Bonaire: the little-known, under-appreciated natural paradise in the Caribbean.
Bonaire makes up the “B” of the ABC Islands in the Dutch Antilles, with Aruba and Curaçao completing the set.
The island receives approximately 150,000 visitors a year, and compared to the 1.3 and 1.9 million annual visitors Curaçao and Aruba see respectively, it’s definitely the hidden gem of the three islands.
This off-the-beaten-track island is a diver’s paradise, known in the marine research and scuba communities for its diverse and stunning marine parks and reefs that host hundreds of species of fish, marine mammals, and corals.
Bonaire is home to sustainable tourism, exciting outdoor activities, flamingo habitats, a beautiful marine park, and more.
This Bonaire travel guide will help you plan the trip of your life to this charming Caribbean island.
- Where is Bonaire
- When to travel to Bonaire
- Thing to know before you visit Bonaire
- Things to do in Bonaire
- Places to visit in Bonaire
- Getting around Bonaire
- Highlights of travelling to Bonaire
Where is Bonaire?
Bonaire is a special municipality of the Netherlands located approximately 50 miles off the coast of Venezuela. Bonaire is a part of the ABC islands of the Dutch Caribbean along with Aruba and Curaçao.
When to Travel to Bonaire
Many travel sites say that the best time to visit Bonaire is from May to October. This is the off season for most Caribbean islands, which translates into cheaper accommodations and flights, and quieter beaches and dive sites.
We suggest traveling in May, June, September, or October. That way you can avoid the summer break travellers from the US and Canada.
In May and June, the precipitation levels are very low, and both the water and air temperature are warm. In September and especially October, you can expect more rain but enjoy even warmer weather. All of these months are ideal for divers.
November to April is the peak season in Bonaire. The island is crowded and the hotels are often fully booked, so get a reservation early if you plan to visit during these months.
Weather in Bonaire
Bonaire is sunny all year round with an average temperature of around 82°F (27.8°C). The cool breeze from the continuous trade wind makes surfing, windsurfing, kite surfing, and other water activities enjoyable.
Tropical storms are rarely a threat since the island lies north of the equator and outside of the hurricane belt.
Things to Know Before You Visit Bonaire
From your travel requirements to things to bring, we got you covered. Read these guidelines first before packing your things and buying your tickets!
Traveling to Bonaire
Travellers are required to complete an online health declaration. Aim to do this 48 hours before your departure time. Below are other requirements when flying to Bonaire.
Visa & Passport Requirements
A valid passport is needed to travel to Bonaire. If you’re from the U.S. or Canada, you won’t need to secure a visa. Here’s a list of countries required to have a visa.
Flights to Bonaire
Direct flights from the US or Canada to Bonaire’s pink and fabulous Flamingo International Airport are available.
You can fly through American Airlines from Miami (3 hours and 4 minutes), United Airlines from Newark and Houston (4 hours and 30 minutes), and Delta Airlines from Atlanta (4 hours and 7 minutes).
A direct flight to Bonaire from Toronto, Canada is available through Sunwing (9 hours and 10 minutes).
Is Bonaire Safe to Travel To?
Bonaire has a reputation for being one of the safest islands in the Caribbean.
As of this writing in early 2021, Bonaire is considered safe for travellers, per the US and Canadian International Travel guidelines.
It’s still advisable to take all the necessary safety precautions when travelling to a new place, such as not leaving valuables in your rental car and keeping your belongings close. You can also lock your valuables in the safes offered by the hotels.
What Language is Spoken in Bonaire?
Dutch is the official language used in government and legal transactions. Like with the other ABC Islands, Papiamentu is the local language and used in daily communication by Bonaire’s residents.
You won’t have to worry about a language barrier, though. English and Spanish are also commonly used here.
Money in Bonaire
Money and payments in Bonaire can be different from Aruba and Curaçao. For instance, Euros or Antillean Guilders are not accepted. Here are other things you need to know.
US Dollar is the currency used in Bonaire.
Is Bonaire Expensive?
Prices in Bonaire are slightly higher than in the European Netherlands or U.S since most goods and products need to be imported to the island.
Because it’s off the beaten track and a popular diving destination, expect to spend a little more than you might in other Caribbean countries on transportation, food, and accommodation.
Tipping Etiquette in Bonaire
Tipping expectation is similar to the U.S. Expect to tip 10-20% to taxi drivers, restaurant servers, bartenders, and hotel and wait staff.
Check your bill before you add a tip. Many restaurants on the island automatically add a 12-15% service fee which is already considered the tip.
It’s considered the norm to tip dive shop staff around 10% as well.
How to Pay for Things in Bonaire
Almost all restaurants and shops accept cash or debit cards with global coverage. Credit cards are also widely accepted.
ATMs are available so you don’t have to bring a big bulk of cash with you.
Don't forget to bring pocket money while roaming around the island! Some stalls and shops only accept cash, as is standard in the Caribbean.
What to Pack for Bonaire
Casual or informal clothing are acceptable almost everywhere except for the more upscale restaurants, so pack those tees, flip flops, and sundresses!
Most people wear their swimwear at the beach only. Bring a quick-drying shirt and cover-ups if you plan on leaving the beach to grab a bite to eat. In the water, use a wetsuit (a shorty will do), a rash guard, or a lightweight long-sleeved shirt for sun protection.
Don’t forget a reef-safe, natural sunscreen! You don't want to damage the coral reefs or get a nasty sunburn while on the trip. You can buy eco-friendly sunscreen on the island but it’ll be much more expensive than if you bring it from home.
Get your snorkel, dive gear and hard-soled boots for shore diving or shore snorkelling ready, too. If you don’t want to lug all of your gear with you on the plane, there are plenty of dive shops and rental stands that you can get gear from.
The Travel Water Bottle is a must. Disposable plastic water bottles harm the environment and are difficult for the island to get rid of. Bonaire’s tap water is purified and safe to drink, so you can refill your bottle anywhere.
Lastly, remember to bring other necessary items like prescription medicine, a camera, sunglasses, or clothes you think you will need.
Bonaire Laws to Know
Be sure to follow the local laws when visiting.
- The legal drinking age is 18.
- The legal gambling age is 21.
- Import of medicine not intended for your own use, narcotics, weapons are prohibited.
- Topless sunbathing and nudity are prohibited.
- Spearfishing is prohibited.
- Do not travel or take with you any sand, shells and/or corals.
- Articles made from protected animals, plants, and shells are also banned.
Things to Do in Bonaire
Bonaire is best known for its marine conservation and as a scuba diving and snorkelling destination.
But there are more activities on the island that you can enjoy — it’s the Caribbean, after all!
Outdoor enthusiasts or anyone who’s set to have an eco-friendly adventure will fall in love with what Bonaire has to offer.
Go scuba diving, snorkelling, swimming, kayaking, windsurfing, hiking, caving, or birdwatching. There are kid-friendly activities like snorkelling and diving lessons, too.
For relaxing activities, sign up for yoga lessons or pamper yourself at one of the many wellness centres and spas. Don’t forget to enjoy local delicacies whether in local shops or restaurants!
Places to Visit in Bonaire
Bonaire consists of two towns: Kralendijk which is the island’s capital and Rincon, the old town.
Snorkel on the turquoise water, or dive and discover the marine life on some of the popular spots like Lac Cai, Te Amo Beach, Pink Beach, 1000 Steps, Bachelor’s Beach, Boka Slagbaai, and Playa Frans. About 86 dive sites and overall abundant marine life awaits you!
Sorobon Beach and Atlantis beach have shallow water and steady trade winds perfect for windsurfing or kitesurfing.
Pay a visit to Bonaire's little sibling, Klein Bonaire. The uninhabited island just off the coast of Kralendijk is home to turtle nesting grounds and some of the best snorkelling you’ll ever experience.
If you’re a history buff, enjoy the Terramar Museum in Kralendijk which houses artifacts, audio clips with historical narratives, and local art exhibits.
There are other things to do on the island like strolling around Rincon and admiring the classic Caribbean architecture or checking out the cultural markets.
You can also taste the only cactus liquor in the world at Cadushy Distillery. Discover how they turn cactus into 'Spirit of Bonaire'!
Whether you're going there solo, with friends, or with your family, Bonaire offers an unforgettable adventure for everyone.
Getting Around Bonaire
Car rentals are popular in Bonaire. Book cars in advance for best rates especially during the holiday or peak season.
The minimum requirement to rent a car is around 23 to 25 years old. Bring a valid driver’s license. Vans and taxis are available, but expensive and not as accessible as if you were in a big city.
You can also rent open-air vehicles like scooters, motorcycles, bicycles, and golf carts.
Highlights of Traveling to Bonaire
Whether you’re still in the planning stages or you’re already on your trip to Bonaire, it’s nice to learn what the locals know about the island.
Here are some things to know before you visit Bonaire.
Underrated Attraction: If you’re visiting the Salt Flats (perhaps for its world renowned dive site), you might want to learn more about the people’s history and drop at the Slave Huts at Orange Pan.
Best Cup of Coffee: Have a great cup of coffee or a lazy brunch at La Creperie.
Best Hidden Gem: Seru Largu is a must-visit place to get a fantastic panoramic view of the island.
Local Favourite Restaurant: Eat like a local at Maiky Snack, Posada Para Mira, and Bobbejan’s Take-Away. From goat meat to iguana soup, these restaurants os offer excellent Caribbean cuisine.
Little-Known Fact: Don’t let names fool you. The dive site called 1000 steps has only around 67 steps down to the beach!
Don’t Forget to Pack: Bring binoculars if you want to see the flamingos at Gotomeer Lagoon in Washington Slagbaai National Park.