bar.

Crab, Bonaire
Crab, Bonaire Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Iguana, Bonaire
Iguana, Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Bird watching, Bonaire
Bird watching, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Colorful fish in Bonaire
Colorful fish in Bonaire
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The level of service, the quality of the accommodations and hotel amenities, and the tranquil environment easily make Harbour Village Beach Club the only place to stay in Bonaire.  The resort is a secluded paradise and, whether you dive or not, is a not-to-be-missed destination on its own.


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Harbour Village for hosting us as their guest. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Beach at Harbour Village Beach Club, Bonaire
Beach at Harbour Village Beach Club, Bonaire
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
St Martin

Exploring St Maarten / St Martin

Cover: St Martin
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


A favorite destination for visitors worldwide, St Maarten / St Martin is the smallest land space in the world shared by two countries.

Discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493 on Nov 11, St. Martin Day, Columbus named the island Isla de San Martín. During a time of frequent battles over colonial holdings by European nations, both the French and the Dutch found themselves occupying St Maarten / St Martin by the middle of the 1600s. How did the two countries end up sharing the 37 square mile island?

The Legend of the St Maarten / St Martin Border

St Martin
St Martin
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

According to legend, about 350 years ago, the French and the Dutch decided to draw a border between the two countries on the island they had chosen to share. To do so, they would hold a race by two men to determine where the border would be drawn.

Starting at the same point on the island, the French would walk north along the coastline and the Dutch would follow the coast to the south. When they met again after walking around the island, the two countries would draw a line across the island from the starting and end points, which would become the border.

Before departing, each group selected a beverage symbolic with their culture, with the French selecting wine and the Dutch selecting gin. Apparently, the wine had less of an effect on the performance of the French as the gin did on the Dutch, with the French ending up with 2/3 of the territory when the land grab race was finished.

The Treaty of Concordia, the oldest international treaty still in existence, made it official, with both sides agreeing to coexistence and the ability to move freely between the two sides. While the border survives to this day, it is only noted by a sign when crossing, with people moving freely between the two sides with no immigration or customs checkpoints.

St Maarten: The Dutch side

Philipsburg, St Maarten
Philipsburg, St Maarten
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The most Caribbean of the two sides, and definitely the more American-influenced, Sint Maarten, or St Maarten, became an independent country on 10 October 2010 but is still part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Philipsburg, St Maarten
Philipsburg, St Maarten
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Philipsburg, St Maarten
Philipsburg, St Maarten
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

St Maarten’s capital of Philipsburg is a bustling city located on the Great Bay, a huge harbor that is also a point of call for many of the cruise ships sailing in the Caribbean. Home to many duty-free shops along Front Street, Philipsburg is also situated on one of the longest beaches on the island, Great Bay Beach. With numerous bars, restaurants, and beach facilities, Great Bay Beach is a popular choice for visitors arriving via cruise ship.

Philipsburg, St Maarten
Philipsburg, St Maarten
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Also located within walking distance of Philipsburg and the cruise ship port is Bobby’s Marina.

Bobby's Marina, St Maarten
Bobby’s Marina, St Maarten
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Bobby's Marina, Philipsburg, St Maarten
Bobby’s Marina, Philipsburg, St Maarten
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A busy marina with a mini-mart, restaurants and shops, Bobby’s Marina is a departure point for boat charters and several day excursions, including the Great Express ferry to St Barths and the popular 12 Metre Sailing Regatta.

Great Bay Express Ferry, St Maarten to St Barths
Great Bay Express Ferry, St Maarten to St Barths
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Bobby's Marina, St Maarten
Bobby’s Marina, St Maarten
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For evening entertainment, numerous casinos and nightclubs can be found throughout the Dutch side of the island, keeping the Caribbean beat and the party going into the wee hours of the morning.

The Golden Casino, Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Philipsburg, St Maarten
The Golden Casino, Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Philipsburg, St Maarten
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The island’s interior is a mix of small towns, shopping areas, fast food restaurants, and businesses, networked together by good roads that wind through the hilly, green countryside. Although easy to navigate by car, allow extra time for traffic – at times it can take a good while to get a short distance on the busy, little island.

St Maarten / St Martin
St Maarten / St Martin
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Philipsburg, St Maarten
Philipsburg, St Maarten
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The main airport for St Maarten / St Martin, Princess Juliana Airport, is located north of Philipsburg near the popular Maho Beach area.  The airport is known for its low-flying jet landings just above the on-looking beachgoers.

Simpson Bay, the Caribbean’s largest lagoon, is a major port for mega-yachts and sailboat charters. Landlocked, the Simpson Bay Bridge, Simpson Bay Causeway Bridge and Sandy Ground Bridge provide access to Simpson Bay with drawbridge openings up to six times per day.

Oyster Pond Marina, Sint Maarten / St Martin
Oyster Pond Marina, Sint Maarten / St Martin
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

On the eastern side of the island, Oyster Pond is a marina situated directly on the Dutch-French border and was the starting point of the walk establishing the borders over three years ago. A laid-back area with restaurants, hotels, and charters leaving from the Oyster Pond Marina, Oyster Pond is a great place for a lunch or afternoon break while exploring the island.

Oyster Pond Marina, St Maarten / St Martin
Oyster Pond Marina, St Maarten / St Martin
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Oyster Pond Marina, St Maarten / St Martin
Oyster Pond Marina, St Maarten / St Martin
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

St Martin: The French side

In 2007, St Martin was separated from the overseas department of Guadeloupe and established as one of France’s overseas collectivities. St Martin is a part of the European Union.

Fort Louis, Marigot, St Martin
Fort Louis, Marigot, St Martin
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sitting on a hill above the capital city of Marigot, Fort Louis was built in 1789 to guard the stores of goods, such as salt and rum, that were traded from the Marigot Bay harbor.

Marigot’s harbor, which was the location of the finale of the 1997 Sandra Bullock movie, Speed II Cruise Control, is now a busy port with yachts, boats, and charters and ferries to Anguilla and other nearby islands – but, no cruise ship traffic.

Marigot, St Martin
Marigot, St Martin
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The absence of the daily influx of cruise ship tourists gives Marigot its slightly quieter atmosphere than Philipsburg, although it is still a lively city filled with shops, a market, restaurants, and businesses.

Marigot, St Martin
Marigot, St Martin
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With a French-Mediterranean slant to its Caribbean culture, Marigot and the French side of the island has a more reserved feel than its neighbor’s Caribbean party vibe.

To the east of Marigot is Grand Case, the culinary nucleus of the island. Referred to as the “Gourmet Capital of the Caribbean,” Grand Case’s row of restaurants are located steps from the sea, where the freshest of gourmet seafood can be enjoyed.

A quiet gem on the northeast tip of the island, Anse Marcel is home to a resort and marina. On a day spent roaming around the island, Anse Marcel is an excellent lunch spot with a fabulous view across the waters to the island of Anguilla.

Anse Marcel, St Martin
Anse Marcel, St Martin
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Ance Marsel, St Martin
Anse Marcel, St Martin
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Two beautiful spots for photographs are located near Anse Marcel. The first is at the top of the hill near Anse Marcel  (there’s a place to turn off and park).

St Martin
St Martin
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The second photo opportunity is to the south of Orient Beach, north of Oyster Pond, at the Mambo Snack Bar, where there’s an elevated platform for shots to both the north and south.

Mambo Snack Bar, St Martin
Mambo Snack Bar, St Martin
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
St Martin
St Martin
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Where to stay in St Maarten / St Martin

Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Philipsburg, St Maarten
Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Philipsburg, St Maarten
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With accommodation options including hotels of all sizes and styles, large resorts, and private villas, finding the right place for your St Maarten / St Martin stay can be a bit overwhelming. Finding a good resort in a good location can add hours of enjoyable time to your vacation, allowing for day trip adventures around the island, but not requiring you to leave the resort every day.

Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Philipsburg, St Maarten
Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

An all-inclusive resort also allows for unlimited food and drink, making vacation budget planning a much easier activity. The key to a good all-inclusive hotel is to find a resort with plenty of food and bar options. The Sonesta hotels on St Maarten are an excellent solution for a St Maarten / St Martin stay.

Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Philipsburg, St Maarten
Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort is located on the beautiful Great Bay, just a short walk to Philipsburg. With four bars, four restaurants and the ability to visit the sister all-inclusive resort, Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, and utilize the pools, restaurants, and bars there as well.

St Maarten / St Martin beaches

Containing 37 beaches on its 37 square miles, there’s a beach or two or three on the island for any mood.

Want to take a long walk on the beach? Orient Beach on the French side is two miles long and Great Bay Beach is over a mile of white sand luxury on the Dutch side.

Great Bay Beach, Philipsburg, St Maarten
Great Bay Beach, Philipsburg, St Maarten
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Not feeling like donning swimwear for the day? Orient has its very famous nude section and the cave and rock formations at the small, secluded Cupecoy Beach are also frequented by those seeking a full tan, however, topless sunbathing can be found on many of the island’s beaches (although not at most resorts).

Looking for a great beach bar? Stop by Sunset Bar and Grill at Maho Beach and watch the planes land at the airport while sipping a daiquiri or beer.

Want to play in the water? Many beaches have water sports providers offering snorkeling, scuba diving, kitesurfing, jet skiing, body boarding, windsurfing, water skiing, stand-up paddleboarding and more.

Dawn Beach, St Maarten
Dawn Beach, St Maarten
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

St Maarten / St Martin land activities

In addition to beach activities throughout the island, St Maarten / St Martin has numerous land activities as well.

Shop for fruits, vegetables, spices, crafts and local goods every day except Sunday at the Marigot Market.

Marigot market, St Martin
Marigot market, St Martin
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A hike or drive up to St Martin’s highest point, Pic Paradis, provides panoramic views of the island. At the foot of Pic Paradis, stop by Loterie Farm, a nature reserve with a cafe, bars, swimming pools, hiking, and zip-lining.

Take a tropical walk through a rainforest as butterflies from around the world fly about freely at the Butterfly Farm.

For some off-road fun, take an ATV quad tour to explore the island in the open air.  Be sure to bring sunscreen and, with St Maarten / St Martin’s traffic, an ATV tour will provide a safer, more enjoyable adventure than renting on your own.

St Maarten / St Martin land activities
St Maarten / St Martin land activities
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Know before you go

Languages: English, French, Dutch, Spanish and Papiamento

Currency: US Dollar, Netherlands Antilles Guilder or Florin (NAF), and the Euro

St Martin
St Martin
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Driving: On the right. Use caution, as goats, iguanas and other animals roam freely on the island.

Airports: Princess Juliana Airport (Dutch side) and L’Esperance Airport, Grand Case which is mostly used for inter-island destinations

Electricity: Dutch Side: 110 Volt / 60 Hz, French Side: 220 Volt / 60 Hz


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

St Martin
St Martin
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort

A gem of the Caribbean: Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort

Cover: Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


As I gazed out over St Maarten‘s Great Bay upon our arrival at the Sonesta’s Great Bay Beach Resort, I simply thought, “I can’t believe it’s been a decade since we’ve been to this beautiful island.”

With high hopes for a weekend on an island that had captured our hearts years before, we cooled off upon arrival with the welcome towels and glasses of champagne with which the hotel staff had welcomed us. Having been invited to check out the Sonesta Great Bay while we were in St Maarten, this was our first time visiting the resort and things were definitely off to a great start.

View from bar at Sonesta Great Bay Resort, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
View from bar at Sonesta Great Bay Resort, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort

Located within walking distance to Philipsburg on the Dutch side of St Maarten / St Martin, the Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort is an all-inclusive resort with spectacular views, fabulous food, and an amazing staff.

Lobby view, Sonesta Great Bay, Sint Maarten
Lobby view, Sonesta Great Bay, Sint Maarten
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

An escape unto itself, the Great Bay Beach Resort has three pools, a grand beach, a spa, a casino, four restaurants, four bars, activities throughout the day and evening and loads of comfortable seating throughout the hotel to find a quiet spot with a glass of wine and simply take it all in.

Beverages are includes at Sonesta Great Bay
Beverages are included at Sonesta Great Bay
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The rooms

The hotel has two buildings, The Flamboyant and the Miramar – each with a different feel, but both with stunning views.

The Miramar building, Sonesta Great Bay, Sint Maarten
The Miramar building, Sonesta Great Bay, Sint Maarten
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We stayed in the smaller, quieter Miramar building. A peaceful retreat from the Caribbean action, the room was large, with a big, comfortable bed covered in pristine, white linens. Eyeing the two big comfy chairs, we grabbed a couple of beers from the stocked refrigerator (replenished each day) and relaxed for a few minutes.

Guest room Sonesta Great Bay, Sint Maarten
Guest room Sonesta Great Bay, Sint Maarten
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The large bathroom had a corner tub and shower, Gilchrist & Soames toiletries, and plenty of fluffy, white towels.

Bathroom, Sonesta Great Bay
Bathroom, Sonesta Great Bay
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Stepping outside to our patio, with its teak table and chairs, the beautiful expanse of the calm, turquoise waters of Great Bay once again sprang into view.

Guest room patio, Sonesta Great Bay Resort, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
Guest room patio, Sonesta Great Bay Resort, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Each level of the Miramar building has a large terrace with lounge chairs – a perfect place for reading, catching some sun, and watching the cruise ships as they come and go from the St Maarten cruise port across the harbor. On the first level, accessed by stairs from the other levels, is a quiet pool and hot tub.

View of harbor at Sonesta Great Bay
View of harbor at Sonesta Great Bay
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Miramar buiding patios, Sonesta Great Bay
Miramar building patios, Sonesta Great Bay
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Miramar buiding pool, Sonesta Great Bay
Miramar building pool, Sonesta Great Bay
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We next decided to explore the hotel and headed over to the Flamboyant building to check it out. Located on the other side of the lobby, it is the largest of the buildings, with both island view and ocean view rooms. More bustling than the Miramar, the Flamboyant building is situated directly above the two main pools and beach.

Reaching around the water from the hotel to Philipsburg, where it is lined with shops, restaurants, and bars, Great Bay Beach is one of the longest on the island.

Great Bay Beach and the Sonesta Resort, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
Great Bay Beach and the Sonesta Resort, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Heading down to the first floor, we located the Serenity Spa. Offering a wide selection of relaxing and therapeutic options, services range from specialty massages to pedicures.

Serenity Spa, Sonesta, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
Serenity Spa, Sonesta, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Serenity Spa at the Sonesta Great Bay Sint Maarten
Serenity Spa at the Sonesta Great Bay Sint Maarten
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Next door, we stopped by the gift shop, where you can find just about anything you may need, then headed out to the pools just in time for a spectacular St Maarten sunset.

Sonesta Great Bay gift shop
Sonesta Great Bay gift shop
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Sunset views, St Maarten
Sunset views, St Maarten
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The restaurants and bars

Oceanside dining at Sonesta Great Bay Resort
Oceanside dining at Sonesta Great Bay Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

From casual dining to buffets to à la carte menus, Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort has something to satisfy every taste from breakfast to lunch, to dinner and snacks in between. And – it’s all included!

Any day that begins with a smiling face and the question, “Would you like a Mimosa or a Bloody Mary?” is my kind of day.

Mimosa or a Bloody Mary?
Mimosa or a Bloody Mary?
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Breakfast is a massive buffet spread at the Bay View Restaurant with fresh fruits, pastries, really good croissants, meats, cheeses, juices, custom omelets and made-to-order pancakes.

Breakfast buffet at the Bay View Restaurant, St Maarten
Breakfast buffet at the Bay View Restaurant, St Maarten
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Made to order breakfast at the Bay View Restaurant, St Maarten
Made to order breakfast at the Bay View Restaurant, St Maarten
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For lunch and munching throughout the day, choices are available all over the hotel from pizza to à la carte to the lunch buffet at Bay View.

Cocktail time! The Great Bay Beach Resort bars are pouring all day, evening, and night. As a Stoli girl, you can imagine my sheer joy when we sidled up to the lobby bar and behold, the choices were abundant, including multiple flavors of my favorite clear beverage.

Cocktails at Sonesta Great Bay, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
Cocktails at Sonesta Great Bay, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As the sun headed toward the horizon, the staff kicked into high gear at both Il Pescatore Seafood Restaurant and the Bay View Restaurant.

Edrick, Sonesta Great Bay Resort, Philipsburg, Sint Maarte
Edrick, Sonesta Great Bay Resort, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Il Pescatore, Sonesta Great Bay, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
Il Pescatore, Sonesta Great Bay, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Both choices are amazing. From à la carte seafood delicacies at Il Pescatore to another lavish display of goodness served against a backdrop of the twinkling lights of St Maarten, the food is fabulous and the service, beyond stellar.

Fresh grilled deliciousness under the stars in St Maarten
Freshly grilled deliciousness under the stars in St Maarten
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Desserts galore at Sonesta Great Bay, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
Desserts galore at Sonesta Great Bay, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The casino

Night view of Sonesta Great Bay in St Maarten
Night view of Sonesta Great Bay in St Maarten
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After dinner, coffee and a nightcap, if a bit of time spent playing some games of chance strikes your fancy, then a stop at The Golden Casino should be on the agenda. Located in the hotel lobby, the Golden Casino has over 110 slot machines, electronic blackjack, 3 card poker, ultimate Texas hold’em and roulette machines.

Golden Casino at the Sonesta, Philipsburg, St Maarten
Golden Casino at the Sonesta, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort staff

Our hopes for a fabulous St Maarten weekend were fully realized at the Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort – a fun, vibrant hotel with stunning views, fabulous food & drink and most of all, one of the best hotel staff we’ve met.

Vicky and Edrick, Sonesta Great Bay Resort, Philipsburg, St Maarten
Vicky and Edrick, Sonesta Great Bay Resort, Philipsburg, St Maarten
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Excellent staff at Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
Excellent staff at Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We met guests that have returned to Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort for decades and it is understandable. From Vicky and Edrick to Alexandre, to Rosalie, Rolf and the entire hotel team, everyone was helpful, polite, and always had a smile on their face – which turns a good hotel stay into a great and memorable one.

We can’t wait to return – and, this time we won’t wait a decade to come back!

Alexandre, Sonesta Great Bay, Philipsburg, St Maarten
Alexandre, Sonesta Great Bay, Philipsburg, St Maarten
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Sonesta Great Bay St Maarten
Sonesta Great Bay St Maarten
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort

Reservations & more informationSonesta Great Bay Beach Resort website

Location: 19 Little Bay Road, PO Box 910, Philipsburg, St Maarten

Design: Contemporary Caribbean

Rooms: 257 guest rooms and suites, 205 in the Flamboyant building and 52 in the Miramar building

Room amenities: Private balcony or terrace with table and chairs, Flat screen TV with US & international satellite channels, Direct dial telephone, Air-conditioning, Iron and ironing board, Coffee maker with coffee and tea, In-room safe, Radio/alarm clock, Hairdryer, Mini-fridge with water, beer and sodas (highest room categories also have spirits and beer)

Room amenities, Sonesta Great Bay, Philipsburg, St Maarten
Room amenities, Sonesta Great Bay, Philipsburg, St Maarten
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Toiletries: Gilchrist & Soames

Gilchrist & Soames toiletries, Sonesta, Philipsburg, St Maarten
Gilchrist & Soames toiletries, Sonesta, Philipsburg, St Maarten
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Hotel amenities: Champagne and cold towel check-in, Full breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks each day in any of the resort’s restaurants, Unlimited international and domestic premium beer, wine and spirits, fruit drinks and soft drinks in all bars, including the swim-up pool bar, Weekly manager’s cocktail party and beach dinner party, Fitness center, Guest pass to Sonesta Maho Beach Resort with complimentary use of our sister resort’s facilities, restaurants, bars and lounges, Optional butler service

Sonesta Great Bay Resort St Maarten
Sonesta Great Bay Resort St Maarten
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Activities: Three swimming pools and beach, The Golden Casino, Scheduled daytime activities like aerobics, bocce ball, billiards, board games, darts, ping-pong, snorkeling, tennis and water aerobics; Nightly theme parties, live entertainment, and outdoor movies, Staffed tour desk, Duty-free shopping in nearby Philipsburg

Activities at Sonesta Great Bay St Maarten
Activities at Sonesta Great Bay St Maarten
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Spa: Services include guavaberry and sugar body scrub, Sint Maarten island flow massage, Thermal stamp massage, Hanakasumi foot massage and more.

WiFi: Free

Restaurants & bars: Bay View Restaurant, Il Pescatore Seafood Restaurant, Pizzeria Capri, Water’s Edge Restaurant, Anchor Swim-Up Bar, Bay View Bar, Lobby Bar, The Living Room Bar & Lounge


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort for hosting us as their guest. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Exploring St Maarten
Exploring St Maarten
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Red Sail Sports, Aruba

Red Sail Sports Aruba

Cover: Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Gliding through the waters aboard a catamaran watching the golds and oranges fill the sky is about as perfect an ending to a day in Aruba as one can experience.

Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The heat gives way to a cool sundown breeze and the lights in the hotels along Palm Beach and Eagle Beach twinkle against the dusk sky. Clouds turn pink and yellow, matching the rum punch in your hand.

Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As the catamaran gently cuts through the water, the romance and relaxation of an evening at sea quietly encapsulate the boat as the day’s rays slowly disappear on the horizon.

Red Sail Sports Aruba Sunset Sail

Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

If I were to advise someone headed to Aruba on one not-to-be-missed activity to experience, it would be a sunset sail.

Firstmate Gerald Nicolaas, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Firstmate Gerald Nicolaas, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Always a fan of a boat ride with an open bar, watching the day wind down on a sunset cruise is both a beautiful and fun experience. And, our Aruban adventure outfitter of choice has long been Red Sail Sports Aruba.

Our typical Red Sail Sports Aruba Sunset Sail begins with a happy hour drink on the pier near the Hyatt where the boat departs.

Palm Beach, Aruba, Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Palm Beach, Aruba, Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Even if you aren’t sailing, this is a great spot to enjoy a happy hour beverage and watch the dive boats return and the crew set up the catamaran for the evening sail.

Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Firstmate Gerald Nicolaas, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Firstmate Gerald Nicolaas, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

When it was time to sail, we boarded the boat with the assistance of the crew. Our hosts for the evening were Firstmates Randy Commenencia and Gerald Nicolaas.

Firstmate Gerald Nicolaas, Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Firstmate Gerald Nicolaas, Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After some boat safety instructions, the bar opened, and Captain Darcy expertly maneuvered the catamaran away from the pier.

Firstmates Gerald Nicolaas and Randy Commenencia, Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
First mates Gerald Nicolaas and Randy Commenencia, Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Captain Darcy Tromp, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Captain Darcy Tromp, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The sails went up and off we went over the waters toward the waning sun.

Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Captain Darcy Tromp, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Captain Darcy Tromp, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One of the nicest parts of choosing a provider with a large catamaran is that there’s plenty of room for couples and small groups to find a spot on the boat and enjoy the stunning views.

Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In addition to pouring tasty libations, Firstmate Gerald periodically distributed an assortment of appetizers, stopping to chat with passengers as he did so.

Firstmate Gerald Nicolaas, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Firstmate Gerald Nicolaas, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As we reached the end of Eagle Beach, the sun was beginning to mellow.

Eagle Beach, Aruba
Eagle Beach, Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

By the time we neared the Aruba cruise port, it was nearly gone.

Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Under a moonlit sky, we turned to head back.

Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As darkness surrounded us and we sailed back to the pier, the music cranked up, the drinks continued to pour, and the dancing began, where Firstmate Randy showed us some of his moves on the dance floor.

Firstmate Randy Commenencia, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Firstmate Randy Commenencia, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The entire two-hour sail was perfect thanks to the beautiful surroundings, the large, clean Red Sail Sports catamaran, and the excellent crew.

Firstmate Gerald Nicolaas, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Firstmate Gerald Nicolaas, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Firstmate Randy Commenencia, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Firstmate Randy Commenencia, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sunset Sails last 2 hours and are available on Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm.

Red Sail Sports Aruba

Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Having provided water and land-based adventures to thousands of visitors for over 25 years, Red Sail Sports is the most experienced tour company on the island, with a wide selection of activities available from the adventurous to the relaxing.

In addition to the Sunset Sail, Red Sail Aruba offers…

Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Dive excursions for all skill levels, from beginner to expert, that provide opportunities to explore Aruba’s best dive locations. Red Sail Sports Aruba is a PADI 5 Star Dive Resort and operates dive programs aboard three custom-designed dive boats and, in addition to diving excursions, offers diving courses and night drives.

Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Catamaran sailing options that include snorkeling and dinner sails along Aruba’s beautiful coastline. Sails include hors-d’oeuvres, beverages and snorkeling equipment, where applicable.

Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Hoverboard – a surf board that is attached to a jetski that propels the hoverboard above the water’s surface. Operated by Red Sail Sports’ Hoverboard Certified Instructors, who communicate with hoverboard riders from the jetski during their ride. Some participant restrictions apply.

JETLEV – a water-propelled Jetpack, enabling riders to fly over the ocean up to 30 feet above the water. A flight assistant accompanies each JETLEV participant and some restrictions apply.

ATV Tours that explore Aruba’s north coast off-road in the open air with numerous stops on the rugged back roads.

Beach Tennis combines tennis, badminton and beach volleyball with players using purposely built paddles and a slightly depressurized tennis ball. Both court reservations and lessons are available through Red Sail Sports.

A variety of Jeep Safaris are offered in four-wheel drive Land Rovers to various points around the island.

Red Sail Sports Jeep Safari, Aruba
Red Sail Sports Jeep Safari, Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Tour Fofoti and Tour Kini Kini each provide an opportunity to explore Aruba in the comfort of an air-conditioned tour bus. Tour Kini Kini runs daily and Tour Fofoti is offered on Fridays.

Deep Sea Fishing excursions provide those wanting a chance to catch Tuna, Blue Marlin, Wahoo, Barracuda, Shark and Sail Fish a perfect day of fishing on the beautiful Aruba waters with a captain who knows where to find the biggest catches.

Learn Kite Surfing or Windsurfing in one of the best spots in the world. Aruba’s winds combined with the flat waters at Fisherman’s Huts. Swimming capability is required.

Hop on the Kukoo Kunuku buses for a pub crawl or dinner and nightlife tour aboard the colorful party buses.

Kukoo Kunuku, Aruba
Kukoo Kunuku, Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Mountain Biking in Aruba aboard Trek aluminum frame mountain bikes with front shock suspension. Helmet, non-alcoholic beverages and light snacks are included with the tour.

Learn more about these and more Red Sail Sports activities at the Red Sail Sports Aruba website or stop by one of their shops around Aruba.

Kim Hull, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Kim Hull, Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Red Sail Sports for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Kim and Greg Hull, Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Kim and Greg Hull, Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba

Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba, an Aruba boutique hotel

Cover: Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


We love boutique hotels done well. The seclusion, the personality, the charm – a great boutique hotel turns a hotel stay into a unique experience.

But, it’s funny, we haven’t found many good boutique hotels in the islands. We’ve found them in the French countryside, in small towns in Belgium, in ocean side getaways in California – but not in the Caribbean.

Boardwalk Hotel Aruba
Boardwalk Hotel Aruba, Palm Beach, Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

That changed recently when we arrived at the Boardwalk Small Hotel in Aruba – a boutique hotel that gets it so right. We’ve been to Aruba countless times and have stayed in most of the high-rises along Palm Beach. They are very nice, and Palm Beach in Aruba is one of the prettiest beaches on the planet, but it can be so touristy and busy.

The last time we came to Aruba we rented a private house. With a pool, palapas, and tons of room – it was pleasant but very isolated. This time we were looking for something secluded and relaxing – but still close to the beach, the restaurants, and the casinos. So, when Boardwalk Aruba asked us to stay with them, we decided it sounded just like what we were looking for and – it exceeded our expectations. Here’s why…

Poolside at Boardwalk Aruba
Poolside at Boardwalk Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A boutique hotel with a fabulous location in Aruba

Located across the street from the Ritz Carlton, the Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba is tucked away on a former coconut plantation that is lush, quiet and casual and only a three-minute walk to the beach.

Common areas, Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba
Common areas, Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

An oasis in the midst of the most desirable area of Aruba, we were instantly in love with the little jewel. As the wind rustled through the trees, the bright play of tropical colors served as a cheerful invitation to relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings at the Boardwalk.

Quiet pool at Boardwalk Hotel Aruba
Quiet pool at Boardwalk Hotel Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With 14 studio, one or two bedroom casitas, or apartments, the hotel is small enough to be charming but large enough to support hotel features – like maid service, breakfast delivered to your room, and a pool.

Boardwalk Aruba
Boardwalk Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our tropical casita

One bedroom casita at Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba
One bedroom casita at Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Upon entering our one bedroom casita, we both said the same thing – “It’s immaculate!” As 100+ nighters per year in hotels, we’ve seen the gamut of cleanliness from good to, well not so much, and the Boardwalk was the most pristine of them all.

Living area in one bedroom casita, Boardwalk Aruba
Living area in one bedroom casita, Boardwalk Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A beautiful combination of bright whites and warm colors, the decor is the definition of a tropical oasis. From the comfy, rattan couches to the plush, white bed linens on the cushy bed, every inch of the casita was well-thought out. The fully equipped kitchen included a microwave oven, blender, toaster, coffeemaker, and, inside the fridge was the most amazing iced tea.

Bedroom in one bedroom casita, Boardwalk Aruba
Bedroom in one bedroom casita, Boardwalk Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The bath was quite large with a walk-in rain shower, vessel sink, Aruba Aloe toiletries, and tons of storage.

Bathroom, Boardwalk Hotel Aruba
Bathroom, Boardwalk Hotel Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

It’s in the details

A peaceful retreat at Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba, Palm Beach, Aruba
A peaceful retreat at Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba, Palm Beach, Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As we continued to explore and discover, we found a cooler to take to the beach – and if we wanted, the hotel had snorkeling gear and beach chairs we could borrow. Additionally, fresh beach towels are delivered daily to your casita.

Fresh beach towels delivered daily at Boardwalk Aruba
Fresh beach towels delivered daily at Boardwalk Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

If heading to Palm Beach, Boardwalk Aruba hotel guests have free access to Moomba Beach Club, which includes the use of lounge chairs and discounts on the restaurant’s food offerings.

Then there’s the Treasure Box.

The Boardwalk Treasure Box
The Boardwalk Treasure Box
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Filled with suggestions for the best things to do in Aruba, the Treasure Box highlights activities and dining recommendations on the island. Each tip described in detail on laminated cards ranging from restaurants to yoga to beach tips.

Hammock on casita patio, Boardwalk Hotel Aruba, Palm Beach, Aruba
Hammock on casita patio, Boardwalk Hotel Aruba, Palm Beach, Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With a bottle of wine in hand and a couple of glasses from the kitchen, we next headed outside to our private patio with a hammock and teak patio furniture.

Patio time at Boardwalk Aruba, Palm Beach, Aruba
Patio time at Boardwalk Aruba, Palm Beach, Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One of the Boardwalk’s cats came by to say hello and, as we enjoyed the setting sun, the smoky fragrance of our neighbor’s barbecue was quite enticing. In addition to the full kitchen, each casita is equipped with a charcoal BBQ but we decided to just head across the street and enjoy a dinner at the Marriott, located next to the Ritz.

Arriving back at the hotel, we took a last stroll by the pool before turning in for the night.

Boardwalk Aruba, Palm Beach, Aruba
Boardwalk Aruba, Palm Beach, Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The best breakfast in Aruba

Breakfast delivered to your casita, Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba
Breakfast delivered to your casita, Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After a fabulous night’s rest, we awoke to enjoy breakfast delivered to our patio. From the multiple selections offered, we chose the local breakfast, which included a cappuccino, fruit smoothie of the day, pastries, home-made arepa (corn-based bread) with cheese, jam, butter and, since we don’t eat eggs, they substituted fruit and yogurt with granola. The entire breakfast was fresh and delicious – the yogurt was divine.

A quiet morning by the pool

Flowers, Boardwalk Aruba
Flowers, Boardwalk Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After breakfast, we spent some time wandering around the hotel grounds. Nestled amongst the tropical gardens are a quiet swimming pool and Jacuzzi with lounge chairs for those seeking a quiet spot to relax.

Common area seating, Boardwalk Hotel Aruba
Common area seating, Boardwalk Hotel Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Near the pool is a common area with couches and a hammock – it would be a great place for larger groups to gather and share the events of the day or just to spend some quiet time reading.

Stopping by the lobby, which is open daily from 9am to 5pm, except on Sundays, we found Kimberly and Stephanie, the Aruban-born sisters who discovered the property in 2008. Following a major renovation that transformed the hotel into the tropical oasis it now is, Kimberly, Stephanie, and their staff now manage the property and are on hand to dispense advice and suggestions on how to get the most out of a visit to the island.

Boardwalk Hotel Aruba lobby entrance
Boardwalk Hotel Aruba lobby entrance
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The two have truly created an exceptional boutique hotel. It’s no surprise they’ve been recognized by the New York Times and have also received TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Award as a 2015 Top 25 hotels in the Caribbean for service as well as the Certificate of Excellence from 2011-2015.

Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba

An exceptional boutique hotel in Aruba
An exceptional boutique hotel in Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Reservations & more information: Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba website

Location: Bakval 20, North, Palm Beach, Oranjestad, Aruba

Design: Tropical

Rooms: 14 guest rooms and casitas

Facilities: Pool, jacuzzi, complimentary Moomba Beach Club access, free use of snorkeling gear, coolers and beach chairs, Nespresso coffee and library in the lobby, pet-friendly

Casita amenities: Barbecue grill, hammock, daily beach towel refresh, breakfast service, daily housekeeping except on Sundays, daily newspaper,

WiFi and parking: Free


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Boardwalk Aruba for hosting us as their guest. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba entrance
Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba entrance
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba

Bubali Bliss Studios, an Aruba apartment hotel

Cover: Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


As more alternatives to traditional hotels have emerged over the last few years, travelers have more opportunities to design the type of vacation that suits their style – even for a beach vacation to Aruba. If a quiet, comfortable setting near the beach with more independence and space than a hotel room offers is what you are seeking, Bubali Bliss Studios delivers just that.

Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located in a what was formerly a large, private villa, Bubali Bliss Studios has 10 apartments ranging in size from studios to one bedroom, each unique in design and layout.

Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With a focus on providing an Aruban vacation stay in an excellent location, with the best value for the money, and in apartments with modern comforts and design, the Bubali Bliss Studios concept offers those travelers less dependent on full-service hotels a pleasant, spacious accommodation with a full kitchen and housekeeping every third day.

Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Bubali Bliss Studios: Hotel & self-check-in

Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Centrally located on the island of Aruba, the Bubali Bliss Studios apartments are tucked away in a laid-back, tropical setting just steps away from a grocery and shops and about 650 meters (under a half of a mile) from Eagle Beach.

Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

On a short street behind the Superfood Supermarket, the apartments sit behind a bright yellow, keyless entry gate. Bubali Bliss’ self-check-in provides flexibility and privacy, with the gate code, apartment door code, and a map of the property sent prior to arrival, making check-in easy and available at any time of arrival.

Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As guests arrive inside the gate, directions to the apartments are provided amidst the tropical greenery and landscaping.

Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Marcel, the manager of Bubali Bliss, is very helpful and on-site at the property Monday – Saturday from 9 am-11 am. A phone number is provided to guests for questions and emergencies at other times.

Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Marcel, Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Bubali Bliss Studios: The studios and apartments

Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Each apartment at Bubali Bliss Studios has a full-size kitchen, updated bathrooms, a safe, and an air-conditioned bedroom.

Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Decorated in white with bright color accents, the apartments are fresh and clean with a tropical flair.

Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The kitchen is ready-to-go for cooking with a refrigerator, coffee maker, microwave, 4-burner stove, sink, dishes, pots and pans, towels, knives, and utensils.

Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The bathrooms are modern and furnished with Aruba Aloe Toiletries and plenty of plush towels.

Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Deluxe studios have a living area separated from the bedroom area by a dividing wall and the one bedroom apartments have a living area with a sleeper sofa, flat screen TV, and dining area.

Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Studios deluxe and one-bedroom apartments open to a patio with an outdoor dining set via french doors.

Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While at Bubali Bliss, we stayed in a one bedroom apartment. The property was very quiet and peaceful. A walk across the street to the grocery yielded the ingredients for early evening refreshments that we enjoyed before heading out for an evening sail.

Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Returning later in the evening, we relaxed near the pool, taking in the Aruban sky as the wind gently rustled the trees.

Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Bubali Bliss Studios

Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Reservations & more information: Bubali Bliss Studios website

Location: Bubali 147, Eagle Beach, Aruba

Design: Tropical

Rooms: 10 studio, studio deluxe and one-bedroom apartments. Each room is unique in size and layout, so check the hotel website and/or give Marcel a call to discuss your needs prior to booking.

Facilities and amenities: Pool, fully furnished kitchen, housekeeping every third day, beach towels replaced every third day, air-conditioned bedroom, self-check-in, property secured with keyless entry, some units have patios shared with common area

WiFi and parking: Free


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Bubali Bliss for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Bubali Bliss Studios, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Aruba

Aruba – The most revisited island in the Caribbean

Cover: Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull

We’ve visited Aruba dozens of times over the years. Located 15 miles north of Venezuela, the little Dutch island that is part of the “ABC islands” of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao, is known for constant sunshine, strong east trade winds, and rugged island terrain.

What’s brought us back to Aruba so many times?

Aruba: One Happy Island

Eagle Beach, Aruba
Eagle Beach, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

According to the Aruba tourism authority, Aruba is the most re-visited destination in the Caribbean, with more than half of all visitors returning for another visit.

Strike up a conversation with most anyone along Palm or Eagle Beach and most will tell you how many times they have returned to the island – some of them visiting annually for decades. So, what brings them (and us) coming back?

Palm Beach, Aruba
Palm Beach, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Aruba has beautiful beaches, lots of things to do, casinos and great food, but, in all honesty, so do many islands. What’s the draw?

Aruba has some of the friendliest people you’ll meet. 108,000 people from over 90 nationalities call Aruba home and they always seem to have smiles on their faces and are ready to assist if possible. The island has had the motto “One Happy Island” as far as I can remember, and, while I am generally not a fan of slogans, it is a spot-on description of the culture.

Aruba
Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Aruba’s beautiful beaches

Palm Beach, Aruba
Palm Beach, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We’ve dipped our toes into the sand on more than a few beaches around the world, but some of the prettiest can be found on Aruba. With 18 beaches to choose from, a week on the island could be spent just visiting different beaches, but if you are going to narrow it down to three, here are our picks: Consistently named to numerous “top 10 beaches of the world lists,” Palm Beach is 2 miles of gorgeous white sand and the location of many of the large chain-brand, high-rise resorts.

Palm Beach. Consistently named to numerous “top 10 beaches of the world lists,” Palm Beach is 2 miles of gorgeous white sand and the location of many of the large chain-brand, high-rise resorts.

Palm Beach, Aruba
Palm Beach, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Eagle Beach is a delightfully wide expanse of soft, white sand, with a scattering of low-rise resorts lining the beach, plenty of parking, and some shaded picnic areas. Laid-back and with ample room to roam, Eagle Beach offers calm waters and a quieter, less crowded beach experience than its neighbor to the north, Palm Beach.

Eagle Beach, Aruba
Eagle Beach, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Known for its calm, clear water and vast reefs, Baby Beach is a preferred snorkeling spot on the island. A popular spot for families and locals, Baby Beach is located on the opposite side of the island from Palm Beach and has cabanas, picnic areas, and pristine, white sand.

Aruba hotels: Where to stay

Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba
Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We’ve stayed at many of the large hotels along Palm Beach in Aruba over the years. Large and glitzy, they are a hub of activity with casinos, restaurants and swim up bars. We have also rented a private house. Spacious, with a large private pool, the house was a nice but a bit too isolated.

For this trip, we sought accommodations somewhere in the middle of the two – peaceful, but close to the action, and we found a relaxing, tranquil environment, with spacious and inviting rooms in a tropical setting, that was close to a beach.

Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba
Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba, Palm Beach, Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba

Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba
Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A hidden treasure steps away from Palm Beach, Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba has 14 casitas, or vacation houses, each with fully equipped kitchens, modern baths, private patios and a swimming pool. Owned and operated by locals, it has the Aruban influence that caused us to fall in love with the island so long ago, while also delivering the comforts of a trendy, boutique hotel.

Aruba: Things to do on the water

It doesn’t take too long gazing at the beautiful water from the beach before you want to get out there and play in the Caribbean.

Aruba
Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull , Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As the windsurfing capital of the world, the waters near the shoreline are dotted with brightly colored wind and kite surfers sailing along in the ever-present trade winds.

The clear, pleasant Aruban waters also provide for a perfect snorkeling environment and a chance to discover the underwater world of the Caribbean. Popular snorkeling spots include the fish-filled waters of Catalina Bay and the shipwreck of the Antilla, a 400’ sunken German freighter that rests 400 feet below the sea, just north of Palm Beach.

Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For those wanting to explore the depths of the sea, Aruba is a diving paradise with more than 20 dive spots around the island, including the Antilla and the SS Pedernales, a tanker that was sunk by a German U-boat torpedo during World War II and now lies 25 feet below sea level off the shore near Palm Beach.

Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Looking for something a bit more casual on the water? Take a sail on a catamaran. Whether on a luncheon or dinner sail, a snorkel trip sail, or a sunset sail, gliding along the scenic Aruban coastline with a tropical drink in hand always makes for a memorable, relaxing experience.

Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Red Sail Sports, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While there are a multitude of water sports provider options in Aruba, we’ve always used Red Sail Sports for our fun on the water. Departing from a pier near the Hyatt on Palm Beach, Red Sail Sports offers diving excursions, diving courses for first-timers to advanced, deep-sea fishing tours, a variety of sailing options, and two of the newest watersports, hoverboard and JETLEV, which has you literally flying over the ocean, soaring up to 30 feet in the air.

Aruba: Things to do on land

Aruba
Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Aruba is just 19.6 miles long and 6 miles across at its widest point, but despite its small size, it has a wide assortment of activities and things to do on the island.

California Lighthouse, Aruba
California Lighthouse, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

On the northwestern tip of the island, the California Lighthouse is located in an area known as Hudishibana. Named after the S.S. California, which sunk in 1910, the California Lighthouse was originally built to warn ships as they approached Aruba’s rocky, coastline. Now a popular tourist attraction, the lighthouse provides great views of the island and Palm Beach.

California Lighthouse, Aruba
California Lighthouse, Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While exploring the island, be sure and stop to chat with locals and try some fresh coconut water.

Aruba
Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Aruba
Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Near the California Lighthouse is Tierra del Sol Resort and Country Club, home of the Robert Trent Jones II designed 18 hole course and a driving range, putting greens, chipping areas, and a golf shop.  The resort’s restaurant, Ventanas del Mar, is a beautiful location for dinner with both air-conditioned and outdoor dining options with panoramic views of the golf course and the ocean.

Tierra del Sol Resort and Country Club, Aruba
Tierra del Sol Resort and Country Club, Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The island’s first Roman Catholic Church, Chapel of Alto Vista, is a charming, little yellow church, originally built in 1750 and reconstructed in 1953.

Chapel of Alto Vista, Aruba
Chapel of Alto Vista, Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

White crosses line the road to the church, which sits on a hill above the northern shore, northeast of the town of Noord. Mass is held on Tuesdays at 5 pm but the chapel is open to visitors daily.

Chapel of Alto Vista, Aruba
Chapel of Alto Vista, Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Philips’ Animal Garden is a sanctuary for abused and abandoned animals with over 50 species of exotic animals from around the world. A great place to bring children, educational tours are offered daily with up-close interactions throughout the shelter and rehabilitation center.

Philip's Animal Garde, Noord, Aruba
Philip’s Animal Garde, Noord, Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Much of the east side of the island can only be reached off-road. One of the many ATV or jeep tours available is a great way to visit the attractions and have some fun exploring the rugged coastline.

Things to do in Aruba
Things to do in Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Things to do in Aruba
Things to do in Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Donkeys, iguanas, and goats roam freely on the island so stay alert when driving and keep your speed low.

Aruba
Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sadly, what was once one of the most popular destinations on the island, the Natural Bridge, collapsed in 2005. Created by crashing waves battering the limestone cliffs over thousands of years, several natural bridges still exist on the windward side of the island, including Baby Bridge near the remains of the Natural Bridge.

Baby Bridge, Aruba
Baby Bridge, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Aruban tradition says that stacking loose stones can make your wishes come true. While stacks of stones can be spotted all around the island, hundreds of stacks are located near Natural Bridge / Baby Bridge.

Baby Bridge, Aruba
Baby Bridge, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Simply find a few stones and make a wish as you place each rock on the stack.

Aruba
Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In 1824, a 12-year-old boy named Willem Rasmijn found gold on the island while herding his father’s sheep near Rooi Fluit. The discovery launched gold fever. In 1874, Aruba Island Gold Mining Company of London built the Bushiribana Gold Mill, which operated until World War I. The ruins are now a popular stop on the jeep routes, near the Natural Bridge.

Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins, Aruba
Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins, Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Nearly 90 donkeys have found a place to call home at the Aruba Donkey Sanctuary.

Aruba Donkey Sanctuary
Aruba Donkey Sanctuary
Santa Lucia, Sta Cruz, Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Founded in 1997, the Aruba Donkey Sanctuary is a non-profit facility completely run by volunteers committed to saving the donkeys. Families are invited to bring their children to learn about and participate in the care and feeding of the donkeys.

Aruba Donkey Sanctuary
Aruba Donkey Sanctuary
Santa Lucia, Sta Cruz, Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Seemingly out of place against the flat desert, the Ayo Rock Formations are a group of boulders located near the village of Ayo. A sacred site by the island’s early inhabitants, the formation is the site of petroglyphs, or rock drawings, dating back thousands of years.

Ayo Rock Formations, Aruba
Ayo Rock Formations, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Heading back to the opposite of the island, be sure to take time for a visit to the charming capital of Aruba, Oranjestad.

Oranjestad, Aruba
Oranjestad, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A colorful village built in the traditional style of Dutch colonial architecture, Oranjestad is home to numerous restaurants, bars, casinos and a vast array of shops with offerings ranging from designer clothing to jewelry to souvenirs.

Oranjestad, Aruba
Oranjestad, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
The Paddock, Oranjestad, Aruba
The Paddock, Oranjestad, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As evening rolls around, check out the Kukoo Kunuku – a bus offering several tours, including the popular Dinner & Nightlife Tour and the Caribbean Pub Crawl.

Kukoo Kunuku, Aruba
Kukoo Kunuku, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Aruba: Know before you go

Language: The official language is Dutch, the local language is Papiamento, and most Arubans speak English and Spanish as well.

Climate: While the trade wind breezes and average daytime temperatures of 82 degrees keep even the sunniest of days pleasant, Aruba is located very close to the equator and the sun is very strong. A high SPF sunscreen is recommended and should be reapplied often.

Aruba
Aruba
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Driving: While driving is on the right side of the road, Aruban road signs are different than in U.S. Additionally, roads can be quite slick following the occasional rain shower, so use caution.

Car rental: Numerous car company choices are available at the Aruba airport and also at many hotels if you just want a car for the day. We used Budget at the airport – which I would not recommend. Upon arrival, the wait for a car was over an hour. We drove 10 miles to our hotel, parked the car overnight, and came out to two flat tires the next morning. We called Budget and they charged us $20 to have someone bring a new tire and change the spare.

Currency: The official currency is the Aruban Florin but the US Dollar is widely accepted in stores and resorts.

Drinking: The water in Aruba is produced by a desalination plant located in Balashi and meets the highest quality of the World Health Organization, so drink up and stay hydrated. As far as those tropical cocktails, the legal drinking age in Aruba is 18.

Casinos: Casinos are located at many resorts and throughout the island. The legal gambling age is 18.

Palm Beach, Aruba
Palm Beach, Aruba
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Red Sail Sports Sunset Cruise, Aruba
Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media