What Caribbean island sits just 80 km off the coast of Venezuela, is part of the Netherlands, is world-renowned for diving, and consistently wins awards for sustainable tourism? Spoiler alert: it’s Bonaire!
Bonaire is home to beautiful white sand beaches, famously friendly locals, and some of the most gorgeous nature reserves in the Caribbean. With nary a traffic light in sight, this pristine little island is a tropical oasis perfect for vacationers looking for a relaxing getaway and underwater enthusiasts alike.
Bonaire Travel Guide & Packing Tips
The Best Time to Visit Bonaire
While Bonaire is worthy of a visit no matter what time of year, peak tourism season is from December through April. So if you’re looking to travel off-season and take advantage of fewer crowds and better hotel prices, try to plan your trip around these months.
To get to Bonaire, book a flight straight into Bonaire (Flamingo) International Airport located in the capital city of Kralendijk.
To get there from North America, many airports offer direct flights such as with United Airlines from Newark and Houston, Delta Airlines from Atlanta, American Airlines from Miami, and Toronto with Sunwing. If you’re flying in from Europe, direct flights are available from Amsterdam with TUI or KLM.
For alternate, and cheaper, routes, try flying to Bonaire via Aruba or Curacao.
Read more: St. Lucia Travel Guide & Packing Tips
Sitting just below the hurricane belt, Bonaire is a sunny, temperate place to visit with a low risk of tropical storms. Temperatures on the island fluctuate between 23°C and 25°C (73°F and 77°F) at night, and between 29°C and 31°C (84°F and 88°F) during the day.
While the hottest season runs from May to October, expect trade winds to blow in from the northeast, making the island breezy and fresh. That said, if you plan on visiting between October and December, know that while it is rainy season, Bonaire usually doesn’t see more than four inches of rain a month.
Where to Stay on Bonaire
Ocean View Villas
A leisurely one-minute stroll from the beach, and a quick 1 km away from the airport, Ocean View Villas in Kralendijk offers seven charming apartment and studio complexes. The property also features an outdoor pool, sun terrace, barbecue, and bike rental.
Located right on the beach and directly opposite from fisherman pier, Kas Hamaka is one of the coolest hangouts on Bonaire. This tropical, colourful little oasis offers five unique apartment complexes, a bike rental, a barbecue, as well as diving, windsurfing, and kite surfing packages.
Bridanda Apartments Bonaire
Another beachfront option, Bridanda Apartments Bonaire features studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom bungalows. The property also boasts a hot tub, outdoor pool, and a beachfront bar.
Read more: How To Pack For Carry-On Only
How to Get Around
The easiest way to get around Bonaire is to rent some wheels! By and far the two most popular rental options on the island are double cabin pick-up trucks and scooters, but rental agencies on the island also offer small cars, motorcycles, and bicycles.
Keep in mind that most vehicles on Bonaire are standard shift, so if automatic is more your style, make your reservation well in advance.
Top Things to Do on Bonaire
With over 470 species of fish, a colorful coral reef, and an extremely accessible wreck called the Hilma Hooker, diving is a huge reason many people make their way out to Bonaire. Fun fact, I had my first ever Scuba diving experience in Bonaire and I received my scuba certification on the island!
Washington Slagbaai National Park
Located on the Northern part of the island, Washington Slagbaai National Park was Bonaire’s first ever nature sanctuary and is truly a nature lover’s paradise.
On the reserve you’ll be able to find parrots, flamingos, iguanas, parakeets, sea turtles, and so much more. The park features two driving routes and three hiking routes, each with varying levels of difficulty.
Hot tip: if you plan on hiking, try to get to the park as early in the day as you can and avoid the heat or bring your swimsuit to jump in and cool off!
Fancy a sailing excursion while on Bonaire? Then booking with Bowalie Sailing is the way to go!
A twelve-meter long luxurious sailboat, the Bowalie offers excursions such as a 3 hour sailing cruise with snorkelling, a 2 hour sunset sailing cruise, as well as private cruise options. Personally, I went on the sunset sailing cruise and it was fabulous!
Horseback Riding & Swimming
Want a more unique way to explore Bonaire? Try a horse!
Bonaire’s Rancho Washikemba offers exciting horseback riding tours from their ranch, to the coastline, and then over to Blue Lagoon Bay, where you’ll get to experience what it’s like riding a horse while it swims! It’s truly an experience like non-other.
Bonaire is home to over 300 caves full of beautiful stalagmites, stalactites, crystal clear pools of water, and even indigenous paintings! In accordance with Bonaire’s sustainable tourism reputation, the caves have been placed under regulations that mean you can only explore a select few of them with a certified guide. We recommend Flow Bonaire as they feature fun and well-informed guides.
Bonaire Packing Essentials
Comfortable Shoes: Between horseback riding, strolls on the beach, and hiking in the nature reserves, you’re going to need some comfortable shoes. We recommend you take along a stylish pair of sandals and some sturdy hiking shoes on your trip.
Sun Gear: Bonaire is a sunny destination all year long so you’re going to need a big floppy sun hat and some reef safe sunscreen to protect you from those UV rays.
Long-Sleeved Rash Guard: For a little extra sun protection in the water, a long-sleeved rash guard is always advised especially if you’re snorkeling or diving (although I recommend a full skin suit for dives).
Swimsuit: Needless to say, you’re going to be spending a lot of time in Bonaire’s waters, so a swimsuit or two should definitely be on your packing list.
Snorkel Gear: Unless you plan on renting on the island, it’s definitely worth bringing along some snorkel gear.