Washington Slagbaai, Bonaire’s National Park, was the first Nature Conservatory created in the Netherland Antilles. This national park & reserve, covering close to 22 square miles, is located on the northern end of Bonaire and managed by STINAPA Bonaire, a non-profit foundation, on behalf of the Bonaire government. When you arrive at the visitor center, you will be given a map of the park, which details all the stops and activities.
Our family takes the long route through the park, stopping for a picnic at Boka Kokolishi. There are rock areas which provide some shade. The warm bay has natural whirl pools, and very calm water.
We always leaving enough time to go snorkeling in Wayaka. The cliff jumping at Boka & Salina Slagbaai looks incredibly fun, but not something I have mustered the courage for! Across from Salina Slagbaai is a flamingo preserve where you can admire this beautiful bird from afar.
Visiting the Washington Slagbaai is a wonderful all day activity. There are no services in the park, so pack up all your drinks and food for the day. We bring along a garbage bag as well. You are required to have the marine park tag to go through the park. If you already have it, make sure to bring your receipt and ID, both are required. If you don’t already have the tag, you can buy one as you enter.
There is so much to do in the park – hiking trails, biking trails, snorkeling, sightseeing, birdwatching, cliff jumping … the list goes on. This is a day well worth spending.
Bonaire’s oldest town, Rincon, is an oasis of Bonaire culture.
Rincon is the oldest settlement in all of the ABC islands was originally settled by the Spanish in the 16th century and the cradle of Bonaire’s rich culture. In Rincon you will find many festivities throughout the year.
Many of the first slaves that were brought to Bonaire by the Dutch lived in Rincon, and were either tasked with tending to the settlement’s crops or the island’s salt flats in the south. After the abolition of slavery in 1863, many former slaves stayed in Rincon, maintaining their culture. Today, Rincon is an oasis of peace and serenity in an often hectic society. The atmosphere is relaxed and the streets are quiet.
To discover the true beauty of this town, stroll along the streets and stop in to one of the many bars and restaurants and chat with a true Rinconian. This map of Rincon will help you navigate the streets and attractions. While visiting Rincon, make sure to stop at the Cadushy Bonaire, and grab some rum made from cacti!
Klein Bonaire, or Little Bonaire, is the small slice of land you see as you fly into Bonaire Flamingo airport. The moment our eyes set sight on Klein Bonaire, we take a deep breath, relax and know our Bonaire vacation has begun.
Klein Bonaire is a small, flat, uninhabited island located a half mile off the coast of Bonaire. It is owned by the government of Bonaire, and is protected from development. Included in the protection of the Bonaire National Marine Park, Klein Bonaire is home to nestling turtle grounds as well. Klein Bonaire is also home to one of the only true sandy beaches of Bonaire – No Name Beach.
Known for its amazing diving and snorkeling, time spent on Klein Bonaire is a must for all Bonaire visitors. With shallow reef areas, steep drop offs and lots of healthy reef, there is a lot of underwater sea life to explore.
With no development, comes no facilities, except for a few small shade structures and trash receptacles. Bring with you what you need for the day – lots of water, some snacks, and perhaps a nice meal. The island is very peaceful, and is a wonderful way to spend a day if you are well prepared.
There are several spots on the island which you can access a taxi to get to Klein Bonaire. We like to use the taxi at Eden/Spice Beach Club. It is convenient to Villa Lunt, and is a great place to spend time as well.
Exploring the country side of Bonaire is a fun thing to do while on Bonaire. Heading to the middle of the island, you will find the trails of Bara Di Karta, named for a hill in the neighborhood. You will find paths to hike, bike or drive while exploring the different landscapes, nature, history and many hidden treasures of Bonaire.
An excursion on the driving trail will bring you first to the volcanic soil found on Bonaire from eruptions years ago in the sea. As you continue the drive, you will find the old plantation, where aloe vera used to be made, and some say is haunted. You will journey to the salt lakes, then see Bonaire’s longest mangrove tree, which grows long instead of high due to the trade winds. Nearby you will see a boka, a mouth of water. I found the large boulders from left from the long past tsunamis one of the most interesting sites. Your next few stops will be Kunukus, which are traditional Bonarian farms. There is an irrigation well, where you can learn about the importance of wells in Bonaire farming. Continuing the driving trail will bring you to a few hiking trails – take an excursion and checkout the hill of Bara Di Karta.
The video below will take you through this driving trail, explaining all the different sites you will come upon.
Donkeys were introduced to Bonaire in the 17th century by Spaniards who used the animals to perform hard labor. As Bonaire became industrialized, the Donkeys were no longer needed and set free. Unfortunately, these animals are not well adapted to Caribbean weather and the traffic of Bonaire. In an effort to save and protect these animals, the sanctuary was created as a safe haven for the donkeys.
The Bonaire Donkey Sanctuary is home to more than 600 donkeys who roam in the enclosed land. The animals are fed and cared for daily by the wonderful and loving staff of the sanctuary. Open to the public, you can visit any day between 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. A small fee will allow entrance to drive through the sanctuary, and enjoy these fun animals. As you drive through their land, the donkeys will surround your vehicle, poke their heads in, and enjoy treats you are willing to share. (hint, they love carrots)
When we visit the sanctuary, we enjoy spending time in the small enclosure just behind the little office building. There you will find the younger donkeys, and the mommies with their babies. Just behind this enclosure, is a small turtle sanctuary. There you will find turtles of all ages.
We like to visit the donkey sanctuary on a day we go to Sorobon. Located up the road from Sorobon, it makes for a well-rounded day.
Bonaire is home to many beautiful birds, but perhaps the most elegant is the Caribbean Pink Flamingo. The beta carotenes, found easily in the crustaceans and plankton on Bonaire, make the Caribbean Flamingo one of the most colorful of all.
As you drive around Bonaire, you will see many flamingos. There are three places you will find an abundance of Flamingos.
In the mangroves by Lac Bay, filled with clear water & full of colorful fish, you will find many exotic pink flamingos. The flamingos find fresh food in these waters, and in turn provide tourists with wonderful opportunities to view them in their natural habitat. As you head to Lac Bay and Sorobon, you will be treated to many opportunities to view these beautiful birds.
Heading North? Then head toward Gotomeer Lake – just between Washington Slagbaai National Park and the rest of Bonaire. Gotomeer is a wonderful place to find the beautiful Caribbean Pink Flamingo. At this spot, you will be able to get closer to these beautiful birds then any other spot on Bonaire. Head towards the lake, and drive around – but stay in your truck. The birds are more likely to approach the edge of the lake if you are in your vehicle.
Bonaire houses one of only four areas in the world which breed Flamingos – The Pekelmeer (“salt lake” in Dutch) Flamingo Sanctuary. Although not open to the public, you can view these beautiful birds in their sanctuary near the salt lakes of Bonaire. A pair of binoculars are in order to view them from the road, or while relaxing at Pink Beach.
These pools appear pink against the white salt pyramids. The pink color comes from the tiny rosy brine shrimp which live in the water. At the southern end of the island, amid the vast salt pans,The Pekelmeer Flamingo sanctuary resides.
Constructed in the mid 1800’s, during slavery time, these small huts served as the sleeping quarters for slaves working in the salt ponds. Up to 6 slaves would sleep in a tiny hut at one time. Salt was Bonaire’s most prominent export product and the slaves would collect the salt to be shipped off the island.
The slaves lived in Rincon on the weekends, trekking up to 7 hours from these huts to their families each Friday afternoon, and then back again each Sunday.
Slavery was abolished on Bonaire in 1863. It would be another 100 years before the salt industry was revitalized.