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Beautiful Bonaire - "Bon Bini" (means Welcome!)

Updated on May 22, 2011

Bonaire - Dutch Caribbean

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A markerAruba -
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B markerBonaire -
Bonaire Island, Netherlands Antilles
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C markerCuracao -
Netherlands Antilles
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Fantastic Vacation Destination

Bonaire (pronounced BON AIR) located in the Dutch Caribbean is the B of the ABC islands. (The A is Aruba and C is Curacao.) It is located in the southern Caribbean about 50 miles north of Venezuela. On October 10, 2010 Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba formed an alliance within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, also informally known as the BES Islands.

Best Reasons to Visit

· Laid-back island vibe

· Excellent snorkeling and diving (clearest visibility)

· Deep Sea fishing

· Trade winds create ideal windsurfing at Lac Bay

· Wonderful scenery (no billboards )

· Lots of flamingos, donkeys and goats roaming freely in their natural habitat

· Friendly people

· U.S. Dollar is the national currency

· Interesting history

· It’s safe!

You can relax and get away from it all here. The Bonaire license plate declares the island as “Divers Paradise!” With no river run off or many sandy beaches, schools of colorful fish, giant parrot fish, turtles and a healthy reef with plenty of live coral and sponges are clearly visible 30 ft. below the surface.

Reef around Klein Bonaire

East tip of Klien Bonaire; larger Bonaire coast in the distance
East tip of Klien Bonaire; larger Bonaire coast in the distance

Travel Tips

  • Check out for reasonable air fare
  • Rent a Jeep/Truck to get around the island. While most roads are paved, if you want to explore Washington Slagbaai National Park the bumpy dirt roads require higher clearance.
  • Pack at least one recycle grocery bag. The supermarkets do not have plastic or paper bags.
  • Bring a collapsible cooler
  • Mosquito repellent.
  • Take cash to pay for gasoline. Most other places take major credit cards.
  • WiFi is sparse. (Which helps you get away from it all!) However, there are internet cafes downtown which charge a fee to access the internet.
  • There is cell phone coverage. Check your carrier before you leave for international rates.

Snorkel & Dive Spot

View along the Tourist Road: Kaya Gob N Debtrot
View along the Tourist Road: Kaya Gob N Debtrot

Bonaire National Marine Park

Bonaire and Klein Bonaire (which means "small" Bonaire) are surrounded by circular reefs that slope from the shoreline to about 30 feet then drop off to 150 feet or deeper. When seeing Bonaire from the plane, the islands have distinct turquoise rings that fade into the deep blue sea. STINAPA Bonaire National Parks Foundation requires a Nature Fee to maintain and improve Bonaire's natural resources. It costs $10 to swim/snorkel & $25 to dive - but the pass is good for a year. (55% of the tourists are return visitors.) You can purchase the tags at the dive shop at your hotel.

Go North along the coast road. Take your snorkel or dive gear to stop at any one of the yellow painted stones which indicate a good spot. "Karpata" #9 on the local map is recommended as excellent.

Legendary Captain Don Stewart began a project in the 1970s to protect the reefs by setting up floating buoys for boats to moor from rather than using anchors. He is responsible for protecting this unspoiled natural habitat.

Flamingos Galore!

Goto Meer
Goto Meer

Take a Drive

Bonaire's salty ponds provide one of the largest flamingo breeding grounds in the Caribbean with thousands of the birds living in the wild. They are rather skittish so be very quiet & use your zoom lenses to capture these beautiful birds. There are more flamingos than people! It's awesome!

The History of Bonaire Salt

Salt Pans
Salt Pans
Slave Huts
Slave Huts
Orange Obelisk
Orange Obelisk

Sea Salt - Major Export

For three centuries Bonaire's economy has been dependent on salt. A salt pan is a shallow pool which allows salt to be evaporated from the sea water. The weather conditions are perfect to create large, pure salt crystals. Before refrigeration, salt was used to preserve fish and meat. High demand created a special niche industry. In the early days, the process of exporting salt required a lot of manual labor. Rows of restored small slave huts can be seen which housed up to 6 men in each one.

Before modern methods were created to haul the salt from the salt pans to awaiting ships, it would take two men to lift a heavy basket full of salt and put it on a woman's head. She would balance it with one hand while hitching up her dress with the other and climb onto planks that were placed on top of rows of saw horses that stretched into the ocean. She would inch along the plank balancing the basket to an awaiting ship. It took four men to take the basket from her and load it onto the boat. You can still see the four towering obelisks that were erected on the beach to guide the ships to the salt pans. Each color represented a different grade of salt (orange, white, blue and red.)

Today, Cargill International produces tens of thousands of tons of salt annually - most of which is used commercially.

Souviner suggestions: Take home gifts of sea salt for cooking, exfoliate scrubs and bath salts from She & Sea that can be purchased downtown at The Salt Shop!

Windsurfing Capital - Lac Bay

Jibe City to rent boards, gear & beginners lessons
Jibe City to rent boards, gear & beginners lessons

Jive City Beach Bar & Resturant

Jibe City Beach Bar - Fleur, a member of the friendly staff, chats with the tourists
Jibe City Beach Bar - Fleur, a member of the friendly staff, chats with the tourists

World Champion Windsurfing

Constant trade winds blowing across shallow Lac Bay create the perfect conditions for windsurfing. Take a lesson, hone your skill or sit on the beach and watch the colorful sails zip across the water. The Jibe City beach bar serves excellent food and a wide assortment of beverages! The staff are all very friendly. Most people on the island are either from Holland or have spent time there. While Dutch and Papiamento are the official languages, English is spoken everywhere. Enjoy!

Horseback Riding

Rancho Washikemba in the Outback
Rancho Washikemba in the Outback
Owners, Marc & Bregje are fantastic folks!
Owners, Marc & Bregje are fantastic folks!

Giddy Up!

Rancho Washikemba is the only fully licensed horse riding facility on the island. The owners, Marc and Bregje, clearly love their horses and are expanding their beautiful ranch. They carefully select the right horse to match your skill level. Call ahead to make a reservation (599-788-8668 or 599-786-7321) for an excellent ride that includes a bareback swim in a small lake near the ocean! It's about a 15 minute drive from downtown. Create an unforgettable memory!

Where to Stay?

Excellent snorkelling off the beach at the Divi Flamingo Resort
Excellent snorkelling off the beach at the Divi Flamingo Resort

Depends on what you want to do most

If you want to dive, snorkel and explore, we recommend the Divi Flamingo Resort & Casino. Only a 10 minute walk to downtown Kralendijk (capital city), this resort is conveniently located to everything on the island. While there is an excellent restaurant on site, it's nice to stroll into town for lunch or dinner. There are lots of shops with souvenirs, artwork and a couple of museums to explore. Also Karel's Beach Bar and the Cappuccino Bar are not to be missed. Try the "Green Flame" made with locally distilled Cadushy liquor - take some home!

At the Divi the rooms facing the ocean book up fast. The other rooms face the pool and all have patios, AC and flat screen TVs.While the property is older, it is kept up. The staff are very friendly. Michelle, the Activities Coordinator, will gladly make arrangements and recommendations for you. Friday nights a local band plays Caribbean and Calypso music.

If you are a diver, another resort to consider is Capt Don's Habitat.


Seen through the spotless glass on the Glass Bottom Boat
Seen through the spotless glass on the Glass Bottom Boat

Divi Glass Bottom Boat

Take the Divi Glass Bottom Boat snorkel trip to Klein Bonaire with Paul and Will. They are very knowledgeable about the island and the fish you will see. ($38 per person includes water, sodas and beer. If you don't have your own, snorkel gear is provided. Leaves at 9am and returns around 1pm. They only take small groups so you are guaranteed a relaxing trip.)

Sounds of the Caribbean

Giovanni Mercera Entertainment at the Divi
Giovanni Mercera Entertainment at the Divi

Favorite Restaurants

For great food, excellent service and reasonable prices -- all within walking distance of the Divi, we recommend:

Breakfast - The Boudoir Food & Drink located on Kaya Grandi in the Royal Palm Galleries downtown. The Healthy Breakfast ($10) is a favorite! (They serve lunch too.) You won't be disappointed!

Dinner - Cactus Blue (on the same street as the Divi) "Moogie" plays on Wednesdays.

City Cafe which faces the ocean is a great spot for Happy Hour (5:30 - 6:30) and to watch the sunset during dinner.

Sunset from City Cafe

Mountains of Washington National Park in the distance
Mountains of Washington National Park in the distance

Bon Voyage!

Don't forget your passport!
Don't forget your passport!


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    • wego profile image

      wego 6 years ago from Riverview, FL

      Thanks Steph! It really is! I appreciate your comment!

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Looks absolutely gorgeous there!