Bonaire's beaches are narrow and full of coral, but they're clean, intimate, and uncrowded. Swimming on the tranquil leeward coast is never a problem, but the east coast is rough and dangerous. Be careful venturing into the water barefoot; the coral chunks and jagged coral bottom can be sharp, and sea urchins like to hide in crevices, where it's easy to step on them by accident. If that happens, local doctors are practiced at removing these brittle and easily broken spines, but if segments remain, they will soon dissolve on their own.
The water at Lac Bay Beach and Sorobon is only .6m (2 ft.) deep, making it popular with families and windsurfers. In a protected area of Bonaire's southeast coast, it boasts windsurfing concessions and snack bars on one end and quiet, safe shallow waters toward the point. Trees and the makeshift platform for viewing windsurf competitions provide shade. A taxi from town will cost you $20 each way so it may be more economical to rent a car or go in a group of four.
Klein Bonaire, less than a mile west of Kralendijk, boasts No Name Beach, which features Bonaire's only classic white-sand strip. Parrotfish and yellowtail snappers patrol the finger, brain, and mustard hill corals, attracting snorkelers and divers. A water taxi from the town pier costs about $20 round-trip and leaves at 10am, noon, and 2pm. No facilities and little shade exist on the island, so bring water, a snack, and a coverup. One can also go for a quick dip a few steps south of the cruise dock at the postage-stamp-size Playa Chachacha, named in honor of a woman who once lived across the street. It's calm and safe for young children.
For a more traditional beach experience with all the amenities, try the 112m (367-ft.) stretch called Eden Beach just north of Kralendijk. The shallow water is loaded with marine life, so bring a snorkel and mask, and watch where you step. The dive shop at the south end maintains a small pier from which you can spot fish, sponges, and coral. There are both a restaurant and a beach bar that provide snacks and refreshments.
North of Kralendijk, stairs descend a limestone cliff to the white sand and bleached coral chunks of 1,000 Steps Beach, which offers good snorkeling and diving. There are only about 75 steps down to the picturesque coves, craggy coastline, and tropical waters of changing hues, but there are no facilities to be had.
Farther north, Washington-Slagbaai National Park boasts a number of beaches. Boka Slagbaai, once a plantation harbor, draws snorkelers and picnickers. A 19th-century building houses toilets, showers, a restaurant, and a breezy bar. If so inclined, contact the park headquarters (tel. 599/717-8444) to find out about overnight rentals of a room or one of the historic buildings, which are about the size of a cottage. Aside from a solar-powered lamp and cold running water, the buildings are virtually empty so you'd be roughing it in paradise for certain.
The island's northernmost beach, Boka Cocolishi, is a perfect spot to picnic, but it's not safe to swim. Algae make the water purplish, and the sand, formed by coral and mollusk shells, is black. The water's treacherous at Playa Chikitu, but the cove, sand dunes, and crashing waves are secluded and beautiful. If the East of Eden vibe overcomes you with romantic inclinations, be wary of a surprise visit by the park rangers, who may pass by on their daily patrol.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.