The Dutch oversea territory of Bonaire is a popular diving and snorkeling spot. However, you can find plenty of other unique activities and attractions on this tiny Caribbean island.
On this list, you’ll discover 21 incredible things to do in Bonaire.
From big game fishing to diving and snorkeling, and from gambling, cruising, and sailing to exploring the best beaches in Bonaire, let’s see what makes this island so popular.
1. Snorkel the Otherworldly Bonaire Coral Reefs
Fringing reefs surround the island of Bonaire. They consist of 60+ coral species, including gorgonians, fire corals, brain corals, and elkhorn corals. The reefs teem with underwater life. Expect to observe fish like wrasses, parrotfish, reef perch, and surgeonfish.
The marine life around the beach bar at Divi Flamingo Beach Resort (1) is nothing short of spectacular. The best thing about it? You can snorkel around the concrete pier, and when you get tired, pop back up for a burger and a cold brew.
The underwater scenes include rays, sea turtles, and baby octopi. This is just one of the excellent snorkeling spots around the island. Many exist just offshore. Most of the beach resorts even have their own reefs.
If you’ve ever watched a Jacques Cousteau documentary at Bonaire, you’ll see one in real life 😉
2. Test Your Diving Skills in Bonaire National Marine Park
By visiting Bonaire National Marine Park (BNMP), you can hit two island birds with one stone. Why? Because the park is both a fantastic diving spot and among the oldest marine reserves on the planet.
BNMP (2) includes the sea around the islands of Bonaire and Klein Bonaire from the high water line to a depth of 196.85 ft. (60 m). The Lac lagoon and its beach belong to the territory of the park, which covers 2,700 ha of seagrass, coral reefs, and mangroves.
In 1999, the underwater park got the “National Park” status from the Netherlands Antilles.
Bonaire’s west side abounds with diving spots. Most of them you can easily access from the beach. Meanwhile, Klein Bonaire’s diving sites are only accessible by boat.
BNMP offers close to 90 public dive spots, so you can easily call Bonaire a diving paradise. Night diving is quite popular, too.
Insider’s Tip: You need to pay a Bonaire National Marine Park fee to enter the waters. All the proceedings go towards eco-conservation.
3. Join a Sailing Adventure
One of the best things to do in Bonaire is renting a boat and sailing the turquoise waters around the island. You can even visit the uninhabited Klein Bonaire, which is only accessible by boat.
But why do it the regular way when you can do a Glass Bottom boat tour? Customized trips and parties on board are also an option.
Your Caribbean vacation won’t be complete without a sail and maybe a snorkel. If you don’t dig underwater activities, picnicking at Klein Bonaire is another great way to end your sailing trip.
If you’re feeling romantic, why don’t you spend the evening watching the sunset or joining a moonlit dinner cruise?
If you happen to be on the island in October, you’ll love the Bonaire Sailing Regatta. That’s the island’s largest yearly festival. Sailing activities and celebrations last a whole week.
4. Explore the Best Bonaire Beaches
Bonaire packs more than 20 gorgeous beaches. From pink hues through white sandy ones to rocky shorelines, you’ll have plenty to discover. As such, beach hopping is one of the most fun things to do in Bonaire.
We recommend Pink Beach for its vivid colors and rich wildlife, Lac Cai Beach for its stunning mangroves, Playa Palu di Mangel for its gorgeous views and BBQ fun, and Boka Kokolishi Beach for its corals, rugged nature, and the dark hue of its sand.
Beach activities include diving, swimming, snorkeling, picnics, and just lazing on the sand doing nothing. Just don’t forget to bring sunscreen AND use it as the sun is sizzling everywhere.
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5. Big Game Fishing in the Caribbean Sea Is Fun
Like fishing or trolling? You can do both in the Caribbean Sea (3).
Fishing Adventures Bonaire offers numerous fishing trips and tours. The company takes care of everything, including arranging the trip where they mix up trolling for large fish with jigging along the reefs and drop-offs.
These activities are a fantastic “cat & mouse” game that makes the time fly by quickly. Prepare yourself for tons of action plus a very fun and exciting way of fishing. Expect to encounter a broad array of fish species that live in the tropical waters around the island.
Morning departures are early between 5:30 and 6:00 AM. Afternoon tours leave at 12:30 PM.
Another great thing about Bonaire are its lagoons and flats that allow for waded fishing. The bottom is a mixture of hard sand and weed beds. The waters are shallow – anywhere from ankle- to knee-deep – and crystal-clear. This makes spotting a fish very easy.
Night fishing is another tour available by Fishing Adventures Bonaire. They take you to the oil tankers that lie offshore. Your target will be easy: all the fish species gather around the fully-lit tankers. The catch is mostly blackfin and yellowfin tuna, as well as wahoo. The night trips depart at 7:00 PM from Ocean Breeze Marina in Kralendijk.
6. Roam the Streets of Kralendijk, Bonaire’s Capital
Kralendijk is Bonaire’s capital and main port. In 2017, it had a population of 10,620 people. The name of the town translates to “coral dike”. You can join a Historical Walking Tour that takes you around several landmarks:
- World War II Monument. It honors the local citizens who died during WWII. Bonaire lost more marine soldiers than any other Dutch island.
- Fort Oranje. The fort dates back to 1639. The island’s commander lived in Fort Oranje until 1837. Fortunately or unfortunately, the fort never experienced any action. Over the years, authorities used the building as a government center, a prison, a police and fire station, and as a warehouse for government goods.
- Pasangrahan. This building was erected around 1890s as the home to the Debrot family. In 1921, it was turned into a government guest house for visiting diplomats. In 1980, it became Bonaire’s Parliament House where the council convenes.
- Plaza Fraternan di Tilburg. The Fraturs of Tilburg were involved in the education sphere on the island from 1894 to 1991. The monument celebrates their deeds.
- Historical cannons. You’ll find these cannons scattered across the street from the Old Hospital. They belonged to a British ship that ran ashore in the beginning of the 19th century near Oranje Pond.
- Main shopping street (Kaya Grandi). Love architecture? You can admire the various architectural styles at Kralendijk’s main shopping street. They date from the late 1800s to the 1900s.
- Fish Market. In 1935, it served as a marketplace for fishermen. Today, a fruit and veggie ship comes from Venezuela every week. The crew sells their produce at the old fish market.
For more details, you should also check out My Top Travel Tips.
7. Try Your Gambling Skills at the Barefoot Casino
As a Barefoot Caribou, we highly recommend trying your gambling skills at the only barefoot casino in the Caribbean. You’ll find it at the Divi Flamingo Beach Hotel & Casino.
Facilities at this casual resort include a casino, bars, restaurants, and a fantastic scuba center. Even if you don’t dig gambling, checking out the world’s first barefoot casino is one of the coolest things to do in Bonaire.
The resort sits on the west coast of the island, in close proximity to the capital city, Kralendijk. Both the pier and the resort are within walking distance from the center of the town. If you go a bit further south, you can sightsee another diving resort – Plaza Resort Bonaire.
8. Cruise to the Uninhabited Klein Bonaire
A cruise to the “Little Bonaire” – as the name translates – is among the best things to do in Bonaire.
The uninhabited Klein Bonaire is a permanent home to green and hawksbill sea turtles. During the nesting season, it becomes a temporary home to flamingos and loggerhead sea turtles.
In other words, if you like turtles, heading to this small island just a few minutes away from Bonaire is a must.
The 15-minute boat ride costs around $15 pp for a round-trip. The water taxis depart from Eden Beach, which is close to the cruise port.
When you arrive at Klein Bonaire, you have a choice of a few things:
- Explore the surreal underwater life near the pristine coral reef.
- Laze around at No Name Beach – Klein Bonaire’s most beautiful strip of sand.
- Do a picnic on the island. Don’t forget to bring charcoal if you want to prepare a BBQ.
9. Explore Rincon, Bonaire’s Oldest Settlement
The Spanish established Rincón in 1527. This makes it the oldest settlement in the Netherlands Antilles. Spain chose its location because of the surrounding hills, which protected it from pirates.
Agriculture thrives in Rincón because of the availability of fresh water. In 2017, the population of the town was close to 1,900.
Rincón is home to the island’s biggest festival that happens every year on April 30. As a public holiday in Bonaire, tens of thousands of people attend the colorful festival. It’s a celebration of Rincón’s culture, history, and traditions.
The town hosts a monthly market on the first Saturday of each month, and a smaller one every Saturday.
In Rincón, you can marvel at two beautiful churches. The first one is called St. Ludovicus Bertrandus. It’s from 1907 and is a Roman Catholic temple. The second one dates from 1934, and is a Protestant church.
10. Discover the Culinary World of Bonaire
Due to the cultural variety of Bonaire’s inhabitants, the island’s cuisine is quite diverse. You’ll find seafood in almost every restaurant. The most typical dishes include soups, stews, lobster, conch shell meat, and grilled spicy fish.
Bonaire houses more than 80 restaurants. You’ll discover most of them in the capital.
Despite that Bonaire doesn’t grow any food products, the choice of cuisines and flavors is vast. If you want to seduce your tastebuds with something local, don’t miss the goat soup (sopi kabrito) and the beef stew (baka stoba).
The majority of bars are also in Kralendijk, with many open until midnight. The nightlife on the island is chill, laid-back, and carefree. Happy hours are more a norm than an exception. Next to Dutch beers, you can also tease your palate with tropical cocktails.
One of the island’s best live music venues is City Café Bonaire. It remains open until late most of the nights.
11. Sample the Rare Cactus Spirits
Ever wanted to try a cactus spirit? Then you should head to the tiny Cadushy Distillery (4) in Rincón. You can’t mistake it for anything else as its courtyard is lined with cactus plants and signs in bright colors.
The host offers a complimentary tour, which takes 10 minutes. It narrates you the story of how they prepare the unique cactus spirit.
Next to the 80-proof alcohol spirit, you can also try (and buy) cactus liquor and cactus vodka. Besides cactus-based spirits, at your disposal, you have the award-winning Captain Don whiskey, Rum Rincón, and a few Dutch Caribbean-themed liquors.
Curious Fact: The Canary Islands also produce a prickly pear liquor.
12. Tour Bonaire in an Eco-friendly Way
If you’re an eco-activist, you’ll love the fact that Bonaire offers electric vehicles for hire. At your disposal, you have private guided island tours (5) that will help you explore Bonaire’s gorgeous nature with a minimum impact on the environment.
We recommend you ride along the island’s west coast.
If you travel south, you’ll discover salt ponds with unbelievable pink waters, mountains with blindingly white colors, and a sea so blue it seems surreal. Don’t miss visiting the slave huts to dip in Bonaire’s history and check out the mangrove plantations.
If you travel north, you’ll ride the scenic road that leads to Rincón. On your way, you might spot flamingos at Lake Goto.
A 1.5-hour ride starts at $35 per person, while a 3-hour tour starts at $50.
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13. Discover the Salt Pyramids of Bonaire
One of the best things to do in Bonaire is admiring the jaw-dropping white salt pyramids. You’ll find them at the island’s southeast end.
Each pyramid is around 50 ft. (15 m) high and contains about 10,000 metric tons of pure salt. Depending on the season, you can spot over 200,000 metric tons of salt stacked on top of each other waiting to be shipped.
The salt facilities cover around 13% of Bonaire, which is close to 16 sq. mi (41.4 sq. km) of land. The island’s salt has hundreds of uses – from the dining table to various industrial processes like producing chlorine gas and de-icing roads in winter.
14. Observe the Gracious Flamingos in the Wild
The small Dutch island prides itself on one of the world’s largest flamingo populations. The Bonaire Salt flats serve as a home to the Flamingo Sanctuary – a nesting area for flamingos, which the birds chose themselves.
Interestingly, when born flamingos are white. But due to the shrimp-, larvae-, and algae-rich diet, they turn pink. Both parents take care of the young when they’re hatched.
You can find the largest colony of the pink birds at the Pekelmeer Flamingo Sanctuary. In the area, you can also benefit from an unusual attraction – an “all-you-can-eat buffet” of tiny pink brine shrimps that thrive in the sanctuary.
The flamingo is Bonaire’s official national bird, so please be respectful of them. Watching wild flamingos is among the best free things to do in Bonaire.
Besides the Pekelmeer Sanctuary, another important breeding ground for flamingos is Gotomeer in the north of the island.
Peculiar Fact: Flamingos tend to be people-shy, but cars don’t seem to bother them. So, sit inside and wait for them to approach.
15. Meet Bonaire’s Donkeys
The Spaniards first brought donkeys to the islands in the 17th century, and used them to perform hard labor. Once they were set free, they couldn’t thrive on the dry and barren island and started dying from dehydration or health problems.
That’s why in 1993, a Dutch couple established a donkey sanctuary for ill, injured, or orphaned donkeys. The Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire is dedicated to offering a safe life for all donkeys that live on the island.
In the sanctuary, you can learn about the donkeys’ living environment. At the moment, Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire is home to over 700 hoofed animals. They enjoy food, drinking water, and medical care, as well as a lot of space to roam free.
16. Admire the Local Flora at the Bonaire Botanical Garden
The Bonaire Botanical Garden in Rincón’s vicinity conserves native plants in a desert terrain. In the garden, you can marvel at numerous species of cacti, medicinal plants, and organic herbs.
We recommend you take the 1.5-hour tour of the gardens, which ends with a complimentary cup of fresh herbal tea. It uses ingredients that grow in the botanical garden itself.
Tours around the lush greenery and flowing fountains run between 10:00 AM and 6:00 PM, from Wednesday to Saturday.
The entrance costs $10 for adults and $5 for children. The garden’s location is in the area of Trai Montaña, approximately 4.3 mi (7 mi) southeast of Rincón.
17. Test Your Hiking Skills in the Washington-Slagbaai National Park
Washington Slagbaai National Park is an arid, cacti-studded outback full of black volcanic crags and epic crashing waves. All this makes hiking the area a surreal experience.
The park covers around 1/5 of Bonaire, and is home to various flora and fauna. Head to the park’s visitor center where you’ll find a small museum. The center also provides maps for hiking, trekking, and mountain biking. To enter the park, you need to pay a small fee.
In the salt marshes of the park, you can discover flamingo haunts.
Insider’s Tip: Bring your snorkeling gear and bathing suit if you plan on visiting Boca Slagbaai Beach while in the park. Its crystal-clear bay teems with sea turtles and tropical fish. The park area is home to several other beaches, including Playa Funchi and the three Wayaká beaches as well.
18. Windsurf at Lac Cai Beach
Love windsurfing and exploring mangroves? At Lac Cai Beach, you can do both.
The Lac Bay area and its stunning barrier reef provide some of the best conditions for windsurfing in the world.
And don’t worry if you’re a beginner. The strong yet constant trade winds that circulate in the shallow bay provide the perfect setting for learning the basics of windsurfing with little effort.
If you prefer lazing at the beach, you’ll enjoy a fantastic combination of green mangroves on one side, and crystal-clear blue waters on the other.
Lac Cai is one of the few Bonaire beaches where you won’t find corals or rocks.
19. Learn to Kitesurf at Atlantis Beach
If you’re going to learn windsurfing, why don’t you give kitesurfing a try, too? The best place for that in Bonaire is Atlantis Beach.
The crew at the beach offers great gear and easy-to-follow instructions that make learning to kitesurf a walk in the park. The strong wind gusts shouldn’t bother you because there’s a nice sandy spot to park your kite.
Atlantis Beach is ideal for diving and snorkeling, too. Most often, the waters here are flat and calm. So, whatever activity you choose, we bet you’ll love it!
Insider’s Tip: Between December and July, the wind is steadier and more consistent.
20. Tour the Caves of Bonaire
If you drive around the island, you’ll notice that Bonaire offers spots with rocky and volcanic landscape. These areas hide tons of caves, which you can explore.
We highly recommend you do that with a local guide. Why? Because locals not only know what’s safe to visit. They also know the most beautiful spots.
Cave exploration is one of the best things to do in Bonaire. The tours often include visits to several different caves. Usually, the guides will take you to a dry cave with fantastic formations first and then to another one, where you can snorkel underground.
Tour prices start at $45 per person and go all the way up to $100 based on their duration. Since they involve climbing and passing through uneven terrains, a basic fitness level is required.
21. Watch Stunning Sunsets over the Caribbean Sea
If you haven’t watched a sunset melt over the Caribbean horizon, you haven’t been to Bonaire.
The most famous lookout point on the island is Seru Largu. It has an observation deck sitting on a mountain plateau and offering heart-stopping panoramas of Bonaire. You need to do a short yet steep drive to the top, but the scenery is well worth the effort.
The panoramic vistas include Kralendijk, Klein Bonaire, and the salt pyramids. Take a seat at some of the benches at the top and observe the gorgeous sunset from Bonaire’s most romantic spot.
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Which Will be the First Thing You’ll Do in Bonaire?
And there you have it – 21 incredible things to do in Bonaire.
From exploring the wildlife to discovering the underwater world and from conquering caves to learning how to windsurf, you won’t find yourself bored on this gorgeous Caribbean island.
You will also want to read 21 things to bring to Bonaire.
Now, we’d like to know:
Which of these activities you’ll do first when you visit Bonaire?
Leave a comment below.