Who makes vacation on Bonaire, wants neither culture nor beaches, but DIVING! The main sights of the small Caribbean island are under water, but also on land one or the other side trip pays off!
The diving grounds around Bonaire are among the best in the world and the environmental organization STINAPA ensures with the Bonaire Marine Park that it stays that way. Accordingly, most of the sights of Bonaire are under water and require at least diving goggles and snorkel to discover. Diving or snorkeling is an absolute must when vacationing on Bonaire!
By land, the island is explored within a few days. The atmosphere on Bonaire is wonderfully relaxed, stress is - typical for the Caribbean - an absolute foreign word. Especially at noon, when the thermometer climbs above 30°C, most locals flee indoors - or into the sea!
Those who don't like to sink their heads under water, but prefer to enjoy the Caribbean flair on dry land or at least with the blue sky in sight, will find the typical picture book beaches with white sand and turquoise seawater especially in the northwest of Bonaire at Washington Slagbaai National Park. Surfers and families with children are best off in Lac Bay in the south of Bonaire.
Tip: If you want to spend a few relaxing days on the beach after your diving vacation, you will find some beach paradises on the neighboring island of Aruba, which are among the most beautiful in the world.
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Dive sites around Bonaire
Around the island are some of the most beautiful diving sites in the world, which are entirely protected. The 63 official dive sites leave nothing to be desired with a water temperature of almost 30°C. They inspire divers and snorkelers with richly populated coral reefs, shipwrecks and visibility up to 40 meters.
Mangrove forests of Lac Bay
At Lac Bay in southern Bonaire lies the largest lagoon in the Netherlands Antilles, with dense mangrove forests thriving on its shores. The idyllic home of countless fish, (completely harmless) mangrove springs, mussels and sea birds can be explored by kayak. By the way, you can also dive here - in a world all of its own, where instead of corals and shells, there are branches and leaves on the seabed.
Lac Bay lagoon
The lagoon of Lac Bay itself is of course also worth a visit. Here you will find the most beautiful sandy beaches on Bonaire with the best conditions for a classic beach day. The gently sloping beach attracts families with children to the water and further out the sails of windsurfers whiz across the waves.
From a distance, the offshore island of Klein Bonaire is nothing more than a flat desolate line in the sea. But if you take a look around underwater armed with diving goggles, you'll discover thriving life. The breathtaking coral world is also strictly protected and the undisturbed water allows visibility of 30 to 40 meters.
Kralendijk, the capital of Bonaire, can hardly be called a city. The quiet village with its enchanting charm attracts with a pinch of history and culture and is the perfect destination for a relaxing evening trip. Nice cafes, the picturesque harbor street, Fort Oranje, the Museum of Bonaire and the Kaya Grandi promenade are among the notable sights of Kralendijk.
Salt Fields and Flamingo Sanctuary of Pekelmeer
The extensive salt fields near Pekelmeer in the south of Bonaire were created from 1968 for salt extraction and cover an area of 55 hectares. The countless animals in the salt lakes attract hungry flamingos, which form one of the largest flamingo colonies in the Western Hemisphere with up to 40,000 animals.
The salt fields at Pekelmeer shimmer in the most brilliant colors under the sun. Turquoise glow the recently flooded salt pans, the ponds already populated with shrimp shimmer in delicate shades of pink and orange, and the drained salt fields and dunes shine in dazzling white.
On this already magnificent backdrop, the majestic salmon and orange flamingos stalk through the water in large groups and feast on the abundant small animals in the salt pans. With a bit of luck, you will witness that moment when tens or hundreds of the elegant animals take to the skies and make their circles with rushing wings - an unforgettable sight!
Flamingos, however, are not the only winged companions on the trail through the Pekelmeer Flamingo Sanctuary. Ornithologists also enjoy sightings of ospreys, frigatebirds, herons, cormorants, plovers, terns and other seabirds. Animal inhabitants clearly outnumber human ones in this secluded area.
Tip: To admire and photograph the colorful birds in full size, good binoculars or telephoto lenses are required; the sanctuary may not be entered by visitors and the thousands of nesting sites are not visible from the road.
An ideal birding observation post at Pekelmeer is the 20-meter-high Willemstoren Lighthouse at the southern tip of Bonaire. The island's oldest lighthouse was commissioned on August 24, 1838, the birthday of Dutch King Willem, after the beacons lit by salt field operators failed to keep ships from running aground.
Founded by the Spanish in the 16th century, Rincon was the first settlement on Bonaire and is now the island's second official town, along with Kralendijk. In the cafes of the quiet town you can listen to the locals who like to tell the eventful history of Rincon. In the quiet streets of the little town you still meet more goats and donkeys than cars.
Many of the town's houses date back to historic times and some of them have already been lovingly restored. The heart of Rincon is the unmistakable, yellow and white whitewashed Ludovicus Bertrandus Kerk from 1908. Otherwise, the cactus fences are particularly eye-catching, which not only protect against annoying looks, but also very effectively prevent various pets, from cats to cows, from escaping.
According to archaeological findings, the settlement of Bonaire can be traced back to around 900 BC. After the discovery of Bonaire by Amerigo Vespucci in 1499, all the native inhabitants of the island were shipped to Hispaniola (now the Dominican Republic and Haiti) to work in the copper mines.
Barely 30 years later, the Spaniards returned to Bonaire and in 1527 founded their first settlement in a fertile valley: Rincon. In 1636, the West India Company, which had long been present on the neighboring island of Curaçao, extended its claim to Bonaire, and the Dutch valued the island for its timber and rich salt deposits.
Bonaire's thriving economy brought slaves to the island, who also settled in Rincon and worked on the plantations in the area and in the salt fields near Pekelmeer. In 1863 slavery was abolished on Bonaire and many of the former slaves remained in Rincon, where for the most part their descendants can still be found today.
Slave huts near Pekelmeer
The slave huts at Pekelmeer, restored in 1992 on behalf of STINAPA, also tell of the sad past of slavery on Bonaire. This is where slaves used to live, working in the surrounding area and, among other places, in the salt fields of Pekelmeer. From Rincon, where most of the slaves lived, these were ten hours walk away, and so several tiny huts were built around the salt pans, made of mud and straw in the beginning and stone from 1850.
The little white and orange houses may look idyllic, but with a footprint of 2×2 meters they were barely larger than dog kennels and used to house up to three slaves. Unbelievable, under what scandalous living conditions people were kept at that time. The two dive spots "Red Slave" and "White Slave" are named after the respective color of the slave huts.
Washington Slagbaai National Park
One fifth of Bonaire is occupied by Washington Slagbaai National Park. The largest contiguous protected area in the Antilles is located in the north of the island and provides a safe habitat for over 130 bird species.
Parrots, parakeets and flamingos live among giant cacti and divi divi trees, beaches invite for sunbathing and swimming and the highest elevation of Bonaire offers a fantastic view over the island and the sea.