Bonaire Travel Guide
Is one of the Caribbean’s southern ABC islands, with the other letters made up from the islands of Aruba and Curacao. Here you will find flamingos and sea horses in almost equal quantities, which flourish in the island’s many sanctuaries and conservation areas.
Bonaire is a common docking point for cruise ships, with many stopping for more than one day to allow its passengers to take advantage of the many activities on offer here. You can enjoy kayaking, fishing, bird watching and horseback riding, all in close proximity. There is also a good variety of unusual water sports here, including kite boarding and para-sailing.
The island is known as a ‘diver’s paradise,’ with the motto printed on the number plates of all the cars here. Diving and snorkeling are, therefore, the most popular pastimes here, as Bonaire is home to the graceful sea turtle and an abundance of other marine life. This is largely thanks to some long-established laws against spear-fishing and the removal of coral.
The island has a laid-back Caribbean mentality, with less of the flashy nightlife than Curacao and Aruba. There is also no rainy season here, meaning temperatures stay pleasantly hot and dry throughout the year. This also helps Bonaire’s vast cacti forests flourish.
Where ships dock
Ships will drop anchor in downtown Kralendijk, which is Bonaire’s capital city.
On foot: is the best way to get from the port to Wilhelmina Square, which lies just across from the pier. This is a good place for picking up traditional handicrafts and tasting the local street food. The Waterfront Promenade is also easy to locate.
By taxi: taxis are everywhere and offer set rates to all destinations.
By hire car: hiring a car is a good option, as driving is fairly easy and there are lots of car rental companies.
By motor scooter and motorcycle: these can also be rented, along with bicycles, at reasonable daily rates.
Shopping is fairly limited in Kralendijk, but there is a reasonably good selection of handicrafts available in Wihelmina Square, across from the docking point. Here you can find artwork, ornaments and coral creations, as well as some one-off jewelry. Harborside Mall and the main street of Kaya Grandi provide some of the best options.
The nightlife here isn’t as happening as on some of the other Caribbean islands, so don’t expect to be clubbing until 04:00. There are some nice, lively bars around the Waterfront Promenade, however, as well as some good restaurants. There is also a casino for those wishing to lose and win some spending money.
Habour Village is the best hotel beach in Bonaire but like the rest of the island, it is still fairly small, and doesn’t quite match up to some of the long, white stretches of its Caribbean counterparts.
Divi Flamingo Beach Resort is much of the same, but with a good bar and restaurant in the resort.
Pink Beach is located along the southern scenic route. Good scuba diving and snorkeling can be sourced here.
Lac Bay Beach is the best spot for windsurfing, with gentle waves and slight breezes.
Where to eat
For Western food head to north Debrot where you will find many restaurants serving up a children’s menus, fish and chips, burgers and other home comforts.
Good local food can be sourced in Abraham Blvd, but be prepared for a little more spice than you might be used to. Many places tone their dishes down for tourists but if in doubt, check before ordering.
Don’t miss attractions
Flamingoes: can be marveled at in the north of Bonaire at Goto Meer. Here you will find a saltwater lagoon where the pretty birds preen their feathers.
Bonaire National Marine Park: is just a five-minute boat trip from the port. Here you can explore Bonaire’s vast underwater world.
Touch the Sea: is a good option if you’d rather keep your head above water. They offer glass-bottom boat trips.
The Donkey Sanctuary: is located a short drive from Kralendijk, close to the airport. Here you can pet and feed the formerly-abandoned donkeys, and there are usually a couple of cute babies stumbling around.
Fishing: is available under the instruction of Captain Chris Morkos. He offers deep sea, reef or bone fishing on full and half-day trips.
Bird watching: is best done at Washington Slagbaai National Park, which lies in the north, at Bonaire’s highest point. It is a good spot for watching flamingos at an unobtrusive distance.
Windsurfing: is available at Lac Bay, where both rentals and lessons are on offer. You can also book guided tours of the mangroves by way of sea kayak.
Horseback riding: is on offer at the Riding Academy Club in Kunuku Warahama. One trail stops off for swimming at the beach, while the other tours the mangroves and caves.
What’s cool: the flamingoes.
What’s not: the nightlife – if you’re a party animal.
Language: English, Spanish, Dutch, and the ABC islands’ language of Papiamento.
Money: the Antillean guilder, although US dollars are widely accepted.
Essential information: temperatures can get very high here and occasionally top 80°F
Trivia: Bonaire claims to have the ‘smallest KFC in the world,’ located in the shopping plaza at Kralendijk.