Bonaire is the basically the ugly stepchild of the ABC islands. If you’re not that familiar with them, the ABC islands are Aruba, Bonaire & Curaçao all of which lie just north of South America on the coast of Venezuela. You have the party island Aruba, the diving island Bonaire and in middle geographically and both party & diving wise you have Curaçao.
Having been to the A & C of the group we finally decided to see what Bonaire’s famous diving was all about. Before leaving for Bonaire our thoughts were that it was an island that wasn’t as commercial as the others and maybe had some good diving spots, not much else. That changed fast. Boarding the airplane there was person after person wearing diving t-shirts and even a woman wearing her diving BCD. I was in diving heaven and at the same time a little worried about my wife who is only a part time diver and not very active at that. Luckily we brought along my diving partner brother and his non diving wife for company.
Our plan was simple. We rented a house right on the ocean that you could dive from along with a car to drive places. We also rented all of the extra diving stuff we needed along with 3 tanks a day from Flamingo Diving. They not only delivered the tanks bright and early every day, they even put them right into the house’s built in dive locker. We check prices and it was basically the same price as to rent from other places around. This island, the house, everything is 100% geared around divers. I have never seen anything like it.
We were ready to go as soon as we got there and it was as easy as gearing up, walking down a ladder to the water and heading out.
The diving right outside the door was incredible. A gradual cliff wall with beautiful wild life and a very light current.
Not only was it easy to dive right out back of the house, but driving up and down the seaside road all you had to do was look for a yellow marker and walk in the water.
We dove Alice in Wonderland, 1000 Steps, the Hilma Hooker, Andrea I & II, the Windsock, Angel City and a bunch of others. Day after day, 18 dives in 6 days.
The really cool part was that with the new ease of diving, my brother and I only used up very small part of the day diving. We woke up in the morning, did a dive off of the back porch and an less than an hour later were back hanging out with the wives. We left usually only for an hour and a half mid day and again late afternoon. Only about 4 hours a day spent diving and that included travel.
The big question was, what’s to do in the rest of Bonaire. We had been told by a friend that the nightlife was non existent and you would be in bed by 8pm, though they had not been on the island in 10 years. We weren’t really sure what they meant by nightlife anyway, if they meant Aruba nightlife then we were all for no nightlife.
What we found was incredible small beach bars dotted all along the coast that were infiltrated by locals and visitors alike. These were our kind of beach bars. They weren’t jam packed with tourists and there were plenty of seats. Day after day we met and talked to very interesting people from all over the world.
These places basically took a plot of land where they would have normally put a house and opened up beach bars and grills. Many within walking distance of our house.
Late afternoon while the we dove, the women took up residence waterside at the bars, their favorites being the Windsock & Summer Dreams. Luckily for us, they saved us seats for the big show every night.
A short drive from the house was the town of Kralendijk which is much easier to pronounce than it looks. Many of the bars and restaurants were open late and right on the water.
We also found nightlife that was to our liking at a bar called Little Havana. Local musicians held relaxing jam sessions at night and people danced and drank inside and all the way out into the street.
There was definitely cool stuff to do. We checked out the salt fields where tens of thousands of flamingos hung out eating brine, the giant salt piers, there were local breweries, tons of great restaurants, got a tour and drank a cactus at the Cadushy distillery where they make a fantastic rum, we hung out and snorkeled at a few of the great beaches and saw the huge crashing walls of surf on the other side of the island.
The beauty of the whole Bonaire island is in the beauty of the island. Unlike Aruba where it is the churn and burn of tourists, Bonaire has taken huge steps to conserve it’s natural beauty. There is no giant wall of corporate hotels lining the beach ruining the view. Cruise ships are few and far between. There wasn’t one night that we ate in Kralendijk when it had any cruise ship people around to clog up the restaurants.
It’s not just the beauty above the water, but the beauty below the water as well. Many locals have taken to cleaning up any garbage in any and all of their reefs on a daily basis.
You have a whole island that is working along with it’s ecosystem to preserve it.
We rated Bonaire our second favorite of the ABC islands. Curaçao is barely holding on at number one with Bonaire closing in fast, both are in our top 5 overall Caribbean islands. Dead last with no chance of moving up the ranks is Aruba.
If you are ever stressed and need to take time to figure out what life is all about then this is definitely the place to go!