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What is the size and population of Bonaire?

Bonaire is a small island with a population of approximately 21,000. Most people live in the main town of Kralendijk and about 1800 live in the smaller town of Rincon, found in a valley in the north. The island is approximately 112 square miles, ranging from three to seven miles in width and twenty-four miles in length. The north part of the island is hilly and has a national park. The south side is flat with salt pans. Both parts are unique as well as beautiful. Bonaire is located approximately fifty miles north of Venezuela. Approximately one mile away from Bonaire is the small island of Klein Bonaire (literally, “Little Bonaire” in Dutch). It is uninhabited, so be sure to bring sunscreen and water if you visit. The beach is very nice and the snorkeling is excellent. A water taxi is available.

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A cruise ship in port, with a local fishing boat in front.

What is the history of Bonaire?

Bonaire was originally inhabited by a branch of the Arawak Indians who sailed from Venezuela over 1000 years ago. The first Europeans to arrive were the Spanish in 1499. They did not stay long, as they decided not to develop the island, but they took the Indians who were here as slaves, leaving the island uninhabited. After that, there were also visits by the French, Portuguese, and Spanish convicts who returned, leaving their imprint and influence. In 1633, the Dutch took possession of the island, along with Aruba and Curaçao. They imported African slaves to work the plantations and the salt mines. Bonaire’s ownership changed hands several times until 1816 when the Dutch maintained leadership. Slavery was abolished in 1863 and around this time Bonaire started attracting more inhabitants. Early in the 20th century, visitors started arriving on Bonaire; eventually, a pier was built, further attracting tourism, and in 1943, the airport was built.

What is Bonaire’s political status today?

Bonaire is a special municipality of Holland, along with Saba and St. Eustatius, since October 10, 2010.

What languages are spoken?

The official language is Dutch and the spoken language of the local people is Papiamentu, which is the Creole language based on seven different languages, reflecting the mixed culture and history of the island. English is spoken by most people and Spanish is also widely spoken.

What is the temperature?

The air temperature averages about 83°F/29°C, although it can be hotter from August through October. The water temperature varies from 79°F/26°C to 84°F/29°C.  Full daily weather reports are available by clicking here.

How are the snorkeling and diving?

Bonaire is one of the top destinations in the world for snorkeling and diving. The waters surrounding Bonaire form a marine park. Shore access is easy at most dive sites for either diving or snorkeling. Visibility is often 80 to 100 feet and the reefs are alive with coral and fish. Touching or standing on corals or other marine life can be harmful to both the marine organisms and the snorkeler/diver, so please take care! Woodwind Snorkel & Sailing Cruises offers excellent snorkel trips for either a beginner or advanced snorkeler.

Cruise ships dock right at Bonaire's piers.

Where does the cruise ship arrive on Bonaire?

The ship arrives at one or two of the main Bonaire cruise port terminals, just south of the downtown area of Kralendijk.

How do we get around?

If you stay in Kralendijk, most places are easy walking distance. For visiting the beaches, in most cases, a taxi will be needed.

What about taxis?

Taxis will be available directly in the area of the pier where you disembark; costs will vary depending upon the destination. Taxis can also provide tour services.  View the various services available to cruise visitors by Bonaire’s taxis.

What currency is used?

The U.S. dollar is the official currency as of January 1, 2011.

Are there banks nearby?

There are several ATMs in the downtown area as well as several banks. All transactions must be accompanied by a photo ID.

What is shopping like near to the Bonaire cruise port?

There is an outdoor market in nearby Wilhelmina Park, near to where the cruise ships dock, which sells local wares and foods. Also, a cruise shopping mall is newly available adjacent to the docks.  Kaya Grandi, the main street in Kralendijk, also has shops with clothing, souvenirs, jewelry, snorkeling, and diving equipment. Grocery stores and a pharmacy are nearby.

Are there restaurants or bars in the vicinity of the cruise piers?

There are several restaurants and bars in the downtown area, well within walking distance.

Are public toilets available on the island?

Yes, but they can be very busy on days when cruise ships are in port.

How far is it to a beach and what amenities are available?

Bonaire is not known for many sandy beaches since it’s much better known for its underwater beauty. However, some sandy beach areas are available at select resort areas.  Here is a brief list of some of the Bonaire beaches near the cruise port.

Locations Chair FeeRestaurantsActivities in area
Divi Flamingo Beach Resort & Casino
10-minute walk south of pier
snorkeling, boat excursions, casino, swimming
Eden Beach Resort and Coco Beach
5-minute taxi, or 25-minue walk north of pier
boat rental, water skiing, kneeboarding, inner tube rides, snorkel trips, water taxi to Klein Bonaire, kayak rental, swimming
Plaza Resort Bonaire
5-minute taxi, or 15-minute walk south of pier
snorkeling, boat excursions, swimming
Sorobon Beach (at Lac Bay)
15-minute taxi, $20.00 one way, group fees available
windsurfing, snorkeling, massage and salt body scrubs, glass bottom kayaks, swimming

What about the national park?

Washington Slagbaai National Park is located at the north end of the island. It takes approximately 30 to 45 minutes to drive there from the area of the cruise piers. Opening hours are 8 AM to 5 PM. Although a truck or four-wheel drive vehicle is not mandatory, such a vehicle is definitely recommended, as the road can be rough in some areas. The entrance fee is $25.00 per person. A museum illustrating Bonaire’s past and its people is open at the entrance to the park. Cool drinks and a terraced area are also available at the entrance. Many visitors choose to make short hikes via the walking trails from this entrance, instead of traversing through the entire park via a vehicle.

What activities are available on Bonaire?

View more activities for your day in port. Diving and windsurfing are always favorite past-times, so you may contact one of Bonaire’s dive operators, or learn more about windsurfing on Bonaire.

Can we take shells?

No. Taking shells is against local and international laws.

Need to learn more?

Read what others have to say about what to do on Bonaire at the Bonaire Cruise Critic Forum.

If you have a question which hasn’t been addressed here, feel free to write InfoBonaire at; we always welcome your suggestions for the addition of subjects to this list of frequently asked questions.

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