Eighty kilometers (50 miles) north of Venezuela and 138km (86 miles) east of Aruba, Bonaire is the "B" of the ABC islands. There's no better place to find out what's going on under the Caribbean's azure waters than this "Diver's Paradise," as the island's license plate boasts. Bonaire is slightly larger than Aruba, just 39km (24 miles) long and 5 to 11km (3-7 miles) wide. Bonaire has none of Aruba's glitzy diversions, but avid divers have flocked to this unspoiled treasure for years. With its pristine waters, stunning coral reefs encircling the island just feet from shore, and vibrant marine life, Bonaire is one of the best places in the Caribbean for both diving and snorkeling.
Even though they eagerly seek tourism, Bonaire isn't interested in creating another Aruba, with its high-rise hotel blocks. This sleepy island doesn't attract crowds and has none of Aruba's glitzy diversions. Dining is equally simple, with restaurants featuring local seafood usually served in open-air restaurants overlooking the water.
Bonaire is a bird-watcher's haven, where flamingos nearly outnumber the sparse human population. There are about 200 different species of birds -- not only the flamingo, but also the big-billed pelican, parrots, snipes, terns, parakeets, herons, and hummingbirds. Bonaireans zealously protect their precious environment. Spearfishing isn't allowed in its waters, nor is the taking or destruction of any coral or other living animal from the sea. Unlike some islands, Bonaire isn't just surrounded by coral reefs -- it is the reef, sitting on the dry, sunny top of an underwater mountain. Come here for the diving, not the beaches.
Before you go, contact the Bonaire Government Tourist Office (or TCB for short; tel. 800/BONAIRE [266-2473]) or check out their informative website, www.tourismbonaire.com, for links to other helpful sites. On the island, the Tourism Corporation Bonaire is at Kaya Grandi 2 in Kralendijk (crawl-en-dike), the capital and major town (tel. 599/717-8322).
Pick up a copy of Bonaire Affair, Bonaire Nights, Bonaire Dining Guide, and Bonaire Update for information on where to shop, play, eat, and stay. The Bonaire Dive Guide provides up-to-date information on the best dive and snorkel sites.
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.