Have you ever visited somewhere that left you wishing you could drop it all and stay forever?
There’s something extraordinary about a destination that pulls you in so much you could imagine spending the rest of your life there, and there is one lesser-known Caribbean island that will undoubtedly do just that — beautiful Bonaire 🌴.
Although many people have heard of Bonaire, it is still less visited than tourism powerhouses like Cancun or Montego Bay. However, that’s one of its most appealing characteristics!
Lesser-Known Doesn’t Mean Less To Offer
To give some insight into just how ‘less-known’ Bonaire is, let’s compare it to Cancun.
Last year, Cancun Airport welcomed over 19 million international passengers. In comparison, Flamingo International Airport (Bonaire’s well-named airport) received about 170 thousand passengers. That’s less than 1% of Cancun’s intake!
But don’t let the fact that Bonaire gets fewer visitors fool you into thinking it isn’t worth visiting. In fact, that is one of the main reasons you should!
Bonaire is home to some of the most stunning scenery on Earth, and having fewer people crowding up the view only adds to its appeal. I’ve been to several destinations in the Caribbean, and even lived in one, and I can confidently say Bonaire is my favorite.
What Makes Bonaire Better Than Other Islands?
First, I think it is important to mention that the entirety of the Caribbean is worth visiting. From Aruba to The Bahamas, there are unique things about every destination that make each one worth a visit.
However, Bonaire holds a special place in my heart, and many other travelers would say the same.
So what is so special about Bonaire?
Aside from the fact that it is a less-visited destination offering more authentic experiences, Bonaire is absolutely gorgeous in every way. If you are a nature lover, Bonaire will not disappoint.
The country is extremely serious about protecting its stunning natural beauty, and you’ll definitely take notice. Before you even leave the airport, tourists pay a $75 visitor tax that goes towards protecting some of the healthiest coral reefs on Earth.
There is also an additional $40 nature tax that must be paid in order to enter the waters of Bonaire.
While these fees may seem like a nuisance, I can guarantee you’ll be happy about them the second you put your snorkel on and get in the water. As an avid scuba diver, I have never been anywhere prettier.
There’s No Such Thing As A Bad Spot
Choosing a place to stay is always one of the biggest parts of any vacation. What if you choose the wrong area? What if you’re too far away from what you are interested in?
On Bonaire, there’s no such thing as being too far away – from anything.
The island is only about 111 square miles. For comparison, the smallest U.S. State (Rhode Island) is about 1,545 square miles. There is nowhere you can go on Bonaire that will feel very far away from anywhere else on the island.
Don’t let this fool you into thinking there isn’t plenty to see though. You can visit the same coral reef, restaurant, or beach a thousand times and have a completely different experience each time.
For my visit, I was lucky enough to call Harbour Village home for the week, and I left wishing I could call it my home forever! Everything we did while in Bonaire was a short drive away, and everything I needed was right on the property.
The rooms are incredibly spacious, with the beach less than 20 steps away. I found myself spending my mornings working on the covered patio while sipping coffee and listening to the gentle waves. Work hardly felt like work, but Harbour Village was the perfect place to get things done.
@traveloffpath We wish we could live here forever! Harbour Village is the perfect home base to explore Bonaire. . #travel #bonaire #caribbean #diving #beach ♬ Come With Me – Surfaces & salem ilese
Breakfast was just steps away from the rooms at the onsite restaurant, La Balandra, and was the perfect way to start the day while looking out over the ridiculously blue water.
During my stay, I was even lucky enough to witness a loggerhead turtle looking for a place to lay its eggs after an incredible night snorkel. Harbour Village is the perfect place to go for a midnight swim in the dark as underwater lights near the restaurant bring in the tarpon each night.
Don’t let them scare you; they are harmless. And if you forgot to bring a dive light, don’t worry. There is a dive shop right on Harbour Village’s property!
If you want to have some fun with friends or family back home, see if you can dive down to the live reef cam at the tip of La Balandra. You can view it here.
@traveloffpath No better place to swim at night than Harbour Village Bonaire . #travel #bonaire #caribbean #diving #beach ♬ When I Go – Emancipator
Whether scuba certified or not, you cannot leave Bonaire without throwing on a mask and peeking at what’s below the surface – just prepare for your mind to be blown.
Bonaire has the best offshore diving in the world, without a doubt. You can swim out and find something amazing practically anywhere on the island. In fact, as you travel around the island, you’ll encounter people driving trucks around with oxygen tanks in the back, heading to popular offshore scuba sites.
You don’t need a boat to get to some of the prettiest diving sites in Bonaire; simply swim out to them! The water is also the most beautiful blue I have ever seen, and you can see just as much with a snorkel as you can with scuba gear.
@traveloffpath Bonaire has incredible diving, even right off shore at your hotel – Harbour Village. . #travel #bonaire #caribbean #diving #beach ♬ Daydreams – Gentle State
Ask a local, and they’ll tell you many of the island’s residents always keep a snorkel and mask in the car for impromptu snorkel sessions, so be sure to do the same during your visit!
If you want to scuba dive, you’ll have to do an intro dive to make sure your buoyancy and gear are all set. It is a requirement in Bonaire and helps to protect the coral reef.
During my stay at Harbour Village, I was able to do my orientation dive right offshore, and even without heading out to the reef, there was so much to see! On my dive, I saw a sea turtle, a shipwreck, a coral restoration project, a huge wall of fish pass us by, and the area right at the end of La Balandra was overrun with marine life.
I was only 30 or 40 feet from the shore, and there was so much to see it was hard to take it all in.
Get Off Path
We couldn’t really call ourselves Travel Off Path without a few suggestions for getting off path now could we? In that spirit, here are a few things you should definitely do to get off the beaten path while in Bonaire:
Love go-karts? Love the Earth? This is the experience for you.
Don’t leave Bonaire without checking out one of the coolest ways to ride the wind – on land! I didn’t know what to expect before trying out landsailing for the first time, but I had a blast!
I thought it might be hard to learn, but after 2 laps, I already felt like a pro and found myself itching for more speed with every lap.
Instructions are super clear and easy to follow, and jetting around the track entirely powered by the constant winds of Bonaire was a really great way to spend an afternoon.
If you are with a group, you can actually talk to each other while racing around and hold a conversation easily, as there are no noisy engines mucking up the track.
Landsailing Adventures did an amazing job of showing us the ropes and making us feel completely at home zipping around the track.
@traveloffpath Landsailing is a super fun way to spend an afternoon in Bonaire and is so easy to learn! . #landsailing #travel #bonaire #caribbean #beach ♬ Don't Stop Me Now – Remastered 2011 – Queen
See The Island On Horseback
If you’d like to see some truly off-path places in Bonaire, be sure to hop on a horse tour with Horse Ranch Bonaire. You don’t need to be experienced at riding a horse; this activity is doable for all experience levels.
We did the Flamingo ride, and it was a fantastic way to spend the morning. We did indeed see flamingos on our ride, and it was really cool to see Bonaire from a unique perspective on horseback.
@traveloffpath One of the most unique ways to see Bonaire is on a horse! . #travel #bonaire #caribbean #beach #horse #horseriding ♬ Beautiful Day – Jonathan Roy
Have Dinner On The Ocean
If you want to have a special night out, definitely be sure to book a sunset cruise dinner. We booked a dinner with Melisa Sailing, and it was one of my favorite experiences of the trip. From the moment you board, you know you are in for a fun and relaxing night, not to mention incredible food!
Get ready for a 6-course meal and tasty drinks while sailing on the smooth waters of Bonaire. The ambiance gets cozier the lower the sun gets, and by the time you head back to shore, the stars will be out to bid you farewell.
Great food, great drinks, and great conversations are inevitable on the Melisa, and you won’t regret spending an evening aboard.
@traveloffpath For one of the best dinners in Bonaire, make sure it’s on a boat! . #travel #bonaire #caribbean #beach #boat #sailing #dinner ♬ Sail Away – lovelytheband
Check Out Slagbaai National Park
Slagbaai National Park dominates the northern half of Bonaire and is one of the most unique places you can visit while on the island. You’ll see iguanas, flamingos, donkeys, and some of the prettiest beaches on the island.
Be sure to stop at each beach along the route around the park; they are all unique and worth snapping a few pics of each. Remember to bring your snorkel with you, as there is just as much to see under the water as above it!
If you’re ready for adventure, stop by Boca Slagbaai for a fun little cliff jump!
@traveloffpath Don’t leave Bonaire without exploring this gorgeous National Park! . #travel #bonaire #caribbean #beach #diving #cliffjump #park #nationalpark ♬ Sunshine – Lavern
A Home Away From Home
Bonaire felt like home the second I arrived, and everyone I met was incredibly kind and welcoming. I found myself telling locals how I could definitely see myself living there and always got the same response — a warm smile and a “you’d be very welcome”.
It’s impossible not to fall in love with Bonaire. The gorgeous scenery, incredible people, and laid-back vibe will have you wishing you could stay forever.
And who knows — you just might.
**Travel Off Path was a guest of Tourism Corporation Bonaire, who helped with the creation of this itinerary by hosting some of our accommodations and attractions. Our opinions, recommendations, and suggestions remain our own.**
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com