Back in November of last year, I spent 5 whirlwind days on Bonaire. Way too short if you ask me. Then again, it’s never long enough when you’re having fun. I definitely left on a high and haven’t been able to stop thinking about my 5 fantabulous days on the island since.
Bonaire is 113 square miles of raw beauty. The surrounding waters are some of the clearest I have seen and the marine life here is rich to say the least. It is no wonder it’s one of the underwater capitals of the world. People from all over flock to Bonaire for the exceptional diving. But I can tell you that this Dutch Caribbean island is so much more than just a divers paradise and a pretty “face”.
Since this is a quickie post, I’m keeping it to the point and sweet. So, without much ado let’s “dive” right onto it, shall we?
You must eat here
We took the long way to the little village of Rincon one day and came across Posada Para Mira, a restaurant in the middle of nothing. Perched on top of a hill. It has the most breathtaking views of the the Bonaire wilderness around. Literally translated from the local language of Bonaire, Papiamentu, the name means “Stand and look around Inn. This family-run restaurant is on the edge of the village and offers delicious local cuisine. I was dying for some fried fish and funchi (local polenta) and it did not disappoint.
The owner brought us two shots of local rums to try. The rum is made at a distillery in the nearby Rincon village. One is made out of cactus, which Bonaire surely has plenty of and the other made out of “Yerba di Hole” or Sweet Basil.
My friends kept talking about this food truck called Kite City. We drove by a couple of times but always had a reason not to stop. Either we had already eaten or we had dinner plans, or the truck was closed. This of course only made me want it more. By day four I had enough of the excuses. It was time to stop at Kite City and see, or rather taste what everyone was talking about.
Perfectly located on the beautiful Te Amo beach, Kite City is well known for its fish burgers. Actually all its burgers but as a pescatarian I can only talk about the fish. It’s a popular little lunch spot with locals and visitors alike, and it’s easy to see why. The location is great, the Kite City guys are fun and the food….Oh. My. God. the food is amazing. Hands down best fish burger ever.
You have to stop here, here and here
Take a drive around gorgeous Bonaire and take your time. There is so much beauty on this island. The nature is wild and beautiful. That is what I like most about Bonaire. There is nature everywhere. While exploring the Northern side of the island, make sure to stop at the 1,000 steps. I saw a picture of these steps on Instagram and knew I wanted to see them for myself during my brief visit. Here’s the kicker: there are not actually 1,000 steps. Not even close. But it leads to a pretty beach below, popular with divers and the stairs photograph very well. Just check out my Instagram post.
Flamingos are almost synonymous with Bonaire. Hell, the airport is named after these stunning pink birds. You will see flamingos where there is water. We saw a few here and there on our drive through the North but it was on our drive to Lac Bay that I really got to see them in large groups.
Lac Bay was a must for me because of all the many fun childhood memories I have there. I was delightfully surprised to see that it still looks the same, conch shell hills and all. Like the name already suggests Lac is a bay (duh!), the largest in the Dutch Caribbean. Because of the barrier reef the water is quite shallow, about 2 feet, which allows you to walk quite far from the shore and still have the water only reach your midriff.
It’s a popular snorkeling site but my love for this bay has less to do with the water and everything to do with what’s on shore. There are fishing shacks here serving the best and the freshest fish (and conch). I did not get to eat here on this trip but I remember these shacks well from when I was younger and if the lunch crowd is any indication, I would say it still serves great fish. Conch is very popular on Bonaire not only because of the meat but also because of the shells. There used to be an abundance of conch in the Lac Bay, but because of overfishing it has become quite extinct. Today the conch shell hills serve as a reminder of this overfishing.
On the other side of Lac Bay is Sorobon, where you will find some restaurants and a small hotel. It’s a great spot for snorkeling, beaching and mojitos.
Now it’s time to take a drive South. Oh, and what a scenic drive it is. On this drive you will find everything from flamingos to wild donkeys, a bit of history, kite surfing, pretty beaches and lots of salt. Yes, you read that right. Heaps and heaps of salt. I’m not kidding. Bonaire was taken over by the Dutch centuries ago mainly because of its salt. Slaves were brought in to work on the salt pans initially. The salt production may have slowed because of the abolition of slavery but a working salt mine remains on Bonaire today, sans slaves I might add.
Speaking of slavery. The slaves used to be housed in tiny huts near the salt pans. When I say tiny, I mean tiny. These slave huts are approximately 5 feet by 5 feet, barely 20 inches in height and used to house about 6 slaves in each. Barbaric, to say the least. The huts serve as a reminder of the island’s cruel past.
Another must on your drive in the South is the Willemstoren lighthouse. Bonaire has two historic beacons and three historic lighthouses of which this one is the most well known. Next to the tower is what remains of the lighthouse keeper’s house.
Something that is easily missed on this drive is the “Graf di Portugues” or the Portuguese sailor’s grave. It is said to house the remains of an unidentified sailor whose boat shipwrecked near Bonaire. The real history is a mystery and not much is known about this gravesite either.
You must make time for these
Caribbean sunsets are epic and what better way to enjoy them than on a boat? We were invited for a little cruise along the coast of Bonaire in a very interesting sailing vessel called Aquaspace. I highly recommend it. Click here for my experience on board.
I mentioned earlier about the wild donkeys. It is definitely captivating to see these animals live freely in the wild but it’s a dangerous life for them. Many of the roads on the island are poorly lit or not lit at all and there have been quite a few cases of cars colliding with roaming donkeys. These animals are then left hurt or worse, dead on the side of the road. Enter scene: Marina Melis, a Godsend to the donkeys of Bonaire. She and her husband started the Donkey Sanctuary, taking in the wounded, the orphaned and the senior donkeys. The sanctuary now houses about 800 donkeys who live happily and protected on a huge piece of property. They depend on donations to keep this project going so please visit their website to see how you can help.
You can also contribute to this wonderful cause by visiting the sanctuary where you can drive around and see the donkeys in their habitat, experience the feeding of all 800 animals (a massive effort) and see the jacks and jennies (baby donkeys). For just $3 a bag you can purchase carrots to feed the donkeys with. Warning: prepare to be swamped.
Bonaire has a very small community. The capital is charming and cute. At first sight it doesn’t seem to have much to offer to the average shopaholic but looks can be deceiving. I loved the slow pace and the great island fashion you can find in downtown Bonaire or Playa as it’s called by the locals.
Last but certainly not the least important thing to take time for when on Bonaire is a massage. But don’t take just any massage. Take it from me, go to Namaste Relaxation Studio located at Captain Don’s Habitat and ask for Grace or how I like to call her, “Magic Hands”. I had an amazing massage in their outdoor cabana on a cliff, with the sounds of the ocean in the background.
What an amazing experience and definitely one of the best massages I have ever had. I’m not big on massages so this coming from me is everything. Shoutout to Nancy Hart, the owner of the spa who thought I could use a massage after surviving Irma.
So you see, Bonaire has so much more to offer than just great diving and snorkeling. Actually I haven’t set foot in the ocean while I was there. There was simply no time. There was too much to explore on land and that’s ok. I now have an excuse to go back. Not that I needed any.
*all the above is based on my personal experiences and opinions.