Sleeping and Dining on Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean

Hotel Bellafonte

Bellafonte Hotel

The Bellafonte is an upscale boutique hotel with stunning ocean views and a pleasant lounging pier with steps down to the water. They are well set up for divers, offering 2 large sinks to wash up gear, a gear storage room and a relationship with VIP Diving offering on-site tanks if you sign up for VIP’s unlimited package.  Even though VIP was only a five minute drive away this proved to be a very nice convenience.

Hotel Bellafonte

The location, 2 minutes south of the airport, provides easy access to the southern dive sites on the island including the Salt Pier and the Hooker wreck dive. It’s about a 5 to 10 minute drive north into town where most of the restaurants are. Generally we would prefer to stay within walking distance to restaurants.

Bellafonte HotelBellafonte Hotel

We had a junior suite with a small living area and a very small balcony facing the sea, a well-equipped kitchenette and a quiet bedroom.

Bellafonte Hotel

The bed was very comfortable. The bathroom was small and ordinary with slow drains and basic amenities. There was a safe and hairdryer and the wifi worked well. I was disappointed in the lack of storage, i.e., no drawers for storing clothing, few hangers in the closet and no extra space in the bathroom.

During the first few days of our stay the mosquitos were a problem, especially at sunset and sunrise, meaning we could not have the doors to the balcony open to enjoy the sea air. There were no screens on the doors or windows. By the end of our week stay the number of mosquitos had greatly diminished, although I hesitate to say disappeared.

Staff is friendly and was very helpful in making dinner reservations and so forth.

It’s a nice set up for diving but in the future I would find a condo in town with better access to restaurants even though I would be giving up the lovely oceanfront.

Lunch

Julian’s Café and Restaurant

At 1:30 on a Wednesday afternoon when all the other restaurants on the main sea front drag were dead quiet Julian’s small terrace was full. The friendly owner asked us to wait 5 minutes after which we were seated.

Julian’s Café and Restaurant

The simple menu is posted on a board and includes basic proteins in plain and sandwich form served with fries.

Julian’s Café and Restaurant

The menu special includes a soft drink and desert for a set price. We ordered the fish sandwich and the steak sandwich cooked medium rare. Both were well executed – the meat cooked perfectly, bread soft and served with a green garlic sauce. The fries were fresh hot and crispy. The owner, a Dominican Republic native proud of the Presidente brand beer he serves, is efficient and friendly as he works the room. Not surprisingly this is a top rated place on Tripadvisor.

Windsock

Windsock

Windsock, half beach club / half restaurant, sits on a rocky shore next to the Bellafonte Hotel. Their “beach” with lounge chairs is a welcome feature on this mostly beachless island.  A ladder down to the sea aids divers, snorkelers or those just wanting a swim. Sip coffee, have lunch or dinner, enjoy a beer at sunset, but don’t forget the mosquito repellent.

Windsock

For lunch we tried the two daily specials. The pasta barracuda was a simple preparation with tomato, garlic and shallot.

Windsock

The fish and chips made with barracuda was fresh hot and served with coleslaw and three sauces. The fish in both dishes was cooked well.

El Mundo

El Mundo

This open-air terrace in the middle of town with an eclectic menu and friendly service offers well prepared dishes. We ate here twice for lunch and tried the classic hamburger and the fish wraps with Mexican flavors.

Karels Beach Bar

Bonaire Sleeping and Dining (1 of 1)-2.jpg

I don’t know where the beach is but the open-air terrace dining room is right on the water. If you don’t like direct sun be careful in the afternoon as the terrace faces west.

Karels Beach Bar

We tried the tuna sandwich and the fish burger, both served on a soft bun with hamburger fixings – onion, pickle, tomato – and fries. Good deal at $10.

Dinner

Brass Boer

Brass Boer

From the owners of the Netherland’s 3 Michelin stared restaurant De Librije, this high quality restaurant has an elegant yet understated vibe. Located on the property of the upscale Defins Beach Resort the terrace dining area has generously spaced tables overlooking sunset views of the sea. The seating area with a small settee and a high coffee table feels like relaxing in your living room rather than sitting in a restaurant. And relaxed you must be as service runs at a glacial pace. It took 40 minutes to get a martini. They had to send for it from the bar across the resort – a 2 minute walk. It took 3 hours in total for 3 small plates and one shared plate.

The menu is divided into a longish list of small plates and a short list of large shared plates. The server suggested we order 4 to 5 small plates each if that’s all you were going to have and 3 small plates if you are combining it with a plate to share. This is more than enough food. Too much, in fact, for smaller appetites.

We ordered:

Brass Boer

“On the beach” – oyster, foie gras, oloroso sherry

Brass Boer

Mackerel, salted yogurt, black garlic, pickles

Brass Boer

Neck of lamb, ox heart cabbage, garlic, cucumber with curry yogurt

Brass Boer

Whole snapper simmered on the bone in baking paper then glazed with “unagi” pak-choi and coriander

The food is exquisite, beautifully presented and just may be worth the wait. Each small plate was brought out individually with about a 30 minute wait in between. Flavors and textures were carefully balanced and a delight on the palate. The most intriguing dish was the “on the beach”, a morsel of foie gras shaped and painted to look like an oyster shell set in a “sandy” beach with sea foam (oyster jus) around it.

The main event, the whole snapper in paper, was not as artfully presented but perfectly executed none-the-less, fresh and well cooked in a unagi sauce with a side of noodles in a coconut sauce.

On this particular evening it was fairly windy and judging by the permanent lean of the palm trees toward the ocean this is not an uncommon occurrence. With the wind, the mosquitos were not too much of a problem but we did see a few about. We had also applied Deet before heading to the restaurant.

This is definitely a restaurant worth experiencing and not priced that much more than some of the other up-scale restaurants in town. I would suggest asking for quicker pacing if 30 minutes between courses is too slow for you.

Patagonia

I was hesitant to try this seemingly misplaced restaurant in downtown Kralendijk, but after looking at the menu and being assured that there would be fish choices for Don we got a table – inside because of the recent mosquito issues we’ve been having.

Although there isn’t much of the décor that suggests Patagonia or even Argentina for that matter it’s still a quaint chalet-like interior with a high wooden peaked ceiling and wood floors to match.

The menu has a good selection of meat options as you would expect from an Argentinian restaurant as well as several fish options.

Restaurant Patagonia

We started with ceviche served on a bed of shredded lettuce with some other vegies. It’s more of the true marinated-in-citrus type than the raw ceviche dishes we’ve tried lately in Chile.

Restaurant Patagonia

Don’s seafood pasta was a generous portion with large shrimp. Although tasty it was a tad overcooked.

Restaurant Patagonia

My half rack of lamb served with a choice of potato and a choice of sauce was tender and perfectly cooked the medium rare I had ordered.

The dining room was quiet when we arrived at 7:00 on a Tuesday evening, but after 8:00 all the outdoor tables were taken or saved for diners with reservations. I imagine the mosquitos abate after dark.

At Sea

At 7:30 on a Wednesday evening this downtown, up-scale restaurant was half full and stayed that way for the rest of the evening. (We’ve learned to start dinner after dark when the mosquitoes have calmed down.) Their pleasant outdoor terrace is surrounded by a flowering vine and soft lighting graces the generously spaced dark wood table tops.

The menu has a choice of regular starters and mains, a surprise tasting menu offer with 3, 4, 5, or 6 courses, and a 3 course set menu. We opted for the 4 course tasting menu – 2 starters, a main and desert. The pacing started quite slow, something like at Brass Boer. They first serve a snack of cassava chips, olives, and biscuit with sauce followed by an amuse bouche – this evening a pumpkin soup with coconut flakes – and bread before the first starter which arrived an hour into the meal. Just when we thought this meal would take forever they asked us how long we wanted to wait between courses and the pacing was sped up to our liking.

4 Course Tasting Menu

At Sea Restaurant

Steak tartar with Asian flavors – “refried beans” pickled carrot, powdered veal jus, sesame cracker. The powdered veal jus was too salty for my tastes.

At Sea Restaurant

Smoked blue marlin, fennel 3 ways – cream, salad with seeds and a too salty relish – and orange gel.

At Sea Restaurant

Barracuda with onion 3 ways – cream, relish, and onion ring – peas and another fava type bean, shrimp, and a too sagey stuffing type morsel.

At Sea Restaurant

Desert – artfully presented flavorful dollops of blueberry, citrus, licorice, meringue and vanilla ice cream.

Over all the courses were beautifully presented but they tended to overreach with flavor combinations that were too complicated and did not marry well. Too ambitious for a less skilled chef. The best starter, the smoked marlin, was also the simplest.

Service was friendly and efficient.

This meal was nearly as expensive as Brass Boer. If you are going to splurge go there if you can handle the ultra-slow pacing.

It Rains Fishes

Their covered open air-terrace overlooking the harbor is brightly lit with well-spaced tables and an upscale yet casual atmosphere. The menu includes simple fish and meat dishes as well as more elaborate and inventive dishes.

The amuse bouche was a dorade sashimi with wasabi served in a shot glass.

It Rains Fishes

For a starter we tried the tuna sashimi served at room temperature with a horseradish mayo, ginger, seaweed salad and sesame cracker. Very fresh fish.

It Rains Fishes

The catch of the day was a choice of red snapper or barracuda with a choice of salad, vegies or French fries.

It Rains Fishes

The salad was nicely done and included pickled bits, nuts, vegies and mixed greens. Don ordered the bouillabaisse as a main – a bowl of rich broth (too salty for my tastes) with bits of shrimp and fish. Although we were warned by the server, it was really too small for a main unless you are not very hungry.

Friendly and efficient service.

Italy in the World

Italy in the World

This small friendly place is highly rated on TripAdvisor. The building houses a small Italian grocery and deli of imported products with a cozy 5 table dining room attached. The dining room is more of a tasting room with floor to ceiling shelves of wine bottles. Service is authentically Italian and welcoming.

The simple menu includes mostly starters and fresh homemade pastas, most priced just under $30, served in a deep bowl and generous enough for a main.

Italy in the World

We started with the carpaccio, a classic combo of parmesan cheese, arugula and an excellent quality beef and

Italy in the World

the smoked blue marlin with capers, diced tomato and lettuce – nicely seasoned and lighter on flavor than that served at At Sea on a previous evening.

Italy in the World

For pasta we tried the mushroom tagliatelle. Although great pasta the dish was short on mushroom flavor. The sauce was not really a tomato sauce per say but rather a mushroom sauce with a dash of tomato paste.

Italy in the World

The lobster and truffle tagliatelle special had lots of lobster and balanced flavors except for the truffles which were lost in the mix. Priced at $48.

The recommended wine – we were looking for a light red – a Rosso Bruno by Fruscalzo Venizie was excellent.

Italy in the World

Excellent classic tiramisu for dessert.

It was a lovely, fun evening. We were the first to arrive at 7:30 on a Friday evening with a reservation. Only 2 out of the other 4 tables were occupied when we left at 9:00.

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Bonaire, Review of VIP Diving

August 18-25, 2018

Andrea I

VIP Diving was recommended to us by our dive shop at home. Overall we were very happy with the services they provided. Before our trip we arranged a package including two guided dives (refresher course of sorts), the buoyancy course which entailed a full day of instruction and two dives, equipment rental – BCDs, shorty wet suites and weights, and unlimited tanks. They were very responsive providing us detailed answers to our inquiries.

We had the same instructor, Ron, for both days. He was professional and friendly. On the first day of refresher dives he did not provide much overt diving instruction but rather observed what we were doing and offered minor tips and answered questions. We dove the Salt Pier and Bari Reef.

For the PADI Buoyancy course, we were given a booklet the afternoon before  to read and answer questions, including a test at the back of the book. It took us about an hour and half to complete. The day of the course we watched a video covering the same material and went over any questions that we had answered incorrectly.

We then did two dives, Invisibles and Tori’s Reef, where we first determined proper weighting and then practiced buoyancy control i.e, maintain a position in the water using only your breath including as we did a mask clearing exercise. After the exercises it became a normal guided dive on which we were encouraged to practice buoyancy in different positions to better observe the marine life.

An additional advantage of a guided dive is the guide’s ability to spot marine life. With Ron we saw sea turtles and an octopus swimming at the Salt Pier and found another octopus under a morning block and moray eels at Bari Reef.

Everyone we encountered in the dive shop was friendly and attentive and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend their services.

 

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Diving Bonaire: Taking your skills to the next level

August 18-25, 2018

Bari Reef

Spotted Moray Eel at Bari Reef

My goals were simple: become comfortable as an independent diver, i.e., just Don and me and no guide, and start experimenting with underwater photography. Bonaire, with an abundance of easy shore diving and marine life, proved to be a great destination for honing our skills.

Before Bonaire I had 15 dives logged, the last one nearly two years ago. I felt that I had forgotten most of the skills I had learned. I found an old PADI Open Water Manual and we practiced some of the basic skills in my brother’s pool. This little refresher gave me confidence that my general skills were still there.

On Bonaire we arranged with VIP Diving (see the following post for a review) for two guided dives on the first day followed by the PADI buoyancy course on day 2. The first day was meant to be a refresher course of sorts and to get to know the local reefs. The second day was to work on buoyancy skills which are critical for good photography.

By day three we were ready to conquer the reefs on our own. We would have 4 days of independent diving. My one concern was being able to navigate our way back to the starting point of our dive. Ron, our guide at VIP, assured me that this was easy. Just follow the reef in one direction, note the time and head back for the same amount of time. If the current throws you off a bit off you’ll still be able to see your truck on the shore. This turned out to work surprisingly well.

The next level of complexity was adding the underwater camera. I had played with an Olympus TG-4 waterproof camera on some previous dives but was limited by the camera to 40 feet, which is really too shallow for scuba. I decided to add the underwater case and flash to the system for greater flexibility. Of course now I had more to think about, managing a camera plus maintaining proper buoyancy and everything else. As I got more comfortable underwater each dive became more fun as I could focus more on what I was seeing while maintaining a safe dive, i.e. watching dive time, depth, air and so forth.

As I mentioned before buoyancy skills are critical for photography. Controlling your depth and stillness in the water by moderating your breathing is what will get you closer and at the right level for that great shot.

Overall I’m happy with the progress I have made but still have a lot to work on. Continued practice will be key in maintaining and improving both diving and photography skills.

Dive Sites

As I am still relatively new to diving I don’t see as much difference between dive sites as someone with greater experience will. I noticed that by the end of the week I was becoming aware of the differences; types of coral, steepness of the bottom, how much sand, marine life and so forth. My favorite site was Bari Reef where we saw the spotted moray eel and where we had seen 2 more on our guided dive the first day.

 8/21 Bachelor’s Beach (two dives)

Bachelor's BeachBachelor's Beach

8/22 Salt Pier

Salt PierSalt PierSalt PierSalt PierSalt Pier

8/23 Bari Reef (two dives)

Bari ReefBari ReefBari ReefBari ReefBari ReefBari ReefBari ReefBari ReefBari ReefBari ReefBari ReefBari ReefBari ReefBari Reef

8/24 Andrea I

Andrea IAndrea IAndrea IAndrea IAndrea IAndrea I

8/24 From the Bellafonte Hotel Pier (about Corporal Meiss)

Pier at Hotel BellafontePier at Hotel BellafontePier at Hotel BellafontePier at Hotel BellafontePier at Hotel BellafontePier at Hotel BellafontePier at Hotel BellafontePier at Hotel BellafontePier at Hotel BellafontePier at Hotel BellafontePier at Hotel BellafontePier at Hotel Bellafonte

Rental Equipment

We had rented a truck from Hertz as we were quoted a better price than from the folks at VIP Diving.

We have our own, masks, fins, dive computer, regulator with pressure gage and booties.

The rest of the gear that we needed – tanks, weights, BCD and shorty wetsuits – we rented from VIP diving.

Camera Equipment

I decided on the Olympus TG-5 with the PT-058 case and a UFL-3 strobe. Note that you will also have to purchase a fiber optic cable and an arm to attach the flash to the camera case. For my first underwater system I liked the idea that the camera itself was actually waterproof and I’m not putting an expensive SLR at risk while I’m learning about maintaining an underwater camera case.

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Uncorked Wine Tours, Santiago, Chile

March 23, 2018

Written by Don

Uncorked Wine Tours

Bodegas RE

Wanting to learn a little more about the important Chilean wine industry we decided on a tour of the Casablanca Valley. The valley lies about an hour west of Santiago on the way to Valparaiso and is notable for the marine air that both cools the valley and blankets it with fog most mornings.

Its development as a wine producer has been fairly recent – within the last 20 years – and complicated by pretty regular frosts during the spring and a lack of water. Nevertheless, it now produces some of Chile’s best white wines and a growing portfolio of cool weather reds.

The van from Uncorked Wine Tours arrived at our hotel within 30 seconds of the appointed 8:40 pick-up time. Our guide for the day, Andrea, greeted us and helped stow our luggage as they were going to drop us at the airport on the way back home at the end of the day. We introduced ourselves to the young American/French couple already in the van and headed for the Casablanca Valley.

Bodegas RE

Bodegas RE

Our first stop was Bodegas RE, a very small operation by Chilean standards that focuses on archaic production methods and unconventional wines.  We were handed off to the enthusiastic Nicole, who works for the winery, and she led us on a 30 minute tour of their operations.

Bodegas RE

The winery makes extensive use of 80-140 year old clay amphorae such as were used in the earliest days of Chilean wine production, as well as modern day concrete versions of these same vessels made in a much larger scale. The grapes are crushed and left to macerate in these vessels for several weeks before being transferred to oak barrels for aging.

Bodegas RE

One supposed advantage of this approach is that it requires minimal intervention as the shape of the amphorae promotes a natural mixing action as the fermentation progresses. It isn’t necessary to punch down the “cap” or pump the juice over the must since nature takes care of all that.

Bodegas RE produces unusual blends, including a Chardonnay/Pinot Noir mix, designed to mimic champagne without the bubbles, and a Cabernet/Cinsault blend that supposedly expresses the terroir of the valley.

Bodegas RE

We also looked in on a storage area where they were aging various fruit liquors. This consisted of shelves stacked with large clear glass jars filled with fruit and grain alcohol. The fruit soaks for several years until maximum flavor has been extracted and then the liquor is slightly sweetened with a simple syrup. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to taste any of the result but the whole operation had a charming homemade feel.

Bodegas RE

In the tasting that followed the tour we sampled four of their wines along with a selection of local olives, cheese, bread and their house-pressed olive oil. The wines were all good but their production is very limited and they seem to be more of an experimental/novelty operation than a commercial winery.

Loma Larga

Our next stop was Loma Larga which offered a very different experience. It is a medium scale, family owned winery that makes single variety wines and specializes in cool weather reds – somewhat an oddity for this valley.

Loma Larga

Unlike Bodegas RE this is a thoroughly modern operation with a contemporary production facility filled with gleaming stainless steel vats and an atmospheric cellar stacked with French oak barrels.

Loma Larga

Like most Chilean producers the bulk of their wine is exported and they produce and market their wines based on what sells in the US and other foreign markets.

Loma Larga

Irene, the young French woman who led the tour, was very knowledgeable and had an obvious passion for the place.  She also presided over the tasting of four of their wines. Again, the wines were good but it was also interesting to see how familiar varieties like Malbec can take on a very different character when grown in a different environment.

House Casa del Vino

Our last visit was to House Casa del Vino where we had lunch with wine pairings in their spacious, open restaurant. While elegantly presented, portions were on the skimpy side and the quality was good but not outstanding. We started with a small Chilean sea bass empañada of sorts that lacked flavor. The tuna ceviche was nicely done with fresh salmon.

House Casa del Vino

The squid ink risotto, one of Deb’s favorite dishes, was flavorful but a bit runny, again not extraordinary.

House Casa del Vino

The lamb cutlets with a carrot puree was the most flavorful dish. A nicely done passion fruit crème brûlée for dessert.

House Casa del Vino

A brief visit to their cellar followed lunch.

Over all the tour was very well thought out and professionally done. Each of the wineries was trying for a different result and each had their own spin on the Chilean wine making experience. The contrast between them was enlightening and we surprisingly saw and learned things we hadn’t encountered at any of the other wineries we’ve visited in the past.

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Sleeping and Dining in Santiago, Chile

I traveled through Santiago four times during my six weeks in Chile and Argentina in February-March of 2018, but having visited Santiago on previous trips we did not spend much time in the city. On our first stay we slept in the artsy Barrio Bella Vista near La Chascona, one of Pablo Nerudo’s playful residences. The next two times we stayed at the airport between domestic connections. On our last visit we stayed at a boutique hotel in Providencia.

Hotel Le Rêve

March 22

Hotel Le Reve

The stylish 28 room boutique hotel is located on a charming street in the heart of Providenica with quality restaurants within walking distance. Housed in a beautiful French style town house with ivy covered exterior walls, the place oozes elegance. We didn’t have a lot of time to experience many of their services such as an honor bar with snacks available in the lounge and more snacks available in the kitchen until midnight. They also have a lovely back patio.

Hotel Le Reve

Our room was upgraded to a suite, a true suite with a small sitting room with a couch and desk and a full sized bedroom down the hall with a comfortable bed.

Hotel Le Reve

Everything tastefully decorated as a French town house should be. The large bathroom had an oversized vanity and a separate toilet room. Amenities included a safe, minibar, hairdryer, etc. The towels were plush and sheets soft.

Hotel Le Reve

The breakfast buffet set up in the lounge has an extensive selection of hot and cold items, not as large as at the big business hotels, they only have 28 guest rooms, but still a variety of breads, cheese, cold cuts including smoked fish, cereal and yogurt, cut fruit, pastries, excellent scrambled eggs, crispy bacon (a rarity) and brewed coffee with hot milk available.

Hotel Le Reve

A scrumptious way to start or end a South American adventure, the stay was exactly as advertised, a quality French inspired experience in the heart of Santiago.

Diner at Aqui Esta Coco in Providencia

March 22

The high-end Chilean seafood restaurant was recommended by the desk clerk at Le Reve. The main dining room has super high ceilings and is decorated in a nautical theme with dark woods. There is also an upstairs area which I did not see and the cellar below.

While the cellar has a cozy vibe with stone walls room and dusty bottles of wine behind grates, they cram too many tables into the small space, making it much too loud. In addition they have some of the most ill-conceived dining tables imaginable with legs angled together in front of the diner such that the only comfortable way to sit was the man spread. Not great for women, especially in a dress.

The hotel made a 9PM reservation for us and the restaurant was busy when we arrived on the Thursday evening. Service was leisurely.  The appetizer came quickly followed by a nice pause before the mains.

Restaurant Aqui Esta Coco

We started with pisco sours and the ceviche Enrique with octopus, shrimp smoked salmon and the fish of the day. Although a tasty and reasonably sized portion to share if you are not too hungry, having just arrived from Easter Island it didn’t wow. The preparation was saucier and the fish more marinated i.e., less raw than on the island.

Restaurant Aqui Esta Coco

Don’s conger pastelero was fresh and beautifully done. The eel was presented on a bed of choclo, a dense corn pudding of sorts, and garnished with cherry tomatoes.

Restaurant Aqui Esta Coco

The trout was just OK, a thin fillet of not the freshest fish topped with sautéed shrimp and mushrooms. We also ordered a side of sautéed vegetables which were nicely cooked but nothing special.

Restaurant Aqui Esta Coco

For dessert the lemon mousse hit the spot. Light and nicely tart.

Service was friendly and efficient. This is a fun event restaurant with good food, but stick to the sea fish and not the trout.

Santiago Holiday Inn – Airport Terminal

March 15

Holiday Inn Airport

The typical business hotel with spacious comfortable rooms and good amenities located just across from the terminals is very convenient for incoming and outgoing flights. However the airport was under a major renovation during our stay so I don’t know how the new airport configuration will affect the hotels proximately to the terminals.

Lunch at the hotel was the worst meal of our trip.  Craving a burger I ordered the American Cheese Burger. Everything was way undercooked – the French fries pale and limp, the meat barely warmed through, and the bacon soggy. Don’s Mediterranean salad was mostly lettuce with a few topping thrown on – shredded cheese, a few green olives, cherry tomatoes and cucumber slices. The chicken soup was ok but certainly not worth the price. With two draft beers the total came to more than $50USD.

Dinner

After the expensive and undercooked lunch I was hesitant to try this restaurant again, but after not finding a better solution we tried again starting with drinks in their modern bar. Expensive but first rate with the best pisco sour I’ve had in Chile. Nicely crafted with real egg white froth and laced with the classic bitters garnish.

Dinner was also surprisingly good.

Holiday Inn Airport

We started with ceviche – fresh tuna and a few shrimp garnished with toasted corn and avocado. They were out of the lamb cutlet so I opted for the stewed lamb shank – tender fall off the bone meat with a very mild flavor for lamb.

Holiday Inn Airport

The stew was flavorful but the potatoes grainy, most likely the result of the variety of potato used.

Holiday Inn Airport

Don’s grilled conger with grilled vegies was fresh and perfectly done. This is still an overpriced restaurant but at least the quality of food measures up to the quality of the hotel.

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Sleeping, Dining and Other Logistics, Easter Island, Chile

March 16-21. 2018

This post continues a series on a 6 day trip to Easter Island in March of 2018. For this series I’ve divided the posts by area of the island and archaeological site rather than chronologically as we visited the top sites more than once. See the Easter Island page for an outline of all the posts in this series and our complete day by day itinerary. 

To organize our independent tour of the island we used A Companion Guide to Easter Island which is a great resource for both archaeological information and photography tips including best time of day to visit the sites. We did find that they are tightening restrictions on visiting the sites, e.g., enforced visiting hours and strict limitations on where you are allowed to walk within the sites, making some routes suggested in the guidebook inaccessible.

First impression of Hanga Roa

This laid back town, the only one on the island, is tidy compared to many Chilean villages and along with accommodations and restaurants has all the essential services – ATM, gas station, drug store and grocery store (more of a large convenience store than a real grocery store, see below).

Roads are rough, so having a 4X4 is an advantage. For the first part of our stay the main road through town was closed in one section and we had to wind our way around to get to the Cabañas Tokerau.

Cabañas Tokerau

Cabañas Tokerau

Located on the north side of town, a two minute walk from Hanga Kio’e and seven minutes from Tahai, the sunset gathering spot, I first though this place was a little out of town. That was until it took us just ten minutes to drive back to the airport on the other side of town. Although you could walk to town, in the heat of the day it’s more comfortable to drive. Generally parking was not a problem.

The cabañas are rustic and generally clean if you are not too fussy. We were in the larger one with two upstairs bedrooms that shared a common area below. We were alone for the first four nights and shared the common area with another American couple the last two.

Cabañas Tokerau

The bedroom was big but filled with beds, a queen and two singles, and not a great set up for a couple unless you like laying your things out on an extra bed. The mattress was firm and reasonably comfortable. The room had shelving, a place for hanging clothes and a table for luggage and so forth. The bathroom was average and worked fine except the hot water was a fussy matter. Turning the hot water tap on didn’t always ignite the on-demand water heater. Once we learned the peculiarities we got regular hot water in the bathroom but I never did figure out the kitchen sink.

Cabana Tokerau

The kitchen worked reasonably well. Most of the pots and pans were of decent quality. The cutting utensils were the ubiquitous bad knives found at just about every vacation rental. Appliances included a full six-burner stove, Euro-sized fridge, microwave and a blender. No dish towels or paper towels were provided, just napkins.

While there was a fan downstairs there was not one upstairs and it got quite warm during the day. Generally sleeping was not a problem.

Upon our arrival, Eduardo, the owner, gave us a map of the island and chatted with us about his place and what to do on the island. The best tip was how to get a second visit at Rono Raraku Crater. See post for details. We also used some of his restaurant recommendations (see below).

Breakfast is generally served in the cabaña at 9:00 or 9:30, much too late for me who wanted to be out at first light around 8:30. So they brought us fruit, bread, butter, cheese and meat, and instant coffee or tea the night before and we prepared our own breakfast with the addition of eggs that we purchased at the market.

Renting a car from Cabañas Tokerau

Eduardo, the owner, also rents cars and prefers you to rent a car from him instead of other agencies in town. He says there have been problems with some of the agencies and he will charge you an extra fee if you bring in an outside car. He made an exception for us because he had not told us this previously and he considered Oceanic a more reputable rental agency.

In making our initial reservation I was hesitant to rent a car from Cabañas Tokerau, even though this a common practice on the island, because of lack of formality in the reservation process. Although they were responsive they never sent me a confirmation for the cabaña reservation or charged my credit card for the deposit like they said they would, leaving me to wonder if I really had a reservation. When I sent him an inquiry about the matter he promptly replied telling me not to worry, everything was fine and in the end it was.

I think it would have been fine to rent the car from Eduardo although I don’t know if the credit card car insurance would also extend to renting from the hotel as opposed to an actual car rental agency. There is no direct car insurance on the island. Oceanic charged us 50.000 CLP/day (about $77USD) and Eduardo charges $70 day.

Oceanic Rent a Car

An agent from Oceanic was waiting for us when we exited the airport and took us to their office in town to complete the paperwork and get the car. The big difference on Easter Island is that they don’t offer car insurance. You should therefore make sure it is included with your credit card. This is a good practice that will save you money no matter where you travel.

Central Southern Coast

We had no problems with our little Suzuki Jimny which is the rental car of choice on the island. It handles the roads perfectly fine. Make sure that you check the car with them when you pick it up as they do go over it quite carefully upon the return.

Eating in Hanga Roa

With a full kitchen in the cabaña we ate lunch out and cooked a light dinner at home after sunset.  The supermercado on the main drag, really a mini market, has friendly staff. Ask if you don’t see what you are looking for. They do not have a huge selection and prices are high, but the wine is surprisingly cheap compared to the mainland. Also note that shipments come in in batches and sell out. If you see something you like, buy all that you think you will need during your stay because it may not be there the next day.

For bottles of wine Eduardo recommended the Distribuidora Rarama located on a side street just up from the Latam office at the airport end of town. They have a better selection of wine than the supermercado and sell a selection of frozen meat as well.

Restaurants

I love ceviche and ate it every day on the island. The fish is super fresh and everyone does a great job with it.

Haka Honu

Haka Honu

One of Eduardo’s recommendations. We ordered the Rapa Nui ceviche and a ground fish burger with fries.

Haka Honu

Both were well done. The ceviche portion was huge and would have easily satisfied the both of us for a late light lunch.

Pizza at Miro Restobar

Located opposite the cemetery. There may be other pizza places in town, but this one was convenient with an open terrace dining room and a breeze off the sea. The terrace was less than half full when we arrived at 1:30 but there was only one server and it took over 45 minutes to get our food.

Miro Restobar

 

We ordered the ceviche tropical and a vegetarian pizza. The pizza crust was a tad cardboardy and otherwise fine but nothing great.

Miro Restobar

The ceviche, cheaper than at other places, was also a smaller portion, so not the best value. It was, however, just as fresh as we’ve had elsewhere. Beware they charge 3000CLP ($5USD) for a small bottle of water.

Pea Restobar

Hanga Roa

Despite the great open air terrace overlooking where they surf, there was no one here on a Saturday at just after 1PM. Very pleasant watching the surfers with nice breeze off the sea.

Pea Restobar

I ordered another ceviche, this time the Ha’ari with the fish of the day, kana kana. Prepared with coconut milk it was like the others I’ve had on the island, super fresh and outstanding. The sweet potato chips, however, were not made to order and stale. The rice was rice.

Pea Restobar

Don’s tuna sandwich, ordered seared, was nicely done, although it came with cheese, an odd choice, which he easily scraped off. The French fries were served fresh hot. Pricing is similar to other restaurants in the area with similar settings.

Tatuka Vave

This seaside eatery at the far end of town near the airport was another Eduardo pick. It’s out of the way location has great views with waves crashing on the rocky shore. The service is friendly and it wasn’t too busy on a Saturday just after 1:00. We easily got a seaside table. The food is good and priced about the same as at the restaurants in town.

Tatuka Vave

Don’s daily fish special, however, was a bargain at 5,500CLP ($8USD) and included tuna sautéed with vegetables, served with a choice of salad, rice or potatoes.

Tatuka Vave

I ordered the Rapa Nui ceviche, tuna with tomatoes and sweet red onion, a generous portion of good quality fish served with a small salad and rice.

Flight to Easter Island

Latam’s flight to Hanga Roa is on a 787 wide body with an international configuration. Sitting in the bulkhead row of economy we had plenty of leg room. I don’t think coach would be too bad in any case and is certainly a big improvement over their flight between Santiago and Lima.

Check in was easy and went quickly. Domestic security at the Santiago airport goes very quickly as well. I don’t think they check for anything. You don’t have to take anything out of your bag and the metal detector rarely goes off.

The Isla de Pasqua airport is a tiny island airport with only one baggage claim belt.

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Sights and Attractions in Hanga Roa, Easter Island, Chile

This post continues a series on a 6 day trip to Easter Island in March of 2018. For this series I’ve divided the posts by area of the island and archaeological site rather than chronologically as we visited the top sites more than once. See the Easter Island page for an outline of all the posts in this series and our complete day by day itinerary. 

To organize our independent tour of the island we used A Companion Guide to Easter Island which is a great resource for both archaeological information and photography tips including best time of day to visit the sites. We did find that they are tightening restrictions on visiting the sites, e.g., enforced visiting hours and strict limitations on where you are allowed to walk within the sites, making some routes suggested in the guidebook inaccessible.

Tahai - sunset

Hanga Roa, the only town on the island, has a great sunset view site nearby,  with three small restored platforms at Tahai.

Tahai - sunset

Although we didn’t have great sunsets during our stay Tahai has a lovely setting and is a fun place to people watch in the evening. Not so many tourists that it feels crowded but just enough to feel like an event.

Tahai - sunset

Pretty sky but not much of a sunset

Tehai - midday

Mid-afternoon

Tehai - midday

Mid-afternoon

Tehai - midday

Mid-afternoon

Tahai is also worth a visit in the morning or afternoon and is much quieter at these hours.

Tahai - morning

Morning

A five-minute walk north of the Tahai is the single moai Hanga Kio’e.

Hanga Kio'e - sunsetHanga Roa (19 of 48)Hanga Roa (20 of 48)

Museum

Hanga Roa Museum

The small museum, now free, is long on information and short on actual artifacts. The guidebook recommends starting your tour of the island here, but I would suggest visiting the museum in the middle of your stay on the island, especially if you have a guide or a good guidebook, as all the informative displays can be somewhat overwhelming without some context under your belt.

Hanga Roa Museum

Moai eye

Hanga Roa Museum

Rongo rongo tablet

Hanga Roa Museum

Female moai

They do have a couple of unusual moia, a moai eye (a rarity), and replicas of rongo rongo tablets that demonstrate the undeciphered writing system of the early Rapa Nui.

Hanga Roa Cemetery

Hanga Roa CemeteryHanga Roa Cemetery

Kari Kari Dance Show

Kari Kari Dance

The companion guide recommends one of the island dance shows, explaining that it is not your typical native costume dance tourist trap because the performers are enthusiastic and genuinely seem to be having a good time. While I do believe that this is an authentic means to preserve the Rapa Nui culture, in rereading the author’s recommendation I noticed that he did not really say that the performances were good.

The performance hall reminded me of a grade school cafeteria turned into a stage. The dancers, while very enthusiastic and athletically skilled, were not good singers. The music, more off-key yelling than singing, grated on my ears. The little French girl sitting next to me had her hands over her ears until her mother found her a pair of ear plugs.

While the performance starts at 9PM you can also include dinner before the show. The dinner guests get the first few rows while the show-only folks get the last rows on the floor and the seats in risers above. It’s a smallish space so there really isn’t a bad seat except for maybe the late comer seats off to the side.

At about 8:30 they start an infomercial about the Kari Kari foundation and their goal to promote the Rapa Nui culture. While a rather dull presentation it gets its point across. The video plays while the guests file in.

You can make your reservation ahead of time but you pay at the entrance.

Kari Kari Dance

The skimpy costumes and Polynesian twerking will keep most guests entertained. Certainty if you are interested in dance and generally like this type of performance you will like this one. If you are doubtful about native costume dances this one will probably not change your mind. I have to admit that I’m negatively biased towards this type of show and generally dislike most native costume dance performances.

Church Services

Church

Also recommended in the guidebook is the 9AM Sunday mass for the intermarriage of Rapa Nui customs and the Catholic Church. Not being Catholic or even Christian most of this is lost on me except for maybe the elaborate feather head dress worn by the priest. The music, especially the singers, is much better than at the Kari Kari performance. While again this is not really my thing it should appeal to most visitors.

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