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Bonaire

Bonaire Cruise Port Tips

Tiny and arid Dutch island is known for beaches, snorkeling and scuba diving
Bonaire cruise port
Bonaire cruise port at Kralendijk. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license
The tiny Dutch island of Bonaire is a port of call now and then with Panama Canal and southern Caribbean cruises. Ships that visit it usually stop at the nearby Aruba or Curaçao as well.

Among the three, known as the ABC islands, Bonaire is the least commercialized because it receives fewer visits. The lack of commercialization may appeal Caribbean visitors who get tired of it on other islands.

Cruise visitors will find that it has a few qualities in common with Aruba: nice beaches, plenty of snorkeling and diving, and an arid landscape.

Fast Facts


  • Bonaire is famous for diving and snorkeling.
  • Four beaches are near the cruise port.
  • The island has taxis and rentals cars but no public transportation.

Attractions


Bonaire attractions emphasize diving and snorkeling. The waters off the coast of the island have been legally protected as a marine park since 1979.

Cruise visitors who don’t snorkel or dive will find other things to do.

Willemstoren Lighthouse is a photographic pink, white, red and yellow lighthouse and an historical landmark built in 1837. It is on the most southern point of the island 10 miles south of the cruise port at Kralendijk.

Washington-Slagbaai National Park
Washington-Slagbaai National Park. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license
The arid Washington/Slagbaai National Park has hiking trails among the spare landscapes of cacti, iguanas and divi-divi trees as well as dry forest, mangroves, beaches and sand dunes.

The park was the first nature sanctuary of the Netherland Antilles islands when it was created in 1969.

Wildlife includes parrots, flamingos, parakeets, iguanas and all four species of Caribbean nesting turtles. The visitors' center has a museum and walking trails.

The Donkey Sanctuary four miles south of Kralendijk is a non-profit foundation that provides care for the donkeys on Bonaire. The animals greet visitors when they arrive at the park, which is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Fort Oranje, which was built in 1639, never saw action. The cannons are old English cannons that date between 1808 and 1812. It now serves as a courthouse.

The Butterfly Garden is open from Tuesday till Sunday. Opening hours are from 9 am till 5 pm. Take the road from the church in Kralendijk to Sorobon (Kaya Nikiboko Zuid). After leaving Kralendijk you will see the sign on the left. Turn to the left in the direction of Lac Cai and you will see the signs to the garden.

Fort Oranje Bonaire
Fort Oranje, now a courthouse; © Tourism Corporation Bonaire
Bonaire National Marine Park is known as one of the better snorkeling experiences in the Caribbean. A narrow fringing reef starts near the shoreline and extends nearly 1,000 feet offshore.

The 1000 Steps snorkel and dive site on the north side of Bonaire is reachable by boat or car. Anyone who drives there actually will take 67 steps to reach the beach.

The island has 86 official dive sites and 53 easily accessible shore dive sites. Most of the sites are marked with yellow stones and are found on the roadside. Each stone has the name of the site.

Anyone who uses Bonaire waters is required to buy a nature tag. It is $25 for divers and $10 for all other users.

One of the unique attractions and an excursion offering by some tour operators on the island is related to salt. Salt pans are flat expanses of ground covered with salt that has evaporated from seawater. Bacteria changes the salt into various colors.

Bonaire is one of the world's major exporters of salt because of the salt pans, which also have become something of a tourist attraction on the island. The salt pans also are an ideal site to view flamingos.


Beaches


Bonaire makes it easy for cruise visitors to find a beach with 22 of them scattered around this small island and four right by the Kralendijk cruise port.

Most of the beaches are on the western side of the island where Kralendijk is located as well.

Almost all Bonaire beaches are public except for Sorobon, a clothing-optional beach in a private nudist resort where non-guests pay $10 for admission.

Four beaches close to Kralendijk are Bachelor’s, Te Amo and Flamingo, along with one of the most unusually named beaches in the Caribbean. It is called Chachacha.

Some cruise shore excursions take visitors to Coco Beach, two miles north of the cruise terminal and next to a resort.

Bachelor’s Beach is a small beach just south of the docks. It lies below a 10-foot cliff, according to Tourism Corporation Bonaire.

Te Amo is a white-sand beach near Bonaire’s airport. Visitors can watch planes leaving and landing close up on the beach.

Flamingo at Divi Flamingo Beach Resort is a 10-minute walk from the center of Kralendijk.

Chachacha, named after a local woman, is a small beach with a wooden pier. The waters are calm and ideal for families with young children.

Pink Beach, the longest beach on the island, has fine pink sand. It is a popular spot for sunbathing and swimming. It is seven miles south of the port.

The beach has been featured on the cover of Caribbean Travel. Life magazine named it one of the best beaches in the Caribbean. A bus goes there throughout the day.

Visitors to Washington-Slagbaai National Park will find three major beaches at Boca Cocolishi, Boca Slagbaai and Playa Funchi.

Boca Cocolishi on the north coast is not well-suited for swimming because of the strong surf. But it is a black sand beach with lava-formed pools that make it appealing for hikers.

Boca Slagbaai, popular with the flamingos, is a good swimming and snorkeling site. It has facilities and refreshments for sale. Some of the buildings there date back to 1869.

Playa Funchi is a highly recommended snorkeling site because of coral formations, attractive fish and calm waters. It has no sand or facilities, although it is likewise popular with flamingos.

Shopping / Dining


Kayi Grande is Bonaire’s main shopping street for tourists and runs parallel to the cruise docks.

The Bonaire Arts and Crafts Cruise Market is by the north and south piers in downtown Kralendijk. Anyone who arrives at the north pier can walk directly into the market in Wilhelmina Plaza. Passengers who arrive at the south pier can turn left at the road and walk a short distance to reach the market.

Harbourside Mall, 31 Kaya Grande, has a variety of shops and restaurants.

Many shops close for lunchtime. They are open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon and again from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Some shops stay open through lunch hours, Sundays and Holidays.

Getting Around / Transportation


The island has a population of less than 20,000 people, so it’s no surprise that public transportation is minimal. The island does not have a bus system.

Taxis, rental cars and excursion buses are the main means of getting around the island.

More adventurous visitors can rent bicycles and motor scooters to get around the island, which is barely 10 miles across.

Weather


Bonaire climate shares similar characteristics with nearby Aruba and Curaçao.

Temperatures are steady all the year and vary only a few degrees each month. It has much less rainfall than the rest of the Caribbean and only a slight increase in rain during the fall months.

Thanks in part to its southern Caribbean location, the average high temperature throughout the year is 87 degrees Fahrenheit or 31 degrees Celsius. The average low temperature, which takes place mostly at night, is 78 degrees Fahrenheit or 26 degrees Celsius.

Rainfall averages one inch a month from January through September. The worst months for rain are October, December and especially November, when it averages 4 inches. It has only slightly more rain than the nearby Aruba.
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

 > Category: Cruise Ports   

September 07, 2018

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