Caribbean Destination Series Part 7-Bonaire


 
When scuba divers dream, they dream of Bonaire—all the waters surrounding the island form a marine park, making it one of the finest dive spots on the planet. It has crystal clear water and colorful reefs that in many places are easily accessed right from the shore. Underwater visibility can reach 150 ft/45 m.

Bonaire’s land-based attractions can’t match its marine wonders (the nightlife is very, very low-key), but they can make for a day or two of interesting sightseeing—flamingos and wild donkeys give the island a surreal quality. Washington-Slagbaai National Park, in particular, is an excellent place to admire a dry, desertlike landscape contrasted by rolling hills and cactus jungles.

Geography

Bonaire lies 50 mi/80 km north of Venezuela. Shaped like a boomerang with the islet of Klein Bonaire nestled in its curve, the island is 24 mi/38 km long by 7 mi/11 km at its widest, 116 sq mi/300 sq km in all.With dry, desertlike conditions and little rainfall, it’s characterized by cacti and trees that have adapted to the arid climate. Because prevailing winds blow from the east, the entire west side of Bonaire is protected from the winds (this protection keeps the water calm, too). The north end of the island has numerous hills, the highest of which is Mount Brandaris at 723 ft/241 m. The south end is flat and merges gently with the sea.

History

Bonaire’s residents are a blend of European, African and Amerindian ancestry—a reflection of the island’s history. Settled by the Caiquetios, a branch of the Arawak tribe, Bonaire was claimed by Spain after explorers Alonso de Ojeda and Amerigo Vespucci came upon it in 1499. The Spanish did little to develop the island. Instead, they transported the natives to Hispaniola to work their sugarcane fields. With nobody around to take care of the farm animals, they roamed wild, which is still the case with goats today. In the 1600s, the island became one of several Caribbean islands controlled by the Dutch.Bonaire served mostly as a support island for its busy neighbor, Curacao, the center for Dutch trade in the region. Cattle ranching and salt harvesting became the economic mainstays on Bonaire. Slaves were used to collect the salt, an important product for preserving meat before refrigeration. The only town was Rincon, which meant a seven-hour walk for the slaves to reach the salt pans. In 1850, building slave huts next to the ponds solved that problem. Eventually, the slaves built their own village near the salt pans and named it Mundu Nobu, meaning “new world.”

Four obelisks were erected around the ponds, and each was painted a color of the Dutch flag (white, red and blue) plus orange to show loyalty to the House of Orange. When ships were due in to pick up the salt, a flag was put on top of an obelisk. The flag identified which salt pan was ready for shipping, so the crew knew where to land. At least one obelisk is still visible at the site.

When the slaves were emancipated in 1863, the salt business ended on Bonaire. In the late 1800s, the island sank into economic decline, a fate suffered by many other Caribbean islands. Only with the growth of tourism in the latter half of the 20th century did Bonaire begin to see better days. In 1951, the first hotel opened on the island, and tourism has been the dominant industry ever since. The lesser quantities of salt produced today are exported to the U.S. and other foreign countries for use in food seasoning and to scatter on icy highways.

Now self-governing in local matters, Bonaire remains part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which tends to the island’s international affairs. A governor, appointed by the queen, represents the Netherlands on the islands. The island sends a representative to the Dutch Parliament and retains close economic ties.

Snapshot

Bonaire’s foremost attractions include diving, snorkeling, windsurfing, relaxation, Washington/Slagbaai National Park, beaches (although not for walking—they’re small), mountain biking, two casinos, kayaking, bird-watching (especially flamingos) and deep-sea fishing.Travelers who love to snorkel and scuba dive will be in heaven in Bonaire. The island license plate says “Diver’s Paradise.” Those who don’t, and who want more from their vacation than quiet relaxation, will probably find themselves getting restless after three or four days.

Port Information
Location

Cruise ships from all over the world stop in Bonaire. Most stay for one day and move on. Both Town Pier (North Pier) and Customs Pier (South Pier) are in the capital of Kralendijk, within walking distance of shops, restaurants and Wilhelmina Square, where vendors sell handmade jewelry, original art, native food and other unique items.When ships are in port, traffic is restricted in town and locals provide dance shows, musical concerts and other entertainment in the Square and along the main roads. A short walk from Kralendijk’s Waterfront Promenade, visitors find a casino, dive shops and tour operators. Taxis stand by to take passengers to beaches and resorts offering day passes; most drivers also offer island-wide tours and visits to the national park.

The tourism office keeps an up-to-date cruise ship schedule on its Web site.

Shore Excursions

Most cruise ships stay in port only a few hours, and many passengers opt to spend their time strolling the waterfront, stopping for a snack or drink in one of the restaurants, or browsing through the shops at Harborside Mall. Those who seek more excitement may sign up for sightseeing by boat or on horseback, take a snorkeling or diving excursion, kayak through the mangroves or arrange for a tour of Washington Slagbaai National Park.Rental cars are available in town for self-guided adventures, but be aware that most companies prohibit taking vehicles off-road or into the national park.

Potpourri

A 1995 census taken by the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) identified nearly 300 species of fish in Bonaire’s waters, more than the number found off any other Caribbean island. There are also 200 species of birds on the island.In Papiamento, a language unique to Bonaire and the surrounding islands, bon dia (bun DEE-uh) means “good morning” and bon bini means “welcome.” Other words and phrases that will be helpful: kon ta bai (hello), bon tardi (good afternoon), bon nochi (good evening), si (yes), danki (thank you) and ayo (good-bye). A phrasebook for Papiamentu, which provides information on island road signs, words for foods and sentences that are commonly exchanged as part of day-to-day life, can be purchased from a number of locations on the island, including the Tourism Corporation Bonaire office.

At times, flamingos outnumber the human residents of Bonaire. As many as 15,000 of the birds are counted each year.

Bonaire has guarded its treasures carefully: It established the first national park in the Caribbean in 1969 and the first marine park 10 years later.

Wild donkeys accounted for hundreds of car-donkey accidents in past years. So to counter this problem, donkeys have been rounded up for the safety of both drivers and donkeys, and Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire opened a Donkey Paradise Safari Park, offering visitors a drive-through safarilike experience. More than 300 donkeys reside at the sanctuary, with at least one that is older than 30.

See & Do
Sightseeing

Vacationers seeking peace, relaxation and unspoiled nature love Bonaire. Scuba diving and snorkeling are the prime attractions, followed by bird-watching, and the island is dedicated to preserving its immense natural treasures.The entire coastline and surrounding waters are protected by the government as a marine reserve, and strict regulations prohibit any activity that threatens the delicate ecosystem. Ironically, the beaches are among the worst in the Caribbean—rocky, small and barren. But the sea that borders them is amazing: turquoise blue, clear all the way to the bottom and teeming with living coral and swarms of colorful creatures.

Salt flats and shallow lagoons along the southern shore attract flocks of birds, and the island is known among bird lovers as one of the few places in the world where flamingos can be observed relatively close up.

Kralendijk, Bonaire’s capital and its main town, is small but orderly and clean, in the Dutch tradition. The only attractions are Fort Orange, built in 1639, and a few colorful examples of Dutch-Caribbean architecture, including a century-old building that houses the Museo Boneriano (Kaya J.V.D. Ree; phone 717-8868). A flat, unsettled scrap of land called Klein Bonaire lies just offshore, a mere 10 minutes away by water taxi.

Bonaire’s countryside is far more interesting than its towns, and the best way to see it is independently and leisurely by rental car. If time is limited, an organized guided tour can cover the highlights in three or four hours. At the top of the must-see list is Washington/Slagbaai National Park, followed by Pekelmeer Flamingo Sanctuary, but neither compare with the remarkable underwater attractions.

Casinos

Bonaire is no Las Vegas, but two casual casinos offer gaming tables and slot machines. Divi Flamingo Beach Resort & Casino
Divi is the more laid-back of the two casinos on the island. J.A. Abraham Boulevard 40, just south of town, Bonaire. Phone 717-8285. http://www.diviflamingo.com.

Plaza Resort Bonaire
The modest casino there is the largest on the island. The bar stays open until 4 am. J.A. Abraham Bldv. 80, Kralendijk, Bonaire. Phone 717-2500. http://www.plazaresortbonaire.com.

Recreation

Most of the recreational activities on Bonaire involve the ocean, although islanders are working to change that to give visitors more variety. The island’s coastal resources, including its beautiful but fragile coral reefs, are all protected as part of the Bonaire National Marine Park. The park includes the coast and all waters surrounding the island from the shore to a depth of 200 ft/60 m.Everyone using the marine park for recreational purposes must purchase a Nature Tag, good for one year, that allows them to scuba dive, snorkel, kayak, fish, moor a sailboat, kite or windsurf, or engage in any activity in waters around the island. Scuba divers must pay US$25/Naf.45 for the tag; all others must pay US$10/Naf.18. (The fee is often included in the price of watercraft rentals or organized water-based activities, so check with outfitters before purchasing a Nature Tag.) The funds raised from the sale of the tags are used to manage and protect the park’s resources.

Beaches

Bonaire’s beaches aren’t that impressive. They tend to be small, and the sand is coarse. La Machaca is so tiny, it earned the nickname Seven Body Beach, because that’s how many sunbathers it can accommodate. Some beaches are rocky at the edges, blocking access to the sea.On the northwestern part of the island, Playa Funchi has very calm and clear water—so clear that you can see the colorful coral and parrot fish from the cliffs above the beach.

A little south of Playa Funchi is Boka Slagbaai. The fine sand makes this beach in the national park a good spot to spread out a towel and relax.

The favorite is 1,000 Steps, which is nestled along a rising cliffline. Divers, snorkelers and beach bums like this spot above and below the water. It’s really not even 100 steps down to the beach, but divers say it feels like 1,000 when trumping back up the steps with wet diving gear.

It can be unsafe to swim along the east coast of the island because of big waves rolling in from the Atlantic Ocean. As long as you keep that in mind and stay out of the water, Playa Chikitu (near the entrance to Washington/Slagbaai National Park) is a pretty beach to explore.

A couple of east-coast sites are safe, however. Lac Bay is a protected lagoon surrounded by mangroves. The marine park recommends a guide be used so you don’t go blindly snorkeling in places that have delicate marine life. The whole lake is an incubation area for young marine creatures. The reefs inside the southeast part of the lake have kayak moorings and make excellent snorkeling sites. And it’s also a renowned windsurfing site. A reef breaks the big waves, creating a sheltered place for beginners inside the reef and a great challenge for pros outside it.

Nearby Sorobon Beach, in a secluded cove, is a wide, sandy stretch with a gentle slope into the sea. Sorobon Beach Resort, a naturalist (nudist) enclave, sells one-day passes for those who want to give it a try. Phone 717-8080.

Bicycling

Those looking for activity out of the water may want to try mountain biking. More than 185 mi/300 km of trails and paths traverse the island, and the combination of desert landscape and relatively flat terrain makes it a good place for off-road cyclists. Most of the larger resorts rent mountain bikes, and a cycling trail map is available from the Tourism Corporation. Phone 599-717-8322. Cycle Bonaire
All rentals are for 21- or 24-speed Treks. Excursions are also offered. US$15/Naf.26 per day. Kaya LD Gerharts 11D, Bonaire. Phone 717-2229.

Bird Watching

Just outside the southwestern edge of Washington/Slagbaai National Park is Goto Meer, a saltwater lagoon where flamingos congregate in large groups. You’ll also find good flamingo viewing at Pekelmeer Lagoon.If you’re lucky, you’ll see graceful groups of flamingos fly off to the salt flats on the southern tip of the island each evening around sunset. Or watch them come in for a landing at Cargill Salt Bonaire N.V. site on the south end of the island. The sight of brilliant pink flamingos against white mountains of salt is truly a spectacular sight. The best months to see flamingos are May and June, when the birds are nesting. Bonaire is one of only a handful of spots in the world where breeding colonies have survived. The south is also home to small groups of pelicans who feed in the surf near Margate Bay.

The tourist office has information about the island’s birds and the best places to see them. Several tour operators organize guided field trips, including Jerry Ligon, a naturalist on staff at Bonaire Dive & Adventure. Phone 717-2098. http://www.bonairediveandadventure.com.

Boating & Sailing

Bonaire hosts the International Sailing Regatta each fall, which includes age-bracket racing and island-wide street parties. Throughout the year, operators offer sailing outings, including sunset dinner cruises along Bonaire’s leeward coast and quick jaunts to the small island of Klein Bonaire.A unique trip with friendly people is aboard the Samur. The Samur is an authentic 56-ft/17-m Siamese junk, built in Bangkok, Thailand. It offers everything from a simple sunset cruise with tasty snacks and sundowners to a full Thai dinner as the moon rises. Phone 717-5592.

Alternatively, sail aboard the Woodwind, which specializes in snorkeling trips for all ages and skill levels. Phone 786-7055. http://www.woodwindbonaire.com.

Mistress, a wooden 56-ft/17-m ketch similar to those once used by pirates, offers high-sea adventures with sunset and dinner cruises, as well as turtle- and dolphin-watching sails (phone 780-9933). The Mushi Mushi leaves from the pier in Kralendijk for three-hour cruises each morning and afternoon. Contact Bonaire Nautico Marina. Phone 786-2474. http://www.bonairenauticomarina.com

For a genuine touch of Cousteau, try a trip aboard Aquaspace, a semisubmarine trimaran designed for research for the late captain’s adventurous team. The sleeping and observation chamber beneath the sea offers glimpses of healthy reefs, sea turtles and schooling fish. Phone 701-2782. http://www.aquaspace-bonaire.com.

If you prefer to do your own sailing, the larger resorts rent Sunfish and Lasers, or you can rent monohulls and catamarans from Sails of Bonaire. Phone 717-7797.

Kayaks are a great way to explore Lac Bay, where low-hanging mangrove branches create tunnels to paddle through. To set up an excursion, contact Jibe City. All trips through the mangroves must be accompanied by a guide. Phone 717-5233. http://www.jibecity.com.

Kite surfing or kiteboarding is becoming very popular in Bonaire because of the consistent winds in the east and south across the south salt flats. The Margate Bay, Pink Beach and Atlantis sites are daily hangouts. Kite boarders also go to Lac Bay to test the wind and waves. For information, lessons and rentals, contact Kiteboarding Bonaire at 717-6138.

Windsurfers love the strong, steady winds on Bonaire’s east side, and a terrific place to catch those winds is Lac Bay, on the southeast end of the island. It’s shallow (about 4 ft/1.2 m deep), the breezes blow inland, not out to sea, and the bottom is mostly grass and sand, so it’s a perfect place for beginners. Bonaire Windsurf Place (phone 717-2288; http://www.bonairewindsurfplace.com) and Jibe City have a variety of boards and sails for rent. Both places also serve food and drinks if you just want to relax and watch the action. The bar at Jibe City has a Gilligan’s Island-meets-Hard Rock Cafe look. Rentals run from US$30/Naf.53 for two hours to US$60/Naf.106 per day. Lesson rates vary. Negotiate discounts in the off-season.

Sailors, kayakers and windsurfers must purchase a Nature Tag, good for one year, which supports the Bonaire National Marine Park. The cost of the tag is US$10/Naf.25.

Fishing

One of our favorite memories is sipping a drink at a Bonaire beach bar, watching a fisherman in a wooden rowboat fight and land a marlin by himself, using only a hand line. The fishing is good, not only for marlin, but also for dolphin (the fish, not the mammal), sailfish, tuna and wahoo.Chris Morkos of Piscatur Charters takes fishermen of all skill levels on charter deep-sea trips aboard the 42-ft/13-m Piscatur. A half-day charter is US$400/Naf.710; full-day charters are US$550/Naf.976. Phone 717-8774. http://www.bonairefishing.com/piscatur.

Cornelius Van der Bijl and his son, Thomas, operate Big Game Sportfishing with half- and full-day deep-sea excursions aboard their specially outfitted 30-ft/9-m Hatteras. Rates run US$325/Naf.576 for six hours and US$450/Naf.799 for nine hours. Phone 717-6500. http://www.big-game-sport-fishing.com.

Both outfitters also guide half-day bonefishing (wading) expeditions for about US$250/Naf.444 for two people, including all equipment.

To engage in sportfishing, you must purchase a Nature Tag, good for one year. The cost of the tag is US$10/Naf.25. A line must be used by tourists, and spearfishing is banned for everyone on the island. If you take a speargun, you must check it with customs or the police until you leave Bonaire.

Scuba & Snorkeling

If you’ve ever wanted to try scuba diving or snorkeling, this is the perfect place: Bonaire is considered one of the best dive spots in the world. The island is famous for its pristine and easily accessible coral reefs.Bonaire’s coral has fared well, in part, because the entire reef ecosystem is protected as part of the Bonaire National Marine Park. To dive in the park, all scuba divers must purchase a Nature Tag for a fee of US$25/Naf.45, and snorkelers must purchase a tag for a fee of US$10/Naf.25. The tags are good for one year, and the funds raised support research and protection of the island’s fragile marine environments.

The Marine Park puts certain sites at rest for a day or two at a time to avoid damage from overuse. At various times, long stretches of coast will be off-limits for rejuvenation. This is what keeps Bonaire at the top of the game, so divers don’t mind. But if you are only on the island for a few days, it’s a good idea to check this out, so you can schedule your dives accordingly. Bonaire also boasts good underwater visibility (more than 100 ft/30 m), largely because the island has no natural rivers carrying silt and other runoff into the sea.

Perhaps best of all, a boat isn’t even necessary for scuba diving or snorkeling. Because the reefs begin so near the shore and slope down gradually, divers can reach them easily from land. The entire west coast of the island is protected from the wind, so there is little wave action or surge to worry about there. You can also take boat trips to offshore sites, such as those around Klein Bonaire. A typical dive day has boats visiting Klein in the morning or the northern reefs; the south and central sites are usually dived in the afternoon. Most hotel dive centers offer unlimited shore-diving packages on their house reefs.

Diving on your own is simple (using the buddy system, of course). Most dive operators have filling stations, where you just drive up and fill your tanks for about US$5/Naf.9 per tank. As you drive around the island, you’ll notice yellow stone markers at odd spots by the roadsides. They indicate dive or snorkel sites. Windsock, just south of the airport, is a particular favorite of snorkelers. Lac Bay is another, because it is a nursery for juvenile fish. You’ll see tiny barracuda, only inches long, as well as harmless upside-down jellyfish.

Diving at Klein Bonaire’s south side is very good with lots of healthy reefs and the chance to see dolphins in the area.

Dive operators offer introductory scuba courses (sometimes called “resort,” “intro” or “discover scuba” courses), which provide simple instruction and an accompanied dive on one of the reefs that line the leeward side of the island. Advanced certification courses are also available, and Bonaire has excellent standards for dive instruction. If you are not taking one of the introductory courses, you must be a certified diver and present your C card to rent equipment and go diving. All divers, no matter how proficient, must take an orientation course before diving on Bonaire.

Snorkeling from a boat will cost about US$25/Naf.45 and a one-tank boat dive runs about US$50/Naf.90, plus equipment fees (if you do not have your own). Dive centers are everywhere. If you don’t have one at your hotel, just pick up brochures at the tourist office, or ask the front desk for recommendations. The centers are all regulated and must play by the same rules.

Town Pier is a beloved spot for divers, who are drawn to its orange cup corals, colorful sponges, angelfish and other marine life. The Salt Pier is also a favorite. The fuel pier in the north, and much of the coast around it, is now off-limits. Under the International Ship and Port Security (ISPS) Code, the pier is closed when a ship is at the pier or security precautions are heightened. A certified local divemaster must accompany dive groups at all times. He or she must get permission from security officers at the pier to enjoy its underwater wonders, and there is a limit to group size. It is best to make arrangements well in advance with one of the island’s divemasters for a dive.

Bonaire has a hyperbaric chamber, which is located on Kaya John Nicolaas, across from the main hospital and behind Centro Medico Central, where injured divers can receive treatment from physicians who specialize in hyperbaric medicine. In addition, the Diver’s Alert Network (DAN) will provide treatment, advice and, if necessary, arrange for evacuation. DAN also answers health-related questions about diving. Call 919-684-8111 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              919-684-8111      end_of_the_skype_highlighting (toll-free 877-595-0625 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              877-595-0625      end_of_the_skype_highlighting) to contact DAN’s headquarters in the U.S. http://www.dan.org.

Other Options

Bonaire Motorcycle Shop
Rents everything with wheels, from Jeeps to scooters. A Harley-Davidson 125cc motorbike rents for US$100/Naf.177 per day, including tax, helmet and map. Have your credit card ready, as the deposit on a Harley is US$1,000/Naf.1,780. Kaya Grandi 54, Bonaire. Phone 717-7790. http://bonairenet.com/motorcycle.

Nightlife

Like many other places centered around diving, Bonaire’s nightlife is not especially lively (divers usually prefer to conserve their energy for the next day’s scuba adventure). You won’t see many people dressed up, given the island’s casual approach to attire.City Cafe is a popular town watering hole that stays open until 2 am and hosts live bands for dancing on weekends. It also offers Internet access.

Some hotels put on shows (featuring local folk dancers and singers) that are free to diners and hotel guests, and the larger resorts host theme-night dinners, which often include some type of entertainment.

Most evenings you can participate in a free “dry dive” by attending a slide show given by a local dive professional. The most popular is on Friday nights at Rum Runners located at Capt. Don’s Habitat. Pick up a copy of Bonaire Nights at your hotel or the tourist office, or ask around the dive shops to find out more information. Alternatively, you can go for the real thing and go on a night dive. You’ll see an entirely different collection of marine creatures in the nighttime waters.

Check the listings in free and widely available copies of Bonaire Nights magazine and the twice-monthly newspaper The Bonaire Reporter, which runs a What’s Happening section of current entertainment.

And finally for the romantically or astronomically inclined, there’s always a quiet hillside, beach or terrace for some star-gazing.

Live Music

Karel’s Beach Bar
This place stays open until 2 am, with live music on weekends. Kya J.E. Craane, Kralendijk, Bonaire. Phone 717-8434. http://karelsbeachbar.com.

Shopping

On Bonaire, merchandise options include duty-free items (especially dive watches), island-style clothing, T-shirts, jewelry, local art and handicrafts. As might be expected, every type of diving clothing and gear can be found there. Of particular note are Bonaire’s arts and crafts—local artists stay busy creating distinctive works.Note that bargaining is not appropriate at Bonaire’s shops.

Most of the Kralendijk shops (including a pharmacy) are on Kaya Grandi and in its offshoot Harbourside Mall (phone 717-5162). Besides the usual trinket marts, there are several shops carrying authentic local art.

If you forgot to pack some of your dive or snorkel gear, we recommend Buddy’s Dive Shop (phone 717-8522). Another option in town is Diver’s Discount on Kaya Grandi 6, Kralendijk. Phone 717-3911. http://www.dive-friends-bonaire.com.

Shopping Hours: Monday-Saturday 8 am-noon and 2-6 pm.

Galleries

JanArt
This gallery offers beautiful original art paintings of Bonaire scenes by Janice Huckaby. Kaya Gloria, No. 7, Bonaire. Phone 717-5246. http://www.janartbonaire.com.

Richter Art Gallery
Linda and Jake Richter display a selection of work in their sunny open gallery in the Belem area, just south of Kralendijk. The shop is open by appointment and during limited winter hours, so call ahead. Kaya Statius van Eps 17, Belem, Bonaire. Phone 717-4112. http://www.richterart.com.

Specialty Stores

Atlantis
This shop sells quality jewelry and gifts. Kaya Grandi 32B, Bonaire. Phone 717-7730. http://www.atlantisbonaire.com.

Best Buddies
A good place for T-shirts and swimsuits. The shop also has a nice selection of children’s toys and books, as well as unique driftwood art. Kaya Grandi 32, Bonaire. Phone 717-7451.

Bonaire Gift Shop
This colorful shop carries liquors and wines in addition to its selection of dive watches and digital cameras. Kaya Grandi 13, Kralendijk, Bonaire. Phone 717-7210. http://www.bonairegiftshop.com.

Cultimara Supermarket
Gather a few picnic items at this grocery store just inland from the waterfront. Dutch cheese and chocolate and fresh bakery goods are the best buys. Open Monda-Saturday 8 am-6 pm. Kaya L.D. Gerharts 13, Bonaire. Phone 717-8278.

Duty Free Shop
Before leaving the island, stop at this airport store for liquor, gifts and souvenirs at duty-free prices. You must show your international boarding pass to make a purchase. Phone 717-5563.

Island Fashions
Beachwear and hard-to-find clothing items. Kaya Grandi 5, Kralendijk, Bonaire. Phone 717-7071. http://www.islandfashionsandgifts.com.

Jody’s Fashion, Music & Trends
Current European fashions are the best buys there, but owners Jo and Dymphie Bux also offer perfume, gifts and a variety of musical CDs and DVDs. Logoen Hills 18 (east of Kralendijk), Bonaire. Phone 717-5215. http://www.jodysbonaire.com.

Littman Jewelry
Littman Jewelry (which also has outlets in the better hotels) has the best selection of jewelry and watches in town. Three other Littman shops sell clothing, beachwear, souvenirs and gifts. Phone 717-8160. http://www.bonairelittmanstores.com.

Marlis Sail and Canvas Shop
Don’t be tricked into thinking this is a boating supply store. Owner Marlis often visits the Kuna natives of Panama to buy handmade needle art called molas. The word means blouse, but a mola is actually an art panel made of two to seven layers of lightweight cloth, which can stand alone as a wall hanging or be crafted into anything from an oven mitt to a tote bag to a unique piece of clothing. The shop is open Monday-Friday 8 am-noon and 3-6 pm, Saturday 9 am-noon. Kaya Gobernador N. Debrot No. 18, Kralendijk, Bonaire. Phone 717-7741. http://www.marlissailandcanvas.com.

Itinerary
Local Tours

A particularly delightful way to see Bonaire is on one of the highly personal tours given by taxi drivers. Expect to pay about US$12-$15/Naf.21-27 per hour, per person.
Bonaire Tours & Vacations
An experienced destination tour company. It offers everything from airport pickup to weddings. Most popular is the three-hour Island Journey for US$28/Naf.50. You’ll see Bonaire from the southern salt ponds and slave huts to Goto Meer and Rincon, the oldest settlement. Other offerings include a National Park Discovery, a Robinson Cruise Away to Klein Bonaire and Mountain Bike Trekking, among others. Harbour Village Marina, Bonaire. Phone 717-8778. http://www.bonairetours.com.

Discover Bonaire
This tour company focuses more on the natural aspects of Bonaire. Excursions include kayaking, diving, biking, bird-watching, children’s programs and nature hikes. Kaya Gobernador N. Debrot 77A, Bonaire. Phone 717-2229. http://www.bonairediveandadventure.com.

Day By Day

Because the island is so small, it’s not necessary to follow a day-by-day itinerary. Some of the best beaches and scuba spots are not at the hotels, so the best way to explore the island is by renting a car, taking a leisurely drive and stopping whenever something looks appealing.

Day Plans

To help you make the most of your time in Bonaire, we’ve designed three different itineraries. PLAN AScuba Nirvana

Take advantage of Bonaire’s most famous attraction—the coral reefs surrounding the island. Rent diving equipment and head for the sea. The shore diving is great from several west-coast beaches. The reefs begin close to the shore, and most of the interesting marine life is concentrated between 30 ft/10 m and 65 ft/20 m, although visibility goes much deeper. Look for the brilliant blue tangs, four-eye butterfly fish (yellow and white, with a black spot on the rear of their bodies), gold and blue queen angelfish and yellow French grunts (fish that actually grunt when they’re out of the water). If you prefer boat diving, join a group that’s going to Klein Bonaire, the rocky, uninhabited islet just offshore.

After lunch, take a walking tour of Kralendijk—in other words, go shopping. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to get around this small town. And you might find a swimsuit or T-shirt that’s perfect for the rest of your trip. End your outing at Karel’s Beach Bar, where you will meet locals and tourists alike sipping drinks and watching the sunset.

PLAN B

Snorkeling in the Park

Plan on a full day—rent snorkeling gear and pack a picnic lunch (there are a few Subways, KFCs and local delis that will do this for you). Then rent a car for this trip—or hire a taxi driver for the day.

Drive north along the scenic, winding coastal road past Karpata and turn inland at a marked dive site just before BOPEC, the oil-shipping terminal. Look for the tiny pink dots in the distance—these are flamingos in Goto Meer. Follow the signs (yellow with a black lizard) through Rincon to Washington/Slagbaai National Park. We recommend the longer, seaside route through the park, but start before 2:30 pm in order to make it back out by the 5 pm closing time. The speed limit is 25 mph/40 kph. See if you can spot a lora, a small, green parrot that nests in cacti. If you see one, count yourself lucky: It’s an endangered species.

Stop and have your picnic lunch at Playa Funchi, where you’ll be joined by blue-tailed lizards looking for a handout. Snorkeling is beautiful at Funchi, and also at the edges of Boka Slagbaai (Slaughter Bay). When you snorkel over the sand in the bay, you’ll see what appear to be several cannons half-buried in the sand. They’re not artifacts, but movie props put there by Capt. Don Stewart, a local diving legend who once owned Capt. Don’s Habitat. He put the cannons in this spot for the filming of the movie Shark’s Treasure.

If you take one of the shorter drives through the park, you’ll have time for a short hike on the well-marked trails (outlined on your entrance map), or for bird-watching at Put Bonswinkel.

After an afternoon of snorkeling, hiking and driving the twisting roads of the park, you’ll be ready to unwind with some refreshment.

PLAN C

The Southern Route: Donkeys and Lac Bay

Make the same preparations as for Plan B, but head south along the shore road. After you pass the airport, keep an eye out for signs to the Donkey Sanctuary, where you can stop and talk to sanctuary founder Marina Mellis about her efforts to protect the animals. Maybe you’ll even be tempted to pet a few. Phone 560-7607. http://www.donkeysanctuary.org.

Then drive on past the salt ponds, where you might spy flamingos in the distance, and stop at Salina Abou for snorkeling. Continue on to explore the huts where slaves lived, and at the southernmost tip of the island, visit Willemstoren Lighthouse, built in 1837. Pick a scenic spot to eat your packed lunch and watch waves crashing against the coral and gulls soaring overhead.

After lunch, head north along the coast. If you like, detour inland and try windsurfing at Lac Bay. Or—if you’re looking for another kind of adventure—you could spend the afternoon sunbathing au naturel at the Sorobon Beach Naturist Resort. More possibilities: Explore the mangroves by kayak or snorkel over the grass beds of Lac Bay—they’re nurseries for hundreds of species of fish and other marine animals. If that’s too much adventure, and you’d rather pace yourself, call ahead to the day spa at Sand Dollar Resort and treat yourself to a short massage or a massage with soothing aromatherapy oils. Phone 717-8738 or 800-288-4773 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              800-288-4773      end_of_the_skype_highlighting. http://www.divesanddollar.com/spapackages.html.

Dining
Dining Overview

Bonaire is experiencing lots of growth, so new restaurants open frequently—and not all stay in business. If you stroll along Kaya Grandi, Kaya J.N.E. Craane (the waterfront road north of the piers) and Kaya L.D. Gerharts, you’ll pass many dining spots serving Caribbean, Dutch, Indonesian and U.S. foods. All are informal. Even the fancier restaurants are fairly casual on Bonaire. Coats and ties are seldom worn—usually just for weddings and funerals. Everywhere on the island, you’ll find a generous array of ethnic menus that cover foods from around the globe. Be sure to ask about the local fare: soups and stews made with salted meat, goat, conch, plantains, okra, cactus or the occasional iguana. Often, these local dishes can be ordered but are not listed on the menu.Everyone should try a rijsttafel. This Indonesian table buffet consists of rice accompanied by numerous small side dishes of meat, vegetables and fish. Dutch cheeses, chocolate and coffee are also good, as is the Dutch beer that is served almost everywhere.

Though divers tend to eat earlier than the usual travelers, most restaurants in Bonaire are open at approximately the same times as those in North America. Breakfast is 7-10 am, lunch is 11:30 am-2:30 pm and dinner is 6-10:30 pm. Reservations are suggested. Menus vary in adding a service charge, so be sure to read the fine print.

Expect to pay within these guidelines for a meal for one, not including drinks, tax or tip: $ = less than US$10; $$ = US$11-$25; $$$ = US$26-$40; $$$$ = more than US$40.

Local & Regional

City Cafe and City Restaurant
Succeeding at being all things to all people, this eatery is both an outdoor cafe and indoor restaurant serving all meals, all day, every day. The bar stays open late every night and features live music on weekends. A varied international menu features Dutch and Mexican specialties. The City Restaurant is open daily 10 am-3 pm and 6-10 pm. City Cafe is open daily 7 am-2 am. Happy hour 5-6 pm. $-$$. Most major credit cards. Kaya Grandi No. 7, Kralendijk, Bonaire. Phone 717-8286. http://www.citybonaire.com.

Mambo Jambo
Located in the heart of Kralendijk, this international restaurant is the place to enjoy rijstaffe, the Dutch adaptation of the traditional Indonesian rice table that features several small portions of spicy side dishes. The varied menu also includes catch-of-the-day, sandwiches prepared with fresh-baked bread and plates of all-you-can-eat barbecued ribs. Open daily for dinner, Monday-Friday for lunch also. The bar stays open late every night. Reservations recommended. $$-$$$. Most major credit cards. Kaya L. D. Gerharts 3, Bonaire. Phone 717-8454.

Richard’s Waterfront Restaurant
At this island landmark, set in a converted private home, you can dine by the sea or in the garden. Richard takes care to get the freshest catch in town from local fishermen. Daily for dinner, closed Mondays. Reservations recommended for groups of six or more. $$$. Most major credit cards. J.A. Abraham Boulevard 60, Bonaire. Phone 717-5263.

The Unbelievable Restaurant
Tropical marine decor adds to the pleasure of eating inside the trendy dining room or on the second floor balcony of this unbelievably good restaurant. At lunch, the menu focuses on light island favorites, such as grilled fish, stobas (stew), sandwiches and salads. In the evening, the menu moves up a notch and goes international. Seafood is still the highlight, but other choices include steaks, chicken and pasta with just the right touch of spice, all cleverly presented. Open Monday-Saturday 11:30 am-2 pm and 5:30-10 pm. Reservations recommended. $-$$. Most major credit cards. Kaya J.A. Abraham Boulevard, Bonaire. Phone 717-3000.

Zeezicht
The name is Dutch for “sea view,” and that’s exactly what you get, either indoors or on the patio. Expect an interesting blend of cuisines centering around seafood—Dutch, Indonesian and Caribbean. Daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Reservations recommended. $-$$. Most major credit cards. Kaya J.N.E. Craane 12, Bonaire. Phone 717-8434.

Cuisines
Fusion

Chez Lucille
Mix it up with a fusion of French and Thai cuisines, overseen by your enthusiastic host, Lucille. Menu goes from Thai crab puffs and spring rolls to fried eggplant and duck l’orange. Indoor and garden dining. Daily for dinner, closed Sundays. Reservations recommended. $$-$$$. Most major credit cards. Kaya C.E.B. Hellmund 19, Bonaire. Phone 717-7884. http://www.bonairedining.com/chezlucille.

Italian

Capriccio
The food there is exceptional, and even the house wines are excellent. Dishes are classic Italian, with surprising twists and creative combinations. Check the menu for pasta tossed with five types of seafood or try the pumpkin ravioli. All the pastas and breads are made fresh daily at the restaurant, and the staff is skilled at matching wines to menu selections. The best seating is outside, but the air-conditioned dining room has cozy booths. Daily except Tuesday for dinner, lunch Monday and Wednesday-Friday. Reservations recommended for dinner. $$$-$$$$. Most major credit cards. Kaya Isla Riba 1, Kralendijk, Bonaire. Phone 717-7230.

Donna & Georgios
Repeat visitors will find husband-and-wife team Donna and Georgios cooking in a new location. The popular restaurant has moved to a restored century-old waterfront building with outdoor seating, where the couple continue to combine her Antillean recipes with his Italian expertise. The results are creative dishes such as pasta with gorgonzola cheese and pineapple. Live music Friday-Sunday. Daily except Wednesday 6:30-11 pm. Happy hour 5:30-6:30 pm. Reservations recommended. $$-$$$. Most major credit cards. Kaya C.E.B. Hellmund 25, Kralendijk, Bonaire. Phone 717-3799.

Latin American

Casablanca Argentinean Grill
Go hungry and order the mixed grill for two. It includes Argentinean beef as well as sausages, chicken, pork and ribs. Not that ravenous? Try any of the grilled meats topped with spicy chimichurri accompanied by salad, rice or french fries. The grilled fish and pasta dishes are even lighter. Ask for suggestions on the best wine from Argentina or Chile. Live music Wednesday evening. Open daily for dinner, Tuesday-Saturday for lunch also. Reservations recommended for dinner. $$-$$$. Most major credit cards. J.A. Abraham Boulevard 6, Kralendijk, Bonaire. Phone 717-4433. http://www.restaurantcasablanca.com.

Patagonia Argentinean Restaurant
Steaks and seafood highlight the menu, and the filet-shrimp combo is outstanding, but pasta is a good choice for vegetarians. Chicken and seafood are mixed into the traditional paella, which has an excellent saffron flavor. Order one of the exceptional Argentinean wines from the extensive wine list. Dine outdoors overlooking the harbor or inside the air-conditioned dining room. Live entertainment on Thursday and Sunday evenings. Open daily 5:30-10 pm. Reservations recommended. $$$. Most major credit cards. Located at the base of the yellow lighthouse in Harbour Village Marina, Kaya Gobernador N. Debrot No. 71, Bonaire. Phone 717-7725. http://www.patagoniarestaurant.com.

Mexican

Papaya Moon Cantina
Run by Texans, so the food is mostly authentic Tex-Mex, but expect some delicious surprises. Starters include traditional queso blanco (melted white cheese, served with tortilla chips) and gazpacho (spicy, cold soup), but choices also include fondue made with lobster. Popular main dishes range from beef fajitas to pork loin topped with orange salsa. Most everything comes with rice and beans. Desserts are good, but after a big meal, many diners opt for one of the espresso drinks. Daily except Tuesday 6-11 pm; happy hour 6-7:30 pm. Reservations accepted. $$-$$$. Most major credit cards. Kaya Grandi 48, Kralendijk, Bonaire. Phone 717-5025. http://www.papayamooncantina.com.

Seafood

It Rains Fishes
Located in the center of town, directly across from the marina pier, this renovated old building houses a restaurant as trendy as its name. The menu is heavy on seafood, all perfectly cooked and often sauced with garlic and spices, but other choices include lamb, Angus beef and chicken. Vegetarian and children’s meals also available. Sit inside facing the sleek bar or take a table on the patio facing the waterfront. Open Monday-Saturday 7:30 am-late. Reservations suggested for dinner. $$. Most major credit cards. Kaya J.N.E. Craane, Kralendijk, Bonaire. Phone 717-8780.

Other Options

The Lion’s Den and Bella Vista
Divers have gathered at Buddy’s Dive Resort for many years, enjoying lunch on the beach and dinner in a spacious pavilion right over the water. Bella Vista is the more casual spot that serves a big breakfast buffet each morning then burgers, salads and soups. As the sun sets, diners move to the Lion’s Den, where a special theme-meal is featured most nights along with a varied menu of steaks, seafood and vegetarian pasta.The scenery is great, day or night. Bella Vista open 6:30-10 am and 11:30 am-6 pm. The Lion’s Den open for dinner daily 5-10 pm. Reservations recommended. $-$$. Most major credit cards. Kaya Gobernador Nicholas Debrot 85 (at Buddy’s Dive Resort), Bonaire. Phone 717-3400 (Lion’s Den); 717-5080 (Bella Vista).

Security
Personal Safety

Bonaire is considered one of the safest islands in the Caribbean, and most crime involves theft. Commonsense precautions should keep your vacation a happy one. When you park your vehicle—especially at shore-dive sites—don’t leave valuables such as cameras, pocketbooks or scuba equipment in the car. Reports of thefts from hotel rooms are becoming more frequent, so lock all valuables in the room safe or check them with the hotel’s reception desk. Most rooms come with an extra pin to secure sliding doors and a latch for the front door; be sure to use these safety items.For the latest information, contact your country’s travel-advisory agency.

Health

The food and water are safe on Bonaire. Because of the lack of fresh water, seawater is distilled, producing water so pure that it’s passed through a lime filter to give it taste. Most food is imported, and food-handling controls are adequate.Medical care is available at the Hospitaal San Francisco, Kaya Soeur Bartola 2. In an emergency, the hospital can be reached by dialing 114. Injured divers may be treated at the emergency room by hyperbaric physicians, who have access to the nearby hyperbaric chamber on Kaya John Nicolaas. Phone 717-7140.

The emergency number for the police is 911, and the number for fire departments is 191.

The local, downtown pharmacy, Botica Bonaire, has a good supply of medicines. Its pharmacists are quite familiar with the many minor dive maladies that occur. Phone 717-8905.

For more information, contact your country’s health-advisory agency.

Disabled Advisory

The Divi Flamingo Beach Resort specializes in scuba diving for the disabled. Some guest rooms and all common areas and dive shops are wheelchair accessible. Phone 717-8285. Plaza Resort has wheelchair-accessible rooms and facilities. Phone 717-2500.For trips to Klein Bonaire, the Bonairean-built Kantika di Amor is wheelchair accessible. The waterfront walkways in town are designed for relative ease of use by individuals with physical limitations. However, most eateries and shops are not easily accessible.

Dos & Don’ts

Don’t take your dive gloves to Bonaire. Most dive operators won’t let you wear them. The reasoning is simple: Wearing gloves encourages divers to touch the reef, and too much touching will destroy the fragile coral and sea fans.Don’t take your speargun to Bonaire. Spearfishing has been prohibited since 1971.

Don’t remove any natural material (such as shells, coral, driftwood, bones, turtle shells and the like) from the island. This is illegal, and the fine is very high.

Don’t throw out an anchor from a boat. Do moor at assigned buoys for the time allotted.

Do buy a laminated card or a book that identifies fish, coral and other marine life if you want to know what you’re looking at when you’re snorkeling or diving. The books and cards are sold at bookstores and some dive shops.

Do take along a pair of binoculars and a zoom lens for your camera to view and photograph the island’s flamingos. The colorful birds won’t let you get too close.

Hotels
Hotel Overview

Accommodations range from first-rate resorts to basic hotels. Most properties are locally owned. Hotel space is limited, so book as far in advance as possible. Most hotels have dive shops on the premises that offer dives and instruction. Weekly dive packages are available. Take note of the property’s location (proximity to water and town) and find out what amenities it offers (tennis courts, for instance).

Facts
Geostats

Passport/Visa Requirements: All U.S. citizens must have a passport when traveling by air to or from Bermuda, Canada, the Caribbean, Central and South America and Mexico. Citizens of Canada, Mexico and the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda also must have a passport or other designated secure document to enter the U.S.Passports are required for land crossings at the Canadian and Mexican borders with the U.S. and for cruise passengers returning to the U.S. from Mexico, the Caribbean, Canada or Bermuda. Reconfirm travel-document requirements with your carrier prior to departure.

Arriving passengers may be asked to show a return or on-going airline ticket and sufficient funds for the intended length of stay on the island.

If it is not already included in your ticket, a departure tax of US$32/Naf.55 for international flights must be paid in person at the airport before passing through security. The tax may be paid in cash or by debit or credit card (American Express is not accepted). A security fee of US$1.40/Naf.2.50 is collected for each person departing Bonaire Flamingo International Airport.

Reconfirm travel document requirements with your carrier before departure. If you are traveling between islands, you pay a smaller tax at each departure.

Population: 14,243.

Languages: Dutch (official), Papiamento, English, Spanish.

Predominant Religions: Christian (Protestant, Roman Catholic).

Time Zone: 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-4 GMT). Daylight Saving Time is not observed.

Voltage Requirements: 110-130 volts, 50 cycles. Adapters are usually available from the hotel. Some quick chargers and old-style hair dryers may overheat, although newer 50/60 appliances pose no problems.

Telephone Codes: 599, country code;

Money
Currency Exchange

Bonaire uses the U.S. dollar. Credit cards are widely accepted.There are several banks downtown, all of which have ATMs. Walk-up hours are generally Monday-Friday 8:30 am-3:30 or 4 pm. Most banks remain open during lunch. ATMs are widely available, including those on the outside wall of the Tourism Office at Kaya Grandi 2, at the airport and in the lobby of the Plaza Resort Bonaire.

Taxes

A 5% tax, known as the NAOB, is charged on all but a few goods and services.

Tipping

Some restaurants add a 10%-15% service charge automatically, so check the bill before adding a tip. If a gratuity has not been added, tip about 15% in restaurants. Tip cabdrivers and tour guides 10% and bellhops US$1/Naf.2 per bag. If you go diving, tip the dive shop about 10%.

Weather

There is no bad time to go—the weather is nearly perfect year-round. The average temperature is 82 F/28 C. Highs rarely exceed 90 F/32 C (August is the hottest month), and lows rarely dip beneath 70 F/21 C. The average water temperature is 80 F/27 C. If any time is worse than another, it’s probably October-December, when it’s rainier and windier, though neither is extreme enough to disrupt a vacation. (The arid island only gets about 22 in/56 cm of rainfall all year.) The island is south of the main hurricane belt, so the summer-fall tropical storm season is usually not a concern.

What to Wear

Bonaire is generally an informal island. Still, courteous visitors wear at least shorts, a shirt and sandals everywhere except on beaches and at poolside. Wear long pants at night, to protect against mosquitoes. Also, it can get chilly by the sea, so a long-sleeve T-shirt or light jacket is advisable.Never enter a taxi, restaurant or business wearing a wet swimsuit, even under a cover-up.

Communication
Telephone

Phone service on the island is generally good. International calls, faxes, telegrams, telexes and other overseas communications services at TELBO are considerably less expensive than at resorts. Kaya Simon Bolivar 8. Phone 717-7000.Phone cards don’t work with some hotel phones, so ask your hotel operator before you purchase one. If you purchase a prepaid international calling card before leaving home, be sure to call the issuing company to get the toll-free dialing codes for Bonaire.

There’s also a Digicel on Kaya Grandi 26 (phone 717-4400 or, if calling from a cell phone while on the island, 145 or *66). Cellular service is generally good, but coverage may be spotty in remote locations.

Internet Access

Bonaire’s Internet capabilities have improved and connections are generally fast and consistent. Most resorts have business centers, and many offer wireless Internet either in rooms or in the common areas.Bonaire Live has an Internet center on the first floor of the Lourdes Shopping Mall (Kaya L.D. Gerhart, Kralendijk; phone 717-6040). In addition, Chat ‘n Browse offers 24-hour drive-up wireless Internet if you have your own computer. Kaya Gobernador N. Debrot No. 79 at the Sand Dollar Shopping Plaza. Phone 717-2281.

Mail & Package Services

The post office is just inland of the north pier, across from Plaza Wilhelmina. It’s open Monday-Friday 7:30 am-noon and 1:30-4:30 pm. Phone 599-717-8508.FedEx has an office at Kaya Industria 12. Phone 717-8922.

Newspapers & Magazines

The Bonaire Reporter is a twice-monthly newspaper widely available on the island. The Daily Herald, an English-language daily published in St. Maarten, and Amigoe, a Dutch- and English-language daily published in Curacao, are also available. The Bonaire Nights magazine lists current events and entertainment and is available free of charge at most hotels and restaurants, as well as at the tourist office.

Transportation

Bonaire has no public transportation or interisland ferries. You’ll have to choose between taxis, a rental car, Jeep, motorcycle, moped or bicycle to get around the island. Taxis have standard rates for specific destinations.Main roads are paved, and driving is on the right. Most of Bonaire’s unpaved roads are decent, but in some areas, including Washington/Slagbaai National Park, become tricky and sometimes impassable after rain. Most rental agencies prohibit driving a regular car in the national park. You may also find that the roads in rural areas are sometimes blocked by goats or donkeys. Local driving habits are casual: Occasionally two drivers, traveling in opposite directions, stop to chat in what is called a “Bonaire meeting.”

Air

Bonaire’s Flamingo International Airport (BON) is about 2 mi/3 km south of Kralendijk and is wheelchair accessible. Taxis and rental cars are available on-site, and other facilities include several shops and restaurants, as well as a bank and ATM. Phone 717-5600. http://www.flamingoairport.com.Several commuter flights operate between Bonaire and other islands.

Car

Major rental car companies maintain branches at the airport and in Kralendijk. Some companies will deliver cars to you. You must have a valid driver’s license and a major credit card and be at least 21 years of age or older (some companies require drivers to be at least 26). Traffic is very light—there isn’t a single traffic light on the entire island. From Kralendijk, allow at least an hour to get to either the north or south side of the island.Driving is on the right, and all traffic signs use recognizable symbols. Explanations of the signs, along with maps, are available from rental car agencies.

Taxi

Taxis provide transportation around town and to other points around the island—many drivers are glad to take visitors on private tours. Establish fares before you get in—there are no meters, but rates are set by the government. If you intend to get salty, sandy or wet, be prepared to protect the cab—or pay a surcharge. Rates double between midnight and 6 am. The taxi stand at the airport may be phoned at 717-8100.The water taxi leaves for Klein Bonaire from Bonaire Nautico Marina in the center of Kralendijk at 10 am, noon and 2 and 4 pm daily. Phone 786-5399 or 786-2474. http://www.bonairenauticomarina.com.

For More Information

Tourist OfficesBonaire: Tourism Corporation Bonaire, Kaya Grandi 2, Kralendijk, Bonaire. Phone 599-717-8322. Fax 599-717-8408. http://www.infobonaire.com.

Canada: There is no tourist office in Canada, but Canadians can receive information by calling Adams Unlimited toll-free 800-266-2473 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              800-266-2473      end_of_the_skype_highlighting.

U.S.: Tourism Corporation Bonaire, c/o Adams Unlimited, 10 Rockefeller Plaza, Suite 900, New York, NY 10020. Phone 212-956-5900 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              212-956-5900      end_of_the_skype_highlighting. Toll-free 800-266-2473 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              800-266-2473      end_of_the_skype_highlighting. Fax 212-956-5913. http://www.infobonaire.com.

Europe: Basis Communicatie B.V., Wagenweg 252, P.O. Box 472, NL-2000 AL Haarlem, The Netherlands. Phone 31 23-543-0705. Fax 31 23-543-0730.

Bonaire Embassies

Bonaire is represented by Dutch embassies.

Canada: Embassy of the Netherlands, 350 Albert St., Suite 2020, Ottawa, ON K1R 1A4. Phone 613-237-5030 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              613-237-5030      end_of_the_skype_highlighting. Fax 613-237-6471. http://www.netherlandsembassy.ca.

U.S.: Embassy of the Netherlands, 4200 Linnean Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20008. Phone 202-244-5300 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              202-244-5300      end_of_the_skype_highlighting. Fax 202-362-3430. http://www.netherlands-embassy.org.

Foreign Embassies Serving Bonaire

Canada: Canada is represented by its consulate in Curacao: Maduro and Curiels Bank N.V., 2-4 Plaza Jojo Correa, Willemstad, Curacao. Phone 599-9-466-1115. Fax 599-9-466-1122.

U.S.: The U.S. is represented by its consulate in Curacao: J.B. Gorsiraweg 1, Willemstad, Curacao. Phone 599-9-461-3066. Fax 599-9-461-6489.

Recommended Guidebooks

Adventure Travel Guide to Aruba, Bonaire & Curacao by Lynne Sullivan (Hunter Publishing).Pocket Guide to the ABC Islands by Lynne Sullivan (Hunter Publishing).

Additional Reading

Reef Fish Identification: Florida Caribbean Bahamas by Paul Humann and Ned DeLoach (New World Publications). The best fish identification guide for the waters around Bonaire. Also available are Reef Coral Identification and Reef Creature Identification (for identifying crabs, sea slugs and the like).A Short History of Bonaire by Johan Dem Hartog (available at some libraries).

Dive Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao by Jack Jackson (Interlink Dive Guide).

Bonaire by Michael Crichton, reprinted in Down Time: Great Writers on Diving edited by Ed Kittrell, Casey Kittrell and Jim Kittrell (Look Away Books). The well-known author’s observations on his diving experiences in Bonaire.

Events
Calendar

Bonaire’s festivals and events are a great way for visitors to mingle with residents—and have a good time in the process.Among the biggest celebrations on the island is Carnival. The date changes annually but usually begins in late January. Check with the tourist office for a current calendar. Carnival on Bonaire is wonderful—not wild and crazy like Mardi Gras, but a great celebration. There are parades, parties and traditional dances in Rincon and Kralendijk (January-March).

Rincon also hosts a big celebration on 30 April, known simply as Rincon Day, with local song competitions, speeches, food and drink.

In June, dive-industry leaders and marine conservation specialists gather for Dive Into Adventure Bonaire, a week of educational seminars and expeditions on the ocean. Most of the week’s activities are geared toward recreational divers. Later in June, the Wave Challenge draws some of the world’s best windsurfers to show off their skills in a competition at Lac Bay. The Annual Bonaire Arts Day (Dia Di Arte) takes place the first Sunday of July (http://www.bonaireart.org).

The island organizes fishing tournaments several times a year and one big angling tournament usually takes place in September. About 30 teams of two or three people compete for top honors. Check with any of the fishing outfitters or the tourist office for a current schedule.

The sailing set descends on Bonaire in October for the Bonaire International Sailing Regatta, a week of races and parties. More than 120 boats, from catamarans to yachts, compete in the regatta. http://www.bonaireregatta.org.

The holiday season begins in early December with the Bari Festival, where Bonaireans recount (and make fun of) local events of the past year through song, dance and the traditional beating of bari (drums). Santa Claus visits the island on 5 December via the Thai junk Samur. The children who greet his arrival in Kralendijk are rewarded with candy and small gifts. On New Year’s Eve, fireworks go off all over the island, but especially on the west coast, where the hotels compete with one another for the showiest displays.

For more information on events in Bonaire, visit http://www.tourismbonaire.com.

Capture Photo
Specializing in underwater photography. Excellent facilities include lessons, rental and developing. Divi Flamingo Beach Resort & Casino, J.A. Abraham Boulevard 82, Kralendijk, Bonaire. Phone 717-6951. http://www.capturecaribbean.com.

Fish-Eye Photo
This is a school for underwater photography, video and advanced techniques. Kaya Gobernador N. Debrot 77B, Bonaire. Phone 717-2001. http://www.fisheyephoto.com.

Larry’s Wildside Diving
Larry’s has a specially crafted inflatable designed for safe negotiation of waves on the east coast. The fish schools are plentiful there, and the terrain differs from that on the heavily dived west coast. It’s well worth checking out. Meet at the Sorobon fishing docks at the southern end of Lac Bay, Bonaire. Phone 717-5246. http://www.larryswildsidediving.com.

Touch the Sea
For a special experience, check out this educational program by longtime Bonaire resident Dee Scarr, who will show you some of the many things you can and can’t touch underwater. She also hand-feeds moray eels and shows you how to have tiny shrimp clean your hand. Her Touch the Sea slide presentation is shown at Capt. Don’s Habitat on Monday evenings. Open November-June, closed July-October. Program costs, including dive, begin at US$180/Naf.320 for one or two divers. Phone 717-8529. http://www.touchthesea.com.

NORTHSTAR Travel Media, LLC. ©2010 All rights reserved.

One Response

  1. Thanks for the details

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