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SmarterTravel Spotlight: Courtyard Marriott Bonaire Dive Resort

Choosing a destination is the first of many vacation decisions, and those who choose to visit Bonaire will no doubt want a hotel that matches the Dutch-Caribbean island’s quirky, colorful, relaxing, and nature-centric vibe. Among the many Bonaire resorts in and around the capital of Kralendijk, the Courtyard Marriott Dive Resort Bonaire became the island’s first American property on the island in 2016.

Bonaire is a leading destination in ecotourism that attracts divers from across the globe thanks to its status as the oldest marine reserve in the world (its waters have been protected since 1979). So, it’s no surprise that many travelers choose to stay on this scuba-centric resort that’s still so much more than just its on-site dive program.

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The Location

Courtyard marriott bonaire pool.

This Courtyard Marriott Bonaire is in a popular resort area that’s just a few minutes (driving) from downtown Kralendijk and a stone’s throw from Flamingo International Airport. In fact, the airport is right next door—making arriving and departing extremely easy (air traffic here is minimal, so won’t interrupt your relaxation as much as you might think).

The property offers free shuttle service to downtown Kralendijk’s central retaurants, bars, and geleto shops, as well as the nearby airport—but it’s best to rent a car upon arrival so you can explore all the island’s dive sites, reserves, and beaches on your own. One of the few sandy beaches on the island (most are coral or rocky), Te Amo Beach, is also a few minutes away from the property and accessible via the free shuttle.

The Rooms

Courtyard marriott bonaire room

At 115 rooms, the Courtyard Marriott Dive Resort is one of the largest properties on the island. Floor level ‘Deluxe’ rooms are spacious, with walk-out seating areas where guests can dry out their scuba gear and swimsuits. For those wanting an upgrade or larger groups, there are brand-new renovated apartment-style suites on the property, which are about double the size of a standard room, fitting up to 12 guests via connecting larger rooms. These new suites aim to provide even more room for those traveling with scuba gear, and are ideal for families.

Dining

Courtyard marriott bonaire food.

Because Bonaire isn’t an all-inclusive-centric island (there’s plenty to do and eat downtown and beyond) the property has one restaurant: Mood. The Italian-focused menu has an eclectic array of options ranging from bruschetta and cheese plates to sushi and burgers. Mood serves both continental and hot breakfast daily (included in Dive Packages and some room rates) on an open-air patio bar overlooking the pool and surrounding lagoon. The bar is open between restaurant hours for drink service at the pool.

Amenities and Diving

Courtyard marriott bonaire

No need to find a scuba excursion company if you stay here—there’s a popular and high-rated dive program on-site: Dive Friends. The multi-location scuba company can work with any experience levels, from beginners looking to try shore diving or get certified, to experienced divers who want to name the reef they’d like to head for. Departures from the property’s dive shop make hopping on an early-morning departure a breeze, so you don’t have to worry about anything except grabbing your gear with the help of a professional.

Amenities include an infinity pool and hot tub, a small spa for relaxing add-on massages, a small outdoor children’s play area, and 24-hour extras like the lobby ‘market’ of necessities, dive shop lockers, and a fitness center. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable about the area; making the front desk or shuttle drivers a great resource for any questions you might have about the property or the island. The property keeps families and couples alike coming back for repeat visits because it’s a comfortable home base for exploring Bonaire.

Price and How to Book

The property is a mid-range hotel, with Stay and Dive packages starting from $161 including breakfast, unlimited shore dives, and a pick-up truck rental. Visa cardholders can get free breakfast included when they book directly with Marriott. Nightly rates for a ground-floor room (which has outdoor space through a slider door) start at $151, with low season being May through October and high season being November through April. The apartment-style suites, called “casitas”, will become available for booking in late 2019; rates are still to be determined.

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SmarterTravel’s Shannon McMahon stayed at the Courtyard Marriott Dive Resort Bonaire as a guest of the property. Follow her adventures on Instagram @shanmcmahon.

By Shannon McMahon

Editor Shannon McMahon is always planning her next trip and often writing in her travel journal. Follow her on Twitter @shanmcmahon_ and on Instagram @shanmcmahon.

Shannon joined SmarterTravel in 2015. A former news reporter, she's lived in the south of Spain, spotted elephants in Sri Lanka, gone spelunking in the Caribbean, hiked Jordan's Petra Basin, interviewed Sao Paulo's Michelin-Star chefs, and explored China via bullet train. Travel trends, news oddities, and her visits to up-and-coming destinations are some of her favorite things to write about.

Her stories have also appeared online on USA Today, The Sun, Huffington Post, Business Insider, blog.TripAdvisor.com, Boston.com, and more. Her educational background is in journalism, art history, gender studies, Spanish, and film. She's been quoted as an expert travel source by CNBC, People.com, MarketWatch, The Washington Post, USA Today, and more.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "Plenty of extra thick hair elastics. They tame my frizzy curls and come in handy in a surprising number of packing and hotel dilemmas."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "Climbing (yes, climbing, it's steep!) the Great Wall of China before it's gone."

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Email Shannon at smcmahon@smartertravel.com.

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