May 30, 2017 / 2 Comments
The Caribbean is an attractive place for any lover of sun and fun, not to mention great food and outdoor excursions unavailable in the rest of the world. While there are common favorites throughout, including Jamaica and the Bahamas, a relatively unknown gem deep in the Caribbean might be among its most brilliant. Are you thinking of flying to Bonaire? Perhaps you should be thinking of buying a great snorkeling mask and taking the next flight!.
Bonaire is a member of the ABC islands, a three-island chain also known as the Leeward Antilles that lies just forty miles north of Venezuela. A sister island to both Aruba and Curacao, the remaining islands that complete the ABC, Bonaire is smaller than both, and as such are unknown to most European vacationers.
What Bonaire lacks in size it makes up for in majestic scenery, an eclectic nightlife, warm weather and even warmer people. It is a Utopia, seemingly unknown, and is brimming with options for the tourist laying eyes on this beautiful island for the first time. As writers who frequent this stunning place, here are just a few of our favorites.
Diving and Snorkeling at Buddy Dive
Despite its relative anonymity, Bonaire is well-known to diving and snorkeling enthusiast for its majestic underwater canvas. The crystal-clear waters open up to seemingly endless streams of sea life, from barracudas and parrot-fish to clownfish and dolphins. Bonaire is even more stunning below the water as it is above, and the most popular spot to take a dip is Buddy Dive Resort, along the islands west coast in the capital city of Kralendijk and one of the best diving locations in the Caribbean.
Year-round, people flock from all over the globe to this iconic Bonaire diving spot, which is complete with four-star rooms and world-class dining options right on the beach.
Visit Klein Bonaire
Facing Kralendijk on Bonaire’s west-side is a small, kidney shaped island a mere three-minute boat ride from Buddy Dive called Klein Bonaire. A vacant islet, Klein is an idyllic spot for those looking for a slightly more rugged snorkeling experience away from the crowd.
Now an official property of Bonaire National Marine Park, Klein Bonaire is a great spot for a half-day excursion to bring a few bottles of water, some sandwiches, and perhaps an umbrella for the occasional break from the sun! This isolated part of Bonaire may only be 15 minutes away from the mainland, but it is completely remote – if you want something to drink or eat, toss it in your bag before the boat ride! There’s little shade on the island, which is purposefully kept as a natural vegetation habitat where locals and tourists alike can take short hikes on top of enjoying the encapsulating views of the mainland.
Brand new in 2016, Terramar Museum features the archaeology and history of Bonaire. Inside, the museum chronicles more than 7,000 years of Bonaire history, from the movement of people around the Caribbean and in Bonaire itself to the settling of European settlers to the region and its impact on Bonaire.
Terramar Museum is truly immersive, featuring permanent and temporary exhibitions as well as 3D and interactive displays. The fixed exhibitions are laid-out similar to an Ikea store, leading you from room to room as you are brought to present-day in Bonaire.
Washington Slagbaai National Park
An ecological reserve on the northwestern part of the Caribbean island of Bonaire, Washington Slagbaai National Park. The first natural reserve established in the Netherlands Antilles, Washington Slagbaai contains perhaps the most varied experience on the island.
Visitors can enjoy cliff-diving, snorkeling and surfing (thanks to the rougher waters on Bonaire’s northern side) as well as off-road ATVs and visit the archaic huts built on the island by inhabitants more than 100 years ago.
Dance the Night Away in Kralendijk, Bonaire
For a small island with an even smaller capital, Bonaire has a vibrant nightclub and party scene. Going a few miles inland from Kralendijk, Bonaire opens into a thriving, energetic villa that puts one in mind of Havana or San Juan at night, complete with live bands, cheap drinks and ample opportunities to dance the night away.
Some of our favorite places include Karel’s Beach Bar and Eden Beach Resort, two bars with entirely different vibes, each of which satisfy the traveler looking to revel a bit. Eden, the island’s party mecca located on the western coast just south of Buddy Dive, has a regular Friday night party that goes deep into the night and features hip DJs, great music, and great food and drink specials.
Cave Diving In Bonaire
One of the lesser-known activities in Bonaire is the opportunity to dive deep and explore underwater caves!
The island’s caves, more than 400 total, play a vital part in the ecosystem as well as provide a beautiful and mysterious experience for visitors. Numerous operators provide trips, which include the opportunity to dive inside these ancient coral caves before opening to perfectly clear water exposed to sunlight – providing an ethereal snorkeling opportunity in the midst of the beautiful coral. Stalagmites and stalactites wedge offer a wonderful scenic and photographic opportunity for those with the underwater gear to take advantage of the opportunity. The most popular caves in Bonaire are the Bolivia caves, where you have ample opportunity to scuba and snorkel!
Make sure your guide is certified, however, as there are rogue non-certified groups which dive in the area illegally – often to the harm of the natural surroundings.
Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire
The Donkey Sanctuary is one of the most popular and best things to do in Bonaire, as it is ideal as a family friendly tourist attraction. Originally brought to Bonaire by Spanish explorers in the 1700s to perform hard labor, the remaining donkeys have struggled to survive based on the hot, tropical settings that are unnatural for the animals.
Conservation efforts are a primary focus, and one of the biggest charitable causes in Bonaire. Visitors help the animals, if not by volunteering, then by offering financial assistance to help keep the animals fed, watered and sheltered. Visiting the Donkey Sanctuary in Bonaire is an incredibly wholesome and enjoyable experience, and affords the visitor the chance to give something back to the island and its culture.
Lac Cai Beach
One of the best beaches in Bonaire, Lac Cai is one of the most beautiful settings in the South Caribbean. Featuring some of the best snorkeling and diving in Bonaire, Lac Cai is only a short drive from Kralendijk.
Larger than simply a small “cay”, Lac Cai features areas like Sorobon and Jive City to the west, where you can find great dining and shopping options, to the more remote and beautifully peaceful eastern side, which is one of the densest areas to experience a small sampling of the gorgeous wildlife on the island.
Coral Casino in Kralendijk
Looking for some fun away from the sun? If you’re looking for things to do in Bonaire that don’t involve the water and beautiful weather, stay inside and chance a dollar or two at the Coral Casino in Kralendijk. For the casual gambler, there are free poker tournaments and cheap slot machines to enjoy a drink without getting too crazy. There’s no pressure to spend a lot of money, no pressure to stay or leave any specific machine – just a fun, casual environment that affords visitors an enjoyable nightlife in Bonaire.
Bonaire National Marine Park
The Bonaire National Marine Park, established in 1979, is famous for its active management of the island’s marine resources. In 1992, it was one of the first dive destinations to introduce admission fees for scuba divers to assist the financial aid of the upkeep of Bonaire’s marine resources. Today, the park includes nearly 7,000 acres of fringing reefs, seagrasses and mangroves that are all some of the best things to see in Bonaire, and part of the reason tourism in Bonaire is booming.
For a deeper dive on the things possible in Bonaire, it could be written many volumes about the things this tiny island offers. Just a short flight from Miami can give you an uncommon Caribbean experience in one of the most beautiful and untampered natural settings that these warm waters could offer.