Best Things To Do in Bonaire
Bonaire's best sights sit below the sea's surface, so strap on a scuba mask and start exploring. Swim or snorkel around Klein Bonaire, or get a fish-eye view of the reefs that skirt areas like 1000 Steps beach. When you need a break from the underwater scene, bring your hiking boots and binoculars to Washington Slagbaai National Park, or feed the affable equines at the beloved Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire.
Updated October 9, 2020
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If you've ever wanted to know what it's like to live on a deserted island, hop on the next water taxi to Klein Bonaire. A small, uninhabited island about half a mile west of Bonaire's mainland, Klein Bonaire is an unblemished oasis protected from development as part of the Bonaire National Marine Park. This isolated paradise boasts pristine white sands and some of the island's best diving and snorkeling opportunities, thanks to excellent water visibility. Just keep in mind that there are no refreshment stands, changing areas or beach umbrellas on the island, so you will need to pack your own water, food, sunscreen, towels and any other supplies. Still, Klein Bonaire earns rave reviews from visitors of all ages and diving levels.
Caribe Watersport's water taxi departs from Karel's Beach Bar at 10:15 a.m., 12:15 p.m. and 2:15 p.m. every day, and from the Eden Beach Resort at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. On Saturdays and Sundays, there is also a 9 a.m. departure time from Eden Beach. You can hop on the taxi back to Bonaire's mainland at 12:45 p.m., 2:45 p.m. or 4:45 p.m. Adult passengers will pay $20 round trip, while children 11 and younger can hop aboard for $10. For more information on Klein Bonaire, head to the Bonaire tourism website.
- #2View all Photos#2 in BonaireBeaches, Parks and Gardens, RecreationTYPEMore than Full DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Parks and Gardens, RecreationTYPEMore than Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Established in 1979, the Bonaire National Marine Park is a 6,700-acre preservation area consisting of untouched coral reefs, preserved mangrove forests and white sand beaches. The park encompasses almost all parts of Bonaire's coastline and underwater territories, including the uninhabited islet of Klein Bonaire and treasured locales like Lac Bay. The Bonaire National Marine Park is managed by Stichting Nationale Parken Bonaire (STINAPA Bonaire), a nonprofit foundation that also oversees Washington Slagbaai National Park.
Activities abound within the park's pristine grounds. Recent visitors loved snorkeling and diving, noting the presence of turtles, sharks, colorful fish and vibrant coral reefs. (There are many dive spots to choose from across the island; check Bonaire's tourism site for a full list.) Travelers interested in mangroves should pay a visit to the park's Mangrove Information Center, where they can kayak, snorkel and boat through the ecosystem's channels. Or, you can simply load up on biodegradable, reef-friendly sunscreen, lay out on one of many gorgeous beaches and take in the views of the crystal clear water.
- #3View all Photos#3 in BonaireNatural Wonders, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDNatural Wonders, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Dedicated to protecting and educating visitors about Bonaire's unique mangrove ecosystem, the Mangrove Information Center was established in 2002. It offers visitors the chance to take tours through the mangroves at Lac Bay, which are some of the best-preserved forests of their kind in the Caribbean.
If you're looking to get moving, choose between an hourlong kayak outing ($27 for adults and $15 for children) and a two-hour kayak and snorkel excursion ($46 for adults and $25 for children, which does not include snorkel gear). Or, if you'd rather sit back and relax, opt for a two-hour solar-powered boat tour ($27), where you will ride through the mangroves with up to seven other passengers. Kayak tours can be booked online and include an additional half-hour orientation and a short lesson on the importance of mangroves to the environment. Boat tours may only be booked over the phone. Though reservations are recommended, walk-ins are welcomed up to 15 minutes prior to tour time, space permitting.
- #4View all PhotosfreeKralendijk#4 in BonaireFree, Shopping, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDFree, Shopping, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Kralendijk – Bonaire's capital city – is a quaint hub of commercial and cultural activity comprising only a few blocks in size. While touring through the streets, you'll notice well-preserved Caribbean architecture, waterfront eateries and a small, yet bustling market when cruise ships are docked at the pier from November through April.
Head to Plaza Wilhelmina, the center of town, for a pleasant stroll and benches to sit and people watch. Shop for authentic souvenirs along Kaya Grandi, the area's main street, or pop into the Bonaire Museum to see large collections of shells and learn about the island's history. Recent travelers found the mixture of shops to be pleasant and enjoyed picking up local bath salts and jewelry made on the island.
- #5View all Photos#5 in BonaireBeaches, RecreationTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, RecreationTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Thanks to Bonaire's marine conservation programs – some of which have been in place for almost 60 years – the island is one of the Caribbean's best diving destinations. With 63 official dive sites on the main island (and an additional 26 spots on the islet of Klein Bonaire), the island offers an abundance of options for divers' underwater explorations.
Remember that you must be certified before you can plunge into the deep blue sea. Though many resorts offer diving packages, training before your trip may cut down on overall costs and allow you to dive right in on day one. All divers are required to purchase the mandatory $45 nature tag, which you must attach to your scuba gear. The fee grants you one year of unlimited diving, and the proceeds help maintain the Bonaire National Marine Park.
- #6View all Photosfree1000 Steps#6 in BonaireBeaches, Free, RecreationTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Free, RecreationTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Don't be fooled: You won't actually have to trudge up and down 1,000 steps at this popular beach spot – just 67. However, you'll understand the moniker once you climb back up the stairs with your scuba gear strapped on.
Located just north of Kralendijk on the island's west coast, the beach at 1000 Steps boasts pristine azure waters and an impressive, multihued display of coral, sponges, turtles and fish. Though it's a popular diving and snorkeling spot for locals and tourists alike, 1000 Steps doesn't cater to the landlubber set. The beach is rough with a narrow strip of sand and cacti shrubs dotting the shoreline, so don't plan on sunbathing (and be sure to bring water shoes).
- #7View all Photos#7 in BonaireZoos and AquariumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDZoos and AquariumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
After you've explored the island's underwater life, dry off and direct your attention to the Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire. Established in 1993 by Dutch Nationals Marina Melis and her husband Ed Koopman, the sanctuary has provided a safe and peaceful oasis for hundreds of orphaned donkeys over multiple decades.
The donkeys are very friendly and comfortable around humans, whether you tour the sanctuary by car, scooter, bike or on foot. To earn some extra donkey affection, purchase some carrots from the shop to feed them. Recent visitors loved getting up close and personal with the animals and recommended spending part of your day here.
- #8View all Photos#8 in BonaireBeaches, RecreationTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, RecreationTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Though diving is Bonaire's main allure, those seeking a quintessential Caribbean beach experience won't be disappointed by Lac Bay. With its stunning views, warm shallow waters and white sand, sun-seekers will find a retreat from their underwater adventures. There are also ample amenities, like lounge chairs and a beach bar.
Situated on the eastern side of the island, Lac Bay's steady trade winds and limited boat traffic provide idyllic conditions for both novice and seasoned windsurfers. Head to Jibe City, an on-site windsurfing center where you can rent gear or sign up for lessons, which range from $50 to $150 per person depending on the package you select. Even if you don't feel like breaking out a board and heading out on the water yourself, recent travelers agreed that watching others windsurf is a sight to be seen.
- #9View all Photos#9 in BonaireNatural Wonders, Parks and GardensTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDNatural Wonders, Parks and GardensTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
As one of only four designated flamingo breeding grounds in the world, southern Bonaire's Pekelmeer Flamingo Sanctuary is a sight to behold – but you'll need binoculars. To protect Bonaire's national bird, tourists are not actually allowed inside of the reserve. Luckily, these bright pink locals can be viewed from the road above the sanctuary and nearby Pink Beach. Upward of 6,000 Caribbean flamingos can be seen every year during breeding season from January to July, so you'll get the best views during these months. Once breeding season is over, some birds remain, while others migrate to Venezuela to feed for the remainder of the year.
Most vacationers enjoyed the chance to see Bonaire's flamingos in their natural habitat. Travelers can visit the sanctuary as part of a group bus tour, like Bonaire Vista Tours, or on their own in a rental car. To get the best photographs of the animals, many recommended bringing a camera with a long telephoto lens. Without binoculars or other zooming capabilities, some guests were disappointed by how far away the birds seemed to the naked eye.
- #10View all Photos#10 in BonaireNatural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, HikingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDNatural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, HikingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
A veritable bird-watcher's paradise, Washington Slagbaai National Park's nearly 14,000-acre desert oasis plays host to more than 200 different types of birds. Several beaches, outdoor exhibits, and snorkeling and diving spots are also available. The park also offers ample hiking trails suited for both amateur and expert trekkers. Hikers can choose between three routes. The 45-minute Kasikunda Climbing Trail – which begins at the park's visitor center – is a steep trek up a volcanic hill, but the views of north Bonaire are worth the effort, according to travelers. The Lagadishi Walking Trail, which also begins at the park's visitor center, is a less intense two-hour walk that provides a complete snapshot of Bonaire's native flora and fauna. Lastly, for a hike that offers unparalleled views of neighboring Curaçao – and on clear days, the Santa Ana Hill on Venezuela's Paraguaná Peninsula – take the 45-minute Subí Brandaris Trail.
Most recent visitors enjoyed the national park, noting it was a great place to swim and snorkel. Many recommended starting your hike in the morning to avoid the afternoon heat and packing plenty of water, sunscreen and food to keep you energized. You will not have an opportunity to purchase essentials once there. Boca Slaagbai is a favorite beach spot within the park, according to reviewers.
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