Best Things To Do in Bonaire
Bonaire's best sites 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 the 1,000 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 little equines at the Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire.
Updated December 12, 2016
- #1View all Photos#1 in BonaireBeaches, RecreationTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, RecreationTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
As part of Bonaire National Marine Park, the island's entire coastline has been protected for more than 30 years, making Bonaire one of the Caribbean's best diving destinations. With 53 easily accessible diving spots dotting the entire leeward side of the island, Bonaire offers divers an abundance of places to explore underwater splendors. As one TripAdvisor user says they "Love that you can pull over, put on your scuba gear and within 5 minutes be on top of the most beautiful reefs."
Remember that you must be certified before you can plunge into the deep blue sea. Though many island resorts offer diving packages—which include PADI certification—training before your trip may cut down the overall cost and allow you to start exploring from day one. All divers are required to purchase the mandatory $25 nature tag, which you must attach to your scuba gear. The fee grants you one year of unlimited diving, and the proceeds help maintain Bonaire Marine Park.
- #2View all PhotosfreeKralendijk#2 in BonaireShopping, Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDShopping, Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 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 strolling along the streets, you'll notice well-preserved architecture, waterfront eateries, and a small yet bustling market.
Head to Queen Wilhemina Park for Bonairean souvenirs, and when it's prime cruise ship season, catch a traditional music or dance performance while shopping. These performances offer a colorful glimpse into Bonaire's heritage, and liven up this normally quiet city.
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If you've ever wanted to know what it's like to live on a deserted island, hop 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 Bonaire Marine Park. Though Bonaire's main island is admittedly not as urbanized as neighboring Aruba, travelers in search of pure isolation will want to spend a day exploring Klein Bonaire's reefs. Some recent travelers even went back for more than one afternoon of island relaxation. Because this land is untouched, the water visibility is excellent; meaning snorkelers and divers can see the coral and sea creatures clearly.
If swimming with the underwater flora and fauna isn't for you, Klein Bonaire also offers a peaceful beach atmosphere, with white sands perfect for building sandcastles. Just keep in mind that there are no refreshment stands, changing areas, or beach umbrellas on the island. You're truly marooned until you catch the water taxi back to the pier, so remember to pack water, food, sunscreen, and an umbrella for shade.
- #4View all Photos#4 in BonaireBeaches, RecreationTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, RecreationTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Don't be fooled: There aren't actually 1,000 steps to trudge up and down at this popular beach—only 67. 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, 1,000 Steps Beach boasts pristine azure waters and an impressive, multihued display of coral, sponges, and fish. Though it's a popular diving spot for locals and tourists, 1,000 Steps doesn't cater to the landlubber set. The beach is rough with a narrow strip of sand, and cacti shrubs dot the shoreline—not ideal conditions for sunbathing. But even if you don't plan on exploring the sea life, the view from the top of the limestone steps is worth the trip. Note: There are no diving schools located on 1,000 Steps, so you must bring your own scuba gear. And as long as you're carrying a nature permit, you do not have to pay to dive here. To learn more about 1,000 Steps Beach, check out the Bonaire Tourism website.
- #5View all Photos#5 in BonaireHiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and GardensTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDHiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and GardensTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
A veritable bird-watchers paradise, Washington Slagbaai National Park's 13,500-acre desert oasis plays host to about 203 different types of birds. 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. 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 Subí Brandaris Trail.
You'll find Washington Slagbaai National Park on the northwest tip of the island. Plan to start your hike in the morning to avoid the afternoon heat, and pack plenty of water, sunscreen, and food to keep you energized. The park welcomes visitors every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the last admission at 2:45 p.m. Park entrance costs $25, but you can enter for free or at a discounted rate if you have already purchased a diving or a nature pass. For more information, visit the Washington Slagbaai National Park’s official website.
- #6View all Photos#6 in BonaireBeaches, RecreationTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, RecreationTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Fall all the way down the rabbit hole at this popular shore dive spot. Borrowing its name from Lewis Carroll's time-honored novel, Alice in Wonderland offers divers and snorkelers the chance to stumble into a fantasy world of gorgonian corals and colorful fish.
Here you'll encounter parrot fish, emperor fish, and sergeant majors, in addition to candy bass, barracudas, and snappers. Though you won't come across a mad tea party, the vibrant creatures and diverse reefs combine to make Alice in Wonderland a must-see for visiting divers. There is no admission fee for Alice in Wonderland, but remember, you must have a nature tag in order to dive. Since Alice in Wonderland is an easily accessible shore dive, you can rent gear from one of the island's dive shops and set out on your own unguided adventure. If you'd rather have someone else transport the gear for you, sign up for a guided dive and get a better education of the plant and fish life that make this site so popular.
- #7View all Photos#7 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. With stunning views, warm shallow waters, and the island's characteristic white sands, Lac Bay offers sun-seekers a retreat from 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. One TripAdvisor user says, "I came away with several bumps, bruises, and scrapes, but when you get your balance and feel the wind catch the sail....FUN!" Here, you'll find two windsurfing shops: Jibe City and Bonaire Windsurf Place. Both offer windsurfing lessons and rental equipment. Lessons range from $50 (for group instruction) to around $100 (for a private lesson). You can rent equipment by the hour at Jibe City or by the day at Bonaire Windsurf Place.
- #8View all Photos#8 in BonaireZoos and AquariumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDZoos and AquariumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
If you're recovering from a sunburn or just need a break from diving, the Butterfly Garden Bonaire offers a tranquil respite. The garden's host and guide, Georgie Rigault, provides an interesting glimpse into the butterfly species that live in and around the Caribbean. Recent travelers attest that Georgie always enjoys answering visitor questions. One TripAdvisor user says, "Georgie was helpful and informative, and didn't mind our asking him a zillion questions."
If the butterflies' kaleidoscopic colors aren't enough of a draw, recent travelers also praise the garden's new open-air luncheonette, the KishiKishi Café. The café offers small bites during the week, such as goat cheese spring rolls and pastechi (a meat-filled pastry), and on Sundays, Jamaican-style barbeque. Some recent travelers even bypassed the Butterfly Garden in favor of the saucy eats.
- #9View all Photos#9 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 provides a safe and peaceful oasis for more than 400 orphaned donkeys.
The donkeys are very friendly (recent travelers compared them to cute, oversized dogs), and they aren't afraid to interact with you. The sanctuary also sells bags of food you can feed to the animals—another sure-fire way to earn some donkey affection. One TripAdvisor user says, "We heard during our last trip that the donkey sanctuary was fun... I would give up several dives just to go again."
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