Bonaire is the very best Caribbean island getaway you’ve got by no means heard of


Bonaire — Wait, the place? Bonaire is the “B” of the ABC Islands that embrace Aruba and Curaçao. Positioned on the south facet of the Caribbean Sea, Bonaire is a Dutch island that seamlessly blends Dutch traditions with Caribbean tradition and a wild pure magnificence that make this island a exceptional diamond within the tough.

If you happen to’ve at all times needed to go to the Caribbean however you’ve by no means actually needed the standard touristy resort expertise, Bonaire island provides you a novel alternative to flee to a distinct type of tropical getaway. Are you able to get away in an entire new approach?

First, I’ve to make a confession

An aerial view of Kralendijk, Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands.
Andrew Davey/The Guide

Till 2022, I had not even heard about this island. Although I had heard about Aruba and Curaçao, Bonaire utterly flew beneath my radar till I lastly made my approach onto this unimaginable Dutch Caribbean island. So what’s it like visiting this island?

Principally, Bonaire provides a portal to a really totally different facet of the Caribbean. With few main brand-name resorts, fewer apparent “vacationer entice” purchasing malls, many extra huge open areas, and lots of extra pristine seashores that speak in confidence to a few of the Caribbean Sea’s most lovely waters, Bonaire provides vacationers the final word alternative to actually get away from all of it and recharge with Mom Nature. 

Now, let’s be taught a bit extra about Bonaire

A group of flamingos swim in Lac Bay in Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands.
Andrew Davey/The Guide

People might not be very accustomed to Bonaire, but Bonaire has performed a important function within the historical past of the Americas. Archaeologists have found human stays relationship way back to 3300 BCE on the island. The Caquetío tribe arrived there from mainland South America round 500 CE, and Spain started to colonize the ABC Islands in 1499. About seven many years later, Spain fell into the Eighty Years Warfare in opposition to The Netherlands, and The Netherlands retaliated in opposition to Spain’s assault on Sint Maarten by attacking — and in the end, conquering — Bonaire in 1636. 

Beneath Dutch rule, Bonaire and close by Curaçao turned epicenters of the Transatlantic Slave Commerce, and remnants of this brutal interval could be discovered all through the island at this time. Temporary intervals of British rule within the early Nineteenth century introduced a brand new wave of white settlers to the city now generally known as Kralendijk, but the big inhabitants of enslaved Black and multi-racial residents quickly started to combat for his or her freedom. The Dutch authorities lastly relented with the 1862 Emancipation Regulation. 

Whereas Nazi Germany managed the Dutch mainland throughout most of World Warfare II, the U.S. and the U.Ok. took management of Bonaire and used this island as an air pressure base. Later within the twentieth century, salt manufacturing and petroleum transportation turned main drivers of Bonaire’s economic system, and tourism started to take off as soon as divers started to find the largely unspoiled waters offshore. This has led to a captivating but difficult balancing act during which Dutch and native authorities have given Bonaire essentially the most protected public lands and open waters of the ABC Islands, however they’ve additionally steadily allowed for a bit extra improvement to carry extra vacationers right here.

What’s it like to really keep right here?

The beach at the Divi Flamingo Beach Resort Bonaire.
Andrew Davey/The Guide

Whereas I’ve zero curiosity in denigrating another Caribbean island, I do assume it’s value noting how so many people are immediately drawn to the standard name-brand megaresorts once we come this fashion. On Bonaire, we’re actually pushed to flee the field, broaden our horizons, and take a look at loads of new experiences. 

Although there are some high-end choices amongst Bonaire resorts lately, I merely didn’t discover the rows of megaresorts right here which are extra widespread on different islands, even together with Bonaire’s fellow Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba. Don’t get me flawed — There’s a lot for vacationers to do throughout the island, together with exploring Bonaire’s capital metropolis of Kralendijk. That is by far Bonaire’s largest metropolis, so it’s the place I discovered essentially the most resorts, eating places, bars, and boutiques. Make no mistake: I used to be fairly proud of what I discovered on the town.

After I left Kralendijk, the extra rural expanses of Bonaire felt like I used to be coming into an entire new world. Since I’ve loved road-tripping alongside the Pacific Coast Freeway by California’s Huge Sur, I completely liked the rugged but idyllic stretch of shoreline between Kralendijk and Rincón. As we’re about to debate at larger size beneath, there are much more stupendous surprises to find all through this magical island.

What to do 

Throughout my time on this island, I realized simply how idyllic Bonaire could be for vacationers who need to get out and discover some tropical nice outdoor. You possibly can hike to your coronary heart’s content material throughout the island and discover the abundance of public lands. With its famously clear turquoise water, Bonaire really is the “Divers’ Paradise.” And with so many open areas throughout this island, you possibly can spot fairly a couple of of the area’s well-known animals out within the wild. 

Bonaire Nationwide Marine Park

A fish swims in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Bonaire.
Andrew Davey/The Guide

Encircling your complete island and increasing to 60 meters (or about 196 toes) in depth, the Bonaire Nationwide Marine Park protects a few of the world’s healthiest and most various coral reefs. Practically 60 coral species all name the waters off Bonaire dwelling, and wildlife like sea turtles, seahorses, and a number of fish species thrive on this uncommon underwater pure sanctuary.

I’m not even an skilled diver, however I liked leaping into the water and opening myself to new underwater discoveries. The seawater right here is really this good!

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1000 Steps Seashore

A view of the beach at 1000 Steps Beach in Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands.
Andrew Davey/The Guide

Although solely 67 steps truly separate the bluff prime from the seashore beneath, this seashore bought its identify from the divers who complained about how the steps felt extra like 1,000 on the best way again up. The beautiful star coral “pagodas” present important habitat for native wildlife like handbill turtles and manta ray, and whale sharks have usually been noticed round these components. Even should you’re not all the way down to dive in, the rocky scenic seashore is nice to benefit from the vibes and the sunshine.

I liked stopping right here to soak up the views and benefit from the majestic surroundings, and the one draw back I bumped into at 1000 Steps Seashore is that I didn’t have extra time to discover this uniquely lovely seashore.

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Lac Bay and Sorobon Seashore

A group of flamingos swim in Lac Bay in Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands.
Andrew Davey/The Guide

Tucked away on the southeastern finish of the island, this eight-square-kilometer (or about three-square-mile) shallow lagoon makes for the proper surroundings for windsurfing, kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, and easily having fun with an idyllic day at this picturesque seashore. With an abundance of sea turtles — and of birds hardly ever discovered nearly all over the place else — animal lovers will probably love spending the day trip right here with their new shelled and feathered buddies. Even for individuals who search a distinct type of “wildlife,” Sorobon Seashore and Jibe Metropolis are nice for kicking again and turning up island fashion. 

I actually can’t stress sufficient the magical fantastic thing about this stretch of shoreline. From the flamingos having fun with their day at Lac Bay to the ethereally turquoise water at Jibe Metropolis, I used to be continually “shooketh” by the surreal panorama of this (much more) wild facet of Bonaire.

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Bonaire Slave Huts

The old slave huts of Kralendijk, Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands

South of Kralendijk and close to the famed salt pans, you’ll run into the notorious slave huts. Constructed a mere dozen years earlier than The Netherlands lastly abolished slavery on its Caribbean islands, these huts function stark reminders of the horrors of European colonization of the Americas. Throughout the mid-Nineteenth century, round 500 enslaved Black Bonaireans have been pressured to cut salt with pickaxes, shovels, and wheelbarrows in an effort to gasoline The Netherlands’ profitable salt buying and selling companies. These individuals who have been pressured to work the salt pans stayed in these huts. Extra lately, the Netherlands Nationwide Antilles Basis (or Stinapa) has labored to revive these huts to protect this important facet of the island’s historical past.

I perceive that this can be fairly the emotionally jarring expertise for some vacationers, however I do in the end assume it’s worthwhile for all vacationers coming to Bonaire to drive right here. It’s far too simple for approach too many people to solely conjure up imagery of lush and opulent beachside resorts once we consider the Caribbean; this landmark serves as a brutal but vital reminder of the painful historical past that formed the Caribbean area that so many people love to go to now. 

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Bonaire Arts and Crafts Cruise Market

A look inside the Bonaire Arts and Crafts Cruise Market.
Bonaire Arts and Crafts Cruise Market

Sure, sure, I do know that this market is correct by the island’s cruise ship port. That stated, this open-air market truly options over 40 native artists and creators who make their merchandise proper right here on Bonaire. In addition they emphasize sustainability: You’ll discover all the pieces from jewellery to sunscreen that’s made with sustainably sourced supplies and recycled supplies wherever attainable. This market is ideal should you’re looking for souvenirs and/or particular items for family members. You’ll discover distinctive hand-crafted merchandise that you could really feel higher about stuffing into your suitcase.

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The place to remain

Although Bonaire has lately skilled some development that’s resulted in additional resorts and resorts, it’s nonetheless far much less developed than its fellow Dutch Caribbean islands of Aruba and Curaçao. You gained’t discover as many expansive luxurious resorts right here as you’ll there, however you will discover some charming boutique resorts and comfy trip leases throughout the island.

Writer’s Notice: For this journey, airfare and lodging have been generously offered by CheapCaribbean. Nonetheless, they by no means exerted any undue affect over the opinions I present on this information.

Divi Flamingo Seashore Resort and On line casino

A hotel room at the Divi Flamingo Beach Resort in Kralendijk, Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands.
Andrew Davey/The Guide

Whether or not you need to leap into city, dive into the water, or hop across the island, the Divi Flamingo Seashore Resort has you lined. This resort’s on-site diving amenities have all the pieces it’s worthwhile to dive proper in; it helps that it’s situated proper on the shoreline! If you happen to’re extra of a landlubber, concern not — the Divi Flamingo Seashore is strolling distance from Kralendijk’s historic downtown, and it’s simple to drive from right here to just about all over the place else you need to discover on Bonaire.

The lodge rooms might not look fancy, however they’re absolutely stocked with all of the requirements of life, together with first rate wifi web, satellite tv for pc TV with a number of channels, mattress, and a full rest room. The lodge additionally has good eating places on web site, and it has seashores and a pool space the place you possibly can take pleasure in as a lot relaxation and rest as you need.

  • Nearest airport: Bonaire – Flamingo
  • Time: 3–8 minutes by automotive
  • Distance: 3 kilometers (or 1 mile)

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Courtyard By Marriott Bonaire Dive Resort

A hotel room at the Courtyard By Marriott Bonaire Dive Resort.
Marriott Worldwide, Inc.

If you happen to’re craving a bit extra familiarity together with your keep, you possibly can at all times examine into the Courtyard by Marriott. It has a pleasant infinity pool for swimming and stress-free and an on-site diving heart. It’s additionally near a few of the greatest Bonaire diving seashores. As well as, you’re a detailed drive away from the airport, extra seashores, and the island’s famed flamingo and donkey sanctuaries. 

  • Nearest airport: Bonaire – Flamingo
  • Time: 3–5 minutes by automotive
  • Distance: 1.3 kilometers (or lower than 1 mile)

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The Bellafonte

A view of the Caribbean Sea from the The Bellafonte Bonaire.
The Bellafonte Bonaire

If you happen to insist on extra creature comforts throughout your keep on Bonaire, The Bellafonte is tough to beat. This posh beachfront boutique lodge provides spacious studios and suites with non-public balconies or patios, together with loos which are absolutely stocked with premium toiletries. The Bellafonte additionally has an on-site restaurant, on-site diving amenities, a full-service spa, and a concierge desk that may organize non-public automotive rides to only about wherever you need to go on the island.

  • Nearest airport: Bonaire – Flamingo
  • Time: 3–5 minutes by automotive
  • Distance: 1.5 kilometers (or lower than 1 mile)

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The place to eat

Positive, you will discover some acquainted meals on Bonaire, however while you’re able to enterprise out and take a look at extra native grub, Bonaire has a lot so that you can style and luxuriate in. 

Value key

  • “$” = budget-friendly or low-cost 
  • “$$”= common 
  • “$$$”= costly 

Membership Trocadero Bonaire

A pasta dinner at Club Trocadero Bonaire in Kralendijk, Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands.
Andrew Davey/The Guide

Positioned proper within the coronary heart of Kralendijk, Membership Trocadero provides an ideal platform to dive proper into Bonaire’s nightlife. If you happen to’re hungry, come right here to seize some dinner — you’ll discover loads of seafood, a strong choice of premium Argentinian beef, and yummy vegetarian and vegan choices. You have got a full drink menu jam-packed with inexpensive beers, wines, and cocktails to take pleasure in, and the workers is nice at whipping up off-menu drinks. For extra, stick round for stay music and a popping dance flooring!

  • Greatest for: Dinner and late evening
  • $$

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Posada Para Mira

A table with many plates of food at Posada Para Mira Bonaire.
Posada Para Mira Bonaire

Posada Para Mira provides a wealth of genuine Bonairean delicacies, from iguana stew to conch plates and an entire lot in between (together with vegetarian and vegan choices). Don’t come right here in search of fancy stuff, however do come right here for tasty grub, superb views, and really pleasant service. Particularly should you’re driving into Rincón to soak up some sights round city, this can be a great spot to cease and refuel.

  • Greatest for: Lunch and dinner
  • $$

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Hold Out Seashore Bar at Jibe Metropolis

A view of the Caribbean Sea from the Jibe City beach on Bonaire.
Andrew Davey/The Guide

If you merely need to hang around on the seashore, you may as effectively come right here, proper on the legendary Sorobon Seashore. You possibly can take pleasure in a protracted and lazy lunch whereas having fun with the magnificent seashore view and sea breeze. It’s a standard theme now, however I’ll stress this once more: Don’t come right here anticipating connoisseur fare. If you happen to merely need some simple bar meals and good drinks, you’ll be joyful right here. If you happen to’re right here to benefit from the seashore, leap within the water, and take a look at some windsurfing, you possibly can spend the entire day right here (extra on this beneath!).

  • Greatest for: Breakfast, lunch, and early dinner
  • $$

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Listed here are some suggestions for planning a greater journey

Tips on how to get right here

The runway at Flamingo - Bonaire International Airport.
Andrew Davey/The Guide

Luckily for U.S.-based vacationers coming right here, Bonaire’s Flamingo Airport now provides nonstop flights to and from Atlanta, Houston, Miami, and Newark/New York Metropolis. As well as, you will discover direct flights to and from Amsterdam (in fact!) and Brussels, in addition to the opposite ABC Islands and Santo Domingo within the Dominican Republic. Sadly, there’s presently no inter-island ferry service, however cruise ships can and do dock on the cruise port for day excursions.


A beach at night in Kralendijk, Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands.
Andrew Davey/The Guide

Because the ABC Islands are so near Venezuela, I completely perceive why some potential vacationers might really feel nervous. Nonetheless, the U.S. State Division has a Stage One advisory for Bonaire as of November 2022. Which means that Bonaire is within the most secure tier within the State Division’s rankings.

In fact, this doesn’t imply that no crime ever occurs right here, so it’s nonetheless clever to take some precautions. Share your itinerary with a trusted liked one, use a navigation app like Google Maps to familiarize your self with the world prematurely, agree on designated meet-up websites in case you half methods together with your group (should you’re touring in a bunch), and keep away from “dressing like a vacationer.”

If you happen to actually get right into a bind, contact the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for twenty-four/7 emergency assist.  

Cross-border journey

A United Airlines airplane boards at Flamingo - Bonaire International Airport.
Andrew Davey/The Guide

Since The Netherlands doesn’t require visas for short-term U.S. vacationers, you solely want a legitimate passport and cost of the $75 customer entry tax to get into Bonaire. If you happen to’re planning to incorporate further islands and/or international locations in your itinerary, it’s possible you’ll have to take some further steps. Whereas the opposite two ABC Islands don’t cost any entry tax, you will want to fill out the respective entry types prematurely for Aruba and Curaçao if you wish to go to these islands.

If you happen to’re planning on doing a bigger tour of most different Caribbean Islands and/or Colombia, you ought to be completely advantageous together with your legitimate passport. However should you’re contemplating touring to Cuba and/or Haiti, you will want to do some homework and legwork prematurely to remain on U.S. Customs’ good facet.

Then there’s Venezuela. Although Venezuela and the U.S. may lastly be warming up to one another once more (as of December 2022), you’ll nonetheless want an official visa from a Venezuelan Embassy or Consulate should you’re planning to journey there. You must also needless to say it’s most likely not a good suggestion to enter Venezuela from a land-based border crossing, Miami is the one U.S. airport that provides any direct flights to and from Caracas, and it’s nonetheless a good suggestion to have a backup plan in case U.S.-Venezuelan relations worsen but once more. 

Public well being

A box of COVID-19 antigen rapid test kits.
Andrew Davey/The Guide

Luckily for vacationers, ArubaBonaire, and Curaçao lifted practically all their COVID-19 period journey guidelines earlier in 2022. Damaging COVID-19 take a look at outcomes and proof of vaccination are not required for entry. Nonetheless, vacationers are nonetheless required to report back to authorities in the event that they expertise any COVID-like signs, and quarantines are nonetheless vital if vacationers take a look at constructive. Masks are not required, however public well being authorities nonetheless encourage the usage of masks and social distancing to maintain the islands’ COVID infections low.

Although the ABC Islands not implement the above-mentioned public well being security guidelines, you possibly can nonetheless take motion to guard your self and others:

How to economize

A cocktail at the restaurant at the Divi Flamingo Beach Resort in Kralendijk, Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands.
Andrew Davey/The Guide

Luckily for discount hunters and shoestring adventurers, Bonaire is chock filled with offers. As we mentioned earlier, Bonaire tends to supply a wider array of extra inexpensive lodging than Aruba and Curaçao, and the native eating scene is centered extra on native dives and holes within the wall than advantageous eating institutions. If you happen to’re trying to save more cash, you’ll most likely need to “go off-campus” extra for meals and take a look at extra locals-oriented shops for souvenirs.

Notes on tradition and language

The Divi Flamingo Beach Resort in Kralendijk, Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands.
Andrew Davey/The Guide

Dutch and Papiamento are the official languages of all three ABC Islands, however English can also be broadly spoken. Although native attitudes on issues like LGBTQ+ acceptance might not but match these of the mainland Netherlands in Europe, native civil rights legal guidelines have improved in recent times; on Bonaire, they’re on par with these of the mainland as a result of Bonaire has a better relationship with the Dutch nationwide authorities than Aruba and Curaçao do.

Because the least visited of the ABC Islands, Bonaire is essentially the most pristine and most “all the way down to the earth” island. This doesn’t imply there’s nothing enjoyable to do (see above!), but it surely does imply you gained’t discover the treasure trove of bars and golf equipment that you will discover extra simply on Aruba and on the extra common Caribbean islands. Kralendijk does provide some vigorous nightlife, however don’t plan on any late-night pub crawls wherever else on the island.

Lastly, some thanks

A fiery cocktail at cocktail at Tiki & Co. in Kralendijk, Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands.
Andrew Davey/The Guide

Earlier than we wrap this up, I’ve to point out my gratitude to everybody who helped make this occur. Once more, many because of CheapCaribbean for arranging all of the logistics for my journey to the ABC Islands. 

Additionally, thanks for persevering with to learn and comply with us right here at The Guide. If you happen to’re wanting to boost your 2023 journey agenda, check out the very best U.S. cities for foodies, absolutely the hottest locations on earth, and the following pointers for surviving any air journey woes which will come your approach. As you intend your subsequent journey, we hope you benefit from the experience and dive proper into your subsequent nice journey.

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