Bonaire Travel Guide

From Bonaire’s pristine waters to their tallest peak, Brandaris, you will feel the magic of Bonaire wash over you. From the moment you arrive and throughout your visit, you will enjoy Bonaire’s unhurried pace. On Bonaire, there is a peaceful ambiance for daily life, without the hassle of traffic lights, hustle and bustle, or normal, day-to-day worries. Nowhere else is vacationing as easy as on Bonaire, as our warm, friendly people welcome visitors from around the world.  Bonaire has a reputation for being one of the safest islands in the Caribbean, however visitors should take normal precautions and keep personal properties secure.  Hotels have safes to store passports, tickets and other valuables.

A small island with a desert landscape, Bonaire is not for everyone, but it is definitely for divers and snorkelers. The beauty of Bonaire is that the coral reef, designated a national park, is just a few feet from the shoreline. Dozens of exceptional dive sites are easily accessible from the shore and teeming with life, making this island an independent diver’s (and snorkeler’s) paradise.

One of the most notable features that greet arriving visitors is the line of white salt pyramids at the southeastern end of the island. Each pyramid stands about 50 fee high, of 99.6% pure salt.  The solar salt facility, one of the largest in the Caribbean, is today owned by Cargill, a Minnesota based private company. The facility covers approximately 13 percent of the island.

In Bonaire you will find world-class windsurfing on Lac Bay and excellent kayaking among the mangroves. There are plenty of biking trails thru the hills, and driving routes to show off the island’s historical and natural sights. Classy but low-key resorts and restaurants complete the picture – perfect for travelers who prefer their adventure with some amenities.  To learn more about all the beautiful beaches on Bonaire, visit here.  Now view our Bonaire travel  guide to help plan your next Bonaire vacation!

Weather

Bonaire is blessed with one of the gentlest climates in the Caribbean, with very little rainfall (less than 22 inches annually) and a prevailing easterly trade wind that provides a consistent 15 mph breeze.  This trade wind is also one of the coral reefs best friends and a major reason these reefs are among the most abundant in the world. When the wind blows continuously from the same direction, one side of the island has “rough” water conditions (the windward side), the other side (the leeward) is almost always clam. Since Bonaire lies at a 90 degree angle to its trade winds, the island’s western side where all the snorkeling is, is always calm and protected.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Bonaire is from May to October when there are fewer crowds and bargain hotel rates. If you’re planning a winter getaway, keep in mind that December through April comprises the island’s peak season, when the 80-degree weather yields packed hotels and higher prices. Bonaire’s temperate climate and unique location, just north of the equator and safely outside the hurricane belt, poses little threat of tropical storms, no matter the season.  During January and February is the Karnaval which is Bonaire’s biggest celebration.  It includes music and costumes, parades and parties.  It starts the weekend before Ash Wednesday, and concludes with a final parade and effigy-burning taking place.  Bonaire is below the hurricane belt, so the island does not experience an increase in rain or in cooler temperatures during this time (September thru December.

Getting to Bonaire

Traveling to Bonaire is possible through flying to Flamingo International Airport. The airport receives local as well as international carriers.  All visitors must present a passport prior to entry, as well as proof of a return flight or continued travel.  Visas are not required for citizens of the US, Canada and EU countries. Visitors are allowed to stay for three months out of any given six month period.

Direct flights from the USA are available with United Airlines from Newark and Houston. Delta Airlines has direct flights from Atlanta. Also direct flights from Toronto, Canada are available with Sunwing. It is also possible to fly via Aruba or Curaçao to Bonaire.

Getting Around in Bonaire

Car Rentals

Bonaire is fortunate to have a wide choice of well known, reliable car rental agencies.  Even though Bonaire is small in size, a car will help you to maximize your vacation.  Since they are known as the shore diving capital of the Caribbean, the most popular rental vehicle is the double cabin pick-up truck. You should secure a reservation in advance, especially around holidays.  Most agencies do have a minimum age requirement of 23-25 years. You will need to have a credit card and a valid driving license. Almost all of the cars are standard shift, so if you need an automatic, reserve your car early.  If you want to tour the national park, a jeep type vehicle or pick-up with a high ground clearance is required.

Motorcycle, Scooter and Bicycle Rentals

The best thing next to walking is to rent a scooter or one of the quads.  The same rules that apply for car rentals also apply to these motorized forms of transport. Remember, a license and credit card will need to be shown. For the real adventurers, a number of bike rental shops are on hand to rent everything from sedate touring bikes to rugged mountain models.

Water Taxis

Water taxis are available to visit Klein Bonaire. There are various providers and various departure times. For more information you can check the following.

Taxis

Taxi service is available at the airport and near the cruise ship terminal. Rates are set by the local government. From the airport, expect to pay $9 to $13 to the resorts around Kralendijk and $18 to $20 to resorts near Lac Bay. Bonaire Taxi is the predominant taxi provider and you can reserve your car online.

Things Not to Miss

Bonaire National Marine Park

The Bonaire National Marine Park is the island’s star attraction, a unique and precious resource that attracts divers and snorkelers to explore miles of pristine coral reef. The protected area covers the entire coast of the island, including Klein Bonaire, to a depth of 200ft. Between the two islands, there are about 90 named dive sites, many of which are accessible from the shore. Look for the painted yellow rocks.  Conservation is taken seriously. Divers new to Bonaire must do an orientation and check-out dive at a local dive shop, to get comfortable with weights, conditions and park rules.

Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire

Do you feel like you are surrounded by donkeys?  You will in Bonaire, because the animals live free and wild on the island. The vast Donkey Sanctuary offers safe haven for these gentle creatures. Visitors can meet the newborns and survivors in the special-care unit, observe the droves from the watchtower, and drive the circuit to meet all the resident jack and jennies. Bring some carrots and you’ll make some friends, for sure!

Klein Bonaire

About 1km off the coast of Kralendijk, this little deserted island is where you’ll find the region’s most attractive beach, No Name Beach. There are no facilities, aside from the marked dive sites. But this is a popular spot for cruisers and other beach bums who come over to snorkel the turquoise waters and lounge on the white sands.

 

Echo Parrot Sanctuary

Bonaire’s most beloved bird is the Yellow-throated Amazon Parrot, but the lora is endangered with threat of extinction and there’s less than a thousand birds living on Bonaire. Learn about Echo’s efforts to preserve the parrot’s habitat, rehabilitate injured birds and save the lora.

 

 

1000 Steps Beach

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.

Outdoor Activities

Sea Cow Snorkeling Trips

Sea Cow Bonaire, the best guided snorkeling trip there is on Bonaire. An white and black Venezuelan Fruit vessel with wonderful hosts and a great service!  For more information call 599-785-7727, or visit them on the web at Sea Cow Snorkeling Trips.

 

Bonaire East Coast Diving

Bonaire East Coast Diving is a specialized dive operation on the famous east side of Bonaire and we’ll be happy to share it with you. We’ll take you out for a different – better! – dive experience. Expect to see the most exciting creatures Bonaire has to offer, which you can hardly find on the leeward side of the island. Spotted eagle rays, stingrays, sharks, green moray eels, and lots of turtles are no exception on the east coast!  For more  information call 599-717-5211, or visit them on the web at Bonaire East Coast Diving.

Bonaire Cruisers

The most relaxed way to explore beautiful Bonaire is on your own.  Get the best from Bonaire above and under water. Drive around, stop at one of the beaches, jump in the water and get amazed. There is so much that Bonaire has to offer.   For more information call 599-777-8777, or visit them on the web at Bonaire Cruisers.

 

Bonaire Vista Tours

Bonaire Vista Tours is specialized in showing you the highlights of Bonaire while informing you about the history, culture and customs of its wonderful people. In our air conditioned bus we will take you to all the beautiful places that Bonaire has to offer. See Bonaire with your heart.  For more information call 599-777-4477, or visit them on the web at Bonaire Vista Tours.

 

Kiteboarding Bonaire

Kiteboarding Bonaire is a IKO kiteboard school on the island Bonaire. We offer kiteboard lessons, rentals, Stand up paddle boards. Bonaire is a true kite surfers paradise. 300 days of wind per year and warm crystal clear waters.-IKO certified-Professional instructors-over 10 years experience-Boat guided lessons-Top Brands-Food and drinks.  For more information call 599-701-5483, or visit them on the web at Kiteboarding Bonaire.

Top Rated Restaurant

$-Inexpensive     $$-Moderate     $$$-Pricey     $$$$-Ultra High End

$$$  At Sea

Not just the best restaurant in Bonaire — one of the best restaurants in the Caribbean — period. Every meal is a culinary adventure — and will challenge your notions of traditional food. No visit to Bonaire is complete without a meal here — if you can get a table.  Restaurant At Sea is situated on the boulevard of Bonaire with striking views of the Caribbean Sea. The little Bonairean house dates from 1912 and has magnificent details. The beautiful bar where you can enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine. The terrace has a Caribbean feel where you can dine in style under large umbrellas. In addition we have an air-conditioned indoor dining area. The menu is best to describe as International cuisine with a Caribbean and creative twist.   For more information call 599-701–0134, or visit them on the web at At Sea.  

$$$  Capriccio Ristorante

This splendid, family-run Italian eatery has plenty to boast about. The pastas and breads are house-made. The wine cellar includes hundreds of labels and thousands of bottles. Ask for a pairing with your meal to fit your taste and your budget. You can opt for casual à la carte dining on the terrace or a romantic meal in the tonier, air-conditioned dining room. If your appetite is hearty, go for the five-course prix-fixe menu. Otherwise, choose from 50 regular offerings. La Boutique has an abundance of lovely Italian specialty items including seasonal panettone.  For more information call 599-717-7230 or visit them on the web at Capriccio Ristorante.

$$ – $$$  La Balandra

La Balandra Restaurant and Bar is designed after an antique Spanish ship, giving guests the feeling of sailing on the Caribbean Sea, with its dining deck located on a jetty extending out to sea, overlooking the resort’s private white-sand beach. Its breathtaking location, creative specialties and nautical décor have made it a guest favorite for years and guarantees an unforgettable dining experience. La Balandra features Chef Johnny Statie, who delights guests with his original culinary creations. La Balandra offers a breakfast menu and an all-day Club Menu, served from 7:00am till 10:00pm, as well as cocktails at the bar. Beach Service is also available. Candlelight dining on the beach is available upon prior request.  For more information call 599-717-7500 , or visit them on the web at La Balandra.

$$$  Bistro de Paris

Serving the best French food on Bonaire, owner Patrice Rannou has transformed a marina venue into an intimate dining setting. There are two delightful dining experiences on-site–-Bistro de Paris with a traditional evening menu, and Zazu Bar, offering a casual light bite menu. Both offer a French-international cuisine from a lovely waterfront terrace location. Fresh fish is always on the menu, along with house favorites such as the delectable lamb shank entrée. Patrice posts his menu daily on the curbside chalkboard. Come for lunch, drinks, dining, or light bites. Jazz nights, held every other Tuesday, are quite popular and reservations are recommended for this dining and music event. Wednesday is Divemaster Night featuring 8-ounce burgers and free house rum when purchasing a cola.  For more information call 599-717-7070, or visit them on the web at Bistro de Paris.

$  Hang Out Bar

If your vision of a Caribbean vacation includes seaside dining with balmy trade winds blowing and views of a gorgeous Caribbean bay, then Hang Out Bar is your spot. Hang Out Bar offers libations and tasty delights including fresh house-made smoothies and healthy and delicious salads and sandwiches, and there’s always a daily special, usually fresh-caught fish. They also serve Dutch snack treats including bitterballen (meatballs) and frikkendel (hot dog). There’s a lively bar scene, with a great happy hour. Free beach loungers and plenty of tables and chairs in the shade, as well as free Wi-Fi are available. Select evenings feature local and international music acts. Order a pitcher of their famous house-made sangria and you’re all set.  For more information call 599-717-5064, or visit them on the web at Hang Out Bar.

Bars & Nightlife

Hang Out Beachbar

Is an Island-style living spot! The bar is covered in surfboards, license plates from all over the world, driftwood art and is full of Caribbean colors. The drinks are ice cold and the sandwiches and salads at lunch time are delicious. They are also famous for their table BBQ every Thursday night. Another Hang Out event is the monthly Full Moon party!  The Hang Out Beachbar is open daily from 9 AM to 6 PM, Sundays they stay open until the last person leaves.  For more information call 599-717-5064, or visit them on the web at Hang Out Bar.

Karel’s Beach Bar

You can’t overlook it while strolling on the downtown boulevard. This famous bar on the pier is well known with all locals and visitors on the Island and you can enjoy  a coffee in the morning, a cocktail at Happy Hour, a beer at night and it has a great view of the Caribbean sea all day long. It has a vibrant nightlife with DJ’s and many events. Every Wednesday Karel’s Beach Bar has a Karaoke night. For more information call 599-717-8434, or visit them on the web at Karel’s Beach Bar.

The Beach Hut

Here you find the perfect laid-back atmosphere to enjoy a cool drink and a bite next to the blue waters of Lac. The boat shaped bar looks over the bay where windsurf freestylers will amaze you with their world famous tricks. The Beach Hut is specialized in locally fished tuna that comes in fresh almost every day. You can order healthy fruit shakes and cocktails and they also serve excellent coffee.  The Beach Hut is open daily from 10 AM to 6.30 PM, no shoes are required.  For more information call 599-701-6500, or visit them on the web at The Beach Hut.

Spice Beach Club

Is a trendy beach bar and the perfect spot at any time of the day. Enjoy a lounge chair on the beach or your cold drink around the pool, grab a bite for lunch or dinner and watch the sun go down. Dance barefoot in the white sand after sunset with a DJ or live music.  Spice Beach Club offers special evenings and great events that are most often free to enter.  For more information call 599-717-8060, or visit them on the web at Spice Beach Club.

Zazu Bar at The Bistro de Paris

Is located on the north entry of the Harbor Village Marina. This bar is a favorite by visitors and locals alike. The friendly and relaxed atmosphere make it possible to come in on flip-flops and shorts. Every Wednesday they have a “Dive master” nigh with a great hamburger deal. After your drink, you can have dinner in an air-conditioned room or on the terrace overlooking the marina. Zazu bar and Bistro Restaurant are open for lunch and dinner on Monday – Friday from  11.30 AM – 3 PM and from 6 PM – 10 PM.  Saturdays only open for Dinner from 6 PM – 10 PM, closed on Sunday.  For more information call 599-717-7070, or visit them on the web at Zazu Bar at the Bistro de Paris.

Top Bonaire Hotels

24 Comments

  1. Nicky33

    Great and very useful travel guide, I really enjoyed reading it. I have traveled in SouthEast Asia for some time and encountered amazing beaches for snorkeling, but I have never been to the Caribbean and I am making a travel list for that part of the world.

    I do prefer to mix lively destinations with quieter ones and Bonaire sounds like the perfect combination of a peaceful gateway plus some high quality diving in the always calm waters of the western side and kayaking.

    I didn’t know much about smaller Caribbean islands before reading your article, and the desert landscape of this specific one seems pretty unique! The salt pyramids and the donkey sanctuary look like something interesting to see as well. Thanks for bringing this place to my attention, I’m off exploring the rest of your articles for more ideas on my travel planning 🙂

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Great Nicky and I am glad you have enjoyed reading the Bonaire Travel Guide.  You will find lots of other amazing island getaways on BeachTravelDestinations.com, and I hope that when you start planning, you will let me help you put together a dream vacation!

      Reply
  2. Sean

    Wow…. this place looks amazing! Coming from the UK I new little – correction – nothing about Bonaire. Yet it looks so tranquil. And the safety thing is also a factor too. But it sounds like I’ve missed the best window of opportunity for this year, but will certainly be looking here for 2018. Thanks for the information and for sharing this. Much appreciated.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are very welcome Sean!  I am glad you enjoyed reading and I do hope you can plan and make a visit to the beautiful island of Bonaire!

      Reply
  3. stefanie

    Oh wow, Bonaire sounds amazing, and how peculiar, the weather being totally different on each side. It especially appeals to me because of the water sports and restaurants (my two favorite things about a holiday). I have always wanted to go to the caribbean, but living way over here in Britain it is such a long way.How many flights do you think it would take from here? I’m sure it would be a few.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Actually you can fly directly into Amsterdam, and then on to Bonaire, making only 1 stop along the way.  It will be a fairly long flight though….13 hours.   I have made long flights for sure, so with this, I don’t think it would be too bad actually.  Anywhere in the Caribbean, should be similar, flying into Amsterdam and then on to the Caribbean island of choice.  Thank you for visiting BeachTravelDestinations.com

      Reply
  4. jacob

    Before reading this article I had heard about bonaire but that didn’t really know anything about what things you can get up to there or anything about the place. After reading this article I now feel like I know everything I need to in order to get the most out of travelling to bonaire.

    I appreciate how you went over every detail from getting there, when to go and how to get the most out of the place once you’re there.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Great Jacob!  I am glad you enjoyed reading the Bonaire Travel Guide.  I am glad you can now feel like you will get the most out of your vacation to the Caribbean Island of Bonaire.  You will have a blast!

      Reply
  5. W Tucker

    I love your reviews of the islands and especially Bonaire because I’m totally unfamiliar with it. It sounds like a gem. Every time I read one of your posts I end up adding another island to my bucket list.
    Bonaire sounds like it is a great place for someone, like me, who finds most of the Carribean too touristy and chock full of tacky tourists. Bonaire sounds like it’s just enough out of the way to be a different kind of experience.
    You never mentioned the tall white mountains? hills? dunes? in the main photo. What are those?
    Again, you do a thorough job of giving us all the details that we would need to plan a trip there. Thanks

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Oh my gosh you are right!  Those are the salt pyramids, and each one is about 50 feet high of 99.6% pure salt.  There is a solar salt facility there, one of the largest in the Caribbean and the facility covers about 13% of the island.  Thanks for reminding me, I have to go back and add that 🙂  Glad you enjoyed reading the Bonaire Travel Guide!

      Reply
  6. Michelle

    I have another destination to put on my Tour the World list now. I’ve never heard of Bonaire before, but now that I have I really want to see it for myself.

    Thank you for writing this and letting everyone know when the peak tourist season is since I do not like crowds.

    The 1,000 step beach sounds like a lot of fun and I love swimming so thank you!

    Michelle

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are very welcome Michelle.  I am glad you found a new destination to put on your bucket list.  You will absolutely love it there, and any time of year, the crowds are a lot less then other Caribbean Islands.

      Reply
  7. Daniella

    My brother wants to travel to the Carribean, but he is not sure where to go. He loves snorkeling and quiet places. So I think the Bonaire would be a fantastic idea! I’ve read that travelers should take their precautions, is it possible to know why?

    However, my brother comes from Belgium, and I am pretty confident that he won’t want to go back home after spending some time there:)
    The video is beautiful. It makes me want to go the Bonaire right away!
    I’ll share this article with my brother. I am sure he will make up his mind very fast:) I am already jealous!
    Thank you for this excellent post!  

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Your brother will really enjoy Bonaire and yes, it is one of the more quieter Caribbean Islands where you can really unwind.  I think that travelers need to take their precautions in any foreign country.  You’ll find the safety here is about the same as most any Carribbean Island.  Just takes a little common sense to avoid something from happening. Thanks for visiting BeachTravelDestinations.com Daniella.

      Reply
  8. francis

    Your site is very comprehensive and very well organized.  I had not heard of Bonaire before, but have been looking for a unique Caribbean beach destination.  This looks like the place which would be perfect.  I like that it is not in the Hurricane belt making it easier to travel pretty much any time of the year.  Do you know how long the flight would be from Miami?

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      This would be a great unique Caribbean getaway for sure.  If you were to get a non-stop flight from Miami, the flight duration is going to be about 20 hours.  A bit of a flight for sure.  But, yes, you pretty much have the flexibility to go any time and enjoy beautiful weather.  Thanks for visiting the Bonaire Travel Guide.

      Reply
  9. Eddie

    Another great article. There are so many hidden gems in the Caribbean. That Hangout Beach Bar seems pretty cool. Not sure if I’m ready for the 1000 step beach. lol. You present wonderful information about this beautiful location. Wonderfully done.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you so much! Yes, the Hangout Beach Bar is probably the coolest place and the 1000 steps beach actually doesn’t have 1000 steps, thank goodness! Glad you enjoyed reading the Bonaire Travel Guide.

      Reply
  10. Rodney

    Wow, that is an amazing place it makes me want to go and forget about life for a few days. I like very much the way you take us to a place through your writing and photos. Very nice job!!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thanks Rodney 🙂 I try to help provide everything so you can visualize, be “there” and then plan it. Just a passion of mine for sure.

      Reply
  11. Gregory

    Great article! One of the things I want to mention is how fun it is to explore Bonaire (or many other Carribean islands) on a scooter. I always have a blast doing so and I recommend this to anyone with enough courage to spend the first 20 minutes getting the hang of riding one. It is, however, quite easy… you’ll see. The memories will last forever! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I agree completely. To feel the sun on your back, and the wind thru your hair. …. so much nicer than a car rental for sure. I think they are just like riding a bike….piece of cake. Thanks for reading 🙂

      Reply
  12. Moni

    WOW! Bonaire sounds like a perfect getaway place. Normally we go on our winter vaction for 3 months to Asia however this year we were thinking of South America however Bonaire sounds wonderful we just may come there for few days. Do you have any ideas of prices for car hire?

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Not actually too bad for car rental. You will pay about $27 a day for a car rental on Bonaire. You will love it there. Please let me know if you need any other information. Thanks for visiting the Bonaire Travel Guide.

      Reply

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