Bonaire

Bonaire


Like the neighboring islands of Sint Eustatius and Saba, Bonaire is part of the Caribbean Netherlands. Since October 10, 2010, Bonaire has been a “Special Municipality of the Netherlands”. The head of state is King Willem-Alexander, who is represented locally by a governor.

With an area of ​​288 square kilometers, Bonaire is the second largest of the Dutch ABC islands Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao to count. Geologists assign the ABC Islands to South America because of their location on the South American continental shelf.

Bonaire – the first impression

The island is of volcanic origin. The surface is covered with limestone. Visitors perceive the island as divided into two parts. The northern part of Bonaire appears green and hilly. This area has a diverse range of fauna and flora. In contrast, visitors perceive the flat southern half as more of a cactus desert. In the south there are also the natural salt pans from which the productive salt pans emerged over the centuries.

Bonaire - landscape in the north of the island


Bonaire - landscape in the north of the island


Bonaire - Cacti replace fences


Bonaire - Cacti replace fences


Bonaire – some history

There is no clarity as to who is responsible for the discovery of Bonaire. Historians assume that either the Spaniard Alonso de Ojeda or the Florentine Amerigo Vespucci were the first Europeans to set foot on the island's soil. Both were in Spanish service, and in 1499 they took possession of the three ABC islands for Spain's crown.

Since the conquerors found neither natural resources nor other wealth on the islands and they did not appear to be suitable for agriculture, they were given the name “Islas Inútiles”, which means something like “useless islands”.

Because of the natural salt flats, Bonaire was not as useless as it initially seemed to the explorers. From a Dutch perspective, the sea salt harvested on Bonaire was well suited for food preservation and also for ceramics and glass production. Consequently, the Netherlands took over the island in 1636.

Bonaire - sea salt in abundance

Bonaire - sea salt in abundance


This apparently didn't bother the Spanish crown much, as Bonaire was still considered “useless” at that time. Later, towards the end of the 18th century, Bonaire was annexed by Great Britain for a transitional period. With the signing of the “Anglo-Dutch Treaty” in 1814, the island returned to the Netherlands.

Bonaire – interesting facts

The length of the island is 39 kilometers. Their width varies between four and eleven kilometers. Kralendijk acts as the island's capital. As of January 2023, their population was estimated at 22.000. This number includes the population of five other communities. Rincon, located in the north, also has city status. This town was the first city founded on Bonaire and was originally the island's capital. The number of all island residents is estimated at 24.000 people.

Bonaire - in the center of Kralendijk

Bonaire - in the center of Kralendijk


Bonaire – economic concerns

Tourism and salt production are crucial for the regional economy. Bonaire has an international airport. The island is also a paradise for water sports enthusiasts. Surfers, divers and snorkelers find ideal conditions on Bonaire. With 80 designated diving sites, Bonaire is one of the most beautiful diving areas in the world.

Bonaire - water sports enthusiasts' area
Bonaire - water sports enthusiasts' area


In connection with the establishment of the Bonaire Marine Park in 1971, strict rules were put in place to protect the underwater world. Another protected area is the Washington Slagbaai Nationaal Park, set up in the northwest of the island, with the Gotomeer, a freshwater lagoon known as a gathering place for flamingos. The national park protects around 20 percent of the island's area.


Gotomeer - paradise of flamingos


Gotomeer - paradise of flamingos


Bonaire - water sports enthusiasts


Bonaire - water sports enthusiasts


Bonaire – destination for cruise ships

Recently, around 170 cruise ships docked in the port of Kralendijk every year. A maximum of three large ships could dock. Over the course of the season, around 300.000 guests visited the island on cruise ships.

Bonaire - Cruise ship at the pier in Kralendijk
Bonaire - Cruise ship at the pier in Kralendijk


In order to protect nature and the marine environment as well as to develop local education, economy, culture and infrastructure, a service fee of US$ 2022 has been in effect for foreign visitors since summer 98. The value includes an entry fee of US$75. In addition, since January 2023, there has been an additional entry fee of $10 for guests entering on cruise ships, and for environmental reasons, only one large cruise ship is allowed to dock on Bonaire per day. It remains to be seen to what extent these measures will affect cruise tourism.

Kralendijk does not have a cruise terminal. A waterfront promenade leads along the jetty to the main street. In the South Pier Mall, visitors will find the tourist information center and various shops.

Means of payment: Although Bonaire belongs to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the US dollar has been the island's official means of payment since January 1, 2011. The Antillean guilder is pegged to the US dollar.

The official language is Dutch, the common language spoken by the locals is Papiamentu. English is the common language of tourism service providers.

We describe what visitors to Bonaire can see on an island tour below A day on Bonaire.

Update May 2024

My Shore Excursions Bonaire