Bonaire is the perfect place to escape, unwind and enjoy a little-known piece of paradise. This Caribbean island is part of the Dutch Caribbean, and is nestled beside Aruba, close to South America. Outside of the hurricane alley, this idyllic paradise is known for its crystal clear waters, and amazing underwater marine life. Here, the average is 27.8 degrees Celsius and crowds are virtually non-existent. Getting there is a breeze thanks to a direct flight from Sunwing, the only Canadian tour operator that can set you up with sweet accommodations and flights to make your vacation stress-free. In less than five hours, you’ll be sipping drinks on the beach. Welcome to paradise.
Explore the island
Bonaire may be small, but it offers a wealth of activities and diverse landscapes. Take some time to tour around the island by booking a tour, or explore on your own. Bonaire is dotted with caves that are home to eight different types of bats. On the south side of the island, towering pyramids of salt crystals can be seen. Each pyramid is about 50 feet tall, and consists of 10,000 tons of 99.6 percent pure salt. Salt has been harvested here for centuries. Slaves were brought over to harvest the salt, and grim reminders can be seen today at the historic Slave Huts nearby. Here, you’ll also find flocks of bright pink flamingos on protected lands. On the north side of the island, the landscape becomes wilder. There are hills, mangroves and large swatches of wild cacti. You can spot wild goats and donkeys roaming the land here. On the east side lies Sorobon Beach. You’ll have to pinch yourself to believe that you aren’t at a surf beach in California. At this windsurfing beach, bright colours and turquoise waters abound as windsurfers glide across the sea. Grab a drink at Jibe City and enjoy the laid back vibe.
Sprawl out at a beach resort
The Plaza Beach Resort Bonaire is a peaceful, relaxed resort that’s close to the airport and downtown Kralendijk. Rooms are spacious with dark hardwood floors, flat screen TVs and balconies that face the lagoon or beach. Breakfast is enjoyed with fresh croissants in the open air restaurant with views of the sea. There’s an onsite 115ft deep reef where you can snorkel or dive to see turtles, large fish, sting rays and more. Is relaxation more your speed? You can swim in the large pool, grab a drink at the outdoor bars, visit the yoga studio or curl up with a good book at the beach. And of course, all drinks, food and snacks are included.
Drink a cactus
What do you do when you have an excess of cactus? Drink it, of course! At the Cadushy Distillery you can try a Bonaire specialty, cactus liqueur. It’s made from the Cadushy cactus, which can live to be 100 years old and reach over 12 meters high. The cactus liqueur gets its natural green from the cactus and limes. It takes half a year for the green shade to be extracted from the cactus, and one month for the lime. This is combined in a mixing tank along with a few secret ingredients and then bottled. The result is a rum-based liqueur like no other. They’ve even taken it a step further and created unique flavoured liqueurs for each Dutch Caribbean Island.
Eat like a local
Bonaire has local specialties to suit every taste. At the beautiful open air Posada Para Mira, you’ll dine on a variety of Caribbean and Dutch dishes. So what’s on the menu? Repa are tasty pancakes made out of Sorghum flour and coconut. Funchi is a ground corn dish (much like polenta) that’s fried until it’s crispy, then sliced and served. Adventurous eaters can try iguana in a spicy soup or curried stew (it really does taste like chicken), while the less adventurous can try salted cod fish, beef croquettes, fried plantains and rice and beans. Bonus: The view from up high of the rugged landscape and tall cacti is outstanding.
De-stress with a massage
In between diving and touring the island, you might want a little bit of R&R. Unwind with a holistic massage from the Bio Aesthetics Spa at the Plaza Beach Resort. Rosita Paiman has designed a spa menu that uses organic and natural ingredients. Try the Aromatherapy Massage to truly relax.
See what’s under the sea
It would be unwise to leave Bonaire without seeing the coral reefs and fish beneath the sea. With Sea Cow Charters, you’re in capable hands. Henk & Gea lead snorkeling excursions on their catamaran. They’ll take you to the best places to see sea turtles, coral reefs, colourful fish, stingrays and more. You never know what you might see. Perfect for amateur swimmers and advanced swimmers alike, you’ll be kitted out in flippers and masks. They even have prescription masks for those who wear glasses. In between snorkel sessions, you can munch on homemade snacks and sip a killer rum punch. They really have thought of everything – there’s even an underwater photographer that will capture your adventure.
Enjoy a meal with a view
There’s plenty of fine dining for foodies to enjoy on the island, complete with views of the Caribbean Sea. At Ingridients Restaurant at the Buddy Dive Resort, their standout dish is the Parmesan Truffle Pasta. This delicious dish is made with tagliatella noodles, truffles and Italian brandy. It’s prepared tableside in a giant wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Yes, please. At Brass Boer Restaurant, meals are artfully plated and served at tables by the sea. Fresh tuna tartare, lamb and codfish are on the menu. Dessert is delightfully served in a coconut shell filled with cream, mint, yuzu and crunchy biscuits.
Help to restore coral
Bonaire has a beautiful collection of coral reefs. Unfortunately, thanks to extreme tropical storms, diseases and coral bleaching, the coral is at risk. The Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire is working hard to restore elkhorn coral and staghorn coral in costal coral reefs. A team of volunteers transplant coral fragments into the reefs. Over the years, they’ve transplanted 8,000 coral, and have 9,000 coral fragments growing in nurseries. Volunteer scuba divers can help to transplant corals and assist in the coral nurseries.
Bring home something special
Bring home some Dutch goodies from the Van den Tweel grocery store. Shoppers can find candies, chocolate sprinkles, cookies, chocolates and speciality items straight from the Netherlands. In town, the Saltshop sells Bonaire sea salt souvenirs in all forms. Items range from coarse sea salt for cooking, to finely ground sea salt for the dining table. Sea salt body scrubs and soaps make excellent gifts.