ABOUT BONAIRE

Dutch Caribbean

Where is Bonaire?

Bonaire is located 50 miles north of Venezuela, 30 miles east of Curaçao, 86 miles east of Aruba and outside the hurricane belt.  It is one of the Dutch ABC islands – Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao. Bonaire is only small at 112 square miles, but there’s plenty to keep visitors entertained and involved in the many activities on offer. There are two towns on Bonaire, Kralendijk (the capital) and Rincon.

Bonaire lighthouse
Bonaire map
Bonaire sunset

Bonaire's history and culture

The original inhabitants of Bonaire date from 3300 BP. These people are called Archaic Indians. Around 500 AD Cacquetio Indians arrived on the islands from South America. Archeological remains have been preserved from this time period, including rock paintings and petroglyphs in caves. Arriving 1300, Arawak Indians from Venezuela landed and occupied Bonaire. In 1499, the Spaniards claimed Bonaire. During this time, the Dutch would stop at Bonaire to trade food, meat and water. They also abandoned some Spanish and Portuguese prisoners on the island, who established themselves in Bonaire.

The Spanish rule lasted until 1636 when the Dutch took possession, after which Bonaire became a plantation for the Dutch West India Company. A number of African slaves were brought to the island to work in the plantations and salt mines. Salt production (and tourism) remains a major industry in Bonaire today. The slaves and families lived in Rincon Village, the oldest village on Bonaire, originally settled by the Spanish in the early 1500s. During the period of 1799 to 1816, sometimes referred to as the “time of confusion” the Dutch lost control of Bonaire twice to the British. During these short periods of British rule, many white British traders settled permanently in Bonaire.  

Bonaire’s cultural heritage includes Indian, African, Asian, and European influences, which you can see represented today. Traditional cultural celebrations, including harvest and feast days, tribal music, dance, and food, celebrate Bonaire’s diversity. These celebrations are an important part of life on Bonaire. Visitors can enjoy experiencing traditional dress, unique dance styles, musical instruments, and music during these celebrations.

Slave huts
Salt mines
Historic buildings

Sustainable tourism on Bonaire

A focus on sustainable tourism underlies Bonaire’s initiatives that aim to balance environmental protection with culture. Bonaire was the first Caribbean island to establish a protected marine park, which surrounds the entire island and Klein Bonaire. Reef conservation programs have goals such as encouraging new corals and the preservation of the reef’s genetic diversity. Other sustainability programs encourage the use of clean energy, and the reduction of CO2.

​Bonaire’s economy is mainly tourism with visitors coming from all over the world to enjoy the warm, dry climate and well preserved coral reefs to scuba dive and snorkel. The reef is easily accessible from the shore, and there are 86 dive sites. Bonaire has been recognized for many years as one of the world’s best shore diving destinations.

Bonaire reef
Flamingoes
Bonaire wildlife

Bonaire languages

Dutch is the official language as Bonaire is part of the Netherlands.  The main language used is Papiamento a Creole language indigenous to the Dutch Antilles, followed by Spanish, English and other languages.  Most of Bonaire’s residents can speak at least two of either Papiamento, Dutch, Spanish and English. 

Bonaire weather

Bonaire has a temperate climate with an average temperature of 82F (27.8C), humidity 76% and sunny all year. The water temperature is on average 80F (26.7C) – perfect for scuba diving and snorkeling.