Everyone dreams of a Caribbean holiday. No wonder too. This is a region of the world with unparalleled beauty, exceptional beaches, and incredible cuisine and culture. But ask any budding holidaymaker about Bonaire, and they’ll most likely give you a blank look.
That’s because Bonaire is as little known as you can get when it comes to the Caribbean. The big names – the Bahamas, Jamaica, Barbados – get all the airplay. Little Bonaire gets virtually none.
However it should. Here’s why the stunning island of Bonaire should be on your Caribbean bucket list.
Bonaire: The bucket list destination nobodys heard of
Despite being just 24 miles long, and five miles in width at its widest point, Bonaire packs a colorful punch.
Do you want blue lagoons, world-renowned coral reefs and snorkelling, white sandy beaches, varied landscapes, friendly locals, fresh tasty food, and a chance to meet flamingos? Bonaire checks off every thing on that list – and more!
This island is rustic, remote and barely touched by hotel resorts. What you see, eat and experience will be the same as the locals. It’s a true Caribbean experience.
Bonaire’s beaches: The chance to unwind, but without the crowds
With just 20,000 people living on the island, along with a tiny tourist contingent in comparison to its Caribbean neighbours, the beaches in Bonaire are far less busy than elsewhere in the region.
In fact we would say this is one of the few islands in the Caribbean where you can enjoy white sand beaches and turquoise waters without feeling like there’s a cruise ship-sized crowd also sunbathing and dipping their toes in the water at the same time.
If you’ve been to the Bahamas, for example, then you’ll know that while the beaches are stunning, they’re also packed. Well some of Bonaire’s beaches are fantastic too, but empty in comparison.
Te Amo beach is one. This sandy stretch of coastline is not only a great place to catch some sun, but is one of the best snorkeling sites in the region.
Expect a true laid back Caribbean experience on a Bonaire beach. Lazy days in the sun, snorkelling without jet skis or speedboats racing by, and little to no hawkers on the beach. Bliss.
On the subject of snorkeling……
Bonaire happens to have some of the best snorkeling sites in the world, with countless healthy reefs within easy access.
This coral reef ringed island even has many diving and snorkeling sites that are beach accessible. So there’s no need to hire an expensive boat, or be part of a tour company, to enjoy them. You just need to walk to the beach, get in the water and swim.
Bachelors Beach is one of our favorite shore-accessible diving sites – the water is crystal clear, the sealife teeming, and the beach is rarely busy. You can find a great diving and snorkeling resource for Bonaire here. A great underwater camera – such as this one – is a must as you could end up swimming alongside turtles and manta rays!
The waters around Bonaire are known for being shark free – except for the odd harmless nurse shark – so swimming is very safe here.
Don’t forget about the flamingos, Bonaire’s most colorful residents!
You read that right. This little island is also home to flamingos!
Travel to Pekelmeer in the south to see flamingos, and enjoy watching these funny-looking pink birds wander throughout the colorful landscape.
They’re not the only non-human residents either. Look out for friendly bananaquit birds with their yellow bellies sitting on cacti around the island, as well as slow-moving inquisitive Iguanas on the ground. Bonaire is a little microcosm of nature, and the Caribbean, as a whole.
The flamingos’ home in the stunning south of the island is a real treat for the eyes too, with the pink salt pans, mountains of white salt, and turquoise hues from the sea, all contrasting to create an other-worldly look.
This island is not just sun, sea, and sand though, and the salt pans are a reminder of that.
Bonaire’s colorful salt flats are now a tourist destination, but they were originally built and worked on by slaves. The Slave Huts at Orange Pan have been kept intact as a living museum and poignant reminder of Bonaire’s history.
Throughout the Caribbean slavery left its terrible mark, here in Bonaire is no different. But this island is also a great place to learn about the history of the region, and as its so small, it’s possible to do so easily.
You can snorkel or meet flamingos in morning, but then go to a place like Mangazina di Rei during the afternoon. This cultural center will take you through Bonaire’s history and culture. You can also have a go at traditional instruments, and taste traditional food and drink. It’s a great way to get to know this island.
Talking about food, what’s it like in Bonaire?
It’s actually exceptionally good and pretty unique for such a small island. Plus unlike other islands in the Caribbean, Bonaire isn’t ruined by ubiquitous fast food chains and restaurants.
Here you will get a proper culinary Caribbean experience, one that you can really write home about. Bonaire also has an impressive selection of fine dining restaurants. One of our favorites is Capriccio, which also has one of the best wine lists throughout the Caribbean!
As for local delicacies to try out, you must grab Keshi Yena. This large ball of cheese is stuffed with chicken (but sometimes other types of meat too), and is a real comfort food.
For something from the sea, try Piska Kriyoyo. This grilled fish – usually lionfish – is made Creole-style and is delicious.
But is Bonaire safe?
Bonaire is probably one of the safest islands in the Caribbean. Even petty crime – like pickpockets – is exceptionally rare here.
This island is friendly, the locals appreciate tourists and their custom, and they are happy to show off their Caribbean paradise to the rest of the world!
Even better, Bonarie is also a relatively cheap island to visit on vacation. So much so it made our list of cheapest Caribbean island destinations.
Here, tourists will pay the same prices as locals. Therefore expect good food and decent accommodation that isn’t going to cost you a fortune. That means a beer in Bonaire should cost you around 3 USD – far cheaper than Caribbean hotspots like the Bahamas (4-5 USD), or Bermuda (7-8 USD).