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11 Best Bonaire Tourist Attractions

Willemstoren Lighthouse, Bonaire
Willemstoren Lighthouse; ©

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

But there is plenty more to do on the island itself for cruise and other visitors.

1) Willemstoren Lighthouse

The photographic pink, white, red and yellow lighthouse, an historical landmark, is on the most southern point of the island. The facility, 10 miles south of Kralendijk, was built in 1837.

Local residents visit the shore by the lighthouse to collect driftwood in unusual shapes, according to the official Tourism Corporation Bonaire.

2) Washington/Slagbaai National Park

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

The desert-like Washington/Slagbaai National Park has hikes through spare landscapes of cacti, iguanas and divi-divi trees.

The park was the first nature sanctuary of the Netherland Antilles (Aruba, Bonaire) created in 1969.

Wildlife includes parrots, flamingos, parakeets, iguanas and all four species of Caribbean nesting turtles. The visitors’ center includes a museum and walking trails. The landscape includes dry forest, mangroves, beach and sand dunes.

3) Pink Beach

The longest beach on the island has fine pink sand. It is a popular spot for sunbathing and swimming.

The beach has been featured on the cover of Caribbean Travel and Life magazine has named it as one of the best beaches in the Caribbean. It is seven miles south of Kralendijk on the western coast.

4) Donkey Sanctuary

The sanctuary 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. It is located south of Kralendijk below the airport. $$

5) Salt Pans

Salt pans are flat expanses of ground covered with salt that has evaporated from seawater. Bacteria change 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.

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

6) Fort Oranje

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.

7) Cycling and Horseback

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.

Visitors also can see the countryside on horseback via the Horseback Riding Academy Club at Kunuku Warahama.

8) Sorobon Beach / Windsurfing

The beach is located within a protected bay and is becoming well known for windsurfing thanks to steady trade winds.

9) Museums

Museo Mangazina di Rei in Rincon includes the replicas of homes, limestone kilns and charcoal pits.

Museo Washington-Slagbaai Park at the Visitor Center has information and examples of Bonaire’s flora and fauna. Bonaire’s history is portrayed on a timeline in comparison to other world events. 

10) Bonaire National Marine Park

The 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.

Nearly 60 species of coral can be seen in the reef.

11) 1000 Steps and Other Dive Sites

This 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 but a nature tag. It is $25 for divers and $10 for all other users.

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.
July 18, 2021

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