Caribbean Travelweb

Guide To Bonaire



Bonaire is a small island located in the southern Caribbean known for its pioneering role in the preservation of nature, in particular the preservation of the marine environment, and for its excellent scuba diving, snorkeling, and windsurfing, among other things. Kayak in the mangroves, the gentle bay or venture out into the open ocean for a real challenge. Enjoy the nature of the land cycling or mountain biking.

There are a number of reasons people visit our island. First timers generally have heard about the climate, the water, the sun and what there is to do. When asked, repeat visitors generally say that they did not have enough time to do all they wanted to on their first visit. If it is the third or fourth trip, the answer is basically the same but with this addition "It is the warmth and friendliness of the people" that keeps visitors returning year after year.

When visiting, spend time touring the island. You'll see salt flats, a beautiful "pink beach", an old lighthouse, slave huts, Washington National Park, a wildlife preserve and great spot for seeing animal species unique to Bonaire, pink flamingos, beautiful Parroquets, lorets, big blue lizards and three foot iguanas. Lac Bay, on the windward side of the island, has some of the best windsurfing in the world.

Getting There

From North – America and Europe
Flying to Bonaire is possible through direct flights from the USA and Europe. Direct flights from Europe come from Amsterdam and direct flights from the USA come from Newark, Houston, Atlanta and Miami. It is also possible to fly from Curacao or Aruba to Bonaire. For complete routes and details please contact the airlines servicing Bonaire.

From South - America
Bonaire does not have direct flights from South America therefore; Insel Air has service to and from South America by stopping at Curacao or Aruba. In addition, inter island carriers provide service between South America, and the neighboring locations. For complete routes and details please contact the airlines servicing Bonaire.

Airlines Serving Bonaire

Insel Air

Entry Requirements

Citizens from most countries do not need a visa to enter Bonaire. U.S. and Canadian citizens need a passport. All others also require a valid passport. A return or continuing ticket is also required along with sufficient means to support yourself during your stay. Maximum stay: 14 days with the possibility of extending the visit to 90 days. All others refer to the Embassy.

Visas are required from the following: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Azerbeidzjan, Bahrein, Bangladesh, Belarus, Benin, Bhutan, Bosnia, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroen, Cape Verdia, Central African, Rep. China (Hong Kong SAR and BNO holders excluded), Colombia, Comores, Congo-Brazzaville, Congo-Democrat Republic, Cote d’Iviore, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Jemen, Jordania, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kirgizia, Kiribati, Kuwait, Laos, Lesotho, Libanon, Liberia, Libia, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Morocco, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Salomon Islands, Sao Tome & Principal, Saudi-Arabia, Seychelles, Senegal, Servia & Montenegro, Sierra Leone, Soedan, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Syria, Tadzjikistan, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand,Turkmenistan, Togo, Tonga, Tsjaad, Tunesia, Turkey, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates, Vanuatu, Vietnam, West-Samao, Yugoslavia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Maximum total days that one can stay on the island is 90 days! The latter can be used in one period or during different visits in one year.

Extending Your Stay:

Visitors from countries that either appear or do not appear on the above list are required to request extension of their stay after a 14 days period (2 weeks). For visitors from countries other than those appearing above, visits of up to 14 days (2 weeks) are allowed without any permit.

Citizens of the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, along with any other countries with whom the Netherlands has reached an agreement on visa requirements, are allowed to stay up to 90 days (3 months), without having to apply for a visit extension.

To prolong your visit, present the following documentation in person at the immigration office at Kaya Libertador Simon Bolivar #7 (behind Tourist Corporation Bonaire's office):

  • Passport
  • Visa (in passport), if required
  • Return ticket
  • You may be required to provide proof that you have the financial resources to stay up to your new desired date. This information may also be requested upon entry into Bonaire, but is up to the discretion of Immigration.

For more information on visas or extending of your visit, please call the Immigration Office of Bonaire, Phone: +599-717-6880.

Helpful Visitor Information

Bonaire has no public transportation. You'll have to choose between taxis, a rental car, moped or bicycle to get around the island. Main roads are paved. Most of Bonaire's unpaved roads are decent, but some areas, including Washington/Slagbaai Park, become impassable after rain. Local driving habits are casual: Occasionally two drivers, traveling in opposite directions, stop to have a "Bonaire meeting." You may also find that the roads are sometimes blocked by goats or donkeys.

Auto rental agencies are easy to find. US, Canadian, and European driver licenses are valid for use on the island. Be careful of the goats, donkeys and pedestrians that roam the island's roads. All traffic keeps to the right, and international highway signs are used. Speed limit is 40 km per hour (25 mph) in town and 60 km to 80 km per hour (38-50 mph) in the countryside.

There are several banks downtown, all of which have ATMs. Walk-up hours are generally Monday-Friday 8:30 am-4 pm. Most banks remain open during lunch.

Phone service on the island is generally good. International calls, faxes, telegrams, telexes and other overseas communications services are available (at considerably less expensive rates than resorts charge) at TELBO, Kaya Simon Bolivar 8. Phone 599-717-7000.

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

Tip 15% in restaurants if a service charge hasn't already been included in the bill. If a gratuity has been added, it's customary to leave another 5% or so for your waitperson if the service is good. Tip cabdrivers 10% and bellhops US$1 per bag. If you go diving, tip the dive shop about 10%.

127 volts (with surges up to 140 volts), 50 cycles. Some quick chargers and old-style hairdryers overheat, although newer 50/60 appliances pose no problems.

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.

Duty-free items (especially watches), T-shirts, jewelry, local art and handicrafts are about all there is to buy on Bonaire. Of these, the art may be the best choice: In recent years, Bonaire artists have been busy creating distinctive works.
Most of the good shopping is on Kaya Grandi in Kralendijk. Besides the usual trinket marts, there are several shops carrying authentic local art. Check out the flamingo memorabilia, painted driftwood and handmade jewelry at Jenny's Souvenirs and Gifts, across from the post office.

Don't expect to bargain in Bonaire's shops, but feel free to do so with the Venezuelan fruit vendors in the market (you'll do better there if you speak Spanish). Most stores accept and list prices in U.S. currency. Prices are in guilders if the number is preceded by "fl," in U.S. dollars if preceded by "$."

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 eateries serving Caribbean, Dutch, Indonesian and U.S. foods. All are informal. Even the more upscale restaurants are fairly casual on Bonaire: Coats and ties are seldom worn -- usually just for weddings and funerals. On the menus, you'll find mostly fish and some vegetables and fruits -- most of it excellent and well seasoned. Be sure to ask about the local fare: soups and stews made with salted meat, goat, conch, plantains, okra, cactus or the occasional iguana. (Many restaurants serve local dishes, but they don't necessarily list them on their menus.) Everyone should try a rijsttafel: A kind of Indonesian buffet, it consists of rice accompanied by 6-20 small meat, vegetable and fish side dishes. Dutch cheeses, chocolate and coffee are also good, and Dutch beer is widely available.

Visitor Activities and Attractions

Scuba Diving
When scuba divers dream, they dream of Bonaire. The island is one of the finest dive spots on the planet. It has crystal-clear water and colorful reefs that begin almost as soon as you step into the sea. Underwater visibility can reach 150 ft/45 m.

If you do not scuba dive but you can swim, you can still enjoy the incredible underwater world of Bonaire. Snorkeling is great entertainment for all member of the family no matter what the age. Many operators offer special snorkeling trips, or just find a nice beach, and enjoy. With coral formations found so close to the shoreline aroun Bonaire, you can enjoy the amazing varities of colorful fish, without a tiring swim.

Water Sports
Visitors to Bonaire will soon find that not all the activities are confined to just under or in the sea. There are many more water-related activities that are being discovered by today's active traveler. As a windsurfing location, the island is becoming well known for our steady tradewinds and protected areas with onshore winds. Other water sports include both ocean and sea kayaking as well as sailing.

Bonaire is a great destination for fishing. Whether you are inshore, fly fishing for bonefish, or headed offshore for sailfish, marlin, tuna, tarpon, wahoo or dorado, you will experience a fun and exciting day on the water.

Bonaire's land-based attractions can't match its underwater wonders (and the nightlife is very, very low-key), but they can make for interesting sightseeing -- flamingos and wild donkeys give the island a surreal quality.

Washington/Slagbaai National Park
Washington/Slagbaai National Park, in particular, is an excellent place to admire the dry, desertlike landscape -- it's strikingly different from the lush greenery most associate with the Caribbean. This pristine 13,500 acre natural park offers an excellent introduction to the landscape and vegetation of Bonaire. Covering almost one-fifth of the island, the park offers hills with scenic vistas, vast saline plains, beaches and trees filled with exotic birds. Animal life includes wild donkeys, goats and iguanas. There are also spots that offer excellent snorkeling and diving. Depending on the amount of time visitors have to explore, they can choose different routes through the park. There are two driving trails, the shorter, green route of 28 km (17 miles), which takes about two hours to travel, and the longer, yellow route of 45 km (28 miles), which takes about four hours. These are rugged dirt roads, and only four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended. In the center of the park, there is also a walking trail up to Brandaris, the highest hill of Bonaire which offers a wonderful view of the island, and only takes about three hours round trip. The park is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm except on official holidays.

Bonaire Museum (History)
The museum exhibits artifacts such as fishing gear, musical instruments and models of the slave huts to give visitors an understanding of Bonaire's earlier life and customs.

Peckelmeer Lagoon (Wildlife)
Flamingos favor this lagoon as it is filled with brine shrimp.

Saltpans (History)
Historically, the saltpans have been a great industry for Bonaire. In earlier times slaves harvested the salt, but today the site is modernized and uses only environmentally friendly means of production.

Cabaje (History)
These waist-high stone huts housed slaves who mined the salt flats in the 18th C. A salt obelisk stands at the site, originally a marker for arriving ships.

Rincón (History)
Rincón is Bonaire's oldest settlement, founded by the Spanish in the 15th C. Today it is a town coulored by its many pastel cottages.

Onima (Prehistoric Cave)
The red petroglyphs adorning the walls of this limestone cave were made by the Caiquetio Indians five centuries ago.

Goto Meer (Wildlife)
This saltwater lake is home to the Bonaire's flamingo population. They are especially abundant during the breeding season between January and July.

Sorobon - Lac Baai (Boating - Water Sports)
Small peninsulas provide Lac Baai with smooth waters but a steady wind, which makes it a good spot for both beginner and more advanced windsurfers.

Other Topside Activities
Other topside activities that are being enjoyed by visitors are cycling and nature tours through the "kunuku" or outback.

Bird watching has always been a rewarding past time here. More and more visitors are enjoying the thrill of catching glimpses of some of our almost two hundred species of birds including our signature bird, the pink flamingo.

Playa Funchi, on the west coast of the island, was the harbor for Washington Plantation. The pier's stone foundations are still visible. The water is so clear that visitors standing on the low cliffs above the bay can see the colorful coral and parrotfish below. The beach has no current, so even small children can play in the water.

Boca Slagbaai, a little farther south, is ideal for swimming because there is no coral on the right side on the bay. The fine sand also makes Boca a good place for sunbathing. Buildings dating back to 1868 still stand on the beach, testifying to this harbor's historic importance. They include the home of the manager of Slagbaai plantation, a customs office and a warehouse (magasina) for storing salt.

Playa Bengè is considered one of the finest snorkeling spots on Bonaire. Swimming north from the center of the beach, divers pass over a series of coral ridges and alternating sand channels. Among the many fish in this area are jewelfish, mahogany snappers, and large tiger groupers.
Playa Chiquitu, on the east coast near the park's entrance, is deceptive. The beach is beautiful, but the water has a strong undertow. Swimming is highly discouraged.

Horeseback Riding
There are several stables located on Bonaire for a unique experience and a slower paced view of the countryside.

Rent a scooter or moped and tour the island. Discover the landscapes, lighthouses, desrted beaches and more at your liesure.

There are two casinos located on Bonaire. Try your luck!



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