Diving in Bonaire
Bonaire is located 50 miles north of Venezuela and 86 miles east of Aruba, well outside of the hurricane belt. It is part of the A-B-C (Aruba - Bonaire - Curacao) island chain. It's pristine reefs and diverse marine life are unique to the Caribbean. Because the waters around the island are designated as an official marine park, diving Bonaire is like diving the Caribbean the way it used to be - untouched and unspoiled. The island's location in the south Caribbean gives it an arid climate with little rainfall; consequently, the waters are exceptionally clear of silt, calm, and divable year round. It is an ideal destination for underwater photographers.
Water temperatures average a warm 78-84°F , with visibility often averaging between 100-150 feet. If you are planning a trip to Bonaire and have a dive/hotel package you will be given a thorough dive orientation and briefing before your first dive on the island. One of the Bonaire Marine Park Regulations is for all visitors to do a check-out dive as part of the briefing process before taking off on their own to shore dive or going on a dive boat. The main reasons for this are to have each diver check buoyancy so that damage to the reef is minimized or eliminated and also to check out their dive equipment, whether it be rented or owned.
Also, every diver on Bonaire must purchase a Marine Park Tag for $25 (payable to the dive shop), which is valid for one calendar year. Orientation procedures vary from dive center to dive center, so it's a good idea to check in early. The license plates may read Diver's Paradise but it would be a mistake to think that great diving and snorkeling are the only activities for which this island is famous. People who visit solely for the Marine Park may be surprised to find themselves caught up in Bonaire's world-renowned windsurfing. Other popular topside activities include: birdwatching, sea kayaking, mountain biking, cave snorkeling, sailing or horseback riding. Bonaire's dive site.
Passport and/or Visa Requirements
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: US and Canadian citizens must have a valid Passport, valid at least three months beyond the planned period of stay. No visa is required for stays shorter than 90 days. EXIT REQUIREMENTS: The departure tax is USD $36.05 per person, which should be included in your international airline ticket taxes, so thre should be nothing to pay at the airport. Domestic departure tax is $9.27 to Curacao, St. Maarten, Saba, St. Eustatius or Aruba and should also be included in your airline ticket taxes.
No vaccinations or preventative medications are required for travel to Bonaire. Check with the Centers for Disease Control on recommended vaccinations for travel at cdc.gov
Culture and Customs
Bonaire was claimed by Spain in 1499. In 1636 the Dutch took possession and in the late 1600’s African slaves were brought to work on the island. In the early 1800’s Bonaire was occupied by various countries due to changing European politics and in 1816 returned back to the Dutch. Bonaire was a member of the Netherlands Antilles islands. On 10-10-2010 The Netherlands Antilles dissolved and Bonaire is part of the Netherlands. Bonaire is part of the BES islands which forms part of the Dutch Caribbean.
This melting pot of history can be seen on the faces of Bonaire’s locals, representing dozens of ethnic and racial influences. The culture recognizes many religious and holiday celebrations. Many traditions include origins from African homelands, European Harvest and Fest days. There are local dances and music unique to Bonaire.
Electricity, Phone and Internet Access
Electricity is 127 volt, 50 cycle. Many dive shops offer stations for charging lights, strobes or delicate equipment.
Most hotels offer WiFi and some local restaurants and bars offer WiFi. Surf-it hotspots are available with a Surf-it prepaid card from Telbo. Calling Bonaire requires dialing 011-599-7 and 6 digit number. Be sure to check with your cell phone carrier to see if they offer an international plan or you will be subject to roaming charges.
Bonaire offers desalinated sea water which is purified and safe to drink. Bottled water is also available for purchase.
Language & Currency
There are 4 main languages spoken in Bonaire, Dutch is the official one used in government and legal transactions, while Papiamentu is used in daily exchanges and spoken by the locals. English and Spanish are also widely spoken.
As of January 1, 2011, the U.S. Dollar became the official currency of Bonaire. Credit cards are normally accepted in most restaurants, bars and stores. It is recommended you contact your credit card company before travel to make sure they know you will be using the card out of the country. ATMs are available which Cirrus, NYCE and other networks.
Bonaire is in the Atlantic Time Zone (AST) and does not observe Daylight Savings Time. Bonaire is 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-4 GMT).
History, Art, and Culture
With a comfortably dry climate and steady trade winds (the very conditions that have made it a windsurfing mecca), Bonaire has long been recognized as an ideal locale for the production of salt. For over three centuries, the island's culture and prosperity was dependent upon this most important of the world's spices. Salt is still produced on Bonaire, though the stunning salt beds of Pekelmeer are also home to one of the hemisphere's great populations of flamingoes. Bonaire's first inhabitants were the Caiquetios, a branch of the Arawak Indians who sailed across from what is now Venezuela around 1000 AD. Traces of Caiquetio culture are visible at a number of archaeological sites, including those at Lac Bay and northeast of Kralendijk. Rock paintings and petroglyphs have survived at the caves at Spelonk, Onima, Ceru Pungi, and Ceru Crita-Cabai. The Caiquetios were apparently a very tall people, for the Spanish dubbed the Leeward Islands 'las Islas de los Gigantes' (the islands of the giants). The name the Caiquetios given to their island was adapted into Spanish as 'Boynay.' Read more here.
Location, Size and Population
Bonaire is 24 miles long by 3-7 miles wide, approximately 111 square miles. The small island offshore, Klein Bonaire, which is uninhabited is 2.3 square miles. Bonaire is located just 30 miles from Curacao, 50 miles North of Venezuela and 80 miles East of Aruba. Bonaire is located in the Leeward Antilles in the Caribbean Sea and outside of the Hurricane Belt. The population of Bonaire is 18,900 (2016).