Just north of Venezuela lies a 21 miles long crescent-shaped island adored for its impressive marine diversity, fabulous fringing reef hugging the island’s west coast, and amazing underwater visibility. We are of course talking about Bonaire, the island Netherlands municipality that has been labelled by many an underwater enthusiast as one of the world’s premier diving destinations. The mixture of a consistently dry climate and unique coral composition makes for very little soil run-off in the surrounding sea, allowing for anyone looking to get a good look at the local marine life to see beneath the sea with extreme ease.
The island’s legendary status as a diver’s paradise goes beyond simply being able to see all the amazing sea creatures just beneath the surface, Bonaire holds its own as a delightful holiday destination by itself! It’s sister islands, Aruba & Curaçao which are grouped with Bonaire under the designation as the ABC Dutch Antilles, tend to hog the spotlight when it comes to prestigious Caribbean island getaways due to their glistening silver coasts and their craggy limestone coves making them extremely instagrammable and highly popular wedding destinations. While Bonaire may come up slightly short where these two islands thrive, in relaxing scenery, it makes up for in spades with its sense of adventure.
Whether it’s scuba diving, snorkelling, swimming, kayaking, windsurfing, hiking, caving, or birdwatching, this island paradise has access to many thrilling activities ideal for those of us that live for water sports, exploration, and wildlife. For this very reason, the island is host to an abundance of luxury beach resorts that line the shore and offer small but intimate seaside experiences that are tranquil, charming, and give you access to balconies with shoreline sunset views that will blow your mind. To top it all off, most of these hotels are mere minutes away from the island’s airport, so you won’t find yourself faffing around looking for a way to your bedroom for the stay.
Once you’ve gotten yourself settled in, you’ll be ready to begin your island adventure! When it comes to barriers between you and the beach, there’s very little to speak of. The island only consists of 2 towns, the capital city Kralendijk and the old town Rincon which serve as jumping-off points for visitors hoping to see what Bonaire has to offer.
Bonaire National Marine Park
Bonaire National Marine Park serves as the premier attraction of the island and is one of stand-out snorkelling destinations due to its impressive collection of pristine coral that is under special protection to preserve its quality and longevity. The protected area spans the whole island’s coast, going all the way up to the small deserted island, Klein Bonaire, at a depth of 200ft. With more than 100 diving spots accessible from the shore and nearly 60 different species of coral throughout the reef, you’ll never run out of beautiful underwater scenery to take in. At a generous $45 per person for scuba diving, you’ll be hard pressed to not take advantage of the stunning shorelines on display.
Washington-Slagbaai National Park
On top of that, this fee also grants you access to Washington-Slagbaai National Park, one of the island’s other major draws. While the marine park lays claim to Bonaire’s sea, this park commands much of the land, taking up almost 20% of the island’s body. Being composed mainly of desert terrain, a bike or four-wheel drive is the ideal way to traverse the landscape, although hiking the trails on foot is certainly a viable option. During a trek, you’ll be treated to a variety of stunning salt ponds, seascapes, desert vistas, and an abundance of cacti to complete the dusty atmosphere. Those with a keen eye will be rewarded with a variety of concealed beaches that are great for a break or if you are looking for a slightly more secluded diving spot where you can get up close and personal with the reefs with minimal underwater traffic. Get to the Lagadishi loop trail bright and early in order to avoid the heat and be treated to flamingo’s congregating around salt pans and archaic stone walls offering windows into the island’s past.
The last of Bonaire’s gems we want to highlight is Klein Bonaire. At a mere 1km off the coast of Kralendijk this tiny island is only a short water taxi away from the mainland and offers one of the sandiest and most secluded beaches you can find, No Name Beach. This tiny island benefits from housing no facilities with only a few marked dive spots and shading structures to its name, making it ideal for anyone looking for a truly tranquil snorkelling experience, or just anyone who wants to enjoy some peace and quiet on a truly uninhabited island. With its uniquely calming shores and incredible shoreline views, it’s a perfect encapsulation of what makes visiting Bonaire such a treat.
Feeling inspired to visit the Caribbean? Check out our list of other top islands for every budget.