In 1979 the residents of Bonaire voted, in a referendum, to resist commercial over development and protect the island's environment and heritage. Consequently, Bonaire is a quiet island - no major commercial development - no crowds, no rush, no fuss. Most of the island is pristine as nature intended - which visitors can enjoy at a peaceful and easy pace. Bonaire set aside nearly 25% of the land, mainly in the Washington Slagbaai National Park for conservation purposes. The island of Klein Bonaire, close to the west coast, is a nature reserve. Bonaire is small and flat - hiking or cycling is a great way to explore. You can also hire a 4X4, a motorbike or a scooter. Being able to see and enjoy the island - at your own pace - will let you make the most of your holiday. There are guided walking and mini-bus tours. On such a small island, you won't be stuck on a bus for long periods. Tours are in small groups - no crowds, no queues. There are a lot of tours and excursions we can book for you, if you wish, like island tours, nature tours, sail & snorkel excursions etc. Interestingly, most cab drivers are trained tour guides as well.
Let us know if you would like to hire vehicles, or book any tours or excursions for your holiday.
Bonaire has a rich heritage of many cultures with examples around the island.
Much of what Bonaire offers visitors is what mother nature made thousands of years ago.
The island's unspoilt natural sights are both interesting and easy to explore.
Kralendijk, the capital, is a small town, with colourful, Dutch colonial buildings dating back to the time of the Dutch West India Company. The 17th. century Fort Oranje is one of the oldest buildings on Bonaire - complete with a cannon - built to defend the island by whoever had possession of the island - against whoever was trying to capture the island - at that time - Dutch, English, Spanish or French. Just outside Kralendijk, on the road north to Rincon, stands a statue of Simon Bolivar, the great South American liberator. Kralendijk sums up Bonaire, small, relaxed and interesting.
Rincon is the oldest settlement on Bonaire, established in 1527, and is full of cultural history. Rincon is in the northwest, in the hills leading into the Washington-Slagbaai National Park. Rincσn has around 3000 inhabitants. Tourist facilities are scarce - making the village more attractive. There is a weekly market on Saturday. Walking and bus tours are available. The "Historical Walking Tour Around the Village of Rincon" publication ($5) is useful to those who want to explore the heritage of the village. Guided tours available every Friday afternoon at 3:00 pm. at the Bonaire Heritage Center at the Cadushy Distillery on Plasa Cadushy.
Every February the whole island of Bonaire let's is hair down for Carnival week. Enjoy the fun of the Carnival in Rincon and Kralendijk, Bonaire's two main towns. Visitors can enjoy the infectious Caribbean carnival celebrations - a mix of dancing, music, international shows, cultural events, delicious local delicacies to eat etc. Highlights of the carnival include the magnificent costume parade of people dancing through the streets of Kralendijk and Rincon.
Seru Lagu is a hill, 123 metres high, just north of Kralendijk the main town. The easy walk to the top, will give you fantastic views over the entire island and beyond. Seru Largu means "large hill" and at the top there is a large monumental cross. The area north of Sera Largu Hilltop - is a scenic, naturally pristine area - with some fantastic views. It is easy to see both coasts from here - lots of places to stop and enjoy the scenery. There are caves in this area. Guided tours - and snorkel tours - of the caves are available.
Due to its volcanic origins Bonaire has many interesting geological features, which can be seen most easily on the Wildside. Layers of rock can clearly be seen - evidence of volcanic activity from different periods during the island's formation. This coast faces the open ocean, the Caribbean Sea - and this coast has been sculptured by the pounding of the waves. The ocean has carved many small "bocas" or bays, some of which, eroded along the waterline, have formed natural "blow holes". When a large wave hits the shore, the water is forced through these blow holes, making a spectacular natural fountain. The most impressive of these is Boca Onima.
On the road from Kralendijk to Rincon, near Onima over 500 years old. Evidence of the Caquetio culture have been found at certain sites northeast of Kralendijk and near Lac Bay. Caquieto rock paintings and petroglyphs have been preserved in caves at Spelonk, Onima, Ceru Pungi, and Ceru Crita-Cabai. The Caquetios were apparently a very tall people, for the Spanish name for the ABC Islands was 'las Islas de los Gigantes' or 'the islands of the giants.'
The rugged terrain of the 13,500 acre Washington Slagbaai National Park is a wilderness style park where tropical birds, lizards, goats and iguanas etc., live in their natural habitat. Slagbaai is an old plantation, a fifth of the entire island, set aside as a wildlife sanctuary. The landscape is dominated by cactuses, trees and bushes. You can drive or hike through the park. Bring something to eat & drink. This is a rugged 34 hours drive, saloon cars are not allowed. Inside the park you can enjoy the peaceful sandy beaches as well as dive and snorkel - don't forget to take your gear. The "Diver Nature Fee" or "Nature Fee" - gives you entry to the park. Brandaris, at 239 metres, is Bonaire's highest point, and is in the National Park.
Close to the national park is Goto Meer - lake Goto - a spectacularly beautiful lake, a sanctuary for thousands of Pink flamingos, surrounded by lush vegetation and many indigenous plants and flowers. Dusk is an especially good time to see the flamingos, and there are observation points along the road.
Lac Bay is an idyllic bay with a beautiful, small beach. Lac Cai is on the north side of Lac Bay. Off the beaten track, but worth the bumpy ride. On Sunday afternoons locals gather here, at the open air bars, to relax, and listen to local live music. Bags of atmosphere. The barbecue is cheap and cheerful. Great fun.
The Butterfly Farm is a tranquil place in a green tropical setting - close to the mangrove forests with butterflies that live in and around the area of the Caribbean and South America.
Bonaire has some beautiful old lighthouses, some of which have been restored. Probably the most famous is the one on the southern tip of Bonaire - the Williamstoren Lighthouse
The mangroves, designated internationally as important wetlands, have immense value as a nursery, refuge and food source for marine life. One example is the seaweed in the mangroves is a vital food source for green turtles - animals just as fragile as the coral reefs. Mangroves consist of around 70 species of trees and grow only in tropical coastal areas. Mangrove forests are natural coastal protection - producing organic material to feed the reefs. Mangroves grow in salt or brackish water, but these amazing trees make their own fresh water out of seawater. Mangroves were considered useless swamps and consequently became one of the most endangered habitats. The planet lost about 50% of all mangrove forests during the 20th. century. The vital importance of this special habitat is now recognised and protected - not just as a coastal defence system - but as the nursery for much of the marine life we all value so highly - and need so much. There are several guided tours and kayaks for hire - ask us for details. A kayak trip is a novel and easy way of enjoying this unspoilt natural environment. We can personally recommend these as an interesting, fun trip.
Bonaire's famous salt pans cover almost 10% of the island. Salt is the man export of the island and production dates back to 1636. The white "mountains" of salt dominate the landscape of the southern part of the island. The salt mountains and brightly coloured salt pans are a spectacular sight. The various pans are different stages of production. Crustaceans and bacteria thrive during the crystallisation process, giving the pans their striking colours - white, pink and blue. The "red" salt pans get their colour from the pink brine shrimp which flamingos feed on, giving them their distinctive colour. Bonaire is one of the world's largest suppliers of salt mainly for roads. Next time you are stuck behind a lorry salting icy roads think of Bonaire - it might help !
Along the southern part of the west coast, near Pink Beach, adjacent to the salt pans, are small, stark huts, poignant reminders of a time now thankfully gone. The salt pans are red or white reflecting the different stages of production. Likewise the hits are red (orange) or white. They were used for shelter and sometimes overnight accommodation for slaves working on the salt pans.
The whole of the uninhabited island of Klein Bonaire is a nature reserve. It is short 10 minute ride on the water taxi. There are no facilities on Klein Bonaire - take water and a picnic. Klein Bonaire has become home to many varieties of plants and animals, some not present on the main island of Bonaire. On Klein Bonaire 76 species of flora were recorded. Klein Bonaire is a breeding ground for sea turtles and birds and surrounded by reefs of the best diving and snorkelling locations. It is one of the last uninhabited islands in the Caribbean.