Planning a visit to Bonaire can be a daunting experience, especially if you’ve never been to this part of the world before.
You only have one chance for a first impression.
So, if you’ve never been to the Caribbean, planning a visit to Bonaire can be a bit overwhelming.
If you want your first impression of this gorgeous Dutch island to be as great as possible, we’ve prepared these 21 Bonaire travel tips.
For easier navigation, we’ve divided them into several categories. They include preparation, money-saving tips, transportation tips, food and accommodation advice, as well as when is the best time to visit.
Let’s get right in!
Preparation – Things to Know Before You Travel to Bonaire
In this section of our guide, you’ll discover what you need to do before traveling to Bonaire. These tips will answer your questions about visas, vaccines, and travel restrictions.
1. Do you need a visa to travel to Bonaire?
- Most world citizens, including holders of Canadian and U.S. passports, who intend to stay in Bonaire for less than 90 days, don’t need a visa for Bonaire. For the whole list of visa requirements, you can visit this website. To exit the country, you’ll need to pay a departure tax, aka Passenger Facility Charge (PFC). It’s included in your airplane ticket and is currently $35.
2. What are the official languages in Bonaire?
The Caribbean island is part of the Netherlands’ overseas territories. As such, Dutch is the official language for administrative and legal matters. Around 15% of the population speak Papiamento as their main language. In fact, it’s the most commonly spoken language on the island. Many of the inhabitants also speak Spanish and/or English. This means you won’t have trouble ordering that delicious seafood delicacy you’ve been craving at home.
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Safety Tips – How to Enjoy Bonaire in the Best Way Possible
This section will show you all the safety tips when you’re traveling to Bonaire. Pay special attention to #7.
3. Is it safe to travel to Bonaire?
The main tourist areas on the island are safe, but taking normal precautions and using common sense wouldn’t hurt. Avoid any remote areas and dark alleys at night. Leave your valuables at your accommodation. Make sure your handbag, purse, or wallet is closed and not easy to grab.
4. Is Bonaire in the hurricane belt?
Bonaire and its gorgeous beaches lie outside the hurricane belt. However, hurricanes and tropical storms occasionally affect the island’s weather and oceanic conditions. If you visit Bonaire during the Caribbean hurricane season, make sure to stay informed about the weather forecast. In case of bad weather, follow the instructions of the authorities.
5. What is the legal age in Bonaire?
The legal drinking age on the island of Bonaire is 18 for both beer and spirits. The legal gambling age is 21. So, if you’re of legal age in the U.S., you can try your luck in the only Barefoot Casino in the Caribbean.
Note: Every island in the Dutch Caribbean has its own drug laws, which are different from the mainland Netherlands.
7. What not to do on your vacation in Bonaire?
Going topless in New York is legal, but it will get you in trouble in Bonaire. Nudity and spearfishing are prohibited, too. Don’t import any weapons, drugs, or medicine unless the last one is for your own use. Don’t take any sand, corals, or shells with you. You shouldn’t pack any articles made from protected animals, plants, and shells either.
When to Visit – What’s the Best Time to Visit Bonaire
Some of the most important Bonaire travel tips are related to the best time to visit the tropical island. The section below will answer that in more detail.
8. What’s the climate of Bonaire?
Most of the year, Bonaire is dry yet humid. The wettest months are October, November, and December. The average temperature on the island is 5 °F (27.5 °C). Humidity is constant, averaging 76%. Bonaire is lucky to have one of the mildest climates in the Caribbean, with very little rainfall (less than 22 in per year). The winds are nearly constant, blowing from the east side. Their average speed is 12 knots (22 km) per hour. The semi-arid climate favors a broad range of cacti and other desert plants.
9. What is the best month to visit Bonaire?
The best time to visit Bonaire is the months from May to October. That’s when the crowds are thinner, and the hotel rates are much cheaper than during the popular winter season. November to April is the island’s high season when the hotels are packed and the prices are higher.
Insider’s Tip: If you want to surf in Bonaire, come between the months of December and July. The winds are steadier and more consistent at this time of the year.
Transportation – How to Travel to and Get Around Bonaire
Bonaire might be a small island, but to maximize your time, you’ll want to use some means of transportation. Below, you’ll find the best Bonaire travel tips about how to navigate around like a local.
10. How to travel to Bonaire?
You can access Bonaire from Europe, the Caribbean, North America, and Latin America. The two travel options are by airplane or via a cruise ship. United Airlines flies directly to Bonaire from the U.S. from Houston and New York. Delta Airlines has direct flights from Atlanta. Direct flights are also available from the Miami area through American Airlines. You can also fly to Bonaire via Aruba or Curaçao. There are no direct flights from South America. From Europe, you can fly directly only from Amsterdam. No ferries serve the neighboring Caribbean islands. However, Bonaire is a port of call for over 15 cruise lines.
11. How to get around in Bonaire?
- Car Rentals: Bonaire provides a wide array of established car rental agencies. Though the island is tiny, renting a car will help you maximize your holiday time. Since Bonaire is known as the Shore Diving Capital of the Caribbean, the most popular rental vehicle is a double-cabin pick-up truck. We advise you to reserve everything in advance, especially if you’re visiting Bonaire in the high winter season. You’ll need a credit card and an international driving license, which are two things that must be on your Bonaire packing list. If you’d like to visit the Washington Slagbaai National Park, we highly recommend renting a vehicle with high-ground clearance. Note: most available cars are manual, so if you prefer automatic, book yours as early as possible.
- Motorcycle, Scooter, Golf Cart, and Bike Rentals: Don’t like renting a car? No worries. Any of these “open-air” vehicles are available for rent at a number of shops in Bonaire. You’ll need to show a credit card and a driving license. Motorcycle fans will be delighted to hear there are dozens of Harley Davidson to hire. Bicycle choices go from the more mundane touring bikes to the exciting mountain models. Whatever mode of transportation you intend to rent, don’t forget to book it in advance.
- Water Taxi: If you intend to visit Klein Bonaire, the best way to reach the island is by water taxi. Numerous providers depart at different times during the day. Use this website to book a taxi in advance.
12. Can I drive in Bonaire?
You’ll need a valid international driving license to drive on the island. Driving in Bonaire is on the right-hand side, and it follows international road signs. On crossings and roundabouts, traffic that comes from your right always has the right of way unless road signs state otherwise. Bonaire has no traffic lights, so you must follow the road signs. In urban areas, the speed limit is 25 mph (40 km/h). Outside urban areas, the speed limit is 37 mph (60 km/h). Be cautious of the island’s animals – goats, donkeys, and others – that can appear on the roadway. Vehicles share the roads with cyclists and pedestrians.
Budget – Money-Saving Travel Tips for Bonaire
This section of our Bonaire travel tips will tell you how to save money during your island vacation.
13. What is the currency of Bonaire?
Although Bonaire is a Dutch island, and the Netherlands uses the euro, the country’s currency has been the U.S. dollar since 2011. In fact, most countries in the Caribbean use the dollar as their currency, or their currency is linked to the dollar as a legal tender.
14. Do you tip in Bonaire?
People from the Netherlands, in general, don’t tip. This means waiters in Bonaire restaurants don’t expect tips from Dutch customers. If the service you received has been excellent, leave a cash tip. If not, leaving some change or rounding the bill up is the norm. Some restaurants on the island add a service fee that’s between 10% and 15%. The usual tip at dive shops and taxis is 10%.
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15. Can I use my credit card in Bonaire?
Bonaire accepts all major credit cards. You can find a lot of ATM machines around the island. Don’t forget to inform your bank before traveling to Bonaire to avoid getting it blocked.
Food and Drinks in Bonaire – What You Mustn’t Miss Sampling
If you’d like to dip your toes in the culinary world of Bonaire, you’re at the right spot. This section will show you the foods and drinks in Bonaire that you mustn’t miss trying.
16. Seafood is everywhere.
Bonaire’s inhabitants come from various parts of the world. That’s why the island’s cuisine is quite varied. Almost every restaurant in Bonaire offers seafood. The most typical dishes are stews, soups, lobster, grilled spicy fish, as well as conch shell meat.
17. Want to try something local?
Get the stews and soups. Bonaire might not be growing any food products, but the selection of flavors and cuisines is gigantic. If you want to tease your palate with something local, go for the beef stew (baka stoba) and the goat soup (sopi kabrito).
18. Bars, restaurants, and music venues.
Bonaire is home to 80+ restaurants. Most of them are in the capital. You’ll find the majority of bars also in Kralendijk. Many of them are open until midnight. Bonaire’s nightlife scene is chill and carefree. Happy hours are the norm on the island. Next to Dutch beers, you can also seduce your tastebuds with tropical cocktails. City Café Bonaire is one of the island’s most popular live music venues, and it’s open until late most nights.
Where to Stay – The Best Areas and Accommodations in Bonaire
Now, you already know the money-saving tips for Bonaire, what foods to try, and when it’s the best time to visit. The only thing left for you to learn is the best areas to stay in Bonaire. Let’s take a look at them below.
19. What are the best diving spots in Bonaire?
A fantastic diving spot on the small Caribbean island is the Bonaire National Marine Park (BNMP). The park offers around 90 public diving sites. It’s also one of the world’s oldest marine reserves. The Lac lagoon and its beach are another great diving area. They’ll surprise you with their stunning seagrass, mangroves, and coral reefs. The west side of Bonaire also teems with amazing diving locations. You have easy access from the beach to most of them. In the meantime, reaching the diving sites of Klein Bonaire is only possible via boat. Night diving is quite popular on the island as well. Note: To enter the waters in BNMP, you need to pay a small fee. All profits go to eco-conservation.
20. Where to stay in Bonaire for the best surfing conditions?
Lac Cai Beach will help you hit two travel birds with one stone. Why? Because there, you can do both windsurfing and discover the wonderful mangroves. The area around Lac Bay and its jaw-dropping barrier reef offers some of the most top-notch conditions for windsurfing on the planet. The powerful and constant winds in the shallow bay are the ideal setting for learning how to windsurf with little effort. If you want to learn windsurfing, maybe you’d like to try kitesurfing, too? If so, we highly recommend Atlantis Beach. The crew there will surprise you with their high-quality gear and easy-to-follow instructions. Don’t mind the strong winds, as you can find a cool sandy spot to place your kite. The waters in this area are always calm and flat. So, no matter whether what wind activity you choose, you’ll enjoy it.
21. What are the best beach resorts in Bonaire?
Divi Flamingo Beach Resort offers some of the best marine underworlds on the island. The fauna here consists of baby octopi, sea turtles, and stingrays. In fact, most of Bonaire’s beach resorts even have their own reefs. We also recommend Eden Beach Resort which you’ll find in the middle of gorgeous Eden Beach. You won’t ever get bored in this area; you can benefit from a bar, a restaurant, and the cool Spice Beach Club. As a guest DJ at several clubs, I really enjoyed the atmosphere at Spice. While at Eden Beach, we suggest you hop on a water taxi to Klein Bonaire, where you’ll discover one of the best diving sites on the island.
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Which Is Your Favorite Bonaire Travel Tip?
This wraps up our list with 21 Bonaire travel tips.
For more incredible things to do in Bonaire, check out this Article.
The small Dutch island teems with amazing things and activities to do. With a bit of preparation and this elaborate guide, we bet you’ll have a blast in Bonaire.
Before we wish you a pleasant stay in this gorgeous part of the Caribbean, we’d like to know:
Have you been to Bonaire before?
If yes, what did you enjoy the most?