This article originally appeared in Delta Air Lines’ 2012 Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America Travel Guide. It has been extracted from its original format. To read the full travel guide, visit the digital edition.
This quiet island in the southern Caribbean is famous for exactly one thing, diving. If you’re a diver, this is your holy grail—an island in the middle of a diverse underwater ecosystem, giving deep-sea explorers the chance to encounter more fish, plants and animals than anyplace else in the islands. And the undersea life is in Bonaire to stay, thanks to the Bonaire Marine Park, a protected reserve that encompasses the shores and offshore reefs of the entire island, as well as its small sister island, Klein Bonaire. Divers here have to undergo a short but important orientation outlining responsible scuba practices within the confines of the marine park. Once they’re in the water, however, they’ll discover exactly why Bonaire’s waters are so precious. Water temperatures hover around 80 degrees, and visibility averages 100 ft, making it both comfortable and easy to see all the exotic wildlife lurking beneath. There are groupers, moray eels, sponges and an entire spectrum of colorful tropical fish. Visitors are practically guaranteed an eventful dive experience at any of the island’s 50 official sites.
The nature on land is also enticing, particularly at Washington Slagbaai National Park, another protected area for ecotourists to explore. Birdwatchers have several sites to choose from, including Bronswinkel Well at the base of Mount Brandaris, where more than 200 species of birds gather to preen. Salina Mathijs, a former salt flat, is another popular hangout for feathered friends, especially flamingoes. In Bonaire’s capital of Kralendijk, visitors will find well preserved examples of Dutch colonial architecture, including the Old Fort and Customs House. The town is also host to a lively market held near its pier, eclipsed only by celebrations of Carnival held in February or March.
- Best time to go:
Year-round—Bonaire lies outside of the hurricane zone
- Fun fact:
You won’t find a single traffic light on the entire island of Bonaire
- Getting there:
Delta flies from Atlanta to Bonaire
- Entry documents:
Netherlands Antillean Guilder
- Must-try local food:
Aros moro, a well-seasoned dish of rice and kidney beans
- Best buys:
- Information please:
Tourism Corporation Bonaire—tourismbonaire.com