Bonaire has a special place in the hearts of divers. While it's probably due to the unmatched diving and the amazing coral reefs surrouding the island, most visitors come to Bonaire for a beach vacation that is uniquely Caribbean. If you’re looking to do more than just laze in the sand, there’s plenty of adventure to be found in Bonaire. Windsurfing, fishing and exploring the flamingo-inhabited salt flats located on south side of the island are all on the menu in Bonaire. And when you need a break, the warmth and friendliness of the locals will put you at ease. Ultimately, though, much of the draw to this island harkens back to its world-class diving. Many hotels even cater to divers by offering air-tank refilling stations in the lobby and tips on where to find the most colorful reefs around. After one trip, you’ll know why Bonaire is considered a diver’s paradise.
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Mapping Out Bonaire
Bonaire is a fairly large island surrounded by a coral reef that shields the island from the strong currents of the sea. On the northern tip of Bonaire, you’ll find the Washington Slagbaai National Park, which has the highest point on the island. With an eagle-eyed view, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding coast and plot your next adventure. When you've had your fill of sight-seeing, Lac Bay is located on the eastern-side of the island and is known as a windsurfer’s paradise. Atlantis Beach, on the western part, is a hotspot for swimming, kite-surfing and general beach-side fun.
Washington-Slagbaai National Park
Located on the northwest portion of Bonaire, Washington-Slagbaai National Park and Bonaire National Marine Park covers almost a quarter of the entire island. If you’re looking for a fun place to go out and explore, the park’s rugged roads are definitely worth the bumpy journey.
Once you get there, you'll find yourself in the center of an oasis of pink flamingos, parrots, iguanas and many other types of exotic wildlife. If you enjoy snorkeling, Bonaire National Marine Park is known as the Caribbean’s diving capital. And if you enjoy hiking, be sure to trek on Washington-Slagbaai National Park’s 90-minute Lagadishi loop, which takes you past ancient stone walls and challenging climbing trails. No matter what you find here, you're sure to enjoy the oasis of adventure at Washington-Slagbaai National Park.
Trading Hands: The History of Bonaire
Before it became a top tourist destination, Bonaire was home to the Arawaks. For thousands of years, these indigenous people lived peacefully on the island until Spain laid its claim to Bonaire in 1499. While Bonaire’s Spanish influence is quite visible, you can still see traces of the Arawaks when you explore a number of remote caves. There, you'll find ancient cave drawings, artifacts and remnants of these ancient people.
When the Dutch took control of the island in 1634, they took advantage of the island’s flats for their salt producing industry that still operates today. From the varied diversity of the Spanish, Dutch and Arawak people, Bonaire has become a thrilling and educational destination for visitors who return time and time again looking for an exotic Caribbean experience.
For a Good Time, Get to Kralendijk
In Dutch, Kralendijk simply means "coral reef." And that’s exactly why the area around this capital city has become a mecca for divers, adventurers and photographers. While many usually find themselves breathless when faced with the underwater beauty of the region, the beauty on land can be just as majestic.
A walk along the rocky path toward the coast can be a thrill-ride in itself, but the breathtaking views of the vistas and sparkling shoreline are well worth the effort. Watch the skies, though. The roads can become impassable after heavy rain. In the end, you’ll be pleased to enjoy the "views" of your labor.
Windsurf Your Way to Victory
As the unofficial sport of Bonaire, windsurfing has created quite a stir. Thrillseekers come from far and wide to take advantage of Bonaire’s clear waters, shallow sea and hotbed of talent. In fact, 3 of the world’s top windsurfers call Bonaire home—with much of the island embracing the sport, residents even consider these champions as national heroes.
Whether you want to catch some waves yourself, or just watch the pros, there are plenty of people and shops willing to help you get your feet wet.
Dancing with the Stars
The people of Bonaire have combined their varied ethnic backgrounds to produce a truly unique culture and dance tradition– the Simadan. Comprised of a colorful concoction of African drum beats and modern influences, the Simadan is one of the most widely known dances on the island.
Traditionally celebrated to make the end of a successful maize harvest, everyone on the island plays a part in the harvest festival by providing an exhilarating rendition of the Simadan to the tune of the island's finest food and drinks. If you really want to dance with the stars, Bonaire has all the steps you'll need!!
Bonaire Quick Facts
The official language of Bonaire is Dutch, but many speak English
The official currency is the US dollar.
127 volts with a standard US two-prong outlet.
All U.S. citizens must have a valid passport when traveling to and from Bonaire.
The water is safe to drink in Bonaire.
Eastern Standard Time (UTC/GMT -4 hours)
The peak travel season in Bonaire extends from mid-December through mid-April.