Bonaire is a top shore diving destination, and for good reasons. The tiny Caribbean Island has a long history of protecting its natural environment, and the Bonaire National Marine Park is a testament to this philosofphy. Bonaire dive sites are fantastic and diverse, making the area one of the best diving in Caribbean experience thanks to its abundant marine life diversity. Explore the reefs around Bonaire Island, including desolated Klein Bonaire, as well as Lac Bay lagoon and mangroves.
Bonaire National Marine Park
The conservation efforts are paying off – the Bonaire diving is fantastic. With around 90 dive sites, including approximately 50 shore entry points on the calmer leeward side of the island, most marked by a yellow stone on the side of the road, the island leeward offers immediate water access. Boat dives can also be arranged to discover remote sites north of the island, or around Klein Bonaire, an inhabited flat isle off Kralendijk, Bonaire’s main town. Thanks to an arid climate and little rainfall, the waters are crystal-clear and provide underwater photographers perfect conditions to capture the colorful corals and marine life.
The coral reefs usually encircle the island, starting right when you enter the water, and slope gradually down to about 30 feet (10 m) in what is called a reef terrace. This area spreads about 60 feet (20 meters) in width in the north coast and about 660 feet (200 meters) in the south part. Bonaire National Marine Park manages all the water around the island, and ensure
Bonaire Marine Life & Lionfish Invasion
Bonaire shore sites are teeming with marine life. Over 300 species called the Island’ reefs home: green and hawksbill turtles, octopuses, seahorses, stingrays, rockfishes, moray eels, tarpons, barracudas, groupers, and more. Among Bonaire’s most famous marine residents, frogfish and seahorses live in several locations around Bonaire You might come across the Longsnout Seahorses, and the Longlure Frogfishes, which are the most common on the island. Though they are not always at the same place, seahorses tend to be present at The Cliff, and frogfish around Yellow Submarine and Something Special.
Lionfish, which is an invasive species in the Caribbean, are so numerous that they are endangering the native species. As a result, the Bonaire National Marine Park put a program to remove lionfish which include teaching divers on how to spear them. A new certification is now available to that effect – the Lionfish Hunting Certification course.
Top Bonaire Dive Sites
Top recommended Bonaire scuba-diving sites include Salt Pier, Angel City, and The Invisibles. For wreck divers, Hilma Hooker is considered one of the best dive sites for wrecks.
Other spots worth mentioning are Something Specials, The Cliff, Oil Slick Leap, different sites where divers report seeing seahorses, green morays, tarpons, moray eels, lizard, and rockfishes.
Given such a high number of sites, here are some of the best diving spots on Bonaire. But you can’t go wrong with any dive!
Leeward West Side Dives
Bonaire Salt Pier
Famous for its pillars creating a new world of corals and playing grounds for numerous schools of fish, including tarpons, yellowtail snappers and more, Bonaire Salt Pier is the must-dive site. Lucky divers might spot green turtles and even octopuses. Depth range is 40 to 70 feet (12-21 meters). The pillars here are fully encrusted with sponges and corals. Large schools of fish congregate in the shadows created by the salt terminal overhead. Depth 15-60 feet (5-20 meters) / Current: almost none
By far our most memorable dive on Bonaire! We barely entered the water that we spotted a green turtle, one of the two we saw. Then came trumpetfish, parrotfish, angelfish, honeycomb cowfish, porcupinefish, and rockfish. What was amazing were the marine life diversity and the large school of smallmouth grunts swimming around the pillars of Salt Pier. As far as Caribbean diving goes, Salt Pier sits off one of the best shore diving experience!
Wreck divers will want to check the Hilma Hooker, a 1951-trade ship that was detained in 1984 for marijuana trafficking after the ship was forced to enter Bonaire’s port Kralendijk following some engine problems at sea. Following deteriorations and without the owner coming forward to take over the ship, the 230-feet (70-meter) Hilma Hooker started taking water and disappeared within minutes on an early September morning, resting on a sand flat nestled by two coral reefs close to Angel City.
Thanks to abundant marine life, Hilma Hooker has become the main attraction for wreck diving in Bonaire, and even in the Caribbean. This freighter lies at 60-100 feet (18-30 meters) / Depth: 20-130 feet (6 – 40 meters) / Current: Moderate
As its name tells it, you need to go down about a lot of steps to reach the short – 1,000 is exaggerated (well, it might feel like it after the dive). But 1,000 is worth the effort of carrying your gear down (and up!) thanks to beautiful star coral formations. Hawksbill turtles, manta rays, sergeant majors are recurrent residents. Depth 20-100 feet (6-30 meters) / Current: Moderate
This site is considered to be the most diverse with over 300 species and great coral reefs. An easy shore dive with almost no current, you might have a chance to see an octopus and seahorses. Depth 30-100 feet
(10-30 meters) / Current: Moderate
Picture drop-offs, caves, corals, colonies of elkhorn coral, with a vertical wall going down to the sandy bottom at around 130 feet. The landscape is quite dramatic and will thrill underwater photographers. Thanks to its usually clear visibility, this would be a good place for underwater photography. Occasionally, you might see a whale popping up across the water. Depth 20-100 feet (6-30 meters) / Current: Almost none
Known for its strong current, the dive spot located by the Washington Slagbaai Park is better reserved for experienced divers. Also called Playa Bengi, the site rewards the adventurous divers with pristine coral, and the opportunities to see occasional manta rays and Hammerhead sharks. The beach is also the nesting site for sea turtles. Depth 15-100 feet (4- 30 meters) / Current: very strong.
Other Bonaire dive sites worth mentioning:
This dive spot can be either a shore or a boat dive perfect for beginner divers. Currents are usually mild, and the depth goes between 20 to 80 feet (6 – 24 meters). Though there is not much coral due to the boat mooring of the marina, the marine life is rather rich. The sandy bottom provides a good environment for rays. Given the shore proximity and abundant marine life, the site is good for a night dive. Depth 20-100 feet (6 – 30 meters) / Current: little
As per its name, the spot is a wall dive, which you reach following a large pipe. Caves, coral and a good variety of fish await. This site usually features resident seahorses, frogfish, and is a good place for night dives too.
And we did two dives at Cliff. During our day dive, we saw two seahorses, one red hiding in the coral, one black hiding among dark ground. In addition to these two beautiful creatures, the other marine life we encountered included lettuce sea slug, yellow eel, flamingo tongues, black moray, parrotfish, lionfish, filefish, midnight parrotfish.
Depth: 26-120 feet (8 – 36 meters ) / Current: Moderate
This dive site is one of the few places where divers have a chance to see garden eels in shallow water. One of the last of the double reef dives, beginner to intermediate divers will have a chance to see “islands” of coral separated by sand chutes. Finding the second reef tends to be a bit challenging, make sure to ask for tips at your dive shop. Depth 20 – 150 feet (6 – 50 meters) / Current: Mild to moderate
The site gained its name from the windsock flying from a roadside pole. In this location that ranges from 30 to 100 feet (10 – 30 meters), divers regularly encounter turtles and rays. Windsock is a good diving site for snorkelers and beginner divers. Depth 20-80 feet (6-25 meters) / Current: Little
Oil Slick Leap
The site takes its name from the proposed oil storage terminal. Today, with mild currents and a depth ranging from 20 to 80 feet, Oil Slick Leap is home to barracudas. Depth 20-80 feet (6-25 meters) / Current: Little
South of the island close to a yellow stone labeled Angel City; the dive site is an easy double reef dive. The mooring marks where the first reef is close to touching the second reef. Thanks to the sandy section of the shallow water, you get a chance to spot garden eels. Depth 20-100 feet (6-30 meters) / Current: Moderate
Named after the slave huts at the site, this diving spot is for experienced divers as it sits at the point of the island and sees rougher waters. Depth 20-80 feet (6-25 meters) / Current: strong
Captain Don’s Reef
The plaque at this dive site recognized Captain Don for his role in protecting the marine habitat. The dive site is a sandy bottom, and terraces composing the reef wall, which makes a good spot for night dives, giving you a chance to find frogfish. Depth 30 – 140 feet (10 – 43 meters) / Current: Moderate to strong
A shallow plateau with reef fish, stunning corals, and flamingo tongue shells, and a high probability of spotting the resident seahorses. Depth 20-150 feet (6 – 46 meters) / Current: Little
A shallow sand plateau with hard coral, the site is home to an extensive amount of fish, including moray eels. Crabs, lobsters, and sometimes turtles are usually present during the night dive. Depth: 16 -130 feet (5 – 40 meters) / Currents: little to moderate
Contrary to the other sites, Klein Bonaire is boat dive only, and hence see fewer divers who prefer to discover the numerous shore dives off the island. Because (or thanks) to this situation, the corals and reefs are very healthy and populous. Klein Bonaire features about 24 dive sites, basically encircling the island. Without listing them all, see below for a short selection of the best diving sites.
See the best dives sites on Klein Bonaire:
Also called Jerry’s Jam, this dive site is among the most beautiful spots on Klein Bonaire. First in shallow water before a sharp reef drop, the coral is stunning and marine life abundant, with residents including octopuses, nurse sharks, and lobsters. Depth 20-130 feet (6 – 40 meters). / Current: Moderate
One of the most amazing sites for black coral, and elephant ear sponges! Chances to see turtles along the wall, and cleaning stations. Depth 20-160 feet (6 – 49 m) / ( / Current: Little to moderate
Monte’s Divi Tree
A single divi tree on the shore gives the name of this diving spot. Staghorn coral is present, and potentially a chance of seeing a seahorse. Depth 15-100 feet (5-30 meters) / Current: Little
One of our Klein Bonaire dives, Monte’s Dive Tree is a lovely dive, where we saw flounders, green moray, and lionfish.
Other scuba-diving sites worth mentioning on Klein Bonaire:
This site is perfect for night dives thanks to the tubastrea coral and its orange polyps. Large moray eels and black coral reside at the deeper end of the reef. Depth down to 37 feet (11 meters) / Current: little to moderate
Follow the pile of rocks that stands on the beach to find this dive site. With white sand, coral both soft and hard, spotted eels, crabs, lobsters, and octopuses, the site is a popular night dive spot. Depth 15 -154 feet (4 – 47 meters) / Current: little
Bonaire East Coast
The East Coast of Bonaire usually gets rougher sea and is better reserved for experienced divers. The current is strong, and the dive sites can only be visited when there is little to no wind. Not all dive operators and resorts dive there, so check with your dive shop first, and make sure to go with experienced divers. See a lost of Bonaire Scuba Diving Sites on the East Coast.
Located off Lac Bay on the East Coast, White Hole is for the adventurous spirits. Rewards can include spotting tarpons as well as turtles. Depth 15-100 feet (5-30 meters) / Currents: Strong
Boka means small bay, and most of the East Coast dive sites are in these bokas. Usually, with high cliffs and strong currents, the coral sits from 16 to 100 feet (5 – 30 meters). Colonies of lobsters and sharks usually roam the area. Depth 16-100 feet (5 – 30 meters) / Currents: Strong
Black point reef sharks, nurse sharks, crabs, groupers, triggerfish, rocky ridges, cave, and coral gardens best describe the dive site. Several wrecks lay on the site, a testimony of potentially rough sea conditions at times. Depth 66 – 110 feet (20 – 34 meters) / Currents: Strong
After a shallow plateau of rocks, the reef presents wide areas of purple sea fans, probably one of the amazing coral in-depth lower than 100 feet (30 meters). Tunnels, caves, bridges, bennies, octopuses, anemones, parrotfish, reef and nurse sharks make for one of the nicest dives around. Depth 20 – 144 feet (6 – 44 meters) / Currents: Strong
Dive options include guided dives from the shore or the boat, though due to its numerous easy shore entrances, many experienced divers choose to prepare their independent dives, renting gear and tanks for local dive shops. First-time divers can start with a PADI Discover Scuba Diving experience, or take the opportunity to upgrade their certification to Open Water or even Advanced Open Water.
Night Dives & UV Light
A UV light night dive is one of the most recent dive novelties that you might want to try. Also called luminescence night dive, it’s an excellent way to admire coral, fish, and surroundings in literally a new light. You need to wear a special mask and lamp, and off you go for discoveries!
Whether you use a UV light or not, here are some of the most popular night dive sites on Bonaire.
- The Cliff
- Something Special
- Ebo’s Reef
- Captain Don’s Reef
- Rock Pile
During our UV light night dive at Cliff, three large tarpons, jellyfish, and lionfishes accompanied us. The UV light did bright the same site literally under a different light, and we recommend the experience. It was thrilling to encounter the tarpons. In the deep of the night, we could not see what these animals were. Their shape reminded me of sharks, and I froze for a few seconds. But we quickly relaxed and enjoyed these fantastic moments where the tarpons swam around and ahead of us. Truly memorable!
Bonaire Weather & Seasons
When to Go: There is no specific best time to dive Bonaire, as the island has pleasant weather throughout the year which makes for good diving conditions all year round. Air temperatures vary from 85°F to 95°F (29°C-33°C).
However, June to November is hurricane season. The island itself is seldom touched given its location at the extreme lower part of the Caribbean, but strong winds might impact the sea in general.
Bonaire Diving Conditions
- Depth: Most dive sites go from 30 to 90 feet (10 to 30 m). However, a couple of places go deeper.
Visibility: Averages between 60 to 100 feet (20 to 30 m) but might drops on occasion after a day of severe weather and strong wind. You can also experience fantastic visibility over 150 feet (50 m)
- Temperatures: Between 78°F to 85°F (25°C to 30°C) in the water. In January and February, a dive hood and a 3mm shorty might be useful against the slightly colder temperatures.
What to do in Bonaire
While Bonaire is a diving paradise, the Caribbean Island has plenty of things to see and do. A great way to enjoy your Bonaire vacation is to include a few non-diving days in your travel plan.
Kiteboarding, kayaking, or hiking, are among the many Bonaire things to do and outdoor activities that the adventurous spirits will enjoy. If you are looking for less active experiences, drive around the island and see Bonaire top attractions, visit the historical city of Rincon, sample some of the excellent seafood, or chill on one of the several Bonaire beaches and go for a dip in the turquoise water. Guided sightseeing tours are also available.
Among our preferred things to do in Bonaire, we enjoyed kiteboarding since the island is quite windy. I even took my first lessons there! Hiking in Washington Slagbaai, Bonaire national park, was also a highlight given the occasion to see wild iguanas and pink flamingos. A visit to Rincon was enjoyable too, as we learned about Bonaire’s history.
Where is Bonaire?
Bonaire is an island in the Leeward Antilles in the Caribbean, the B of the ABC islands. Aruba and Curacao compose the remaining A and C. From the US, flights to Bonaire will probably have you connect Flamingo International Airport via Houston. Formerly part of the Netherlands Antilles until 2010, and now still a special municipality of the Netherlands, flights from Amsterdam are available regularly. Watch that most of these flight only run a few days a week. Another option is to fly into Curacao and then to Kralendijk, Bonaire, where Flamingo International Airport is.
Given the importance of diving in Bonaire, many of the Bonaire hotels are scuba-oriented lodging. Bonaire Diving resorts range from budget to luxury, several resorts located right on the waterfront. Among the most popular ones are Buddy Dive Bonaire, Dive Friends Bonaire, Divi Flamingo Bonaire, and GOOODive.
We enjoyed our stay at the Dive Hut, where we booked a studio with a small kitchen area, private bathroom, and an outside breakfast nook. This setting was perfect for preparing our breakfast, as well as cooking simple pasta when we were too tired to go outside.
For Bonaire diving packages, budget-conscious travelers should ask for the various resorts for package prices and specials.
For availability and costs on Bonaire Dive resorts and other Bonaire accommodation, check these deals below.
Bonaire Dive Tips
- Bonaire Marine National Park: Snorkelers, divers, kiteboarders, and windsurfers, kayakers, swimmers, or any other water sports, are required to buy a pass and have the tag with them at all time. The pass can be purchased at most hotels, parks’ visitor centers, or dive shops, and costs US$ 25 per person for divers, and US$10 for all users. The US$25 pass provides free entrance to the Washington-Slagbaai National Park.
- Bonaire does an excellent job protecting its reefs. As such, divers are not allowed to wear gloves. Touching the reef is strongly prohibited. You might be prevented from diving if you don’t comply with these protective rules.
- Get a copy of the book Bonaire Shore Diving Made Easy by Susan Porter. This guide is as one of the best resources for shore diving on Bonaire.
- Some shore dive sites might require prior permissions. Check with your local Bonaire dive shops.
Gear Rental: Tanks, or most any diving gear, can be rented from one of the numerous dive stores. Many experienced divers choose to dive the shores independently since the access is easy and diving spots right by the beach.
- Bonaire dive shops can arrange boat dives to the remote northern sites or Klein Bonaire, an inhabited flat island off Kralendijk, Bonaire’s main town.
- If you plan to drive around and dive independently, ask for your dive shop for a Bonaire Diving map
- Sunscreen: A must-have of course! But to keep protecting the stunning coral and marine life, use a biodegradable sunscreen. From what we come read, two elements – Titanium oxide and Zinc oxide – are biodegradable. To this date, the other chemical ingredients are not, which include the major sunscreen brands such as Banana Boat, Coppertone, No-Ad, etc. However, other brands have biodegradable products: Tropical Sands (formerly MexiTan), Caribbean Solutions, Kiss My face, Alba Botanica, BATAB, Hawaiian Tropic Biodegradable, Soleo Organics, and Badger. As the components and brands change, please verify each product.
- Keep a reusable bottle of water handy, for a quick water sip before and after your dives. One can get dehydrated while diving.
- Diving Insurance: We are big fans of DAN (Divers Alert Network), which is regarded as the industry leader for scuba-diving insurance and is known for its knowledgeable diving staff.
Bonaire Travel Tips
- Rent a car: the island is small and easy to drive around. A car rental will give you the flexibility to discover independently. Grab a Bonaire Map that includes the small dirt roads, and explore the island outside the main paved infrastructure.
- Alternatively, you can rent a scooter or a bike, but not as convenient to carry your scuba-diving gear!
If you do drive, watch for the donkeys that roam freely around the island
- Bonaire Top Attractions: Make sure to visit Rincon, or stop at one of the slave huts, and learn about Bonaire’s sober history.
- Nightlife: Contrary to Aruba or Curacao, Bonaire is a laid-back destination with limited nightlife. If you are looking for crazy evening vibes, latest concerts or want to hit the dance floors, Bonaire might not be ideal for you. But water sports and outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate the rustic feel of the island.
- There is no ferry between the ABC islands, so be prepared to island-hop by plane if you want to explore Aruba or Curacao.
- Learn a few words of Papiamentu, the local language – a mix of Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Caribbean and African. Most people speak English, but it will open doors and get you bright smiles if you try. “Bon dia” (Good Day) and Danki (Thanks) are easy to remember!
Bonaire Travel Resources
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