Bonaire is one of three islands that make up the catchy nickname: the ABC islands. This colorful Netherlands Antilles archipelago lies 50 miles off the coast of Venezuela and is comfortably outside the Caribbean’s hurricane belt.
Bonaire is laid-back by design. Large chain hotels have been kept out and eco-preservation has been enforced since the 1970’s, making this some of the best dive and snorkeling sites in the world. The island’s relaxed and slow pace helps maintain the island’s chief attributes…its national park and pristine wilderness, both above and below the surface. This is the place for adventure sports: diving, caving, sea kayaking, mountain biking, wind surfing, and cliff jumping, to name just a few. Bonaire continues to be recognized as one of the top destinations worldwide for its sustainable tourism.
The culture contains layers of Amerindian, Spanish, African, Dutch and British influences. You will hear traces of these languages (plus some French and Portuguese) during any conversation in Papiamento, the creole language spoken. Try using a few key phrases: por fabor, danki, and bon dia—all of which mean exactly what you think they do!
Renting a golf cart is a popular activity. This is a fun and easy way to explore the island at your own pace. Be sure to reserve early….they sell out quickly! https://www.bonairecruisers.com
Visit the donkey sanctuary, take a trip to the salt flats, view the flamingos or just hit the beach. Be sure to keep an eye out for the donkeys…they were brought to Bonaire by the Spanish in the 17th century for transportation. When modern vehicles (like pushcarts) became available , donkeys were no longer needed and were left to their own fate.
Since 1993 injured, sick and orphaned donkeys have been cared for in a shelter, called the Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire. Volunteers take care over 400 donkeys in an enclosed area. The shelter is open to visitors and is located south of the airport on the Kaya Ir.R. Statius van Eps. https://www.donkeysanctuary.org/?lang=en
Reduce your speed when you approach a donkey. They may cross the street unexpectedly.
The south end of the island is host to the famous salt flats & mounts. As you drive along south road, you will notice the different colors of the water, turning into an intense pink color. Cargill has been operating here since 1997 and produces some of the purest salts in the world. Depending on the grade of salt, it is used for water softeners, the chemical industry or food production. You can learn more about the Bonaire salt on a tour, either through your ship or booked independently
The Salt pyramids of Bonaire can be seen when arriving either by sea or by air, each one is roughly 50-feet high and contains approximately 10,000 metric tons of 99.6% pure salt.
The Pekelmeer Flamingo Sanctuary is one of only four areas in the world where Flamingos breed. Pekelmeer means “salt lake” in Dutch. The pools appear pink against the white salt flats because of an abundance of tiny rosy brine shrimp that live in the water. This is also how the birds get their pink color…eating the shrimp! The Sanctuary is located on the vast salt pans at the southern end of the island and is home to over ten thousand flamingos. Tourists are not allowed in the sanctuary, but the birds can be watched with binoculars from the road or nearby Pink Beach. Please take care to not frighten them….once they fly away, they will never return. https://www.tourismbonaire.com/sightseeing/pekelmeer-flamingo-sanctuary
Bonaire has over 22 beaches. On Bonaire and its sister island Klein Bonaire, the sands of some beaches are soft and blindingly white, while others are coarser and darker due to the high content of crushed shells and coral. Beach condition is intrinsically tied to the health of those reefs. You can help by taking your plastics and trash back with you, leaving the shells where they lie (they might be a home for hermit crabs) and wearing eco-friendly sunscreen. Every little bit helps to keep the sands clean for future generations to enjoy.
Be sure to pick up a Bonaire Island Map to find many sandy beaches and coves to explore and enjoy. Watch for the bright yellow stone markers painted with the site name along the coastal roads. They make it easy to find a great beach for sun bathing, strolling or snorkeling and diving.
Did you know that Bonaire has a distillery? The Cadushy Distillery was founded on March 7th, 2009 by the Gietman family and grew from a small start-up to a thriving company. They created something you would have never imagined…..excellent liqueur made out of cactus! Cadushy of Bonaire liqueur is based on the traditions of Bonaire. Lime has been used as a thirst satisfier for centuries and cactus has been an ingredient in the traditional kitchen. Be sure to stop and try some. https://www.cadushy.com
Enjoy your visit to Bonaire…..and island unlike any other in the Caribbean.
And if you didn’t watch the video already….please watch it!