Bonaire Island is an ideal travel destination for anyone looking to have fun on a Caribbean island without crowds. It is a sister island to Aruba and Curacao, well-known as the ABC islands. After making our first trip to Bonaire, here are a few things to know, before you go.
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Bonaire 101: Important Thing To Know About Bonaire Island
Bonaire spans 111 square miles and has a population of approximately 22,600 permanent residents. Of this, 48.6 percent are females, while 51.4 percent are males. The median age of the residents is 43.7.
Kralendijk is the capital of the country of Bonaire. It has numerous sights and activities for visitors. There is a World War II monument for the Bonarians who died during the war. Kralendijk Bonaire is also home to Wilhelmina park, named after Queen Wilhelmina, who reigned the Netherlands for about 58 years since 1890.
Bonaire weather is warm, windy, and dry but humid. The average temperature is 81.5 degrees Fahrenheit, with a daily variation of around 10 degrees and a slight seasonal variation of about 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Being closer to the Equator, the sun is very strong. A lesson Amber and I learned firsthand. Do yourself a favor and use sunscreen every day and wear a hat.
The island’s humidity level is high, averaging 76 percent, but may get to lows of 66 and highs of 85 percent within a day. It has a semi-arid climate with sporadic rainfall between October and January.
Where Is Bonaire Located?
The island of Bonaire is a special municipality in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is located in the Caribbean sea, on the Leeward Antilles, and is approximately 50 miles off the coast of Venezuela.
Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao form the ABC islands in the Caribbean Sea. The distance between Bonaire and Aruba is 117.4 miles, while from Bonaire to Curacao is only 49 miles.
This Caribbean Island attracts visitors from all over the world. The distance from the United States is 2,415 miles, while from Europe is 5,271 miles. South America lies only 1,693 miles away from Bonaire.
How To Get To Bonaire
Bonaire has only one airport, called Bonaire international airport or Flamingo international airport. The airport receives several direct flights from the United States and Europe.
United Airlines has flights from Houston to Bonaire airport every Saturday. The flight takes around four hours. The airline also has a weekly four-hour 51 minutes flight from Newark, USA, every Saturday.
Delta Airlines flies weekly from Atlanta to Bonaire. The flights take four hours and are available every Saturday. However, the airline may add additional flights during the high season.
American Airlines offers three direct flights from Miami to Bonaire every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. The flight duration is three hours.
Other Way To Get To Bonaire
There are no non-stop flights from Canada to Bonaire. Several airlines, including AirCanada, TUI, Delta, American Airlines, and United Airlines, have one-stop flights to the island. Most airlines fly through Aruba, Curacao, Punta Cana, New York, Atlanta, Houston, or Miami.
KLM and TUI offer one-stop flights from Europe to Bonaire airport. Both airlines depart from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. KLM provides a single flight daily via Aruba, which takes 12 hours. TUI flies five times a week via Curacao and takes 12 hours and 45 minutes.
Flying Between Islands
If you are already in the ABC Islands, Divi Divi, FlyEZAir, and Winair offer daily flights from South America to Bonaire. However, none of the flights are direct, but they fly via Aruba or Curacao. We spent a week in Curacao before flying to Bonaire with Divi Divi. Divi Divi operates a small fleet of Twin Otter airplanes, also known as “puddle jumpers”. If you are like me, you are going to love the experience of flying in a 19-passenger turboprop plane. If you are nervous about flying well, don’t worry it’s a quick flight.
Visiting Bonaire Island via a cruise ship is an exciting alternative to air travel. The vessel will dock at the Bonaire cruise port. US cruise companies that sail to the island include Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line, and Celebrity Cruises. During our five weeks on Bonaire, several ships came into port, towering over the waterfront. Seeing the ships up close puts in perspective just how massive they are.
What Is The Bonaire Currency
The official currency in Bonaire has been the US Dollar since January 2011. It is used exclusively and is readily available in ATMs spread throughout the island. Banks may charge a fee for accessing your account internationally, but ATM fees are negligible. As an American, it’s always strange to use the US Dollar outside the US. It also contributes to making Bonaire an expensive destination to travel to.
Most stores and restaurants accept credit cards including VISA and MasterCard. We found that American Express was less prevalent, but some stores accept it. Occasionally, Amber and I would walk into a shop or restaurant and be told immediately that it was cash only. While good to know, it was frustrating after a while, because we prefer to charge purchases. Finally, credit cards are charged in US Dollars.
What Is The Bonaire Language
Though Dutch is the official language of Bonaire, Papiamentu is the native language and is spoken predominantly in the ABC Islands. Papiamentu is a blend of multiple languages, including Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, Caribbean Indian, English, French, and several African languages.
Papiamentu is believed to have originated during the colonial era, and enslaved Africans used it to communicate with their masters. Today, it is recognized by the government and is the primary language for nearly 75 percent of the island’s population.
Dutch is part of the school system, and several Dutch newspapers are on the island. Other common languages include English and Spanish.
Types Of Bonaire Accommodations
As I’ve mentioned, we spent five weeks on Bonaire, staying in an apartment booked on Airbnb. The island has several accommodation options for all types of travelers, including hotels for divers. Airbnb in Bonaire offers numerous vacation apartments, villa rentals, and houses. They also come with varying amenities and sizes to meet the needs and budgets of all travelers.
If you don’t want to book through Airbnb, Facebook has a number of Bonaire Private Rental groups offering travelers places to rent directly. Some of these rental apartments are available for those traveling in groups. Such apartments are fully furnished and have a kitchen. Bungalows, private villas, and condominium rentals are also available for larger groups.
There are hotels of varying quality in Bonaire, including one international brand, the Marriott Bonaire Dive Resort. If you are looking for “luxury” accommodations, the Harbour Village Bonaire Beach Club is the closest to a luxury resort you’ll find. It’s nestled on a private stretch of a white sandy beach and palm trees. Rooms are priced around $400/night.
Is Bonaire Safe To Visit
Bonaire has a low crime rate and is considered safe for visitors from many perspectives. It is also among the Caribbean islands located outside the hurricane belt. While crime may be low, Bonaire isn’t perfect. During our five weeks in Bonaire, we had to deal with excessively loud motorcycles and cars blasting music and making tons of noise into the early hours of the morning. To the best of my knowledge, the island doesn’t have any rules against this type of behavior.
Before traveling to Bonaire, you should get the recommended vaccines before traveling to the island. They include influenza, measles, chickenpox, and shingles. Avoid contaminated water and be on the lookout for common diseases such as dengue fever, zika, and malaria caused by mosquito bites.
Things To Do In Bonaire
There are numerous tourist sites and activities in Bonaire. Though it is the least known of the ABC islands, it is a divers paradise and well-known among scuba fans. It also has plenty of attractions that make it worth visiting.
The island’s surrounding waters cover 700 acres with 89 dive sites, which makes Bonaire diving one of the best on the planet. You can enjoy diving during the day and at night. Strict protective protocols ensure that reefs on Bonaire are healthy. The island is also a Blue Certified Destination.
Bonaire should be your bucket list destination if you love snorkeling or scuba diving. The island offers incredible underwater scenes. You will also get an opportunity to enjoy marine life, such as turtles, rays, and even octopuses.
Bonaire Pink Beach
Bonaire island has about 22 beaches. Most Bonaire beaches are covered with white sand, but some are covered with hard rocks or corals, making the water inaccessible. However, they also offer lush marine life.
Pink beach is one of the most popular among the locals and is widely mentioned by tourists. Its fine pink sand and palm trees make it a truly unique beach. Shades of blue and the sound of the sea will also accompany you as you sunbathe.
The beach’s pink color is from the hundreds of thousands of broken shells from bright pink sea creatures. Bonaire pink beach is a perfect spot for snorkeling and scuba diving.
The Spanish established Rincon in 1527 and has grown to be one of the two towns in Bonaire. It is the oldest town in Bonaire and is located in an inland valley in the island’s northern part.
The hills of Rincon offer breathtaking views of the western and eastern sides of the Caribbean Sea. These hills have a historic role because they protected the island from surprise attacks by the English, Dutch, and Spanish naval forces.
Today, the hills provide numerous viewpoints. For instance, visitors driving via the Kaya Para Mira, the road from Gotomeer to Rincon, usually stop along the way to enjoy the stunning views of Rincon. “Para Mira” means “stop and watch” in Papiamento.
For rum lovers like us, Rincon is home to Bonaire’s only rum distillery, Cardushy Distillery. The distillery produces rum, vodka, and gin using cactus. Travelers to Bonaire can visit Cardushy, no appointment needed, to sample their lineup of local Bonaire spirits.
You can find flamingos in many locations around Bonaire, but they are densely concentrated in Pekelmeer, south Bonaire. The island is among the four breeding spots for American Flamingos. They are such icons that the island’s airport is called Flamingo Airport.
Pekelmeer Flamingo Sanctuary is a designated breeding ground for Bonaire’s national bird. It is a sight to behold, but visitors are not allowed into the reserve; thus, binoculars will be helpful. The road above the sanctuary provides a better view of the beautiful pink birds.
The breeding season runs from January to July, and over 6,000 flamingos visit the island.
De Brandaris Bonaire is the highest point on the island. The hill is 241 meters high and is located in Washington Slagbaai National Park. Walking to the highest point via the Subi Brandaris Bonaire Trail takes three-quarters of an hour.
Though the climb has an average difficulty, it is a worthy hike because the view from the top will leave you mesmerized. You will be able to see Curacao island on a clear day. If it is exceptionally clear, you can see the mountains of Puerto Cabello and Santa Ana Hill, both located in Venezuela.
Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire
Ed Koopman and his wife, Marina Melis, established a sanctuary in 1993 for wounded, sick, and orphaned donkeys. Apart from providing protected life and shelter for donkeys, the sanctuary also raises awareness amongst the locals, tourists, and schools.
When a report is made about a distressed donkey, the sanctuary sends a team of volunteers to rescue it. A vet is called to provide medical attention. The donkeys are provided with medical care, food, and water alongside plenty of freedom and space. Today, Bonaire Donkey Sanctuary is home to over 400 donkeys.
Bonaire Island is a beautiful destination for anybody who wants to enjoy white sandy beaches without crowds. This article will help you plan your trip to Bonaire.