In the Caribbean Sea north of Venezuela, Bonaire is the "B" of the ABC islands. Bonaire lacks Aruba's glitzy diversions, but avid scuba divers have preferred this unspoiled treasure for years. With its clear waters, stunning coral reef just feet from shore and vibrant marine life, tiny Bonaire is one of the best places in the Caribbean for diving and snorkeling. Capital city, Kralendijk, is a sleepy little seafront town with the best shopping and nightlife options. Those who come to Bonaire for quiet beach time find a laid-back island.
Swimmers prefer the tranquil leeward coast, but the east coast is rough and dangerous. No Name Beach on Klein Bonaire has a pretty white-sand strip and is popular with divers and snorkelers. In Lac Bay, both Lac Bay Beach and Sorbon Beach aren't too deep, which make them ideal destinations for families. For a traditional beach experience, Eden Beach has a bar and restaurant, but snorkelers will want to view the wealth of marine life in the shallow water.
Things to Do
Bonaire is prized for what the island's license plate boasts, a "Diver's Paradise." Most of the 80 dive sites are accessible by shore, and house a rich marine ecosystem, including anemones, parrotfish, sea horses and corals. Snorkelers aren't slighted, with opportunities to swim among sea turtles. Kralendijk's Fort Oranje may be small, but the quaint building is the oldest on Bonaire. Walk among fanciful stalactites and stalagmites in the island's many caves, such as Barcadera.
Eating and Drinking
Despite Bonaire's size, dining options are more diverse than you might think -- the restaurant scene includes cuisines from Continental to French to Asian. Try local specialties such as keshi yena, cheese stuffed with meat, or kabritu stoba, goat stew. Go for casual meals at Kon Tiki and Rum Runners, but don't skip the fresh seafood at La Balandra, designed after a Spanish schooner. Dutch beer and extravagant umbrella drinks top the beverage menus at island bars.
Bonaire has some of the region's best bird watching. Look for Caribbean pink flamingos at the Salina Matijs, or parakeets at Bronswinkel Well, situated at the foot of Mount Brandaris, the island's highest peak. The Washington-Slagbaai National Park fills much of Bonaire's northern end. The land, formerly a plantation, is home to cacti, iguanas, blue lizards, parakeets and parrots. Talk to the animals at Bonaire's Donkey Sanctuary, home to the wild donkeys that used to roam the island.