Bonaire, the small Dutch Caribbean island most people have never heard of, unless you are a diver.
When my friends and I were on a dive trip in Belize, we met a fantastic woman who happened to be from this small, beautiful island, that I had never heard of. One year later, after researching and seeing just how beautiful this place was, we decided we should visit this diver’s mecca.
In researching more about the island, I discovered Bonaire is part of the Netherland Antilles, together with Aruba and Curaçao, it forms the group of islands known as the ABC islands. It is a small Dutch Caribbean island about 50 miles off the coast of Venezuela.
Papiamentu is the local language. Most residents also speak Dutch, Spanish, and English. Also, while plenty of islands in the world have their own currency, Bonaire, does not. It uses the US dollar as its official currency. In fact, it was only on New Year’s Day 2011 that the island officially adopted it as their proper currency.
Arriving in Bonaire
Coming from Seattle, the flight took almost 10 hours, but it was well worth it. Deplaning from the second leg of our flight, we were immediately hit with the Caribbean 85 degree heat and humidity. It was perfect!
Once through customs, we located our luggage and we were picked up by the friendly folks from the Buddy Dive Resort, and we were off to our home for the next week.
On the way to the resort, I loved seeing the signs displaying a donkey crossing. I’m a fan of uncommon crossing signs. Donkey’s have been residents on the island for hundreds of years and many roam freely.
Buddy Dive is located on the waterfront north of town, just a couple of steps from the amazingly crystal clear ocean and it’s dive sites.
Anyone who visits will quickly find out that Bonaire is a leader in nature conservation, and takes ocean conservation seriously. The Bonaire National Marine Park has been protecting the coral reefs surrounding Bonaire since 1979, which is why the reefs of Bonaire are some of the healthiest in the Caribbean.
All divers are required to attend a thorough orientation before their first dive on the island, purchase a marine park tag before entering the water ($15 for divers and $10 for non-divers), and attach the tag to an item of dive gear that you will have with you in the water. They also require a check-out dive as part of the briefing process, which gives each diver a chance to check their buoyancy so that damage to the reef is minimized or eliminated.
Where to dive in Bonaire
We did our check out dive right off the Buddy Dive dock and got acquainted with the fantastically warm Caribbean water.
Following our check-out dive at Buddy’s Reef, we decided to grab our rental van, fill up our tanks, and explore the island to find our next dive site.
Did I mention Bonaire Marine’s Park offers a total of 86 dive sites?! Driving around the island, there is a new dive site every 100 yards, and most of them are shore dives. It’s like nothing I have ever seen before.
You can dive almost anywhere in Bonaire, but the marked sites will (usually) have an easy entry into the water with your gear and have some parking.
Here’s our dive site list for the week. You’ll notice that some sites we did more than once, because they were that good!
- Buddy’s Reef
- Alice in Wonderland
- Hilma Hooker (ship wreck at 100 ft)
- Salt Pier
- Red Slave (attempted but current decided otherwise)
- Tori’s Reef
- Buddy’s Reef
- Petrie’s Piller
- Hilma Hooker
- The Lake
- Buddy’s Reef (night dive)
- 1000 steps
- Salt Pier
- Bari Reef
While all of the dive sites were amazing, if I had to choose a top three, my favorite dive sites were 1000 steps, Salt Pier, and the Hilma Hooker.
Other things to do and see in Bonaire
On our last day in Bonaire, since we couldn’t dive, we explored the north end of the island and the Washington-Slagbaai National Park. This park is 13,500 acres and an excellent introduction to the landscape and vegetation of Bonaire covering almost one-fifth of the island a nature sanctuary for parrots, iguanas and many other species of birds and reptiles. It was beautiful.
Make sure to plan plenty of time to travel the park if you take the long loop. We found flamingos all over the island, which matched the pink salt flats perfectly. It’s no wonder the national bird is the pink flamingo. Fun fact, the salt pans of Bonaire cover one tenth of the island’s surface and produce 360,000 to 500.000 tons of Bonaire salt every year. Absolutely beautiful!
We will be back Bonaire!
After spending a week on this amazing island, and diving some of the most beautiful coral reefs I have ever seen, my husband and I fell in love with this island. We decided that it is now a lifetime goal of ours to dive every site Bonaire.
Check out my video summary of Bonaire and it’s beauty: