Bonaire, which is part of the ABC islands, is an underwater paradise and an unblemished jewel. Though many might expect to find the country’s most valued treasures deep within the sea, explorers will be pleased to know that a wealth of bounty awaits them above water too. Prepare to journey with me to a well-preserved land, where natives speak Papiamento and Dutch and greet you with an unparalleled warmth. “Bon bini,” Which, means “welcome”- to the Southern Caribbean Island of Bonaire.
1. Island tour
Touring Bonaire, in all its unscathed brilliance, is a must do. From historic Rincon up north, to the serenity of the Pekelmeer Flamingo Sanctuary and the magnificence of the glistening pink water of the salt flats down south, this Dutch beauty is filled with hidden treasures at every turn. Also located in the southern portion of the island are concrete huts along White Slave and Red Slave beaches. These well-preserved shanties once housed Dutch owned slaves, offering visitors a glimpse into pre-abolition days. In other parts of the island, native Indian inscriptions have also been discovered, taking visitors back to another primitive period in time. There is so much to behold in this untroddened eco-friendly territory that it would take months to uncover it all. Additionally, there are several other outdoor activities to enjoy; like hiking, kayaking and of course snorkeling and diving, which draw many new and skilled divers to the island annually. Bonaire is truly an unspoiled masterpiece from top to bottom, giving tourists the option to venture out via automobile or bike, as part of a group or independently. My private tour was phenomenal!
Bonaire is one of the best places in the world to snorkel and dive, drawing hoards of water expeditionists from across the globe, to this breathtakingly beautiful, underwater oasis. Eager explorers set out on aquatic adventures each trip, in hopes of capturing something more magnificent than what they witnessed on the previous dive. Marine life is so diverse, that sea creatures range in color, size and kind. Bonaire also boasts of gorgeous reefs and traditionally calm and clear waters, making for an exceptional subaqueous time. Swimmers are often left in awe, at the breadth of shades and hues of life within the sea. While in Bonaire, I encountered my first snorkeling experience with Divi Dive Bonaire and was blown away, by both the striking colors of the sea, as well as by their premier service. Their well- seasoned and patient staff, under the guidance of their Belgium-born director, are careful in their instruction and dealings with each diver/snorkeler, regardless of level. They also offer daily dives and an array of classes to match each person’s skill set. They are located at Divi Flamingo & Casino Resort, a PADI 5-star dive resort. For more information, visit www.diviflamingo.com
3. Jibe City
Calling all windsurfers! Come one, come all- for one of the most incredible experiences of your lifetime. Suit up and head over to Lac Bay, to Jibe City to join the movement. Positioned within a nature reserve, the area boarders mangroves and barrier reefs. Due to a steady trade wind, Bonaire offers some of the most desirable conditions for the sport. Both amateur and professional windsurfers alike, flock to this stunning locale, in search of a thrilling time. Jibe City offers picture perfect views with its crystal clear and blue tinted waters, surf shops, equipment sales and rentals, the Hang Out Bar for famished and thirsty water enthusiasts and lessons for everyone, from beginners to more seasoned windsurfers. The energy in the area is relaxed and soothing, and the colors that surround the calm environment are vibrant. Jibe City is so peaceful and visually stimulating that I had a difficult time departing. Visitors can also snorkel, kayak and scuba dive (advanced divers) in the area. Visit www.jibecity.com for more info.
4. Cadushy Distillery
Cactus liqueur anyone? Yes, I said cactus. Located in the oldest settlement on the island, Rincon, is an incredibly rare distillery. The Cadushy Distillery, which was started by Holland natives, the Gietmans, is one of the most sui generis in all the world, because of its unique selection. Their signature creation, the Cadushy of Bonaire, is a premium, distinct liqueur with a silky taste, derived from the local cadushy cactus. The Cadushy of Bonaire is part of a full line of flavors, ranging from spicy to sweet, which pay homage to the Dutch Caribbean islands; including Kukul of Aruba, Calbas of Curacao, Gold of Statia, Spices of Saba and Orange of Orange, which was produced to “bind the islands together.” A flavor for St. Maarten is still in question. What’s most remarkable, is that the owners have managed to create a unique and smooth line of liqueurs that will appeal to a gamut of palates. I savored my time at the distillery, learning all about the ”liquid cactus” and the incredible process. Visit www.cadushy.com for more info.
5. Donkey Sanctuary
A visit to the Donkey Sanctuary is a fantastic way to spend time with the friendly four-legged residents of the island, while helping to support a great local cause. The compassionate founders, who are Dutch Nationals, opened the facility to help these often overlooked creatures who freely roam the land. The sanctuary so graciously provides shelter and a safe place for wounded, ailing and orphaned donkeys. Guests can tour the property by car, scooter or bike and witness the sweet animals up close and personal, as they are nursed back to full strength. Through the generous donations of donors, sponsors and adopters, the sanctuary will continue to make strides to preserve the population of donkeys on the island. To learn how you can assist this benevolent initiative visit www.donkeysanctuary.org to adopt a donkey, make a donatation or to help through sponsorship. Guests can also purchase items from the gift shop, which also helps to support sanctuary efforts. This is the perfect outing for singles, couples and families.
While on a brief holiday in Bonaire, I stayed at Divi Flamingo & Casino Resort. This lovely property is a breath of fresh air, resting upon the sea. Their amenities include two freshwater pools, two restaurants and a bar, a spa & salon, sun shelters, piers with direct water access, a fitness center, a casino, a PADI 5-star Resort Dive Center & Scuba School International, free wifi, hospitable staff and much more. I happily dined each day on luscious fruit, crisp salads and/or fresh fish at Divi’s open-air Chibi Chibi and pureocean who have delectable dishes on the menu and even themed nights with postcard perfect views. The resort atmosphere is so peaceful and tranquil that I found myself falling asleep before or after dinner oceanside on a couple different occasions. Divi is also a short walk into town, where local vendors showcase items near the cruise ship port on days when ships come in (which is only like once a week,) as well as where the shops and boutiques are located. After shopping, you can cool off at Gio’s over a scoop of gelato and drop off your souvenirs and postcards at the local post office on the walk back to the resort. From the soporific sounds of the ocean waves outside my room each night, to the affable natives who unselfishly share their beloved land, Bonaire is blissful in every possible way. As a result, this destination, which is just a short 15 min flight from Curacao, has become one of my new favorite refueling locations. If you are looking for a special place, I would highly recommend Bonaire for your next holiday.