Last updated: 11:30 AM ET, Fri June 03 2016

7 Reasons Why Bonaire Should Be on Your Caribbean Bucket List

Destination & Tourism | Melinda Crow | June 03, 2016

7 Reasons Why Bonaire Should Be on Your Caribbean Bucket List

Dreaming of uncrowded beaches, amazing water sports and accommodations that don’t require a second mortgage? The Dutch island of Bonaire may be just what you need. It is easily accessible via direct flights on United out of Newark and Houston, Delta out of Atlanta, or American with a connection in Curacao, all with economy fares running in the $500 range most of the year. Here are the top seven reasons to start dreaming of Bonaire.

It's outside the hurricane belt

Only two hurricanes have even come close enough to cause damage in recent years — Wrong-way Lenny in 1999 and Omar in 2008. The island lies far enough south in the Caribbean — just 50 miles off the coast of Venezuela, to avoid the path of most storms. Bonaire is truly a desert island, averaging only 22 inches of rainfall per year. Mild temperatures and cooling trade winds prevail year-round.

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A new Marriott Courtyard is under construction

The abundance of accommodations on the island has never included a chain hotel. That changes this year when Marriott opens a Courtyard Hotel, part of its 60-hotel Caribbean and Latin America expansion plan. The 140-room hotel is currently under construction on the saltwater canals, just blocks from both the beach and the airport. For travelers who use miles and rewards points, the presence of a Marriott hotel on the island could be a game changer. Marriott Rewards partners with United, Delta, and American.

It's scenic

Bonaire's beauty is rugged. Imagine if a chunk of cactus-covered desert was dropped in the center of a turquoise pool. From lighthouses to blowholes, from flamingos to wild donkeys, the visual beauty of the island is a definite part of its allure. Under the water, the protected reefs are home to a vast array of sea life. From delicate seahorses to graceful eagle rays, these reefs are known to scuba divers as some of the best in the world.  

These days, there's more than just scuba diving

With several cruise ships now arriving each week, island residents have been beefing up their roster of activities. Wind surfing, kite surfing, boat rentals, and snorkeling top the wet list of things to do, while hiking, bicycling, off-road driving, and caving await those with dry-land activities in mind. There are golf cart rentals, Harley rentals and tours of all varieties. 

Beaches, beaches, beaches, and they are mostly empty

Don’t come here looking for mile-long stretches of sugar sand. Think instead of pocket beaches, often tucked between rocky ledges. Bonaire also has some of the best stone beaches anywhere in the world — comprised of broken corals worn smooth with each wave that sends them tumbling melodically against one another. The southern end of the island has a flatter shoreline, with the rocky ledges reduced to only a foot in height. Shore diving sites are well marked on the island with yellow painted rocks. Many of those are perfect for snorkeling as well as diving. Beach sitters seeking solitude need only stake out a spot between the dive sites to enjoy a piece of paradise all to themselves.

It's still affordable

Whether you plan to live like the locals in rental villa or stay in the new Courtyard, a large variety of accommodations fall in the range between $150-$250 per night. Car rentals average $30-$40 per day after taxes and insurance. Shore diving is always cheaper than boat diving, but even boat dives are under $100 per person here. Food choices are abundant, including well-stocked grocery stores and numerous local restaurants. Resorts that cater to divers often include some meals and even truck rentals in their packages. It's quite easy to spend a fun-filled week on the island and keep the final bill under $1,000 per person plus air.

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It's eco-friendly

You can feel good about your Caribbean vacation by volunteering for underwater clean-ups or gathering shore trash on the wild east side of the island where trade winds wash ashore an incredible amount of floating garbage. Take part in marine conservation programs that include restoring staghorn coral, harvesting invasive lionfish, and protecting sea turtle habitats. Islanders on Bonaire are proactive when it comes to protecting the environment, treating every resource as precious. They are gracious and welcoming while gently encouraging all visitors to be aware of their water and electricity usage.  

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