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Bonaire, a charming Dutch Caribbean Island in the Netherlands Antilles, is part of the ABC Islands in the region, alongside Aruba and Curaçao. Bonaire's beauty is mirrored in its warm inhabitants, exotic wildlife and multihued ocean.
It's easy to become engulfed by the preserving spirit that flows in between the small picturesque huts, the petroglyphs-style Omina (cave) and red roof houses of the capital of Kralendijk. Nature lovers enjoy the creatures that roam the island’s landscape such as the iconic donkeys of the Donkey Sanctuary, pink flamingoes that beautify the Goto Meer and the sea creatures of the Marine Park.
Snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking and windsurfing are all very popular on Bonaire because of its crystal clear waters and offshore reefs. Its diving is probably its most popular attraction, and there are reefs available for a variety of experience levels, from beginners to experts.
Klein Bonaire lies just off the western coast of the island, a smaller, pristine sister to Bonaire. It is surrounded by a multitude of outstanding dive sites and is a popular spot for picnicking and barbecues — in part because it is completely undeveloped. Klein Bonaire can be reached only by boat (water taxi or excursion), and visitors should remember that they must bring with them all they need.
Even though its diving is the most popular attraction on Bonaire, there are plenty of adventures to take advantage of on land. Tour the island by either renting a mountain bike or heading out on horses and going horseback riding. Take a hike through the island or go rappelling and rock climbing. On foot, you can explore the local caves and salt plains.
Other highlights include Arawak Indian cave paintings at Boca Omina, historic Dutch buildings, the slave huts at Rode Pan, the Solar Salt Works and the Willemstoren Lighthouse.
Whether it's bird watching or scoping out the wild iguanas that call this island home, the eco-friendly nature of the island allows plenty of animals to thrive on the island. There are also several farms to visit with animals such as donkeys and goats, so make sure to make a visit.
Bonaire boasts restaurants with island, French, Italian and Argentine influences. Okras, plantains, goat stew and funchi are popular dishes. If you really want the local flavor, sample the rock lobster, conch and wahoo.
The island usually has good weather year-round, but the "rainy" season usually happens between October and January, even though the rain on the island is very limited. The summer months are usually the most popular due to the diving and water sports, and September and October are primo months before the crowds arrive.
Note: Bonaire is far enough south to fall outside of the hurricane belt, which kicks up in the fall, so you'll likely miss the big storms if you cruise here in autumn.
There are several ways to navigate throughout Bonaire. Tour buses are available to help you explore the island’s different sites. Taxis are great for traveling to beaches, resorts, and the airport; however, rates are set and it is best to agree upon a price before beginning your journey. Renting a car is the preferred mode of transportation and drivers must produce a valid driver’s license.
Passport: All U.S. and Canadian citizens will need a passport.
Language: Dutch is the official language, but the main language is Papiamentu, which is common for the ABC islands. However, tourist companies should be fluent in English.
Currency: U.S. dollar
Safety: The island is generally very safe. However, exercise normal safety precautions, including not flashing cash and leaving valuables on the ship.
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“Bonaire stands apart. Elkhorn coral just below the surface, thousands of silversides pulsing in the shallows, a parade of parrotfish en route to some secret aquatic event.”
“If you’re docked in Kralendijk for a few hours, enjoy some of the world’s best diving and snorkeling at one of the island’s 90 dive sites. Bonaire National Marine Park is a Unesco World Heritage site and covers the entire coast of the island to a depth of 200 ft.”
“Consider Bonaire. It's overshadowed by Aruba and Curaçao, and has smaller crowds, decent deals, no traffic lights or high-rise hotels. Sidestep the masses here.”
“For a dose of culture, visit the Museo Boneriano, an old plantation house filled with island artifacts.”