BEST TIME TO GO: Year-round; like Aruba, Bonaire is south of the primary hurricane path
FUN FACT: At Lac Bay you can watch some of the most acrobatic windsurfers in the world
GETTING THERE: Delta flies from Atlanta to Bonaire
ENTRY DOCUMENTS: Valid passport
CURRENCY: Two years ago the U.S. dollar became Bonaire’s official currency
MUST-TRY LOCAL FOOD: Pan-fried shrimp with curry coconut sauce at It Rains Fishes
BEST BUYS: Handcrafted glass jewelry at Elements
INFORMATION PLEASE: Tourism Corporation Bonaire—tourismbonaire.com
Bonaire is to diving as Colorado is to skiing, which is to say, there’s plenty to enjoy if you don’t dive, but if you do dive, it’s on your bucket list—and after you’ve crossed it off the list, it goes right back on again. Like its cousin, Aruba, this Dutch Antilles island lies south of the hurricane belt and gets precious little rain. That means no lush rainforests on the island, but it also means little or no runoff to ruin the coral that surrounds the island.
The Bonaire National Marine Park protects virtually all the marine habitat around Bonaire. The visibility is extraordinary, and—as if to guild the lily, a Bonaire Reef Pilot Project is planting new staghorn and elkhorn coral to ensure that this island’s reefs never die. The result? Big healthy coral with angelfish, parrotfish, groupers, grunts, goatfish, wrasses, moray eels, anemones, and other creatures who announce themselves with splashes of glowing greens, reds, yellows, blues, and purples.
There are a half-dozen or so dive shops, including Great Adventures at Harbour Village, particularly good for folks interested in underwater photography, and Wanna Dive, whose offerings include a wade-in dive from Eden Beach Resort. Captain Don’s Habitat Dive Shop, a five-star PADI facility, offers certification classes as well as a variety of day and night dives.
Captain Don’s Habitat and Eden Beach Resort are also popular hotels, while upmarket Harbour Village is the ideal base for couples and families engaged in mixed marriages—that is, one dives, the other doesn’t. The rooms are stylish, the beach is a honey, and the kids’ programs and spa are terrific. Non-divers should also know that the snorkeling from some of the beaches—especially Eden Beach—is excellent, and the island’s wild parrots and parakeets and flamingos will make you wish you had that extra battery for your camera.