Bonaire in the Dutch Antilles is one of the Caribbean's best dive destinations. A near-pristine protected reef system combined with warm water and little or no current makes for some of the best diving I've ever experienced. The clear blue waters are full of fish of all kinds as well as many other little critters, and with more than half of the dive sites offering shore entry, Bonaire is a destination where you can truly dive to your hearts content.
Getting to Bonaire is relatively easy from North America as well as Europe (well, at least The Netherlands). There are generally daily flights from Houston and Miami in the US, although there may be seasonal variations.
Once you get there, you have a number of options for places to stay, from dedicated dive resorts to luxury villas or self-catering condominiums. The dive resorts will have their own dive operations, and there are other dive shops around the main beach area where you can rent equipment and arrange trips. However, it must be said that Bonaire is one place where you can easily go your own way and enjoy a lot of interesting shore dives. All you need is transport, and pickup rentals are plentiful around town.
Getting to Bonaire
About the only way to get to Bonaire is by plane. Aside from the occasional cruise ship, there is no regular boat or ferry service to the other islands of the Antiles or to the South American mainland.
From North American, both United and Delta airlines have more or less daily flights, depending on the season. You can also fly to Bonaire from Europe via the Dutch airlines KLM and ArkeFly.
Bonaire Dive Resorts
There is a good range of hotels, resorts and other accommodation options on Bonaire. Almost all of them are along the sea fron of Kralendijk stretching north of the airport, and many cater to divers.
The grand-daddy of all the dive resorts is Captain Don's Habitat. The late Captain Don mapped out many of the dive sites and was instrumental in the drive to establish the marine park which protects the reef. The resort has its own dive shop and boats, and the house reef itself is one of the best dive sites in Bonaire. When I stayed here in 2014, I dived the ‘La Machaca” almost every day, and almost always found something new, such as frogfish, seahorses, juvenile moray eels, and more.
Right next door to Captain Don's is Buddy Dive, which caters more to people who would like to explore the dive sites of the main island on their own. You can rent a pickup truck from the resort and drive yourself to any of the 60 or so identified dive sites around the island. When you've emptied your tanks, the resort has a drive-in refill center where you can get more air and be on your way quickly.
If you need a larger accommodation with two or three bedrooms, or would like some self catering options, then check out Sand Dollar Condominium.
You can find more options for hotels on Bonaire and compare rates from several web sites at Hotels Combined.
Bonaire Dive Shops
Most of the larger dive resorts have their own dive shops and boats, but if you are staying in smaller accommodations or looking for some specialty assistance, here are a few ideas:
- Dive Friends Bonaire
- Dive Friends has several outlets and shops around Bonaire. They offer all the standard services, including PADI training, dive gear rentals and dive trips.
Deco Day Activities
Most options for no-dive day activities around Bonaire involve trips around the island. There's a flamingo sanctuary as well as a donkey rest home on the south end, and a large wildlife preserve on the north end. You can rent a car (if you haven't already got one for shore diving) and do-it-yourself tour, or there are of course tour agencies where you can arrange to someone else to do the work. I personally prefer to rent a bicycle and go for a ride, either up north or around the south. There are a couple of shops around town that rent bikes, as well as scooters and motorcycles. There isn't much in the way of dedicated bike lines on the island, but there's generally little enough traffic for it not to be a problem.