Bonaire has a handful of museums and cultural attractions, but most people come to this tiny Dutch Caribbean island first and foremost for its wonderful diving and snorkeling: Bonaire's barrier reef is well-protected and considered one of the most vibrant and healthy habitats of its kind in the world. Back on land, Bonaire visitors also tend toward outdoors activities with an active edge, from mountain biking to the exotic and exhilarating experience of landsailing.
Bonaire is not only the top dive destination in the Caribbean, it's one of the best in the world. The reefs surrounding the island have been declared the healthiest in the region and a "model of reef sustainability" by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Bonaire is the peak of a submerged volcanic mountain, with sloping reefs just 30 feet from the shore, so you don't need to join a charter boat to get great diving. Underwater visibility is 100 feet year-round, and there are 86 marked dive sites, including:
- The Hilma Hooker shipwreck at the beginning of the double reef system, an advanced dive with a depth of 60-100 feet
- The 1,000 Steps, a great novice dive just offshore with light currents and ample marine life
- Captain Don’s Reef, a must-dive for all levels.
Woodwind Sailing Cruises groups follow owner and guide Dedrie Petersen's lead to snorkel and (if they choose) free dive along the margins of Klein Bonaire, a tiny island and nature preserve off Bonaire's coast. Explore the coast's "live aquarium" underwater life, and if you're lucky, see a group of sea turtles!
Bonaire's Sorobon Beach is ideal for windsurfers, especially beginners, limiting the number of variables one has to contend with. Most novice windsurfers are quickly up on their boards, manipulating the sail to catch the wind and flipping it slowly to turn oh-so-delicately without falling. You don't go very fast at first, but that's beside the point: the challenges are many for a neophyte, and every small accomplishment is filled with the thrill of the new.
The first leg of the kayak route through Bonaire's mangroves feels like a Disney ride: you're squeezed into a tunnel of trees with no room to paddle, gently bumping off tangles of roots on either side. Unlike a Disney ride, this trip sometimes threatens to be both buggy and boring, but is redeemed at the very end.
Roan Jaspers brings a talent for kiteboarding honed in the frigid waters of the North Sea to the warmer currents of Bonaire's coast. $210 will get you a three-hour, one-on-one lesson on the ins-and-outs of kiteboarding ($135 for two people), complete with equipment. $600 will get you three sessions of the same, helping you on your way to becoming a competent practitioner of an exciting, emerging sport. Kiteboarding Bonaire has been around for seven years and is the only kiteboarding school on the island.
Rocks, hills, sandy desert, and all-around tough terrain marks Bonaire's mountain biking scene. In other words: perfect for enthusiasts. There are trails all over the island, cutting through the kunuku outback, the elusive town of Rincon, and advanced runs through Bonaire's Washington/Slagbaai National Park. Several tour operators can get you there.