Bonaire is a Caribbean island east of Central America and north of Venezuela. The island is part of the ABC Islands together with Aruba and Curaçao. It is a flat, riverless island renowned for its dive spots. Its tropical climate is moderated by constant trade winds from the Atlantic Ocean. The temperature is almost constant at about 27 degrees Celsius (81 degrees Fahrenheit).
Politically, Bonaire is a "special municipality" fully integrated in the Netherlands proper.
Tropical marine; little seasonal temperature variation. "Rainy" season lasts from the last week of October to the end of January, but it is still relatively dry. During rainy season, late night and early morning rains are common, usually clearing shortly after sunrise.
The island is flat especially the southern end with hills in the north. It is a dry island with little rainfall and the vegetation is typical of this climate. There are few natural resources other than beaches, beautiful offshore reefs and the solar salt works. The northern part of the island is a protected park. The southern tip of the island is a great field for sea salt production. Klein Bonaire is a small uninhabited island offshore.
Despite being part of European Netherlands, Bonaire exists outside the Schengen Area, therefore has its own entery laws seperate from the E.U.
Dutch Nationals and Citizens
Although Bonaire is part of the European Netherlands makeup, those living ouside the public bodies of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba have limited freedom to visit Bonaire. Dutch nationals and citizens living outside the public bodies can visit Bonaire visa-free for 6 months. The Dutch identity card is not valid in Bonaire, instead the Identity card BES is required to enter Bonaire.
Those living in the countries and territories listed below can visit Bonaire visa-free for 30 to 60 days.
European Union/European Free Trade Association countries, Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Belize, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil. Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Macau, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mairitius, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Suriname, South Korea, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, United Arab Emirates, United States, Vatican City, andVenezuela. Those living in British Overseas Territories must follow the same visa exempt policy as the other countries mentioned.
Citizens of Canada, European Netherlands, Ireland, Saint Martin, a Schengen country, United States, United Kingdom holding a valid residence permit of the country/territory you live in are exempted from the visa requirement.
Captain, crew and passangers aboard a ship or aircraft are exempted from the visa requirement for no longer than 48 hours.
Those holding a official United Nations Laissez-Passer are exepmted from the visa requirement.
KLM offers five weekly non-stop service from Amsterdam to Bonaire on the way to Quito. American Airlines also offers daily non-stop flights from San Juan to and from Bonaire and other major U.S cities. Flight schedules change frequently but United Airlines offers non-stop flights from Newark and Houston. Delta Airlines offers weekly flights between Bonaire and Atlanta on Saturdays. Several smaller airlines connect Bonaire with the neighbouring islands including Dutch Airlines Expressand Insel Air.
If you fly Insel Air, give yourself at least 24 hours grace period between any connecting flights. Insel Air is notorious for their unreliability and poor customer service.
The Departure Fee for all international destinations is now included in the airfare.
There are not currently any passenger ferries operating to or from Curaçao or Venezuela. Cruise ships do occasionally and increasingly visit Bonaire, especially "in season". Some shops and restaurants may remain open extra hours to cater to their passengers.
You can also use different Bonaire Water Taxis including and the Seacow Watertaxi.
Private boat moorage is available. Dive operators operate boats to many dive sites including those located off the small uninhabited island of Klein Bonaire. Some boat operators also specialize in snorkel tours and their are regularly scheduled passenger boats to Klein Bonaire. Some include the Woodwind, Bonaire Pirate Cruising, Oscarina, Bowalie and more.
Given how small the island is, walking is often the perfect way to get around, especially if you are staying in Kralendijk where most tourist-centered activities are clustered together.
Automobiles can be shipped to Bonaire and Rental cars are available at the airport and at selected hotels. Reservations are strongly suggested as, especially during peak times, all vehicles may be rented. You can drive around the entire island in a couple of hours!
There is an informal bus system on the island that utilises vans. There are a small number of medium sized tour buses on the island as well.
The island has a growing fleet of cabs scaled to service cruise ships.
Bonaire's claim to fame is its abundance of shore dives; although some spots are only accessible by boat. Your hotel or car rental place will probably have free tourist maps with the dive sites indicated. As you drive along the western shore of Bonaire, most of the sites are marked by a (painted) yellow rock with the name of the dive site.
Although Bonaire is more of a scuba destination than snorkeling, there are a few good spots for snorkeling. Red Beryl is probably the best; but, Andrea II, Windsock and Tori's Reef all had abundant life in less than 10 feet of water.
Bonaire has the US Dollar as the only official currency, Euros will not be accepted. If you are from a country or territory with the US dollar as a official currency, you will not need to worry about understanding prices and currency transferring. Also if you are from Bermuda, East Timor, Panama, or Bahamas, the official currency(ies) of the mentioned countries and territories have fixed exchange rates to the US Dollar. Meaning what price is said in Bonaire will be understood with your country's/territory's official currency. Example; $150 US Dollars will equal $150 Bermudian dollars, but you will still have to exchange currencies. There are a few shops on Bonaire:
Bonaire has many restaurants and quite varied cuisine given the overall island population. "Aki ta Bende Kuminda Krioyo" will inform a visitor that local-style food is available, generally heavy on soups, stews, fried foods and fish. Traditional foods that may be found on the menu include conch, cacti, wahoo and rock lobster. Much of the fish is caught locally by line fishermen in season. Though traditionally eaten, iguana is not generally served in restaurants.
Bonaire has no real fast food, though there is the "smallest KFC franchise outlet in the world" in a shopping plaza by the Kralendijk and a Subway sub shop. Check out "Swiss Chalet", a local favorite serving Fondu. Bobbejan's is an extremely popular weekend-only barbecue joint. Other cuisines common on the islands are Argentine, Italian, Indonesian, Suriname, and lots and lots of Chinese. Island-made ice cream is available in many places, with Lovers Ice Cream being a local favorite. Arrive before noon, as they often sell out.
Almost all eateries are open for limited hours during the day, and all close briefly during siesta time between 2-3pm. Call or check ahead to determine if a restaurant is open for lunch, dinner, both, or only open on weekends. Some are closed certain days of the week, such as Sunday.
Despite the small size of the island, Bonaire has a lot of possibilities when looking for places to stay, from large resorts to small privately owned houses which you can rent on a daily basis. Along the coast you have multiple places that combine a dive school with cabañas where you can sleep for a moderate price. Most of the accommodations on the island are relatively small, averaging 15 rooms or less.
Several mid-size apartment complex devoted to tourists exist. These tend to be a bit more upscale than the smaller accommodations. There a several larger, more resort like places as well. These are still somewhat small, with only the Plaza Resort Bonaire and Captain Don's Habitat having over 100 rooms.
Generally speaking, Bonaire is a very safe place, especially by Caribbean standards. Violent and other face-to-face crimes are fairly rare, but passive theft is always a real possibility. A good piece of advice is to not leave anything outside overnight, as desperate thieves (or just teenagers out to cause trouble) will snatch anything they can, even towels hanging out to dry. There is little to no nightlife scene, so problems associated with it such as public drunkenness are also fairly minimal.
Due to its proximity to the equator, the sun in Bonaire is intense! Sunscreen is an absolute must, even for people who claim to not burn. If walking around during the day, make sure to stay hydrated and keep drinking water to make up for all the sweating you will be doing.
Due to the arid climate, mosquitos (and the diseases they harbor) are not a big problem and you very well may go your whole visit without getting a single bite. Still, if venturing into the wilderness, insect repellent is a wise idea.