Adventures Begin When the Pavement EndsGet out of town and the scenery changes. When the pavement ends, the wild side of Bonaire comes into view. Unique rock formations sit atop cactus-covered slopes, hidden valleys reveal oases shaded by tamarind trees, and windswept coastlines end in surf-washed cliffs. The entire north end of the island is now a national park, and tour buses don't venture onto the rough and rocky roads that run deep into the interior or lead to secluded coves. Make the trip in the company of a local guide to not only experience the thrill of an offroad adventure but also discover the natural history of this rugged, fascinating land.
- Best for: Everyone with a love of water and nature
- Best season to visit: Year-round, as it's below the hurricane belt
- Weather: 70s, sunny and dry in the winter, 80s in the summer, with occasional afternoon or evening showers
Offroading in Bonaire Overview
Aside from town streets and primary highways, much of Bonaire's interior and the island's northern and eastern coasts are accessed only by unpaved roads. This includes all routes within Washington Slagbaai National Park, as well as trails leading into the hills near Rincon and the unsettled windward shore.
Offroading in Bonaire Tips
Four-wheel-drive vehicles are available from several rental agencies on Bonaire, but it is not generally advised—or in some cases allowed—to take these vehicles off road, as the terrain can be unforgiving, and many routes are not marked. It's better to join a guided tour, and leave the driving to the local experts.
Best Places for Offroading in Bonaire
The road to Boka Kokolishi ends at a windswept cliff where crashing surf fills tidal pools in a hidden cove. An offroad excursion to the east coast takes in the pre-Columbian hieroglyphs at Spelonk Cave, along with unique rock formations and the ruins of former plantations along the Bara di Karta Trail. A stop at Pos Magel provides a chance to view wildlife and native plants.
What to Pack for Offroading in Bonaire
Wear sturdy walking shoes suitable for clambering around rocks during tour stops. Bring sunglasses to provide eye protection and enhance colors. A hard case will keep cameras and mobile devices from getting bumped about when stashed in a backpack. For longer tours that include swimming and snorkeling stops, add a bathing suit, towel and swim mask.
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Passport and/or Visa Requirements
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Entry Requirments: 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 Requirments: The departure tax is USD $36.05 per person, which should be included in your international airline ticket taxes, so there 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 provides a low-key take on island life. Bonairean culture blends the traditions of Spain, Africa and the Netherlands. Locals who may initially display the discrete reserves of the Dutch quickly prove warm and accommodating of visitors. And despite decades of tourism, the service industry mentality does not dominate the cultural psyche. Cruise ships now call at the Kralendijk waterfront, but divers remain the main source of business for on-island resorts. Nightlife is more likely to mean a sunset dinner at the harbor followed by a stroll to an ice cream shop, or tall tales of underwater adventures shared at a waterfront tiki bar, with a reasonable bedtime in anticipation of tomorrow's adventures. And there are ample adventures to be found. Washington Slagbaai National Park covers the entire northern end of the island, creating an outdoor playground for hiking, mountain biking, birding and day trips to small surf-washed coves hidden within iron shore bluffs. The trade winds that cool the island also power kite boarders, and the sheltered waters of Lac Bay are home to Jibe City, one of the Caribbean's epicenters of windsurfing action. Blue water fishermen don't have to travel far to hook up with trophy catches, kayakers can find shelter in mangrove channels, and sailing charters provide a relaxing way to skim the coastline without venturing into open ocean. An experience unique to Bonaire are the cave snorkel trips that take swimmers into clear pools of fresh water hidden below the island's limestone substrate.
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).
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).