Top 7 Things Every First-Time Visitor Should Do on Bonaire

by Jessica Percy Campbell

If you’re not a scuba diving fanatic, you may not have heard of a tiny Dutch Caribbean island called Bonaire. Although it’s one of the word’s top shore diving destinations, there are many more things to do on Bonaire besides scuba dive. Part of the ABC islands of the Lesser Antilles that also include Aruba and Curacao, Bonaire is an extraordinary Caribbean destination for people looking for something beyond the same old beach vacation. Here’s my personal guide to the top things everyone should do on their first visit to Bonaire.

1. Choose the Best Bonaire Resort and Hotel

View from Terramar Apartments in Bonaire

View from Terramar Apartments in Bonaire

My mother (travel writer Susan Campbell) and I booked a fully-equipped 3-bedroom penthouse apartment with Terramar Luxury Apartments through SunRentals Bonaire  conveniently located in the heart of Bonaire’s capital, the small town of Kralendijk. The water visibility was so clear, we could literally see blue parrot fish swimming in the sea from our second story balcony, which alone spanned enough space to host a party of 20 people. The second half of the week was spent a five-minute drive away at Divi Flamingo Beach Resort and Casino.  This all-inclusive resort features world-class snorkelling steps away from the beach bar and can accommodate vegan and specialty diets if you let them know in advance.

2. Book a Snorkel Excursion

Snorkelling with Epic Tours in Bonaire

Snorkelling with Epic Tours in Bonaire

Since 1979, Bonaire’s coral reef has been legally protected as a national marine park. Since then, Bonaire has been internationally recognized as the shore diving capital of the world.  Even if you’re not a diver, the good news is you can snorkel some of the healthiest reefs you will ever see in your lifetime. One of the top things to do on Bonaire is to take a yacht trip with Epic Tours, where an adorable husband and wife duo will send you on a “drift snorkel.” This means instead of sticking in one place, you take a relaxing swim with tropical fish and let the current carry you along the reef as the boat follows behind.

We booked a private morning sail and I was lucky enough to snorkel alongside a hawksbill sea turtle within five minutes of jumping into the water! We finished the trip with some delicious Dutch apple pie and a couple of cold beers while listening to music by Bob Marley. The Chill and Grill tour which starts later in the day includes BBQ surf and turf dinner on the yacht. Did I mention they have free WIFI aboard? Now that’s my kind of snorkel trip.

3. Get Your Pink On at Bonaire’s Pink Lake

Salt Flats in Bonaire Credit Bonaire Tourism Corporation (BTC)

Explore the beautiful salt flats in Bonaire Credit Bonaire Tourism 

Looking for a unique photo-op for your Instagram page? One of the top things to do on Bonaire is to take a short drive to the Salt Flats of Pekelmeerto see something truly spectacular: calm turquoise seas and pink salt lakes surrounded by white salt pyramids that look like snow. Even more exciting than this other- worldly landscape is that wild flamingos frequent the salt pond area, and you might get to see them standing around or flying off in a flock. They are a little skittish and like to keep their distance from humans, so bring your binoculars to fully appreciate these majestic birds.

4. Eat a Healthy Lunch at GoGreen

Eat vegan at Go Green Restaurant in Bonaire

Eat vegan at Go Green Restaurant in Bonaire

Bonaire may be a seafood lover’s paradise, but for vegan dining, the pickings can be slim. That said, I have to appreciate that some restaurants we visited such as  It Rains Fishes and Cuba Compagnie did go out of their way to veer off the menu to accommodate my vegan diet with some decent dishes, mainly pasta and stir-fry. Lunch at the island’s only vegetarian restaurant, GoGreen, was my favourite place to eat.

In this cute and modest open-air lunch spot, Tina Woodley, holistic fitness instructor and legendary female body builder, cooks up a storm of healthy organic food. I tried the hearty lentil soup and kofta (soft veggie meatballs) with masala sauce (pureed tomato and coconut cream) with turmeric rice, steamed veggies and feisty homemade hot sauce. Every day GoGreen’s menu changes, so keep an eye on their Facebook page and be sure to reserve a spot in advance.

5. De-stress with Sunset Yoga

Sunset Yoga in Bonaire

Sunset Yoga in Bonaire

One of the roughest parts of constant travel is the strain it can put on the body. Crumpled up in airplanes for hours on end and lugging around heavy suitcases is a great way to make your body feel miserable, especially in the neck and shoulder region. That’s why I’m always on the hunt for great yoga teachers to help me stretch and get me feeling centered when I’m visiting somewhere new. I enjoyed a much-needed hatha flow class at Divi Flamingo Resort and Casino as our fabulous teacher Lolymar of Lolys Yoga set the tone for a fun workout. We watched the sun dip into the sea over the horizon as Lolymar directed a refreshing practice with wise words of advice: “You’re only doing yoga! Don’t take it too seriously, remember to smile!”

Insider Tip: Non-guests of the hotel are welcome to attend drop-in classes for a $15 fee.

6. Enjoy the Nightlife in Kralendijk

Cuba Compagnie in Bonaire

Sip a mojito at Cuba Compagnie in Bonaire

Bonaire’s capital city of Kralendijk  certainly isn’t very big, but that doesn’t mean the nightlife spots aren’t a lot of fun! Laid-back locals, friendly staff and unique Cuban inspired-decor makes Cuba Compagnie a fab spot to grab a drink on their large outdoor patio. My mom and I especially enjoyed sharing stories over a couple of cocktails here at the end of a long  day out on the sea. We had a good laugh at the fact that there are virtually no Cuban dishes on the menu at this so-called Cuban restaurant, but the fresh mint mojitos and lime margaritas kept us coming back for more. For those who like to really let loose (not me), one of the top things to do on Bonaire is to visit Cuba Compagnie on  Thursday which is Latin Dance night at this buzzing local hub.

7. Sip a Cactus Cocktail

Coco Cadushy Cactus Cocktail on Bonaire Credit Sue Campbell

Sip a Coco Cadushy Cactus Cocktail on Bonaire Credit Cadushy Distillery

Head to the interior of the island to discover Rincon, Bonaire’s original main town (only 20 kilometres away).While you’re there, check out Cadushy, an artisan distillery and tasting garden to sample their wares, the most interesting being a unique liqueur made from cactus! Bonaire isn’t a lush tropical island; in fact, it’s desert like arid in the interior and liberally studded with cacti. Cadushy produces the only spirit in the world made from cadushy cactus. So, what does this green liqueur taste like? Surprisingly smooth! Of course, there are no needles in it, but the cactus juice with fresh limewater has a light, sweet/sour and tart taste. Simply served on ice or cut with some soda water for a cool refresher, one of the top things to do on Bonaire is enjoy this exotic drink at one of the island’s many bars and restaurants.

Travel Planner

More information on Bonaire: See the Official Tourism Bonaire website. You can save on hotels and accommodation for Fall travel with Bonaire Tourism’s Fall Festival. Check their Twitter feed @BonaireTourism for some great deals.

Getting to Bonaire from Aruba: A popular option is to take a flight with Inselair Although it’s only a 20-minute flight between the islands, connections  involve a long stopover in Curacao which makes it a half-day ordeal. Divi Divi Air offers connections between Curacao and Bonaire.

Direct Flights to Bonaire from Canada: Sunwing is launching direct seasonal flights to Bonaire from Toronto in December 2017. This convenient weekly flight between Toronto and Bonaire will depart Sundays between December 17, 2017 and April 15, 2018 inclusive.

Direct Flights to Bonaire from the US: United Airlines offers nonstop flights from Houston (year-round) and Newark (seasonal) to Bonaire. Delta offers nonstop flights from Atlanta to Bonaire year-round.

Hurricane Status: Bonaire is located outside of the hurricane belt so was not affected by either Hurricane Irma or Hurricane Maria. Get a status update on which islands were affected and their rebuilding efforts at the Caribbean Travel Update website.

 

For more travel tips for the ABC Dutch Caribbean Islands, check out these posts on:

Siboyo Tempera: An Authentic Recipe from Aruba  

Renaissance Private Island: A Top Luxury Experience in Aruba

6 Girlfriend Getaways You’ll Love 

Finding Vegan Heaven at Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort 

Diving into Dutch Tapas at Cafe 080 Restaurant Bar on Aruba 

Check prices on hotels and villas using Hotelscombined.com a website that checks top travel websites like Booking.com Hotels.com and Expedia to compare prices and save you money. If you book, we’ll earn a small commission and you won’t pay anything extra. Check our full  Disclosure Statement  for more details.

Worth checking out!

For more tips on eco-adventure and vegan-inspired travel to the world’s best sun destinations, check out these other posts, visit the Vegan Vacationista website by  Jessica Percy-Campbell or subscribe to the free A Taste for Travel newsletter.

Florida: Vegan Festivals, Food and Cocktails in Florida Keys and Miami  

Cancun: The Stuff Vegan Dreams are Made Of 

Kauai: 3 Top Vegan Eats on Kauai 

Aruba: Finding Vegan Heaven 

Panama: Secrets Playa Bonita Panama: A Paradise for Nature Lovers 

7 Amazing Things to do on Bonaire

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Showing 14 comments
  • Culture Tripper
    Reply

    Love the photos! From drift snorkelling to snowy salt pyramids and bright green cactus cocktails, it looks as though Bonaire offers some truly unusual photo ops–and experiences.

  • Donna Janke
    Reply

    Bonaire looks beautiful. I am not an in-the-water person so would be unlikely to book a snorkeling excursion. But the lunch, cactus drink and sunset yoga all sound delightful. As does just sitting and admiring the view.

    • susan campbell
      Reply

      Donna Janke, if you don’t want to get wet and still see the marine life they have a new little semi submarine that goes off the dock downtown every hour :http://bon-sea.com/about-the-bonaire-semi-submarine/

  • susan campbell
    Reply

    Love it there, was glad to show her around!

  • Cathy Sweeney
    Reply

    What a beautifully surprising island Bonaire seems to be. I’d never heard of the salt flats there before. However, I have heard of the island because my cousin is in the scuba diving industry and lived there for a time. I wish I’d been able to visit while he was there. But you’ve provided plenty of inspiration to go anyway.

  • Jessie on a Journey
    Reply

    Oh you had me at *sunset yoga* — Looks amazing!

  • Corinne
    Reply

    Those views from the hotel make it all worth it. Looks like a great place to unwind and recharge.

  • Renada
    Reply

    I really want to go here now. Your photos are gorgeous & the post makes me want to go here now! Beautiful.

  • Amanda Keeley-Thurman
    Reply

    That pink salt lake is amazing! I would love to see that in person.

  • Lyn aka The Travelling Lindfields
    Reply

    You have sold me on Bonaire. Snorkeling and pink lakes are my idea of a dream destination. Coincidentally I too have been writing about a pink lake (in Western Australia) on the other side of the world this week.

  • Carole Terwilliger Meyers
    Reply

    Bonaire sounds fabulous. I’d love to see those pink salt lakes and flamingos!

  • Doreen Pendgracs
    Reply

    What a lovely post! Would love to explore Bonaire and go snorkelling and enjoy the beautiful island vibe. Count me in!

  • Rachel Heller
    Reply

    Bonaire was the first place my husband and I were able to go diving without a guide. We rented equipment for the week, and each day we’d just choose some random place to go in. It’s all protected, all around the island, so the diving was good everywhere.

  • Tam Warner Minton
    Reply

    I am shocked! I’ve never heard of the salt and pink water before! I’m a diver, I need to look into this.

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