Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond

Bonaire Travel Tips and Visitor Information

View of Kralendijk; © Tourism Corporation Bonaire
Bonaire in the southern Caribbean has a small number of cruise and resorts visitors every year. It's mainly known for snorkeling and scuba diving.

Bonaire is part of the ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, which have the reputation of lying somewhat safely below the Caribbean hurricane belt. They also are arid most of the year.

But they still face occasional weather onslaughts, such as the category 5 Hurricane Felix in September 2007. Reputations go only so far.

The island also is part of the Netherland Antilles, which includes Curacao, Sint Maarten, Saint Barthelemy, Saba and Sint Eustatius. The group is located in the southern Caribbean and lies to the east of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Bonaire is 24th in total visits, 25th in stopovers and 22nd in cruises. About the same number of people visit the island via stopovers in cruises, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).

Travel Tips in Brief

Bonaire is an occasional stop on Panama Canal and southern Caribbean cruises. It usually is a port of call in combination with either Aruba or Curaçao.

Overnight visitors who want to avoid bad weather during the Caribbean hurricane season go to Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. Aruba is the most popular, followed by Curaçao and then Bonaire.

But among the three, Bonaire is the least commercialized with the smallest crowds. Those qualities appeal to Caribbean visitors who want to escape the heavy commercialization of other islands.

The island attracts Dutch citizens in part because it is a "special municipality" of the Netherlands. It also is known for scuba diving spots.

Bonaire Attractions

Kralendijk, Bonaire
Kralendijk's Dutch architecture and historic sites offer attractions to cruise and overnight visitors. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license
Kralendijk is both the capital city and the main cruise port of the island of Bonaire. The colorful streets and buildings reflect the same Dutch architecture as Oranjestad in Aruba and Willemstad in Curaçao along with their own unique Caribbean influences.

Downtown walking tours that emphasize history and culture cost about $30 per person. Tours of the entire island start at more than $40.

Other unique attractions include diving and snorkeling because the waters off the coast of the island have been legally protected as a marine park since 1979. The island has 86 official dive sites and 53 shore dive sites that are easily accessible.

Snorkeling shore excursions cost about $40 or more while scuba diving excursion start at more than $150 per person.

The desert-like Washington/Slagbaai National Park has hikes through spare landscapes of cacti, iguanas and divi-divi trees. Bonaire is about 24 miles long and about 4 miles wide on average, making it small enough for fit visitors to tour the island by bike.

Tourism / When to Go

Bonaire MapU.S. and Canadian stopover tourists require passports and valid return tickets to visit the islands. Cruise visitors must have their ship IDs when leaving and returning to their ships.

The most popular months to visit are April and then December. The least popular are September and then August, according to the CTO.

Bonaire Weather

Overall climate conditions are tropical, but the conditions are softened by northeast trade winds.

The average daytime temperature is 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Average rainfall is about 20 inches, which is more than Aruba but less than Curacao. That makes the island semi-arid, with sparse vegetation.

It rains only about one inch per month from February through September. They are the best months to visit for beach lovers. Then average rainfall increases to three to four inches a month from October through December.

December is a popular month for visitors anyway because they want to escape cold northern winters.

Currency / Tipping

Like all of the islands in the Netherland Antilles, the currency is the Netherlands Antilles Guilder. U.S. current and major credit cards are widely accepted. For stopover visitors, the departure tax is $32US per person. Tipping is 10-15 percent on average for hotels, taxis, restaurants and tour operators.

Culture / Geography

The dominant language is Papiamento, a Spanish-Portuguese-Dutch-English dialect. The economy depends strongly on tourism, oil refining and offshore financing.

The geography is hilly with some volcanic formations in the interior.

Sources / More information

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

 > Category: Travel Tips   

April 16, 2021