Bonaire, the Next 'It' Place in the Caribbean?
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Off the coast of Venezuela, next to Aruba and Curacao sits the “b” in the ABC islands: Bonaire. The lesser-known of the three islands, Bonaire is full of surprises.

Those who have heard of this Caribbean island know it primarily for its stellar scuba diving, and rightfully so. The coral reef here is just a few feet from the shoreline, which means you don’t need a boat to get to the epic scuba spots on the island. All you have to do is drive your truck to the shore, put your gear on, and walk right into a diver’s paradise.

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Those who don’t want to commit to scuba diving can still enjoy the beauty of snorkeling here. The water is teeming with living beauty, from plants to sea creatures and beyond. And with the clarity of the water and the bathwater-warm temperatures, you can spend hours adventuring around with your head underwater (just don’t forget to regularly reapply your sunscreen to avoid rookie first-day sunburn mistakes).

However, there is much more to Bonaire than what the water offers, and we are here to share all those wonders with you.

The adventures in Bonaire are not your typical, run-of-the-mill ones many people have come to expect from Caribbean islands. Rather than being packed to the brim with resorts, Bonaire is an island that still has a tight grasp on its raw, authentic beauty, and that’s the main reason why we love it.

So get your adventure hat on, and explore Bonaire with us.

Food

The food on Bonaire offers up the chance to try things you likely never have before. The popular local dishes here are goat stew and iguana soup. Your initial reaction may be a “no,” but if your diet allows, we highly suggest at least being a member of the one-bit club and giving them a try.

The perfect spot to introduce your tastebuds to these unusual dishes is Pasado Para Mira. This restaurant offers up top-notch local Bonarian food in a setting with views of the area. If you’re looking to experience the local cuisine in an even more authentic setting, we suggest heading to Divi Divi Bar. This no-frills spot serves all the Bonarian favorites, including a log of polenta, which here is called “funchi.”

Though trying the local food is a must, so is trying some of the other cuisines on the island that aren’t necessarily local. One such place is Donna & Giorgio. This Italian restaurant feels like you’ve stepped into someone’s home and are being like the guest of honor. The chef here is Giorgio himself, and the face of the restaurant is the wonderful Donna. This power couple has created a dining experience that is intimate and full of the most wonderful flavors.

For a Bonarian take on Spanish tapas, head to Bon Tapa where you can enjoy all kinds of shareable bites including fresh, local fish. Every Friday night Bon Tapa features a DJ spinning great tunes, so get here early enough to eat some tasty food, and leave some room for the bar’s mixologist to make you some tasty drinks that will get you in the mood to do some dancing.

Much to our surprise, Chinese restaurants are a big deal on this island, so be sure to try your hand at the multiple options around town for a unique take on this Asian cuisine.

Drinks

No trip to a Caribbean island is complete without checking out the hottest rum joints in town.

Coming in at the top is Tiki & Co. Before you even get a drink with an umbrella in hand, you’ll feel all the tropical vibes thanks to the decor that sets up the scene for you to dive deep into the aloha way of life. And the drinks will fully take you there. The drink menu is full of rich, tropical drinks with a Creole twist and before you know it, you’ll be dancing in the streets. Every drink and corner of this bar is photo-worthy, so prepare to be snapping away.

Another favorite spot to drink is a truly unique experience you won’t find anywhere else. The Cadushy Distillery is where the local liquor of Bonaire is created, and it’s made from the cacti found all over the island. This distillery is not only home to the unique cactus liquor (which comes in a variety of flavors) but is also home to the best rum you can find on the island (which means a lot on a Caribbean island). Pay a visit to the distillery not only to try the tasty products of this place but also to get the full Cadushy Experience with a tour of the headquarters in Rincon.

For a nice beachside dinner-turned-beach-nightclub, you don’t want to miss Ocean Oasis Beach Club. By day, you can enjoy tropical cocktails on the perfectly aesthetic beach day beds and lounge chairs while soaking up the Caribbean sun. And by night, you can slip into something a bit more fun and dance to local DJs with cocktails in hand. The clientele of this place at night tends to lean towards the younger side, so keep that in mind, but we think there is fun to be had for all adults here, no matter what age, as long as you’re in the right spirit.

Adventure

Once you’ve fueled yourself with some food and had a night out on the town, it’s time to get into the real gem of Bonaire: adventure.

Unlike other islands where adventures are usually booked through a resort, Bonaire allows you to choose your own adventure and find adventures wherever you go.

However, one experience we recommend booking ahead of time is windsurfing lessons at Jibe City. This beach is home to all things windsurfing and provides the most ideal conditions to learn this fun sport. But beware, it is more difficult than it looks. The pros that frequent Jibe City make it look like a piece of cake, but once you’re out there on the board, you quickly find that it takes practice and patience. When you finally get up on that board in the crystal clear blue water, with the wind blowing through your hair, you’ll feel unstoppable.

Explore off the mainland by taking a water taxi to Klein Bonaire, an uninhabited island protected as part of the Bonaire National Marine Park. The water visibility here is next-level and is kept so pristine thanks to the fact that this island is essentially deserted, save the daily group of visitors that come for a few hours of fun in the sun. Be sure to pack a picnic because there are no facilities of any kind on this island and chances are good that once you’ve made the trek here via water taxi, you’ll probably stay long enough to get hungry. The taxi leaves from Karel’s Beach Bar (which is a great spot to grab some breakfast before heading out) a few times a day and the last boat from Klein Bonaire back to the mainland is at 4:45 p.m.

There are other ways to explore the worlds underneath the surface of Bonaire besides snorkeling and scuba diving – you can also do it via a guided cave tour. There are an estimated 400 caves on this island that are home to ancient formations of both stalactites and stalagmites that have existed for thousands of years. The cave tours take you through both wet and dry caves, so come prepared with your snorkeling gear, a bathing suit, a pair of tennis shoes, and some courage to go into the underworld.

Back above ground, try your hand at golfing like you’ve never done before. Golfing is typically associated with rolling green fairways lined with trees, but at Piedra So, things are very different. Here, the fairways are known as “browns,” which means they are comprised of natural vegetation, a.k.a dirt. And instead of trees lining the fairway, you’ve got cacti spread all over that will eat your ball alive. This is a truly unique golfing experience that really puts your skill to the test.

There are countless places to enjoy the sunset on the island of Bonaire, but one of our favorite spots is 1000 Steps. Here, the desert meets the ocean where you’ll find turtles poking their heads above water as you watch the sun drop behind the horizon. And, surprisingly, the place isn’t as overrun with visitors as you may expect. You may even be lucky enough to get the beach all to yourself for a truly memorable evening.

If you’re looking to see some colors besides the stunning blue of the ocean, we suggest heading to the pink salt pans. Here you’ll find manmade mountains of salt as well as the pink salt in the pans, which gets its color from the brine shrimp. There aren’t activities per se to do here, but the visual appeal of this tourist attraction will have you taking tons of pictures.

Accommodations

Bonaire offers several different unique options for accommodations. The only all-inclusive resort on the island, Plaza Beach Resort Bonaire, is in the process of undergoing major renovations that will level this place up to a luxurious all-inclusive experience.

For a quiet beachside stay, we suggest Delfins Beach Resort. This luxury property is home to nearly 150 apartments and 13 villas with all the amenities you need to feel at home. The beach bar and the restaurant, Brass Boer, provide the ideal setting for a nice meal and a drink while taking in the views. And how nice that your room is only steps away?

There really is no wrong time to visit the island of Bonaire, as it is outside of the hurricane belt so you never have to worry about things getting too crazy with the weather here.

Also, language won’t be much of a barrier here, as most people on the island speak English. The local language is Papiamento, a Spanish Creole language that is a mix of Dutch and Portuguese. However, both English and Dutch are widely spoken here. Bonaire, though located in the Caribbean off the coast of Venezuela, is a municipality of the Netherlands, so you will find many Dutch people on the island as well. Also, the local currency is U.S. dollars, which keeps things nice and simple for Americans.

If you’re looking for a typical Caribbean island experience, then Bonaire is not the place for you. This place is for those who are looking for a unique adventure and are willing to get their hands a little dirty to explore.

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