Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond

Bonaire Cruise Port: Tips, Attractions, Weather

Bonaire cruise port at Kralendijk. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license
Bonaire cruise port at Kralendijk. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

The Bonaire cruise port of Kralendijk is a destination 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 than Aruba or Curaçao. It’s also the smallest and least-populated island of the three with a population of about 24,000.

The lack of commercialization may appeal Caribbean visitors who get tired of it on other islands. Welcome to a laid back port of call.

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

Quick Travel Tips

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

Attractions and Shore Excursions

Walking Around Attractions

Kralendijk is a small town of about 3,000 people, so there are few walking around attractions. The small size of the town and the island means that Bonaire doesn’t have many historical and cultural attractions to visit. It has had a quiet colonial history.

The Bonaire cruise terminal is Harborside Mall, a small open-air shopping center. From there, passengers can cross the street into the Wilhelmina Plaza to see an arts and crafts market along with entertainment. Shops and restaurants line Waterfront Promenade and Kaya Grandi, which is the main shopping street.

Fort Oranje Bonaire
Fort Oranje, now a courthouse; © Tourism Corporation Bonaire

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 and is about a quarter mile north of the cruise docks. The fort is a good photo opportunity.

Other attractions require transportation.

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

The Donkey Sanctuary four miles south of Kralendijk is a non-profit foundation that provides care for more than 700 donkeys. The animals greet visitors when they arrive at the drive-through park, which is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The entrance fee is $9 for teens and adults with half off for children.

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

Washington-Slagbaai National Park
Washington-Slagbaai National Park. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

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

The Butterfly Garden is open from Tuesday till Sunday. Opening hours are from 9 a.m. till 5 p.m. 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.

Bonaire is one of the world’s major exporters of salt because of the salt pans, which have become something of a tourist attraction on the island. The salt pans also are an ideal site to view flamingos. Island tours, which usually cost between $50 and $90, often stop at the salt pans.

Shore Excursions

Bonaire shore excursions via cruise lines and independent operators emphasize land and water recreation, especially snorkeling and diving. The waters off the coast of the island have been legally protected as a marine park since 1979.

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. One tour operator was offering a guided seven-hour excursion for $80.

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, compared to 16 around Aruba. 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.

Snorkeling shore excursions usually cost about $50 per person including amenities. Diving excursions cost about $150 per person.

Beaches Near the Cruise Port

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.

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 24,000 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 / Best Time to Visit

Bonaire monthly temperatures
© Scott S. Bateman

Bonaire climate shares similar characteristics with nearby Aruba and Curaçao. The best time to visit is almost any month of the year except the last three.

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. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
March 06, 2024

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