Bonaire is not your typical Caribbean island— it is much quieter, but truly a hidden gem. It is located just north of Venezuela and is a part of the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao.) Bonaire is often considered the shore diving capital of the world— there are over 60 shore diving sites on the island!
We flew into the Flamingo International Airport from Aruba, but you can actually fly to Bonaire direct from several cities in the US. [To name a few: Houston, New York, Atlanta, Miami and Boston.] We rented a car for our stay through Avis, which is conveniently located right next to the airport.
The weather was perfect when we visited in December. Similar to Aruba and Curacao, Bonaire is just below the hurricane belt, so there’s very low-risk for intense weather.
The Courtyard by Marriott Bonaire just opened the day before we arrived. The hotel was less than a mile from the airport, and the rooms were set up in separate houses of all different colors. It was placed just along the water and offered unforgettable views. Customer service was great and everyone went above and beyond to make sure we were satisfied with our stay. The hotel also provided outdoor dining near the water, a fitness center, and an infinity pool.
Six nights allowed plenty of time for us to explore the island. The first day of any vacation is usually spent enjoying cocktails by the pool and exploring the hotel.
You could easily drive the entire island in one day, but we broke it up into a few days. Day two— we explored!
Heading south along the coast, our first stop was Pink Beach and the Cargill Salt Pans. On one side of the road, you’ll see mountains of white salt set against pink seas. And on the other side— some of the bluest water we’ve ever seen in the Caribbean.
Just past the salt pyramids, you’ll come across the slave huts. They were built in 1850 and served as camp facilities for slaves working in the salt ponds. The huts are very small— so small that you can not stand upright. Four to six slaves stayed in each hut at a time and on the weekends, the slaves had to walk 7-10 hours to Rincon to see their families. Heartbreaking.
Bonaire has quite an impressive history for such a small island.
As you continue driving down EEG Boulevard, you’ll see the Willenstoren Lighthouse. There is a Flamingo Sanctuary between the Cargill Salt Works and the Willenstoren Lighthouse. So— if you park your car and walk to the other side of the street, you should see flamingos!
Next, we stumbled upon Sorobon Beach— it ended up being our favorite place on the island. We ended most days at HangOut Beach Bar. You can grab lunch or dinner, listen to music, or learn how to windsurf. If you don’t want to learn, you have a front row seat to watch everyone else— and there’s never a dull moment! [Rent equipment from Jibe City.]
On the way back to the Courtyard by Marriott, we drove past the Donkey Sanctuary. Since the Sanctuary is just off the main road, we were able to feed them right from our vehicle [bring carrots!]
After a good night’s rest, we started to explore the northern part of the island.
From Kralendijk, we drove to Leeuwarden and onto Rincon. Most of what you’ll see on this drive is endless amounts of cacti. But there is one memorable stop— Seru Largu. Seru Largu means “large hill” and from the top, you can see the capital city and Klein. If you’re visiting for New Years Eve, this is the place to celebrate and watch fireworks!
In Rincon, we stopped at The Cadushy Distillery. We took a tour to learn about the story and history of the distillery and how the liqueur is made. The distillery uses cactus on the island to make rum, vodka, tequila and whiskey. Try a few samples, relax in the courtyard, and take a bottle of your favorite liqueur home with you.
From Rincon, take Kaminda Di Karpata to Queen’s Highway and turn left. Queen’s Highway will take you back to Kralendijk, but first make a stop at 1,000 Steps Beach. This beach is ideal for diving— it has shallow, turquoise water where you can see turtles, rays, and moray eels. There are actually only 67 steps, but they are named after the limestone stairs you have to walk down to get to the white sand beach.
The best place to see flamingos in Bonaire is Gotomeer [or Goto Lake]. There is a small parking lot and a lookout on your way to 1,000 Steps Bay. [If you don’t have luck here, try Pink Beach or the Mangroves of Lac Bay.]
The day before we left Bonaire, we took a ferry out to Klein from Kralendijk. We packed a lunch and spent the afternoon on the island. There are no shops or restaurants on the island, but you can snorkel and soak up the sun. This is a great way to end your trip!
Bonaire is not a common destination, but full of adventure. Where is your favorite place to travel— where should we go next?
Thanks for reading + if you’re planning a trip soon, don’t forget your Lonely Planet book!
Kayla + Logan