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Bonaire Is Waiting for You to Dive In

By Rita Cook (

 Visiting Bonaire is like taking a step back to a simpler Caribbean era.  While other Caribbean islands are booming with commercialism, Bonaire's attitude is to keep everything simple.  There are no dance clubs or spring-break celebrations because islanders don't want to spoil paradise.

Bonaire is the eastern-most Caribbean island in the ``ABC" island chain, made up of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.  The island–24 miles long by three to seven miles wide–is located in the Netherlands Antilles and is 40 miles north of Venezuela.

Bonaire was discovered in 1499 and since then people have had trouble making a living on the island. Finally tourists discovered it is the perfect vacation spot, but it's still not well known. Mention Bonaire to most people and you'll only get a blank stare.

One thing that keeps the island great is that islanders have been very careful not to ruin their tropical haven with too much commercial growth. The island has laws protecting the environment.

The islanders speak Dutch, but English and a Portuguese-based Creole language are common. Bon binimeans welcome and Danki translates into thank you. Bonaire has been enchanting tourists–especially serious scuba divers–for years with its crystal-clear water and underwater treasures.  It also has its share of treasures on land, the local cuisine is excellent and the weather is near perfect.  In fact, the temperatures average 82 degrees with constant trade winds.

If you're a serious diver you'll probably make your way to Bonaire at some point in your life. The island is consistently named one of the top five dive spots in the world.

The marine park is one of Bonaire's best assets.  Since 1979, the waters around the island have been designated as a marine sanctuary. Strict regulations have kept the reefs and marine life in the area pristine and there are more than 80 marked dive sites along the island's shores.  The Bonaire Marine Park charges a $10 park entrance fee to dive on Bonaire. The water temperatures average 78 degrees and water visibility is usually at least 100 feet.

The reefs around Bonaire start at the water's edge and shelve off gently to a depth of about 32 feet.  This is known as the reef terrace.  On the reef terrace there are elkhorn, staghorn coral, tangs, parrotfish, butterfly, angelfish and goatfish.

Other popular water pastimes include: windsurfing, deep-sea fishing and snorkeling.   There are 10 well-known snorkel sites on the island.  Don't miss Slagbaai, Jeff Davis Memorial and Leonora's Reef.  There are also islands of mangroves that provide a wonderful look at baby fish, all from the safety of your sea kayak.

If you prefer to amuse yourself on land, don't miss the Washington-Slagbaai National Park and its 13,500 acres of wildlife sanctuary that is home to birds, lizards, goats and iguanas.  You can walk or mountain bike the trails and dirt roads. Birdwatching is quite popular on Bonaire.  Be sure and look for the Gray Kingbird, Caribbean Paroquet or the Hooded Warbler.

          There's ample shopping in Bonaire, especially in the town of Kralendijk.

And if you decide to take the walking tour, you'll see the World War II monument, Fort Oranje built in 1700 and Bon Awa with locally made fruit juices and Italian-style ice cream, to name a few stops.

          There are some nice island tours, plenty of restaurants for lunch and dinner and even a casino at the Plaza Resort Bonaire.

          If you're in the mood for pampering, stay at the Harbor Village Bonaire.  Prices start in the $300 a night range for charming Dutch-Caribbean style villas with pastel colors and terraced balconies.  There are a dozen snorkeling sites around the hotel and they offer snorkeling and scuba diving equipment rental.  A few feet from the hotel there's a special reef with amazing marine life and an eel garden to explore.

Harbor Village is also a world-class PADI and NAUI certified dive area. For a great place to stay if you're a serious diver, book a room at Buddy Dive Resort.

For a listing of other hotels visit .  The island offers taxi service, rental cars and bike and motorbike rental so it's easy to get around.

When you're hungry, don't miss the Green Parrot Restaurant or the La Balandra Beach Bar and Grill. To get the latest on what's happening on Bonaire visit For more detailed information on Bonaire check out  The site gives substantial information on the history and culture of the island, lodging, restaurants, entertainment and shopping.

The best time to visit Bonaire is when the humidity is tolerable, anytime from May to mid-December.  Visas are not required.  If you don't have a passport you can use a birth certificate and drivers license or ID–you will need both forms of identification. The currency is Netherlands Antilles florin (NAf).

Whether you're visiting Bonaire to dive or just to relax and get out of the daily grind, you'll enjoy this beautiful island and remember it for years to come.

Rita Cook is a freelance travel and entertainment writer, as well as the freelance editorial director of ``Insider" magazine.  She lives in Los Angeles and her most recent project, besides traveling, was producing a feature-length mockumentary called ``Marty & Virginia."

 Contact information

 Adams Unlimited

10 Rockefeller Plaza, Suite 900

New York, NY 10020

Tel: (800) BONAIRE (266-2473) or (212) 956-5912

Fax: (212) 956-5913

 Tourism Corporation Bonaire

Kaya Lib. Simon Bolivar #12

Kralendijk, Bonaire

Netherlands Antilles

Tel: (599 7)-8322 or 8649

Fax: (599 7)-8408




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