Bonaire Holiday Planning Guide
Thanks to its location outside the Caribbean "hurricane zone," Bonaire benefits from a semi-arid climate with plenty of warm, sunny days. From the island's coastline, a designated national park, you can access vibrant coral reefs that serve as a perfect destination for any snorkeling or diving enthusiast. Windsurfing and kitesurfing are also popular things to do on Bonaire due to the island's steady trade winds, while the arid interior offers numerous wildlife-rich protected areas, interesting rock formations, and scenic landscapes.
Places to Visit in Bonaire
Cities in BonaireKralendijk
: Home to just a few thousand citizens, this tiny capital boasts rich historical and cultural sites, as well as proximity to popular scuba diving locations. Kralendijk offers some classic Bonaire vacation ideas, including a walking tour around the colonial attractions, nearby hiking and caving trips, horseback riding, and tasting local cuisine.Rincon
: Best known for its cactus liqueur distillery, Rincon also hosts the Dia di Rincon festival on April 30 and Simandan, an annual harvest festival.
Popular Bonaire Tourist AttractionsBonaire National Marine Park
: Ranked as one of the top five diving destinations for many years, this marine park offers pristine water, abundant coral reefs, and plenty of turtle and seahorse sightings. The park includes 86 diving sites inhabited by around 350 fish species and 57 soft and stone corals. Lac Bay
: Embodying the best of a Bonaire vacation, this bay offers a fine white sand beach, turquoise sea, and restaurants--plus exciting snorkeling and diving spots, kayaking, and windsurfing.Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire
: This center takes care of sick and orphaned donkeys, who roam freely around the farm. Pet and feed the charming animals, and then enjoy a drink on the terrace overlooking the lake. Klein Bonaire
: This petite islet adjacent to the main island lets you escape civilization for a day. Coral reefs and pristine waters ensure memorable diving on the coastline, while its size also makes Klein Bonaire easy to explore by foot. Bari Reef
: Known as one of the most diverse reefs in the Caribbean and a popular attraction on Bonaire, this easily accessible reef continues to amaze snorkelers and divers with its rich marine life. The Cadushy Distillery
: Visit this distillery to taste liquor and other products made from a native cactus species, all served in the cool shade of a tropical-styled garden.Hilma Hooker
: A diving trip to one of the Caribbean's most famous shipwrecks (also known for carrying some eyebrow-raising cargo) will add intrigue to your Bonaire itinerary.Washington-Slagbaai National Park Visitor Center Museum
: Offering a detailed and extensive presentation of the island's plant and animals, this visitor center showcases various artifacts and photos.Lake Gotomeer
: This peculiar salt lake attracts visitors with its well-preserved nature, remoteness, and colorful flocks of flamingos.Boca Slagbaai
: Boasting a turquoise sea, rocky terrain, diving and swimming spots, and (harmless) wildlife roaming freely, this national park makes a perfect day trip.
Planning a Bonaire Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Bonaire with Kids
When it comes to planning a Bonaire holiday with kids, you'll find that most places cater to families. Most beaches on this tiny island allow for sunbathing, swimming, and enjoying the perks of pristine sea, and scuba dive operators happily provide lessons for kids. Resorts tend to cluster along the western coast, in or near Kralendijk
, where you'll have access to amenities and entertainment. Lots of beaches are a bit rocky, so if it's soft sand you're after, you'll find one of the few just north of the airport on the western coast. All ages will appreciate a day trip to the deserted Klein Bonaire
, where you can snorkel and dive among sea turtles, and admire the flamingos on land. Thanks to Bonaire's compact size, no matter where you decide to base yourself, you're just a ride away from other points on the island, including its numerous dive sites.
Things to Do in Bonaire with Kids
Offering a handful of kid-friendly attractions, Bonaire makes an ideal family holiday destination. In addition to snorkeling and diving courses, you'll find plenty of windsurfing activities and courses for kids on the windy eastern coast. The island's two towns, Kralendijk and Rincon
, have more entertainment facilities, shops, and family restaurants. The Flamingo Sanctuary
at the southern part of the island and the saltwater Lake Gotomeer
serve as a hotspot for flamingos, who also frequent beaches along the northwestern coastline. Washington-Slagbaai National Park Visitor Center Museum
offers sights of exotic animals, such as iguanas and birds, while the displays in the museum center will keep kids interested throughout the tour. Include a visit to Bonaire National Marine Park
on your Bonaire itinerary and enjoy the company of its charming residents.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Bonaire
Bonaire's accommodations and tourist facilities cater to families, making the island a good choice for a trip with kids. Do check for resorts that offer babysitting services or kids' programs if you want to unwind for an afternoon. Some resorts also provide activities for teenagers. Lack of heavy traffic and the small size of the island adds to its overall safety.
Take advantage of Bonaire's environmental awareness to introduce your kids to the local wildlife and value of conservation, and try to venture beyond your resort for meals, as the island offers a wealth of tasty international restaurants. Finally, bring waterproof sandals for everyone so you're comfortable on the rocky beaches.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Bonaire
Cuisine of Bonaire
A vacation in Bonaire includes indulging in culinary dishes from all around the world with a touch of traditional recipes and locally grown food. Italian, Suriname, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Indonesian, and Argentinian flavors combine with local rock lobsters, freshly caught fish, cacti, conch, and even iguanas. Some of the most popular dishes include kabritu stoba (a goat stew), keshi yena (cheese stuffed with fish), and bami goreng (grilled meat combined with Indonesian noodles). Most of the food comes from import, except for seafood, sorghum used for pancakes and porridge, and fruits such as limes, mangos, cherry, and soursop. Of course, a tour of Bonaire would be incomplete without trying island-made ice cream, served in many places on the island.
Shopping in Bonaire
When browsing for gifts and souvenirs on Bonaire, you'll find some shops around the island and at the resorts, but the picturesque craft market in Kralendijk provides the widest selection of products with a Caribbean flavor. Don't miss the opportunity to buy items unique to Bonaire, such as the bath salts extracted from the island and mixed with nourishing essential oils, aloe vera products, handmade candles, and jewelry and decor crafted from driftwood. Shopping malls in the resorts and around the town sell international brands as well as luxury goods, like Cuban cigars and Rolex watches.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Bonaire
Interesting Facts About Bonaire
● The first inhabitants of Bonaire were Caquetio Indians who came to the island from Venezuela using canoes as vehicles.
● Bonaire is in fact a dried coral reef that surfaced from the ocean during its formation period.
● There is not a single traffic light on the whole island.
Things You Should NOT Do in Bonaire
Bonaire takes its nature conservation very seriously, obliging tourists to pay a nature fee when visiting. Keep in mind that removing anything from the national park is prohibited, including sand, shells, and corals; any such objects will be confiscated on departure. When it comes to dress code, avoid touring downtown in your beachwear--opt for casual day and evening attire instead. The same goes when visiting churches. Nudity and topless sunbathing are restricted.
Holidays & Festivals in Bonaire
Bonaire enjoys a good festivity, hosting all sorts of celebrations during the year. If your Bonaire vacation falls between the end of February and beginning of March, you can catch the popular Bonaire Carnival, when the beats of Caribbean drums echo throughout the island. Rincon's folk Simadan Festival in April celebrates the harvest and includes traditional dishes like pancakes, goat stew, and okra soup. The Dive Festival raises awareness about nature and marine conservation through a series of seminars, cocktail parties, and underwater dives. Music lovers will want to include July's jazz festival on their Bonaire itinerary.
Useful Bonaire Travel Tips
Common Greetings in Bonaire
During your holiday on Bonaire, pay attention when addressing authorities and older citizens, using gender-appropriate titles. Most of Bonaire's customs are adapted from European culture. As greetings, use "bon dia" (good morning), "bon tarde" (good afternoon), and "bon nochi" (good night). "Si" means "yes," and "danki" means "thank you." You'll find many signs reading "bon bini," welcoming visitors to the friendly island. Note that refusing a request is considered impolite.
Climate of Bonaire
The average air temperature in Bonaire is 27.8 C (82 F), while the water temperature hovers around 26.7 C (80 F). One of the big perks of a Bonaire holiday is its arid climate and small temperature variance, with April considered the driest month and October the warmest. While Bonaire does experience a rainy season from October to January, it is comparatively dry--expect refreshing rain showers in the early morning and late night. That said, you might want to avoid the wettest month, November. During the dry season, constant breezes make the nights cool and pleasant.
Transportation in Bonaire
The island is so small that it can easily be explored on foot. If you want a more comfortable Bonaire tour, you can use the network of taxis, informal bus lines, or rent-a-car services. Do reserve your car rental in advance during peak season.
Tipping in Bonaire
Tips in restaurants are around 10-15 percent, and restaurants usually include a service fee in the bill--if in doubt, always ask. The same goes with hotels, which also add 10-15 percent to the final bill. Still, you should leave $1-5 per day for housekeeping (a note on the dresser will do). Taxi drivers usually expect a 10-percent tip, and at scuba centers tips tend to be around 10 percent of the total price of the dive or $5 per tank.