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The Best Things to Do in Bonaire

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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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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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 birds and...

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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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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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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 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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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 ...