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The Best Things to Do in Bonaire

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Bonaire is the lesser-known sibling of the Dutch Caribbean islands, a sister to Aruba and Curaçao (their first initials make up the chain’s catchy nickname: the ABC islands). The colorful Netherlands Antilles archipelago lies 50 miles off the coast of Venezuela and comfortably outside the Caribbean’s hurricane belt.

Bonaire is laid-back by design: Large chain hotels have been kept out and eco-preservation enforced since the 1970's, keeping the local dive sites some of the best in the world. The island’s relaxed and slow pace which helps maintain the island’s chief attributes: its national park, and legendarily pristine wilderness, both above and below the surface. Adventure sports abound, too: diving, caving, sea kayaking, mountain biking, wind surfing, and cliff jumping, to name a few. The culture contains layers of Amerindian, Spanish, African, Dutch, and British influences. In fact, you’ll hear traces of the languages of all of the above (plus some French and Portuguese) during any given conversation in Papiamento, the creole language spoken. You'll find you can get by just fine with a few key phrases: por fabor, danki, and bon dia—all of which mean exactly what you think they do. Warning: Bonaire may become your new favorite spot.
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Bonaire National Marine Park, Barcadera z/n, Kralendijk, Caribbean Netherlands

Encircling the entire island of Bonaire—and the neighboring islet of Klein Bonaire—Bonaire National Marine Park is home to some of the best snorkeling and diving you’ll ever do. Thanks to long-standing protective measures...

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Klein Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands

As healthy as the majority of local corals may be, the staghorn and elkhorn varieties have been disproportionately affected by hurricanes and other forces. To help repair the island's reefs, and have some fun in the process, join the Bonaire...

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Kaya Grandi, Kralendijk, Caribbean Netherlands

Rivaling the colors you’ll see below the sea on the coral reefs of Bonaire, the rainbow of Dutch-colonial buildings that line the streets of downtown Kralendijk—and especially Kaya Grandi, i.e., Main Street—will be worth your...

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Even if you’ve been kayaking before and think you don’t need to do it again, think again: Bonaire provides an entirely new experience. Hop in a single or double kayak and paddle through maze-like pathways of mangrove trees. These...
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Lac Bay, Caribbean Netherlands

Not all the fun happens below the sea here. For fun atop the water, head to Lac Bay, the largest bay in the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, for the uninitiated). Kayaking through the resident mangroves, you'll see all manner of...

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Rincón, Caribbean Netherlands

Rincón—Bonaire's oldest village—is a near-perfect distillation of the island's history: Established by 16th-century Spanish colonialists, the settlement was eventually populated by former slaves and later became famous for a...

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Caribbean Netherlands

The stunning 5,600 hectares (14,000 acres) or so that you'll find at Washington-Slagbaai today grew out of the Netherlands Antilles' first national park—born in 1969 when then-owner "Boy" Herrera bequeathed his property to the government...

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Kaya Gob. N. Debrot, Kralendijk, Caribbean Netherlands
The world "adventure" doesn't quite do justice to a day of underwater caving. I have done many 'adventurous' things: skydiving, bungee jumping, etc. And this sits at the top of the list of favorite adventure experiences. The official tour...
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When you pull up to Boca Slagbaai in Washington Slagbaai National Park, on the northern coast of Bonaire, you know you're far away from the normal tourist track. This remote beach may require a drive over the bumpy, unpaved roads of Washington...
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Got a thirst for adventure? Then jumping off this 25-foot cliff into turquoise water will be right up your alley. Local kids will taunt you into action as they jump time and time again and even do front flips into the water below. As heights...
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15A, Kaya Soeur Bartola, Kralendijk, Caribbean Netherlands
A delicious and magical discovery was made on Bonaire by the islanders: the peeled flesh of the kadushi, or candle, cactus can be distilled into alcohol (and made into teas, both the tasty and the medicinal versions). Bonaire’s Cadushy...
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Kaya Grandi, Kralendijk, Caribbean Netherlands

A sprawling one-stop shop for all things local—including the aloe and sea salt that were once drivers of the island's economy—the Bonaire Art & Craft Market sits right by the cruise-ship piers, which means minimal schlepping....

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Kaya Grandi, Kralendijk, Caribbean Netherlands

When a South African woman and an Italian man met each other—and Bonaire—through their work on cruise ships, beautiful things ensued. Not least, the handmade glass jewelry at the shop the pair opened here several years ago. Check out,...

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9 Kaya Grandi, Kralendijk, Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands, Kralendijk, Caribbean Netherlands

Do a deep dive into Bonaire's sea-salt heritage at this sodium-centric shop. Whether you're looking for the kind to sprinkle on food, rub on skin or add to a hot bath, local options abound here.

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Rincón, Caribbean Netherlands
The perfect itinerary for exploring the northern part of Bonaire includes a trip to Washington Slagbaai National Park for a hike, a relaxed swim, and some cliff jumping at Boca Slagbaai. Make a stop at the Cadushy Distillery, where the...
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Kaya C.E.B. Hellmund, Kralendijk, Caribbean Netherlands
The aptly named Restaurant At Sea seats diners right beside the water and then serves them the delicious evidence of Bonaire’s lucky geography, just-caught fish and seafood. Plantain chips stave off hunger as you peruse the menu, deciding...
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Kaya Gobernador N.Debrot No. 71, Kralendijk, Caribbean Netherlands

One of the most romantic hideouts on Bonaire, La Balandra is designed to make you feel like you’re dining on an old Spanish ship when, in fact, you’re ensconced in the Harbour Village Beach Club. Cruise passengers have two options...

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Among the excellent fine-dining experiences on relaxed little Bonaire, Patagonia stands out. It is casual (as suits the laidback vibe of the island) but elegant, and menu options include every cut of meat you could imagine—Argentinians take...
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Kaya Gob. N. Debrot, Kralendijk, Caribbean Netherlands
At Bistro de Paris, you can dine al fresco on the waterfront under the Caribbean sky or opt for a table in the air-conditioned enclosed patio. No matter where you sit, you'll love the fresh food on the bistro-style menu, especially the daily...
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12 Kaya J.N.E. Craane, Kralendijk, Caribbean Netherlands

Though fish don't have to travel far to reach your plate on Bonaire, Karel’s Beach Bar cuts the distance to nearly zero: This beloved institution sits on a platform in the sea. Try the signature seafood kebabs or the (very garlicky) lobster...

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Kaminda Lagun, Kralendijk, Caribbean Netherlands
Stroll up to the counter of this lime green shack and order from the menu of the day, printed in Papiamentu (the local language that blends Spanish and Dutch). You'll find options like sopi kabritu, pisca hasa, pabu di balia stoba with either ...
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103 Kaya Gob. N. Debrot, Kralendijk, Caribbean Netherlands
Captain Don's Habitat is not your traditional kind of all-inclusive resort. It is a small ocean-front property in Bonaire with a rich history and a familial feel, with some of the most gorgeous views of the island. (Captain Don Stewart, a sailor,...
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Bulevard. Gobernador Nicolaas Debrot 73, Kralendijk 0, Caribbean Netherlands
Flamingos strut through salt ponds, and wild donkeys roam the dirt roads of Bonaire, which lies 50 miles off the coast of Venezuela. Stay in one of the nine villas dreamed up by Dutch design icon Piet Boon. Set along the waterfront just outside of...