During a recent trip to the Caribbean I took the liberty of traveling to Bonaire while visiting a neighboring island, Aruba. Bonaire? You say you’ve never heard of it? Well, I am quite sure that a majority of the people who do not live or travel to the Caribbean, individuals who are not familiar with dutch culture, and those who have never heard the term ABC islands are not familiar with the country. This jewel of an island is the smallest of the ABC (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao) trio of islands and is roughly 45 minutes away from Aruba by plane. Note that when you travel from Aruba, you will transfer planes in Curaçao where you will have to clear airport security again.
After making the short flight to Bonaire, you will walk into the airport terminal to process through immigration. Immigration for the island is a breeze as there is no paperwork required, you just present your passport, have the official stamp it, and off you go. The first thing you notice when exiting the airport are the bright colors on the surrounding buildings. The colors are similar to what you would see if you visited Florida. The capitol is Kralendijk which is easily accessible by a quick 10 minute cab ride which costs no more than $10. I actually took a cab to Kralendjik and walked back after lunch just because it was nice and hot and sunny and I just enjoy cardio on a tropical paradise.
During my journey I spent most of my time window shopping, admiring the architecture, visiting the tourist office and just gazing at the gorgeous water. Bonaire has some of the clearest water that I have seen in a while. It is not on the level of that in Turks and Caicos or Anguilla, but it is still very clear. It appears that the noon hour is the time of day when people are visit the local restaurants and here is a lot of activity and bustling. Prior to that time, it is so quiet that you can almost hear a pin drop.
Since I wanted the true local experience, I chose to dine at one of the local seaside establishments near the seaside, Julian’s Cafe and Restaurant. There were quite a few specials featured on the menu, but I opted for the mahi mahi since I was feeling for fish. There is nothing better than seeing cooks in the kitchen, preparing food with a ton of soul, a pound of love, and an ounce of sweat sans hairnet. Hear me when I say this, that had to be the MOST delicious meal that I’ve had in quite a while. The fish was grilled and include a side of rice, french fries, and a salad. The meal also included a beverage (non-alcoholic) and a dessert; my choice was the flan.
With my belly full and a big kool-aid smile on my face, I made the trek back towards the airport to visit a nearby beach. Prior to hitting the road for my 35 minute walk, I did a little browsing–once the gargantuan iguana allowed me to enter the store. Never I have I ever seen an iguana so darn big. I didn’t really find anything that I wanted and the shot glasses (my default souvenir item) were more expensive in town than at the airport store, so I set out on my journey to the beach. Since I am a summer baby, nothing makes me happier than having the sun shine on my face, feel the sand between my toes, and listen to the ocean waves crashing.
Bonaire is a very quiet, laid back island that prides itself on having some of the best diving sites. The local are very friendly and truly embody the sentiment “Once a visitor, always a friend” as they love to share their culture and history with you. During the 10 minute cab ride, I actually received a full history of the island, learned about some of the challenges, got tips on the best places to eat, and where to go to enjoy true local living. In that moment, I did not feel like a visitor at all and part of me would love to go back to experience more of island. Maybe one day, when I just need a very quiet, low-key holiday, I will return to this small jewel of the Caribbean.
What you should know before you go:
- There are approximately 16,000 people residing on the island as of the recent population poll.
- The official language for business if dutch; however, english, spanish, and papimento are widely spoken throughout the island as well.
- US currency is the official tender of the island.
- Free wi-fi is available throughout the island. The SSID is Surf-It!
- If you are purchasing alcohol from the duty-free store in the airport, please know that there is a limit of one bottle per person (boo hiss!). So, either make friends with a passenger who does not plan to purchase alcohol or lay back and enjoy your one bottle.
- There is no departure tax when exiting the island.