I went to Bonaire with three avid scuba divers, so that made me the odd man out. I don’t scuba dive (maybe one day) and I don’t even enjoy snorkeling. I’ve never been a huge fan of being in the ocean, just admiring it from the shore. Don't get me wrong, I love the beach and find the ocean gorgeous! I just don't like being in it past my waist. I know there are others of you like me. I want to inform you that there are other things to do in Bonaire!
First, the island is beautiful! On our last day while the scuba divers were off-gassing, we took a drive around the island. Make sure to see the saltpans and the flamingos on the south side of the island. The saltpans along the coast are nothing like I've seen before and the coral-color pans and the aqua-color water are my two favorite colors! People rent mopeds and scooters to drive on the road between the pans and the ocean. Visit the slave huts along the south side of the island. Their bright yellow color looks stunning against the sand and water.
One of my favorite parts of our drive was stopping along the east coast. I think it’s underrated. The fifteen-foot waves crash against the lava cliffs with cacti deserts surrounding you. We experienced it at sunset: the sun disappearing behind the mountains, the windmills in the distance, and the light hitting the waves.
One of the highest rated activities in Bonaire is kayaking through the mangroves with the Mangrove Information Center. That was cool! The mangroves are located at Lac Bay. You can choose to go on a tour where you dismount your kayak and snorkel too. We just did the one-hour guided kayak tour for $27/pp. While we were there, the mosquitos were atrocious, even after we applied the spray they provided. Otherwise the tour was lovely and provided some exercise, while viewing the pelicans, upside down jellyfish, and the “nursery” of all the fish of Bonaire. The others in our party went windsurfing at Jibe City in that area as well! It's quite an experience and worth it if you have the time. Try to go later in the day when the wind isn't as rough.
We went to the Washington Slagbaai National Park, which covers the north side of the island, for four hours on Saturday. The hours of the park are 8am-5pm. They don’t make that really known so we arrived exactly at 5pm on Friday and wondered why the entrance was so deserted and obviously closed. I would recommend going to the park if you haven’t otherwise toured the island, especially the east side, and if you want to see more goats and cacti. That is what you’ll be seeing for hours. There is a short (1.5 hours) and long (2.5 hours) driving route around the park, with places to stop and hike the mountains or scuba dive/snorkel. We stopped at Playa Bengé where there is a dive site, a beautiful coral beach, and a lovely view from the cliff. The whole route is a rocky, hilly dirt road. I know I’ve never been jostled around in a car that much before. The view is mostly cacti, goats, and mountains with the occasional body of water. Therefore, if you are tight on time, I wouldn’t go to the park. If you have a day to spend there and want to scuba and hike, then go for it!
I recommend walking about Kralendijk. If you want touristy souvenirs with the feeling of cruise life, then check out the shops in town by the water. There are places to buy salt from the island. If you want to bring home any coral or shells, this would be the time to do so. It is illegal to bring any coral or shells off the island unless it is made into a craft or art piece. So unless you want to be blacklisted from ever coming back to Bonaire, use your shopping time to bring home any coral and leave the rest on the beach. We found a few gelato shops in town too, that offered a wide variety. I really liked Luciano because they had a “Bastogne Koek” flavor. It’s made of a Dutch cookie that is similar to our Biscoffs (and Biscoffs are my favorite!).
The highlight of the trip for me was horse back riding! Duh! We went to Rancho Washikemba on the east side of the island. This sweet family from Holland just bought out the ranch, which has been in operation for 8 years. Let them know we sent you! They picked us up from our villa and drove us the 25 minutes to the barn. Irene trained in dressage in the Netherlands. She really knows what’s she is doing with the horses and was a pleasure to talk to. She brought Matt and I on a private tour through the cacti and on the trails of Bonaire’s east coast. I rode this gorgeous Paso Fino, MaryBell, in just a rope halter (meaning nothing in her mouth to control her)! She was so sweet and easy. We made it to the lagoon and tied our horses to a boulder. We stripped down to our bathing suits, took our saddles off, and waded into the water with our horses. I recommend water shoes! The bottom of the lagoon is thick I-don’t-know-what. We hopped on our horses and went for a swim! Marybell wasn’t too fond of the swimming, but Matt’s horse, Poco Poco was loving it! We got to swim on and along side the horses!
I really enjoyed Bonaire. Although it’s beautiful, you could still be looking for things to do if you are there a week or more. I would recommend staying in a nice place. Check out our article about AirBnbs in Bonaire! Thankfully Bonaire is not an expensive place to stay and it pays to get a comfy place with a pool. That way you can enjoy your home when not exploring the island.