A unique experience awaits Caribbean cruise passengers making a port of call in Bonaire. Located in the Dutch Caribbean just 50 miles from the Venezuelan coastline, this small island is lesser-known than its famous neighbors, Aruba and Curacao. No flashy Vegas-style casinos here, nor showy pastel-hued capital city. The first thing visitors will notice is that it is not the vision that comes to mind when thinking of a Caribbean island; rather, it more resembles the desert scenery of the American southwest. It has been called "Arizona by the Sea" for it's temperate, somewhat arid climate and abundance of cacti.
Bonaire has been a world leader in the field of ecology for many years: the protection of sea turtles began in 1961, spear-fishing has been banned and it is illegal to remove live coral from its waters. Most everyone speaks English, Spanish, Dutch and the local language, Papiamento. U.S. currency and credit cards are widely accepted and ATM's are readily available. You'll be docked in downtown Kralendijk, the capital of Bonaire, and from there it's an easy walk to shops and restaurants. Taxis are readily available, with rates ranging from $7.00 up to $25.00 per hour for island tours. Bicycles and rental cars are also easily found.
Across from the pier is Wilhelmina Square. On cruise days, it becomes the Cruise Market Place, where local artisans offer up native foods, handmade wares and original art and clothing. For Dutch cheese, chocolates and other tasty treats, the Cultimara Supermarket is just a few blocks from the cruise pier. Note, bring your own shopping bags as none are provided. Shopping can also be found along the Waterfront Promenade and Kaya Grandi. More upscale shops are located at the Harborside Mall.
Things to See
More than 300 donkeys live at The Donkey Sanctuary, just 5 minutes from Kralendijk. Visitors may bring fruits or bread and give these wonderful little creatures a treat.. The Donkey Paradise Safari Park is a drive-through park connected to the sanctuary. There is also a 135-acre flamingo sanctuary located nearby. Washington Slagbaai National Park is a wild, undeveloped park with diving and snorkeling sites, the highest peak on Bonaire (784 feet), a lighthouse and bird watching. Pickups, vans or jeeps are best for driving on the rough roads. Lac Bay, a protected cove on the east coast, is ideal for windsurfing or sea kayaking. Kunuku Warahama offers horseback riding either to the beach or through the mangroves. Don't expect wide, dazzling beaches; Bonaire's beaches are small and the shore is mostly coral with rock outcroppings. There is no shade, so bring a hat and plenty of sunscreen. This is a diver's paradise; there are 86 marked dive sites and plenty of dive shops offering equipment and guides.
Restaurants and Bars
There is no shortage of eateries and places to find your favorite cool drink. Food choices range from 'burgers to fresh seafood, iguana soup to a conch cocktail, local Caribbean specialties to spicy Indonesian dishes. Most have children's menus and many are just a short walk from the pier.