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    Flag, Coat of Arms, and Tourist Board

    “Once a visitor always a friend”, the slogan of the Dutch Antillean island of Bonaire, pulls travelers back time and again. Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao are relatively close together, and commonly referred to as the ABC islands. With roots in Africa, Europe and the Caribbean, the population numbers 16,000, with nearly as many flamingos inhabiting Bonaire. Proud of their past while looking to the future, Bonaireans are a laid-back people who live each day to the fullest. A true “Divers Paradise”, and one of the world’s foremost dive destinations, Bonaire’s surrounding waters are designated the Marine National Park in support of conservation. There are no traffic lights on the island!

    At 112 square miles, Bonaire is 24 miles long and between 3 and 7 miles wide. Relatively flat with a few hills (the highest peak is Mount Brandaris at 780 ft.), Bonaire is known for its beaches and what lies beneath the water: the healthiest reefs in the Caribbean. Bonaire’s only export is salt, harvested for over 350 years from flats on the southern side of the island. Fossilized reefs form more than 400 caves in Bonaire, some accessible only by diving, some featuring undeciphered petroglyphs.

    Located about 12 degrees north of the equator, Bonaire enjoys balmy weather due to 15 mph prevailing trade winds from the east. With average temperatures in the mid 80s, and water temperatures just a little cooler, Bonaire is semi-arid with only 20 inches of annual rainfall. Instead of tropical rainforest and palm trees, Bonaire is more suited to towering cactus, succulents and scrub vegetation. Bonaire’s mangroves are the home of many birds and fish and vital to their existence. Flamingos, the national symbol of Bonaire, thrive in sanctuaries in the salt flats, numbering up to 20,000 during mating season.

    Population and Culture
    Residents number 16,000, with approximately 20% living in the capital city of Kralendijk, meaning “coral dyke”. The only other town, Rincon, was established inland for safety reasons, away from marauding sea invaders. Rincon is the cradle of Bonaire’s rich heritage and the home of 10% of the inhabitants, known as Rinconeros. The Arawaks, from Venezuela, were the first to arrive in Bonaire, followed by the Spanish. The Dutch took over next, bringing African slaves to harvest salt. This history is evident in the faces of the people, who treasure their diverse roots.

    Dutch is the official language of Bonaire. The lingua franca is Papiamentu, a creole language originated by the Africans who spoke different native languages. Papiamentu is a rich spoken language with aspects of Portuguese, Dutch, Spanish, Arawak and African. Many also speak English, and some speak Spanish as well.

    Music and Dance
    Bonaire’s Simadan Festival celebrates the harvest, and is named after music created by the slaves with improvised instruments. Featuring hand-clapping and call-and-response singing, Simadan is accompanied by the rhythmic dance Wapa, which symbolizes the cooperation required at harvest time. The Bari is also a harvest dance, a kind of a Calypso Polka, named after a rum-barrel drum with a sheepskin surface. Carnival is also a huge celebration on Bonaire. The more modern Heineken Jazz Festival has come to include Salsa music in recent years.

    With more than 70 nationalities in residence, cuisine in Bonaire is as varied as the population. “Snacks” are local restaurants serving economical traditional foods (kuminda Krioyo) in generous portions. Seafood is always on the menu, along with chicken, pork and goat. Pastechi are fried meat pies; when filled with vegetables they are called Lumpia. Cadushy of Bonaire liqueur is distilled on the island from cactus and lime, and a beautiful pale green in color.

    Architectural Design
    In quaint, charming and colorful buildings, the Dutch influence is much in evident in Kralendijk, Bonaire’s capital city. The King’s Warehouse, or Mangazina di Rei, located in Rincon, is the island’s second oldest building. Bonaire’s oldest building is Fort Oranje, built as a defense against pirates, with cannons pointed at the harbor. Tiny slave huts, located near the salt flats, have been restored as a sad testimony to the inhumane treatment of the slaves. Traditional Cactus fences are an economical way to keep animals in or out; the cactus will rot unless cut during a full moon.

    Tourist Office
    For more information about events, promotions and things-to-do in Bonaire, go to the Tourist Office Page or visit the official website of Tourism Corporation Bonaire.

    Note: Information provided on this page were derived from a combination of internal research and readily-available outside sources, such as destination tourism offices, official press releases and marketing media kits. 

    Fast Facts

    Capital: Kralendijk

    Anthem: "Tera di Solo y suave biento"

    Language: Dutch is the official language; Papiamentu is Bonaire’s spoken creole dialect; most Bonaireans also speak English and some Spanish.

    Government: Special municipality of the Netherlands

    Size:112 square miles; 24 miles long, between 3 and 7 miles wide.

    Population 16,000 (2012)

    Location: Southern Caribbean, Lesser Antilles, 50 miles north of Venezuela

    Climate and Temperature: With a desert climate, Bonaire enjoys warm sunshine almost every day. Rainfall: 20 inches per year: most of the rain falls October through January, usually in short showers. With strong trade winds and low humidity, Bonaire is the ideal beach destination. Sunscreen is strongly recommended. 82°F monthly mean temperature, water temperatures average 80°F.

    Electricity: 127 Volts 60 cycle AC, similar to the United States, should work for small appliances. For anything with an internal clock, an adapter is recommended. Sophisticated dive equipment also requires an adapter.

    Currency: The US Dollar is the official currency of Bonaire.

    ATMs: ATMs can be found in many convenient locations throughout the island.

    Time Zone: Atlantic Standard Time (same as Eastern Daylight Time).

    Water: Water is potable, and is produced via desalinization. Bottled water is also available at most hotels and convenience stores.

    Driving: Driving is on the right-hand side of the road, and a driver’s license is required. There are no traffic lights on Bonaire.

    Rentals: Car, jeeps and bike rentals available.

    Dress Code: Casual but in good taste (short shorts, bikinis, are undesirable in public places). Topless swimming and/or sunbathing are prohibited.

    Cruising/Bare Boating: Arriving vessels proceed to the Harbor Village Marina, where they can clear the port authority, customs and immigration. Information on the Marine Park regulations will be given.

    Pets: Cats and dogs from certain countries are welcome with a health certificate from a veterinarian and a rabies certificate. Be sure to check with The Netherlands Embassy, the airline and your accommodations for specifics.

    Travel Information
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    By Air
    Flamingo International Airport (BON) is located near Bonaire’s capital, Kralendijk. Bonaire is accessible via flights from the US; schedules vary, depending on the season. The nearest international gateways are Atlanta (3 hours), Miami (2.5 hours) and New York (4 hours).

    A valid passport (6 months past the end of your stay) and return and onward tickets are required for all visitors to Bonaire.

    Green Cards
    Green card holders must have a valid green card and valid passport from their country of origin.  In some cases, visas are still required for entry into Bonaire.

    For the latest information on Nationals requiring visas or Direct Airside Transit Visas to enter Bonaire, please check with The Netherlands Embassy.

    Customs and Immigration
    All persons traveling to and from Bonaire must clear Customs & Immigration at Flamingo International Airport (BON).  The final authority for admission is the migration officer.

    Visitors 17 years and older are permitted to bring 200 cigarettes, 25 cigars, 125 grams of tobacco, 2 liters of distilled beverages, 2 liters of wine.

    Departure Tax
    A US $35.00 departure tax applies to all tourists departing Bonaire, and may be already included in the price of your airline ticket.


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