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American Flamingos, image by Elly Albers

Bonaire is now officially a stop on the Caribbean Birding Trail (CBT), an initiative that seeks to connect the natural and cultural heritage of the Caribbean islands through the training of local naturalist guides who will then be able to identify and interpret the birds and their habitats for local and foreign visitors. The CBT is being developed to raise global awareness of the unique birds and biodiversity of the Caribbean and to create a sustainable economy around these rare species, in an effort to protect them.

Bonaire has no endemic species of birds, however, there are a number of subspecies, or geographical races that are restricted to just the islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao.

Bonaire’s most famous is the pink flamingo, which on most evenings, around sunset, you may be able to see a few small flocks leaving the southern tip of the island, near the Willemstoren Lighthouse. Contrary to popular belief, they are not all flying off to Venezuela, although some undoubtedly will reach the South American coast. These birds can be seen at several sites on Bonaire, including the Washington Slagbaai National Park and Lac Bay.

There are a number of environmental factors that have made Bonaire a very interesting site for birders to enjoy, and there is always the chance that an alert birder will record the occurrence of an extra-limital bird. The island boasts over 190 species including the Lora (Amazon parrot), which is now protected against capture by international treaty.

 An Osprey Snares Dinner, image by Elly Albers


An Osprey Snares Dinner, image
by Elly Albers

A bird book that is available on the island is the “Bonaire Bird Guide“, published in 2013 in a cooperation between STINAPA, the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance, and Vogelbescherming Nederland. This guide provides an in-depth look into the birds of Washington Slagbaai National Park.

Another excellent resource is the Princeton Field Guide entitled, “Birds of Aruba, Curacao, & Bonaire,” by Bart de Boer, Eric Newton, and Robin Restall.  It has photographs of some of the more common birds with descriptions.

Many of the tour operators can guide interested birders to catch glimpses of some of Bonaire’s illusive winged residents.


Birding on Bonaire
© Jerry C. Ligon

Most of the 200 species of birds that have been officially recorded for Bonaire, with a few notable exceptions, are affiliated with xerophytic and thorny scrub and cactus wilderness type vegetation. Exceptions are the water-dominated habitats: coastlines, inland saltwater lakes (salinas), and mangrove marshes that harbor many species of egrets, herons, and other species of marsh and shorebirds. Exceptional birding can be expected if the island is under the influence of a heavier than normal year of rainfall (average, 22 inches), when freshwater impoundments can attract many rare and unusual migrants from both North and South America.

Yellow-shouldered Parrots

Yellow-shouldered Parrots

Woodland specialties dominate the northern half of the island where scrub-covered and wooded hills form the 3800 ha (8300 acre) Washington/Slagbaai National Park (small entrance fee required). This area forms the center of the nesting range of the endangered Yellow-shouldered Parrot (Amazona barbadensis rothschildi), which is often confused with Caribbean or Brown-throated Parakeet (Aratinga pertinax xanthogenius). Get pet store parakeets out of your mind (budgerigars) when observing our parakeets and look for the mourning dove-sized parakeets, with similar-sized elongated tail feathers, to have brilliant orange- yellow faces and heads, and the Yellow-shouldered Parrots to be the size of rock doves, with similar short tails, and to be same green color on both upper and lower body with small amount of yellow on sides of the face, and on bend of the wing.

Other notables of the woodlands and also often found around the hotels and residential yards are Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola), very colorful orioles of two species, Troupial (Icterus icterus), which is orange and black, and Yellow oriole (Icterus nigrogularis). Tropical Mockingbird (Mimus gilvus), looking a lot like our Northern from North America, but missing the bright wing patch, if you look closely, and very common Black-faced Grassquits (Tiaris bicolor). Only two species of hummingbirds here but like hummingbirds everywhere, they get their share of attention. The largest, Ruby Topaz, (Chrysolampis mosquitus) with rufous on the tail of both adults and a male with a splendid, fiery-red gorget and glistening orange-red crown, and the smaller, Common Emerald (Chlorostilbon mellisugus) can be found at many sites where flowers are conspicuous, but neither come readily to hummingbird feeders.

Away from the developed parts of the islands are such stealthy species as Smooth Flycatcher (Sublegatus modestus), Caribbean Elaenia (Elaenia martinica), Brown-crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus tyrannulus), Pearly-eyed Thrashers (Margarops fuscatus) and larger and more conspicuous birds like the Crested Caracara (Caracara plancus) in the cactus hillsides, Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) along the coasts throughout the island, and Bonaire’s signature bird, the Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus rubber) which can be seen both north and south.

One site where your chances of success at finding White-tailed Nightjar (Caprimulgus cayennensis) is almost 100% found on a hill which overlooks the village of Rincon, in the northern section of the island. Bring a flashlight, and here, after dark, the nightjars come in to feed on moths that are attracted to the 4 street lamps, and often can be seen perched on the fence that borders the microwave tower. Otherwise, driving along dirt roads after dark may reveal these secretive goat-suckers, with fiery-red glowing eye-shine.

You will find five species of doves and pigeons, six, if you count rock dove, here on Bonaire. Most of them are of limited geographical distribution, which makes them sought after species for most intense birders while on Bonaire. Very large and all dark is the Red-necked or Scaly-naped Pigeon, (Columba squamosa) which should be easily seen as you drive through the countyside, and is only found in the Greater and Lesser Antilles islands. A bit smaller with conspicuous white wing patch is Bare-eyed Pigeon (Columba corensis), which is only found on the arid Caribbean islands along the Colombian and Venezuelean coasts. A bit smaller and appearing most like mourning dove from North America is Eared Dove, (Zenaida auriculata), except eared dove does not have elongated central tail feathers and white corners, but equal length tail feathers and cinnamon-colored corners. It is found in South America and the southern Caribbean islands, and the southernmost Lesser Antilles, but absent from the Greater Antilles and Central America, where it is replaced by Zenaida Dove (Zenaida aurita). About the same size and more of a forest dweller, and found in Central and South America, but missing from the West Indies is the White-tipped Dove (Leptotila verreauxi). Our smallest, and probably the most common bird on Bonaire is Common Ground Dove (Columbigallina passerina), which is sparrow sized with an attractive, scaly-patterned throat, and has a wide geographical range throughout the tropical regions of the Caribbean and Central and South America.

White Egret, image by Elly Albers

The southern end of the island is the driest section of the island and consists of the salt works and a breeding preserve of 55 ha (120 acres) established for the flamingos whose numbers can vary from a few thousand to near twenty thousand, depending on several variables. Also along the southern coasts and inland where water accumulates can be found many species of waders and shorebirds, such as both color morphs, normal and white, of Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens), Tricolored Herons (Egretta tricolor), Green Heron (Butorides virescens), Great Egrets (Ardea alba), Snowy Egrets, (Egretta thula) and Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias). Also many of the smaller shorebirds, both Greater and Lesser Yellowleg species, dowitchers, sandpipers, plovers, including the rare Collared Plover (Charadrius collaris) from South America, are here in winter or on migration.

Juvenile Snowy Plover, image by Elly Albers

Juvenile Snowy Plover,
image by Elly Albers

In the mangrove marshes along the eastern coast, one can find many of the previously mentioned water dwelling birds and roosting Magnificent Frigatebirds (Fregata magnificens), Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis), neither of which nest on Bonaire. Also, this is the most likely site for both species of night herons, Black-crowned (Nycticorax nycticorax) and Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Nyctanassa violacea) and Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea). This is the area to scrutinize carefully, especially around dawn for many rare migrants that use the mangrove marsh for feeding and resting sites.

Another special phenomenon that birders should be aware of is the migrating seasons, both April/May for the spring migrants going north from their wintering grounds in South America, and in the fall, September/October, when the migrants are leaving their breeding grounds in North America on their way through the Caribbean to their wintering locals. During the spring, the eastern deciduous forest birds, come through Bonaire in their breeding colors, especially the males, and add excitement to days afield when local birds are complemented by these colorful visitors. It is interesting to note that almost all the breeding warblers of northeastern United States have been recorded here on Bonaire, and a complete list of sightings during a migratory season reads like a Who’s Who of birds from eastern North America. Just this past summer, a very astute birder from National Audubon Society, discovered and photographed the first record of Western Tanager for the southern Caribbean, while birding on Bonaire, so, like birding anywhere along migration paths, one never knows what will show up, and Bonaire offers many surprises for visitors who mistakenly think that Bonaire is only for divers and snorkelers.

Red Ibis in Lac Bay, image by Elly Albers

Red Ibis in Lac Bay, image
by Elly Albers

Restaurant Reviews on BonReviews:

5/5

Bistro de Paris is accommodating for vegans and vegetarians.  We love going to Bistro because we know we can eat a fabulous meal for our vegan needs. Mary makes a mean veggie salad large enough for a meal. The rice bowls, carrot bourgenon is soo tasty, the potato terrine is to die for, so rich […]

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5/5

I have been coming to Bonaire for over 20 years. Without a doubt, Donna & Giorgio’s is our favorite place to dine. A husband & wife team, Donna is the hostess with the most-est and Giorgio is the fantastico Italian chef. Our favorite thing for dinner is to tell Giorgio to make us whatever he […]

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5/5

Tipsy Seagull – Best dinner ever! We decided to have dinner Friday night at the Tipsy Seagull at the Plaza Hotel and we couldn’t have enjoyed it more! The 3 course meal was fantastic and the music was so awesome.  The servers were so friendly and attentive and the food was wonderful. We will definitely […]

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5/5

Not a Typical Pizza! I’m a pepperoni and sausage pizza guy so I was skeptical when I saw pizza topped with shrimp on the menu.  I tried it, I loved it, and I’ll go back to Blue Garden Brazilian Grill & Pizza Gourmet for more the next time we are on the island.  They offer […]

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5/5

Best food on Bonaire at Donna & Giorgio’s! We had 2 dinners and one lunch during our week in Bonaire. We loved the food, Donna, and her daughter. Everything we had was great! Be sure and call for a reservation.

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5/5

Gourmet burgers at King Kong Mobile Food Truck! Very convenient at bachelor’s beach. Great burger! Next time I will go for the Junk Yard Dog.

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5/5

Eddy’s Restaurant–Again, as an owner at Sanddollar you could not find a better place to eat. Friendly casual great food with a different variety. Family owned and run and will cook to your pleasure. Eddy is the cook, Sonia runs the front along with their children–another Sonia and Eddy!

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5/5

Hot Spot King Kong!   Bachelor Beach is er een stuk leuker en lekkerder op geworden. King Kong levert uitstekende kwaliteit. Verrassende smaken!

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4/5

Best Fries On Bonaire! I have been enjoying Bobbejan‘s weekend BBQ since 2001. Maggie and Robert run a tasty restaurant. My daughter loves the rib dinner. I enjoy the fish when it’s fresh. Their side cole slaw is garlicky and tasty. The reason I go so often is their french fries. They are the best […]

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5/5

Eddy’s is Excellent!  We love going to Eddy’s. The service is always great and the food is fresh and outstanding!

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5/5

Awesome burgers and fries at King Kong Burgers & Hotdogs!  I would eat these burgers 7 days a week if I could, but my wetsuit would not fit after awhile. They are wonderful and the area the truck is at couldn’t be better. Great job to the owner. Will be back next visit to the […]

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5/5

Sebastian’s Restaurant is an Epicureans Delight!  You have to try this seaside gourmet restaurant. The chef is known for combining foods and spices you will not taste elsewhere.

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5/5

Bobbejan’s is our first dinner upon arrival!  Upon arriving on Bonaire after food shopping my first dinner is always at Bobbejans. They have the best chicken Sate and ribs. Known as the best take out restaurant and they developed an outdoor dining area. Only opened Friday’s, Sat and Sunday’s but well worth the wait and […]

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5/5

Goat stew at Eddy’s Restaurant was the best meal on the island, so tender. The barracuda was excellent and the mojitos were special.

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5/5

King Kong Burger Food Truck. Find it on Bachelors Beach. Tuesday through Sat…I think. We have returned to these freshly made, gourmet burgers several times. The meat is fresh and tasty. Prepared when ordered and seasoned to perfection. Several special recipes to choose from. Our favorite is the French connection….so unique and tasty, paired with mosquito […]

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5/5

Sebastian’s Restaurant By the Beautiful Sea! You know the saying about saving the best for last?  Lorrie and I save Sebastian’s Restaurant for the end of our trip because we love the food selections, service, scenery, Sebastian and the friends that join us for our farewell dinner.  The restaurant offers a local menu with several nightly […]

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5/5

Service & Food  at Breeze ‘n Bites–OUTSTANDING We always make a point of eating here at least once during our trips.  Service is always friendly and the food is always tasty.

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5/5

Gio’s is an amazing place!  We go here every day we are on the island. We so love the Gelato and desserts! I think we both gained 20# in one week but well worth it! Amazingly tasty gelato! Thank You!

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4/5

Mezze is a great new spot!  They installed a makeshift wheelchair ramp so a bunch of us decided to try this new addition to the island’s many awesome restaurants. Loved the excellent lamb shank served with delicious vegetables. Started with the eggplant and fresh pita. Decent prices too. We’re heading back soon.

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5/5

Sebastian’s Restaurant is the best all around!  I’ve eaten at Sebastian’s maybe five times in the last three years and it’s always been a unique experience. From the greetings that make you feel welcome to the creative menu and exceptional food to the natural ambience of water and sky–there’s nothing to match it on Bonaire.

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5/5

Capriccio Ristorante is wonderful!  This was a nice surprise! We were greeted with a welcome drink and a wonderful basket of bread and fresh pita chips. We had scallops and pasta which was wonderful and bolognese was nothing to brag about. Staff was pleasant and welcoming. Reservations (highly recommended) were for 6pm for party of […]

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4/5

My wife and I had a wonderful meal at Ingridients, but I have to say that the waiting staff did pressure us to select items we did not want.  Don’t hesitate to eat here because the food is excellent…just be prepared to say no to serving suggestions.

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4/5

Don’t miss Mezze while on Bonaire! We visited Mezze with friends and had a delicious meal. “Mezze” like “tapas” means “small plates” and all of the apps were outstanding: hummus, falafel, tabouleh, and baba ghanous, which we lapped up with homemade pita, forks and fingers. The concept of “small” evaporated when the entrees were served, especially […]

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5/5

Fine dining at Sebastian’s Restaurant!  I had two wonderful dinners recently at Sebastian’s, one out on their private pier.  In my opinion Sebastian’s is the place to go whenever visiting Bonaire.  The ambiance is lovely, the service impeccable and the food outstanding.  It is in my opinion, the best place to dine on the island […]

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5/5

Fantastic fresh fish at Chibi Chibi.  We have now eaten the fresh fish special (mahi) twice on two separate trips (November and January).  The service is impeccable, the restaurant and bathrooms are very clean, and the food is amazing.  I struggle to understand why this restaurant doesn’t have better reviews on Trip Advisor.  It truly […]

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5/5

Excellent daily specials and “to die for” ribs at Joe’s Grillhouse!  Excellent casual place. Jessica and Bart, along with the staff, make you feel welcome and comfortable. We always visit Joe’s at least twice during our yearly dive trip to Bonaire. The daily catch special is always excellent while the ribs are “fall off the bone” […]

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5/5

Delightful evening at Bon Aroma! Be sure to include Bon Aroma on your list of fine dining experiences. The ambiance is lovely, the service impeccable and the cuisine delicious. The marlin and lionfish duo with its sides was outstanding. Dessert was a delight – apple tart with vanilla ice cream and a mixed berry cobbler […]

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5/5

Best tuna ever at Sebastian’s Restaurant! We visited Bonaire 06/16 & I have to say that our visit To Sebastian’s was one of the highlights. The tuna was some of the best I’ve ever had & was done to its rare perfection. Cut with a fork & melt in your mouth!!!! Of course washed down […]

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5/5

Fast and delicious.  Nice ambience, good service, delicious food at Cuba Compagnie.

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5/5

La Cantina is absolutely the best!   Great ambience! Great service and the food was absolutely stunning!!  Chef Cook Rick and his wife Kim did it again! They created a new food experience!  You can order a la carte or take a surprise dinner and watch how your food is being prepared.  You should definitely […]

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5/5

Good taste at Bon Aroma! The elegance of this small beautifully-appointed space provides privacy between the five tables and quiet from the street while breezes flow through the open walls encouraging relaxation and conversation. My meal of braised marlin and lionfish with mango and basil sauce, a medley of fine vegetables and Italian rice, finished […]

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5/5

Pizza, pizza at Rum Runners!  My second dinner upon arrival on Bonaire is going to Rum Runners and seeing my good friend TT and ordering two spicy shrimp pizzas and taking them home. Best pizza on the island. Well eating healthy I also order their Caesars Salad no anchovies with the pizzas. Note-TT is the […]

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4/5

Latin Vibe at Cuba Compagnie!  I was invited to dinner by friends. Previously, I had been to Cuba for cocktails but dinner was a new experience. We sat outside surrounded by a lively and bustling vibe. The wait staff are very friendly and helpful. They are very busy so it takes patience and some effort […]

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5/5

Great local flavor of the island at Mi Banana. We were directed to Mi Banana to a great surprise. Friendly and personable staff and food was great. Chicken and fish dishes were our favorites up until the dessert. The three leche cake was to die for. Don’t miss the dessert.

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5/5

A great experience at BonAroma! Excellent food and presentation, reasonable prices, great service and wonderful people.  Best dining we have had on Bonaire!

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4/5

At Sea Restaurant Accommodating to Vegans and Gluten Free Folks.  First off they have my favorite…Hendricks gin, but a steady supply of fever tree tonics is a must to enjoy its smooth flavours. An enthusiastic bartender willing to earn your praises is a great start to an enjoyable evening. I asked the waitress if chef […]

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5/5

My new sushi place…Osaka Japanese Fusion Restaurant. A friend recommended this restaurant for dinner and I had a great experience. I simply love this restaurant! Friendly staff, and amazing sushi! The fish is fresh and everything is very well made. I love the Volcano and Kamikaze roll!! Next time I’m in Bonaire, that’s the place […]

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5/5

Bon Aroma is fantastic in every way! Incredible food (in top 3 on island); impeccable and warm service, intimate ambiance – BonAroma has it all. We had asparagus soup with shrimp, tuna carpaccio, lion fish and tuna duo, all perfectly prepared and presented. Well balanced menu, vegetarians will be very happy. Good wine list. Delicious and […]

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5/5

At Sea serves works of art!  We dined at At Sea twice while we were recently in Bonaire. Both times we chose the Surprise Menu, and all of the dishes were beautifully prepared and delicious. The dishes were true works of art, decorated with beautiful garnishes and great imagination. Dessert one night was an underwater […]

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4/5

Al fresco dining at Cuba Compagnie. We loved dining at Cuba. The outdoor setting is casual and comfortable. It’s a lively vibe. Service is efficient and friendly. I typically order the fresh fish. I have also enjoyed the ceviche.  Cuba is a fun spot for a group of friends.

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5/5

Best pizza at Pasa Bon Pizza! Best pizza on Bonaire.  We look forward to getting that crisp crust and hot cheesy pizza served at Pasa Bon pizza every time we go to Bonaire. Try their Lion Fish pizza….it is good !!

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5/5

Jasmine Garden is a typical Chinese restaurant, where we had a delicious dinner. We ordered the Yeung chow fried rice and the Kung pao chicken, which were served by friendly staff. During our 2 week’s holiday in Bonaire, we went there 4 times to eat. Every time we were satisfied.

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5/5

Great breakfast and lunch at Between Two Buns! Nice salads and sandwiches. Don’t forget to try the home made pies!

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4/5

Good food, friendly service, reasonable prices at Diver’s Diner Bar & Grill.  Place looks very unpretentious, but the staff is very willing to please. The food is very good and very reasonably priced.

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5/5

Pasa Bon Pizza, Not your usual pizza place Third trip to Bonaire and this is our go-to place for dinner at least two nights each trip. Cozy outdoor place. Wait staff very pleasant. Lion fish pizza is awesome. Frozen Lime and Guava dessert is yummy and refreshing. Open Wednesday through Sunday (I think). I am […]

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5/5

Best Lunch Spot!  I am a tuna sandwich aficionado. I have sampled tuna sandwiches across Bonaire. Between Two Buns serves the best by far. I love their multi-grain bread with seeds and goodness. The salad itself is chock full of flavor. They put salty briny capers in their salad adding an extra flavor blast.  Wow, […]

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4/5

Good food and good friends at Diver’s Diner Bar & Grill!  We have been return customers every time we come to Bonaire. This is trip number 7. Try the walking sticks for sure and the dipping sauce. I could go on and on. Try it out you won’t be sorry.

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5/5

Fabulous Food in a Garden Setting at Wil’s Tropical Grill!  Chef/Owner Wil delights in serving delicious food that is also artistically appealing. He is a wizard at using spices that results in food that pleases your taste buds. His wife/hostess, Sue, greets each visitor with a welcoming smile. The garden ambiance is lovely. Throughout the […]

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5/5

Good food at Between Two Buns.  As an owner at Sanddollar, this is one great restaurant for breakfast and lunch. Very friendly owner and staff. I think that I order the same thing every time, great looking deserts and salads.

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5/5

Great lunches at Donna & Georgio’s.  It’s like stepping off Bonaire’s streets and into Italy. Wonderful food and great atmosphere plus air conditioning. Daily specials and mouth watering pizzas await you…..

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4/5

Love lunch at Zen’s Bar Café!  I am always impressed with the Lunch specials. They are as appealing to the eye as to the stomach and my pocketbook.

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5/5

Between Two Buns, Love this place! When we two Canadians visit Bonaire, we plan on almost daily visits to “Between Two Buns.” The sandwiches and salads are terrific and the staff very friendly! Sure fills the bill after a morning of snorkeling!

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5/5

Food is excellent @ Donna & Georgio’s, Donna always made me feel special. Great food and always a take out service.  As an owner at Sanddollar and full kitchen facilities makes their take out food a very good place to eat in or take out. Every trip to BONAIRE requires multi stops at this restaurant. For pizza […]

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4/5

Nothing is better than Seared Tuna at the Beach!  The Kite City food truck at te’ Amo beach near the airport is not to be missed. Fresh fish prepared just right in oh-so-many ways is one of the expected pleasures of coming to the Caribbean, and Kite City does not disappoint.  The beach dining is […]

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2/5

Pizza needs work at Blue Garden Brazilian Grill & Pizza Gourmet. The mojitos are great Service started off OK, then once I got my food, I never saw the server again, so never got any more water. The pizza needs work. The crust is about 2mm thick & is heavy & still not totally cooked. […]

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3/5

Cuba Compagnie Going Downhill We have been here a few times before. I went there tonight with my son and the service was unresponsive and when I said something I got a rude smart mouth response from management. The food is generally good. But don’t order the sodas. You get a small glass full of […]

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