Bonaire is a charming, quiet and extremely clean island with a population of around 11,000 (2001 Census). The main town is attractive, with pastel colored buildings and red tile roofs. It comes with a wonderful selection of waterfront restaurants. This alone would rate it as a great port to visit, but when you throw in the attraction of some of the Caribbean’s clearest water and easiest and best diving, you have an unbeatable combination.
Bonaire is part of the Netherlands Antilles with its sister islands, Curaçao and Aruba, a little to the west. Other Antillean islands include Saint Maarten, Saba and Statia. The locals call them the Windward Islands. To the Dutch who had to try to sail from Bonaire to Saint Maarten, those northern islands were very much to windward so they called Bonaire, Curaçao and Aruba the Leewards.
Bonaire’s two main industries are salt and tourism, especially diving and eco-tourism. The attractions for tourists are snorkeling, scuba diving, windsurfing and bird watching (about 200 species have been sighted). Most windsurfing takes place on a large lagoon on the windward side of the island, Lac Bay, that is open to strong winds but protected from seas by a low lying reef. Those surfers that want waves can sail in the pass or outside the lagoon. Much of the island is a nature preserve to help conserve these attractions. Lac Bay is closed to visiting yachts.
The Bonaire Regatta is held in early October and runs for a week. It is the major Bonaire yachting event. There are races for yachts, catamarans, windsurfers, sunfish, lasers and local fishing boats. Small boat races are also held every month and a couple of times a year the race card includes yachts. Outsiders are very welcome and made to feel special.
Kralendijk is the capital of Bonaire and the only mooring area. The Bonaire National Marine Park rents 40 moorings in this at NAƒ10 ($5.65) per day. You can tie to the mooring with your own line (do not use chain) or use the line provided. You cannot anchor except in an emergency. There are almost always moorings available, but if there are none you can tie up to the town pier free of charge for a limited time.
There are three good marinas: Harbour Village Marina is about 15 feet deep, Plaza Resort Marina can handle yachts up to 7.5 foot draft on a high tide. The Nautico Bonaire Marina is in the heart of town and most convenient for shopping. However it can be rolly in south winds and untenable in west winds.