My first trip to Bonaire was in 2010. I was there to cover a big diving event, and as such, many of the activities over the course of eight days revolved around that. I got my advanced diving certification at Captain Don’s Habitat, but beyond that, didn’t log a whole lot of time under the sea. This trip could not have been more different.
After arriving on a Sunday night, we were up and at ’em early Monday morning for seven dives over the course of five days (not to mention a couple snorkeling adventures and other water activities). That’s a lot of time in the ocean! I couldn’t have been more thrilled with this turn of events.
And while I have a lot of Bonaire coverage to come—I’m still in Aruba as I write this post and have yet to cull the thousands, literally, of photos I’ve taken in the past 10 days—I thought I’d give you a highlights reel of why this laid-back Caribbean isle is one of my favorites.
1) It’s small enough to explore the whole thing. At just 112 square miles, Bonaire can be circumnavigated in two hours or less. I love a destination where I spend little, if any, time in a vehicle.
2) If you don’t want to rent a car to drive the loop, you can book your own TWIZY car. We ended our time in Bonaire zipping around the island in these little electric-powered vehicles with Roadrunner Bonaire. Best way to see the island, hands down.
3) It boasts the best diving in the Caribbean. It’s also often ranked among the top 10 dive destinations in the world.
4) The island is authentic as they come. With no big American chains, save a lone KFC, it feels quintessential Carib. There are seven “chain hotels” on the island, but even those aren’t chains in the sense we’re used to; they’re Divi Flamingo, Captain Don’s, Buddy Dive, Harbour Village and a few other dive resorts.
5) IT ALSO HAS FLAMINGOS. And even an airport named for those gawky pink creatures. ‘Nuff said.
6) Oh, and don’t forget the donkeys! There’s a donkey sanctuary on island that’s a little bit of a controversial topic, but you can also see donkeys on the side of the road everywhere you go.
7) It’s full of Dutch people. Which means good-looking Dutch men and delicious Dutch treats. Not complaining.
8) The food is the best I’ve had anywhere in the Caribbean. Want a barracuda steak? Book a table at At Sea. Longing for fine dining with oceanfront views? Try Ingridients (note: not a typo). For the best meal on the island, look no further than Capriccio. This burgeoning foodie scene was definitely the biggest change I noticed from my visit five years ago.
9) It’s still affordable. You may pay a little more for food—as in, what you’d pay for a good restaurant in a big city like San Francisco—but there are plenty of more affordable lodging opportunities like Sorobon Beach Resort that add up to making this a low(er) cost vacation.
10) It’s a desert island, so the climate is dry and mild all year long. I can’t believe how nice it is during the day and how the evenings unveil the most perfect temperature known to man. I want to bottle up that weather and take it home with me.
11) Speaking of things I want to carry back, have you ever seen water so blue? #NoFilter needed.
12) Cactus liqueur. Yes, you read that right: In Bonaire, the Cadushy distillery serves up the strong stuff made out of a cactus, as well as other liqueurs. It tastes a bit like the juice at the bottom of your Otter Pop once it melts (i.e. it’s delicious!).
13) There’s a serious commitment to sustainability. From the protection of the national marine park to the implementation of reusable cups and other items all over the island, the locals definitely care about the environment, which is so refreshing compared to other Caribbean islands I’ve visited.
14) You can essentially dive wherever you like. The island has 102 marked dive sites, the majority of which are accessible via the shore. All you have to do is rent a truck (many of the dive resorts include this option in a stay), load up your tanks and gears, and find a place to pull up and dive. The whole “freedom of diving” claim really is true on Bonaire (assuming you’re certified as an open water and/or advanced diver, of course).
15) Even if you don’t dive, the snorkeling is fun, too. On our off day from diving, we did a three-hour sail and snorkel tour with Compass Bonaire. The shallow waters were pristine and are always better for taking photos in natural light. Once we were done spying on the fish in the water, we got back on the boat and the captain had a BBQ dinner waiting for us. How’s that for service?
16) Water sports are plentiful. Diving aside, windsurfing at Jibe City and kitesurfing at Kite City are two big reasons that people visit Bonaire.
All in all, Bonaire is one of those places I could visit each year and never grow tired of. There seem to be new restaurants opening on the regular, one dive site is never going to be the same from one day to the next, and the weather and water are just so perfect, I could spend all day luxuriating by the beach and not grow bored. Who’s in for a #Bonaire247 trip next year? I’ll start the planning process now.