Disclaimer: I am a certified Advanced Open Water Diver, not an instructor. Always consult professionals before diving, the content here is purely my opinion.
Bonaire is truly a scuba diving oasis! As mentioned in our article, "Bonaire: Flying to the Island," I have dreamed of diving in this Caribbean paradise for years now, and let me tell you it lived up to the hype. This slow-paced island was so relaxing to drive around. Little shops and beautiful vistas dotted the landscape as we drove to our 2 story villa that overlooked the sea.
We saw so many varieties of fish, an octopus, and beautiful coral. The diving depths range anywhere from 30ft-110ft, but most dive sites had plenty of wildlife in the 35ft hotspot. This was perfect for our diving itinerary, as it allowed us to do multiple dives each day all while keeping our nitrogen levels down. The water is rather warm so there is no need for a wet suit. I would recommend finding an inexpensive skin suit so you still have protection.
If you aren’t a diver, here’s a quick explanation of why that’s so great. When you breath compressed oxygen, which has nitrogen in it, you breathe increased levels of nitrogen. Depending on your depth, this nitrogen level increases with each breath. At a point the nitrogen becomes dangerous, so we always limit the amount we intake. Shallow diving means less nitrogen, therefore more diving time!
Combine this with the incredible wildlife/water clarity, and the outcome? Awesome conditions for diving! A side note, Bonaire is very particular about how they manage their nature resources, as they should be! It is so refreshing seeing a community take their natural resources seriously! So when you get in, make sure to pay the $25 for the scuba pass. We were able to purchase this easily from our dive shop. (With this pass you can also go to the national park.) It is the law that you have one, but more importantly all the money goes to conservation. This is what keeps the coral healthy and the ocean life abundant.
Our dive shop, Div’Ocean, did their best to make out diving experience care free! They told us to take as many tanks as we needed every day, and at the end they totaled everything up and charged us the cheapest price. This was great because we didn’t need to worry every day whether or not the unlimited package was a good value. Unlimited air or nitrox for a day is about $32. If you don't have your own gear and would like to rent everything, it would be about $45/day. Our crew brought our gear from the states and just borrowed weights for free. The staff also helped us out by providing current conditions and recommendations, so please ask them before venturing in!
A few of my favorite spots included The Hilma Hooker, 1000 steps, Oil Slick, and Salt Pier. Pretty much every site is the standard 2-3 minute swim out and then the reef is at about a 60 degree downward sloping angle. Hilma Hooker is an incredible wreck that sits at about 110ft on a sandy bottom. There were minimal amounts of fish life on the wreck, but plenty on the way down (along the reef). 1000 steps is such a unique dive, mostly because of the beautiful steps that lead down to the coral beach. Fish life was abundant all along the reef, especially at the 40ft mark. Oil Slick provided the opportunity to giant stride off of the top of a 10ft embankment into the incredibly clear water. Bonaire has done a great job with the metal steps leading out of the water. Lastly, Salt Pier allows divers to explore under the famous salt pier in Bonaire. On this dive we saw a decently-sized octopus!
Now for transpo... Keep the dive boat money in your pocket! My advice is to rent a truck and drive around. There are so many sites that are vehicle accessible that it makes dive boats completely unnecessary. Just be careful of the things you leave in your truck. The perks? Much Cheaper. Create your own schedule. No long boat rides. No need for ride shares or taxis. Driving on the island is so easy and having a truck means that you can hit up Washington National Park on your off-gassing day (a break divers must take before flying).
If you're craving some beautiful and easily assessable diving, Bonaire is the place to go!