From the pink salt lakes and flamingos, 22 beaches, 80+ dive sites, and a reputation for being one of the safest islands in the region, visiting Bonaire is not a matter of worthiness but a question of when?
What Is Bonaire Known for?
Bonaire is known for its 22 heavenly beaches on all its sides, while some of its sides are better than others because of strong currents and trade winds, the divine blue of the Caribbean and the island’s natural beauty make for a worthy excursion.
But, when you take a closer look and come across the many visitors who flock to this tiny island’s glorious natural beauty, you might be surprised that it’s not entirely about the beaches. The island sports 80+ interesting dive sites that seem to be the island’s hottest draw.
Apart from its Dutch-influenced buildings, warm, multilingual people, divine beaches, there is something magical deep under the waters of Bonaire. With an abundance of dive-worthy spots on different sides of the island, the island is also gifted with numerous coral reefs that seem to add to its famous charm.
Bonaire National Marine Park is the world’s oldest marine reserve that stretches around the sea of Bonaire and its little island called Klein Bonaire. The park slash reef covers about 2,700 hectares or 6,700 acres of rich marine and coral life.
What Is There to Do in Bonaire Besides Diving?
Apart from the famous diving activities and tours on the island, Bonaire is also famous for its snorkeling. Thanks to its expansive reef system and marine park, the waters of Bonaire get even more interesting.
With over 2,700 hectares (6,700 acres) of coral reef teeming with beauty and marine life, you’ll be sure to enjoy Bonaire, no matter how experienced or lack thereof you are in snorkeling.
Another fun thing to do in Bonaire is beach hopping if you’re not the underwater type of person is beach hopping. Take a motorcycle, or a rental car, and get to as many beaches as you can on the island.
With a rich option, Bonaire’s 22 beaches can offer something different to everyone, not to mention the island’s size that makes it get to its different sides in no time.
And after you’ve done all the diving, snorkeling, and lounging beaches with cold drinks on hand, you can explore the island’s cosmopolitan side in Kralendijk. The island’s capital has everything you can ask for in an unlikely city in the tropics. From cultural cues, shopping, and fun nightlife, Krandelijk is suited for tourists as much as the island’s beaches.
Can You Fish in Bonaire?
You can fish in Bonaire. You can book fishing trips via sportfishing boats available in charter trips to Bonaire, or Kralendijk, and around the beaches on the island’s western coast. You can even snorkel fish in Bonaire, but it’s only allowed in two specific areas, all found on the western coasts of the island as well.
Are There Flamingos in Bonaire?
Flamingos have been known to flock in certain key spots in Bonaire which has garnered a particular following from both the tourists and the locals. The flamingos you’ll most likely see in Bonaire are the famous pink flamingos, popular for their pink coat and feathers.
You’ll spot flamingos in few places across the island: Gotomeer or Goto Lake, which probably takes the number one spot. Located at the northern reaches of the island, right at the border of the protected Washington Slagbaai National Park, you can spot flamingos by the lake’s borders.
Another notable spot is Pink Beach, this time on the southern part of the island. The saltpans near Pink Beach are excellent feeding areas for flamingos, which they can usually be found congregating and feeding. The saltpans’ cool blue perfectly contrasts with the flamingos’ pink bodies.
Other than being an excellent beach and diving area, Lac Bay also hosts mangroves that tend to be flocked by flamingos. The mangroves of Lac Bay attract flamingos where they can search for a wide variety of food due to the teeming life you can find there. You can spot them on your way to and from Lac Bay via the roads that connect east and west Bonaire.
What Can You Do in Bonaire on Your Own?
Apart from flamingo-spotting on all the 3 best spots around the island, Bonaire has a plethora of enjoyable things and experiences to offer for solo travelers. Solo traveling may seem to be a growing culture thanks to YouTube creators showcasing and publishing their adventures, but it’s not entirely a novelty. And, Bonaire, certainly knows that.
You can explore every natural thing that Bonaire can offer, from its 22 beaches, and 80+ dive sites. You can easily take dive or snorkel tours from Kralendijk’s and nearby beaches, especially in Eden Beach, and Klein Bonaire.
Head down and explore Lac Bay at the island’s eastern coasts, home to few cool beaches, and interesting dive sites, you can also spot flamingos here on your way to and from the bay. It’s like hitting 3 birds in one stone, and no, not the flamingos.
You can also visit either the Horse Ranch Bonaire or the Rancho-Washikemba and go on a horseback ride across vast expanses. And, then you end up having a swim at Lac Bay with the horses. However, if you opt for this experience you have to book in advance.
Another thing you can do in Bonaire as a solo traveler is to stroll around and explore the city of Kralendijk. If you’re looking for cultural cues, quirky novelties of Bonaire, you can make your own DIY walking tour of the city. You just have to pre-plan your destinations.
Check out shops that sell specialty products, souvenirs, and then restaurants that offer authentic Bonaire dishes, and cozy up on local cafes, meeting locals and other solo travelers. And, you can end the day with cold drinks in the evening in one o the many seaside bars in Kralendijk.
And if you’re looking for a touch of old Bonaire that still feels somewhat colonial and a blast from the past, head on to Rincon. Bonaire’s oldest town is small, interesting, beautiful, and quaint. The town is situated in a valley that used to house slaves that were brought by the Dutch – know more about its history at the Museo Chich’i Tan.
Is Bonaire Safe for Tourists?
Bonaire is considered to be one of the safest islands in the Caribbean, the island ranks high in safety along with its Dutch sister island, Aruba. In general, Bonaire is extremely safe by Caribbean standards. Violent crimes are rare and past tourists never had any problems.
However, just like any place in the world, you still need to practice caution as petty crimes like theft and pickpocketing can still happen. It’s best to err on the side of caution at all times.
Is Kralendijk Safe?
According to the latest statistics, the level of crime in Kralendijk has gone lower in the past year, compared to the last 3 years’ rising numbers. Today, Kralendijk enjoys a low level of crime along with a relatively high standard of living – but then, that also means a pricier costs for tourists.
Is Bonaire in the Hurricane Belt?
Bonaire is safely tucked outside of the Hurrican Belt, conveniently situated at the outer edge. This means that while there may be hurricanes brewing in the north, Bonaire rarely gets a direct hit. Even tropical storms are extremely uncommon in the region.
This has made Bonaire and the rest of the ABC Islands a holiday haven
The island’s last encounter with a concerning weather system was back in 2007, together with the rest of the ABC Islands. While Hurricane Felix didn’t directly hit the Bonaire, Aruba, and Curacao but it did affect the islands, with strong winds and heavy rains – but no serious damage for Bonaire.
Do Hurricanes Hit Bonaire?
With its location just at the outer reaches of the Hurricane Belt, Bonaire rarely gets directly hit by hurricanes. However, it can still get affected by strong winds and heavy rains, especially if the hurricane gets a bit closer.
Is It Always Windy in Bonaire?
Due to its proximity to the equator, trade winds blow through the island from the east – this caused the island’s characteristic winds. The easterly trade winds, however, cause very rough conditions at the windward side of the island, and the lee-side is almost always calm, perfect for beach lounging and other water activities.
The windiest months are May, June, and July, with June as the windiest month with average sustained winds of 15.4 knots or 17.8 miles per hour (28.6 km per hour). However, the trade winds tend to die down in September, and October.
The island’s pesky winds might be a nuisance to some, but you can enjoy good kite surfing and windsurfing on the island from May to June. Due to the trade winds seeming perpetual presence, Bonaire isn’t only known for diving and snorkeling, but wind activities as well.
Can You Drink the Tap Water in Bonaire?
Just like the rest of the ABC Islands, the tap water in Bonaire is drinkable. The water that goes through the taps of the island goes through a treatment process called desalination.
With a significant lack of freshwater sources, the water is taken from the sea and then treated in a plant before being distributed.
The Dutch Antilles are known to have high water quality that allows people to consume them through the tap and is proven to be safe for drinking. The tap water from these islands meets the highest quality standards of the World Health Organization.
Is Bonaire Dangerous in Any Way?
If you’re thinking about crimes like gang violence, looting, and hate crimes, it’s pretty much non-existent in Bonaire. However, you still can’t rule out the possibility of petty crimes like theft and pickpocketing.
Bonaire can be safe and dangerous depending on how you treat your own safety. But, in technicality, the only things you should watch for are the strong currents and winds that are prevalent on the windward side (eastern side) of the island. Currents may put you at risk when driving, and strong winds might cause harsher waves if you’re swimming out.
Is Bonaire Expensive?
By holiday vacation standards, Bonaire can be relatively expensive. This is a pretty common phenomenon if you’re traveling around the Dutch Antilles, especially Aruba – which can be dangerously expensive if you don’t know how to go around high prices.
For comparison, if you think about expenses and cost of living in other holiday hotspots like Mexico’s Cancun, another Caribbean favorite, versus Bonaire, you’ll see the contrasts.
For a cheap meal at a sit-down restaurant, a meal in Cancun would cost you about 5 to 6 USD, while in Bonaire it may set you back to a whole 15 USD. Another comparison would be beer, a domestic beer in Cancun is 2 USD, in Bonaire, it can cost 3 to 4 USD.
Without having to go into much detail you can already surmise the differences between the two and how Bonaire can be pricier than most vacation destinations.
How Much Does It Cost to Live in Bonaire?
If you’re planning on staying in Bonaire for a week, a 1,500 to 2,000 USD budget might suffice, given the high prices of the island. But, you can always find ways to go around the infamous high prices of the Dutch Caribbean. You double that budget for duos, and so on.
To avail of cheaper accommodations, you can visit during the off-season, like the wet months, and the shoulder season. If you want to get a good deal on tours and travel tickets book a month in advance. You can always look up ways to expand your budget’s coverage.
How Expensive Is Food in Bonaire?
It can be ridiculously expensive if you don’t how to manage your money and find ways to go around the high prices. A relatively cheap meal in a sit-down restaurant in Bonaire can cost up to 15 USD, while a fancy three-course meal can set you back to 90 USD.
To spare the trouble of high prices, you can always go grocery shopping, and make your own food, just be sure to book accommodation that has a full kitchen. Milk, loaf bread, eggs, onion, potatoes, tomatoes, and so on can cost you 2 to 4 USD. And, meats and fruits cost a range of 4 to 18 USD.
Does Bonaire Have All-Inclusive Resorts?
Bonaire may have a big beach scene and a rich diving and snorkeling culture, but the island only has two all-inclusive resorts: Van der Valk Plaza Beach & Dive Resort, and Divi Flamingo Beach Resort & Casino. The rest of the resorts aren’t all-inclusive or only offer all-inclusive packages that guests can choose from.
The Van der Valk Plaza’s all-inclusive services include extensive packages that cover flights, private transfers, and island tours. The resort has complete facilities and amenities perfect for a sunny holiday in Bonaire, with a luxury Magna swilling pool with sweeping views over the sea, and an in-house diving school.
The resort complex is only a 5-minute walk aways from Kralendijk, completely easily accessible if you want to explore the city.
You can enjoy Divi Flamingo Beach Resort & Casino’s new all-inclusive options to enjoy snorkeling adventures, fun and exciting activities, food and beverages, and a room with a good view. You can dine in the resort’s Caribbean-flavored meals from their many restaurants, and try out your luck in their casino, or scuba dive and snorkel through the beautiful Caribbean ocean.
Plus, they have spacious oceanfront and pool view rooms, complete with all the amenities you need.
What Is the Currency in Bonaire?
Bonaire’s official currency is US dollars. The island has adopted the US currency in 2011 and has been used in trade and tourism ever since. The reason for this change is because of the US dollar’s wide use and influence among the Dutch Caribbean.
Imports and exports to and from Bonaire, along with Saba, Sint Maarten, and Saint Eustatius primarily involve countries that use the US dollars or the US linked currencies and countries.
Can You Use Us Dollars in Bonaire?
Due to the adoption of US dollars, US citizens are saved from the trouble of exchanging their money in other currencies. Although US dollars are widely used and adopted in the Dutch Caribbean, this, however, puts many budget travelers at certain disadvantages. Not only the value of the currency being used is high, but the prices around these islands are also high as well.
How Do You Get Around Bonaire?
There are 3 common ways to get around the island: by car, taxi, or bicycle. Rental car companies speckle Kralendijk, some of the best-rated ones are Island Car Rental Bonaire, Budget Rent a Car, AB Car Rental, and Bonaire Tours & Vacation. You can choose different types of vehicles according to your liking, seating capacity, and model.
Unlike its ABC Island sister, Aruba, Bonaire lacks a developed public transportation system, and thus there is a significant lack of buses and ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft.
Taxis offer quick short-distance travel. Taxis have fixed rates depending from point to point, however they tend to increase late at night.
Bicycle is another option that can be the cheapest one. Renting a bike lets you experience many of the island vistas as it is light and compact and can be taken to virtually almost any terrain.
You can rent a bike at one of the several bike shops, and take a guided mountain-bike tour along the island’s Washinton Slagbaai National Park.
Do You Need a Car in Bonaire?
Depending on your budget, and itinerary, the necessity of a car can be of many factors. But, if you like exploring the island on four wheels, with a hefty budget, and a knack for driving around, getting somewhere in not time, then renting a car can be ideal.
Apart from that, there isn’t an extreme necessity to rent one, you can easily bike or take a taxi to many of the important parts of the island. If you go on tours and excursions, many of the tour packages have in-house transport already.
How Long Does It Take to Drive Around Bonaire?
You can drive around the island in less than a day, that’s how small it is. You can most certainly do that with a rental car, as the island is approximately 288 sq km or 111 sq mi, getting around would be easy and fast.
However, be extra careful when driving outside of the city propers, Bonaire is not known for the best roads.
With the different weather conditions on the island, especially searing-hot temperatures and only a little rain, the roads tend to be less desirable for drivers. The best vehicles to rent while on the island are good off-road types that can take on potholes and bumps on the asphalt.
What Side of the Road Does Bonaire Drive on?
In Bonaire, you drive on the right-hand side of the road just like in most countries, especially the US. Consequently, US citizens who choose to rent a car in Bonaire consider this an easy adjustment, but for those coming from the UK, they might take a back seat.
How Far Is Klein Bonaire From Bonaire?
The shore-to-shore distance of Klein Bonaire from Bonaire is less than a kilometer or approximately 800 meters. You can easily take a boat from Eden Beach to Klein Bonaire, and enjoy its quirky little beaches, and the fantastic snorkeling and diving experience it can offer.
Why Is the Water Pink in Bonaire?
Bonaire doesn’t have pink waters per se, but rather an interesting spot at the southern reaches of the island that tends to have shades of pink in the water.
The Salt Pans resemble pink lakes right by the salt pier that juts out into the Caribbean ready for shipment. You can spot huge pyramids of salt along the lakes, along with myriads pf pink flamingo as this is also home to the Flamingo Sanctuary.
What Can I Buy in Bonaire?
Just stroll around the city of Kralendijk can give you plenty of options to buy that are uniquely Bonaire. With Bonaire’s mixed culture and history, combined with the island’s many specialties you’ll be sure to have plenty to carry around on your way back.
If you’re planning on paying a visit to the island’s Salt Pans/Flats, you’ll realize how much salt is being produced on the island. Head on to the many specialty stores in Kralendijk, or buy straight from salt mills near the salt pier. Nothing beat evaporated sea salt straight from one of the best producers in the world.
Grab a box of handmade chocolates, the local favorite “Bolo Pretu” or the black rum cake as a gift for friends when you get back from Bonaire. Other local bakes goods are also worth the purchase like the Caribbean churros, and the peanut coconut cookies.
Another island pride that you must try and bring some home is the Bonaire Liqueur. Made from a special cactus that grows on the island known as the Kadushu cactus. This drink is sweet and can be a great dessert drink.
If you fancy handicrafts, check out many of them made from driftwood in markets and gift stores around Bonaire. Locals collect unique and interesting pieces of driftwood, sun-dry them, and craft them into different manners of sculptures, bowls, and furniture. It will be perfect memorabilia of your time on the island.
What Should I Bring to Bonaire?
Apart from the beach or island necessities like toiletries, sunscreen, bikinis, and other bathing suits, a first aid kit, or medicine, you should also pack weather/climate-appropriate clothing. After deciding which month you’re going to visit, you can look up possible weather systems from there.
Bonaire, just like the rest of the Lesser Antilles, is sunny and warm throughout the year, so you better pack light or thin clothing that can keep you cool and help regulate the heat.
Ladies can pack basic t-shirts, light button-downs, blouses, shorts, or even skirts, and a pair of flip-flops or sandals. As for the men, you can go for tank tops, basic t-shirts, light button-downs, shorts, and a pair of flip-flops or sandals.
It’s also best to bring cash with different denominations for tipping, and taxi fares.
What Is the Best Time to Go to Bonaire?
If you prefer fewer crowds and cheaper hotel and accommodation rates, it’s best to go from May to October. This is the island’s low season where temperatures are soaring reaching the mid-20’s in Celsius or the 80-degree temperatures in Fahrenheit.
The months of May through August are the windiest with June experiencing the most winds, the heat can be regulated by the island’s famous trade winds perfect for plenty of outdoor activities.
How Many Days Do You Need in Bonaire?
An island as small and exciting as Bonaire, 3 full days can give you ample time to experience and enjoy many things that the island can offer. The island’s size helios with traveling in between locations, but its many dive sites, beaches, and an expansive national park can keep you occupied.