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Island Territory of Bonaire
Eilandgebied Bonaire
Teritorio Insular di Boneiru
AnthemTera di Solo y suave biento
(and largest city)
12°15′N 68°28′W / 12.25°N 68.467°W / 12.25; -68.467
Official languages Dutch, Papiamentu, English
Government See Politics of the Netherlands Antilles
 -  Administrator of Bonaire Mr Drs. Glenn Thodé
 -  Governor of N.A. Frits Goedgedrag
Constitutional monarchy part of the Netherlands Antilles 
 -  Total 294 km2 
113 sq mi 
 -  2006 census 14,006 
 -  Density 49/km2 (ranked as part of N. A.)
99/sq mi
Currency Netherlands Antillean guilder (ANG)
Time zone -4 (UTC-4)
Drives on the right
Internet TLD .an
Calling code 599

The Island Territory of Bonaire (pronounced /bɒˈnɛər/; Dutch: Eilandgebied Bonaire, Papiamento: Teritorio Insular di Boneiru) is one of five island areas (Eilandgebieden) of the Netherlands Antilles, consisting of the main island of Bonaire and, nestled in its western crescent, the uninhabited islet of Klein Bonaire. Together with Aruba and Curaçao it forms a group referred to as the ABC islands of the Leeward Antilles, the southern island chain of the Lesser Antilles.

As part of the Netherlands Antilles, Bonaire is also a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The structure of the relationship between Bonaire, the Netherlands Antilles and the Kingdom is being considered for change under proposed legislation. The Netherlands Antilles was scheduled to be dissolved as a unified political entity on 15 December 2008, so that the five constituent islands would attain new constitutional statuses within the Kingdom of the Netherlands,[1] but this dissolution has been postponed to an indefinite future date.[2] As of December 15, 2008, legislation to amend the charter of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and to define the new status of Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius was still being reviewed.[3]




Original Inhabitants

Bonaire's earliest known inhabitants were the Caquetios Indians, a branch of the Arawak who came by canoe from Venezuela in about AD 1000. Archeological remains of Caquetio culture have been found at sites northeast of Kralendijk and near Lac Bay. Caquieto rock paintings and petroglyphs have been preserved in caves at Spelonk, Onima, Ceru Pungi, and Ceru Crita-Cabai. The Caquetios were apparently a very tall people, for the Spanish name for the ABC Islands was 'las Islas de los Gigantes' or 'the islands of the giants'.[4]


In 1499, Alonso de Ojeda discovered Curaçao and a neighboring island that was almost certainly Bonaire. Ojeda was accompanied by Amerigo Vespucci and Juan de la Cosa. De La Cosa's Mappa Mundi of 1500 shows Bonaire and calls it Isla do Palo Brasil or "Island of Brazilwood." The Spanish conquerors decided that the three ABC Islands were useless, and in 1515 the natives were forcibly deported to work as slaves in the copper mines of Santo Domingo on the island of Hispaniola[4].

Spanish Period

In 1526, Juan de Ampies was appointed Spanish commander of the ABC Islands. He brought back some of the original Caquetios Indian inhabitants to Bonaire and Curaçao. Ampies also imported domesticated animals from Spain, including cows, donkeys, goats, horses, pigs, and sheep. The Spaniards thought that Bonaire could be used as a cattle plantation worked by natives. The cattle were raised for hides rather than meat. The Spanish inhabitants lived mostly in the inland town of Rincon which was safe from pirate attack[4].

Dutch Period

The Dutch West India Company was founded in 1621. Starting in 1623, ships of the West India Company called at Bonaire to obtain meat, water, and wood. The Dutch also abandoned some Spanish and Portugese prisoners there, and these people founded the town of Antriol which is a contraction of "al interior" or "inside." The Dutch and the Spanish fought from 1568 to 1648 in what is now known as the Eighty Years War. In 1633, the Dutch, having lost the island of St. Maarten to the Spanish, retaliated by attacking Curaçao, Bonaire, and Aruba. Bonaire was conquered in March 1636. The Dutch built Fort Oranje in 1639 [5]. While Curaçao emerged as a center of the slave trade, Bonaire became a plantation of the Dutch West India Company. A small number of African slaves were put to work alongside Indians and convicts, cultivating dyewood and maize and harvesting solar salt around Blue Pan. Slave quarters, built entirely of stone and too short for a man to stand upright in, still stand in the area around Rincon and along the saltpans as a grim reminder of Bonaire's repressive past.

English Period

During the Napoleonic Wars, the Netherlands lost control of Bonaire twice, once from 1800-1803 and again from 1807-1815. During these intervals, the British had control of the neighboring island of Curaçao and of Bonaire. The ABC islands were returned to the Netherlands under the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814. During the period of British rule, a large number of white traders settled on Bonaire, and they built the settlement of Playa (Kralendijk) in 1810.


From 1816 until 1868, Bonaire remained a government plantation. In 1825, there were about 300 government-owned slaves on the island. Gradually many of the slaves were freed, and became freemen with an obligation to render some services to the government. The remaining slaves were freed on September 30, 1862 under the Emancipation Regulation. A total of 607 government slaves and 151 private slaves were freed at that time[4].


In 1867 the government sold most of the public lands, and in 1870 they sold the saltpans. The entire population became dependent on two large private landowners, and this caused a great deal of suffering for many people. Many inhabitants were forced to move to Aruba, Curaçao, or Venezuela [4].

World War II

During the German occupation of the Netherlands during World War II, Bonaire was a protectorate of Britain and the United States. The American army built the Flamingo Airport as an air force base. After Germany invaded the Netherlands on May 10, 1940, many Dutch and German citizens were interned in a camp on Bonaire for the duration of war.[6] [7] In 1944, Queen Juliana of the Netherlands and Eleanor Roosevelt visited the troops on Bonaire.[4].

Post War

After the war, the economy of Bonaire continued to develop. The airport was converted to civilian use, and the internment camp became the first hotel on Bonaire [8]. The Dutch Schunck family built a clothing factory known as Schunck's Kledingindustrie Bonaire. In 1964, Trans World Radio began broadcasting from Bonaire. Radio Netherlands Worldwide built two short wave transmitters on Bonaire in 1969. The second major hotel (Bonaire Beach Hotel)[9] was completed in 1962. Salt production resumed in 1966 when the salt pans were expanded and modernized by the Antilles International Salt Company, a subsidiary of the International Salt Company [10]. The Bonaire Petroleum Corporation (BOPEC) oil terminal was opened in 1975 for trans-shipping oil [11]


Bonaire's economy is mainly based on tourism. The island caters mainly to scuba divers and snorkelers, as there are few sandy beaches, while the surrounding reefs are easily accessible from the shore. Bonaire is world renowned for its excellent scuba diving and is consistently rated among the best diving locations in the world. Bonaire's license plates carry the logo Diver's Paradise (in English). Bonaire is also consistently recognized as one of the best destinations for snorkeling. Wind surfers also make a strong group of island tourists, as the north side of the island (facing the Caribbean Sea) has the large waves and wind gusts needed for windsurfing. Tourism infrastructure in Bonaire is contemporary and based on time-share resorts. There are a few small bed and breakfasts. Most resorts have an on-site dive shop. The rest are affiliated with a dive operation.


Bonaire is a popular tourist destination for both recreational diving and shore snorkeling.
Bonaire Island and Klein Bonaire, from space, March 1996. The white and flat red areas in the south are salt flats.
The Old Malmok lighthouse - in Washington Slagbaai National Park.

Bonaire has a land area of 288 km² (111 sq. miles), while Klein Bonaire is a further 6 km² (2.3 sq. miles). Bonaire's Afdeling Bevolking (census) office reported that the population of was 14,006 inhabitants as of December, 2006,[12] which gives Bonaire island proper a population density of 49 inhabitants per km².

Bonaire lies outside the hurricane belt, and is served by Flamingo International Airport.

The island is ringed by a coral reef which is easily accessible from the shore along the Western and Southern sides. Furthermore, the entire coastline of the island has been declared a marine sanctuary, preserving local fish life.

The coral reef around uninhabited Klein Bonaire is particularly well conserved, and it draws divers, snorkelers, and boaters.

Bonaire also has several coral reefs where seahorses are common.

Bonaire is also famed for its flamingo populations and its donkey sanctuary. Flamingos are drawn to the brackish water, which harbours the shrimp they feed on. Starting in the 1500s, the Dutch raised sheep, goats, pigs, horses and donkeys on Bonaire, and the descendants of the goats and donkeys roam the island today, with a small population of pigs roaming as well.

Washington Slagbaai National Park, located at the north side of the island, is an ecological preserve. The highest point of Bonaire, the mountainous Brandaris, 787 feet (240 m) high, located within this preserve, has a complete view of the island.

Lac Bay, (also known as Lac Cai or Lac Cay) on the eastern side of the island, is a windsurfer's paradise. Locals Taty and Tonky Frans in 2004 were ranked in the top five of the world's freestyle windsurfing professionals.

Atlantis Beach, on the western part of the island, is the local kitesurfing spot.

Aside from the tourist sites, Bonaire has become home to Saint James School of Medicine, which was founded by Physicians practicing and teaching basic/clinical medicine in the United States. Their goals encompass motivating students in the art of medicine utilizing a curriculum which parallels that of any U.S. based medical school.


Bonaire’s educational system is patterned after the Dutch system. Early grades are taught solely in Papiamentu, with more and more Dutch being introduced as the grade level progresses.

There are also two main private medical schools in Bonaire, Xavier University School of Medicine, Bonaire (XUSOM) and Saint James medical school. All courses are presented in English.Both school curricula are based on the United States medical school model and will lead to a Doctor of Medicine degree that is recognized in North America


The only generally recognized towns on the island are Kralendijk and Rincon.

Kralendijk has many suburbs/neighbourhoods (on an island with such a small population, the distinction is not always clearcut). Kralendijk's suburbs/neighbourhoods include:

  • Antriol
  • Belnem
  • Hato
  • Lima
  • Noord Salina
  • Nikiboko
  • Republiek
  • Sabadeco
  • Sabana
  • Santa Barbara
  • Tera Cora

Other smaller settlements include

  • Fontein
  • Lagoen
  • Sorobon
  • Spelonk
  • Wanapa

Several smaller towns had existed in the national park, but are now abandoned. They were: Labra, Ishiri, Kokorobi, Jan Doran, Vlijt, Rigot, Porto Spano, and Kunchi.


The official languages are Dutch, Papiamentu, and English. English became an official language of the Netherlands Antilles in March 2007. In practice, it is not used for official purposes on Bonaire. Spanish and English are widely spoken on the island.

See also


  1. ^ "Agreement on division of Netherlands Antilles". 13 February 2007. Retrieved 21 January 2008.  
  2. ^ St. Maarten-St. Martin - Consensus, but no date set for new status
  3. ^ Results of Dec 15 2008 Round Table Conference
  4. ^ a b c d e f Van Der Helm, Rien (1987). Traveler's Handbook Bonaire. Rijswik, The Netherlands: Elmar Media Service. ISBN 9061206359.  
  5. ^ "Fort Oranje(Bonaire)". Retrieved 19 February 2009.  
  6. ^ Anonymous (15 June 2007). "Imprisoned Innocents". Bonaire Reporter. p. 7. Retrieved 19 February 2009.  
  7. ^ Sint Jago, Junnes E. (2007) (in Dutch). Wuiven vanaf de waranda. Utrecht: Gopher. OCLC 150262823.  
  8. ^ "Divi Flamingo Beach Resort Bonaire". Retrieved 19 February 2009.  
  9. ^ "Bonaire Beach Hotel". Retrieved 19 February 2009.  
  10. ^ "Cargill Salt Company". Retrieved 19 February 2009.  
  11. ^ "Bonaire Petroleum Company". Retrieved 19 February 2009.  
  12. ^ Anonymous (9 February 2008). "Flotsam and Jetsam". Bonaire Reporter. p. 2. Retrieved 19 February 2009.  

External links


Island Information:




Other Photos of Bonaire

Coordinates: 12°10′N 68°14′W / 12.16°N 68.23°W / 12.16; -68.23

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Salt Piles
Salt Piles

Bonaire is a Caribbean island east of Central America and north of Venezuela. The island is part of the Netherlands Antilles together with Curaçao and the distant trio of Saba, Sint Eustatius, and Sint Maarten. It is a flat, riverless island renowned for its dive spots. Its tropical climate is moderated by constant trade winds from the Atlantic Ocean. The temperature is almost constant at about 27 degrees Celsius (81 degrees Fahrenheit).

There are also many named neighborhoods. These neighborhoods do not have formally established boundaries, and do not represent a governmental level. They are used for convenience of navigation.

  • Antriol
  • Belnem
  • Hato
  • Lima
  • Nikiboko
  • Noord Salina
  • Republiek
  • Sabadeco
  • Sabana
  • Tera Kora
Slave Huts
Slave Huts



Tropical marine; little seasonal temperature variation. "Rainy" season lasts from the last week of October to the end of January, but it is still relatively dry. During rainy season, late night and early morning rains are common, usually clearing shortly after sunrise.


The island is flat with a few hills, scant vegetation and neglible natural resources other than white sandy beaches and salt. The northern part of the island is a arid protected park. The southern tip of the island is a great field for sea salt production.

Get in

By plane

KLM offers five weekly non-stop service from Amsterdam to Bonaire on the way to Quito. American Eagle also offers daily non-stop flights from San Juan to and from Bonaire and other major U.S cities. In December 2005, Continental Airlines launched weekly non-stop flights from Newark and offer connections in Houston. Delta Airlines offers weekly flights between Bonaire and Atlanta on Saturdays. Several smaller airlines connect Bonaire with the neighbouring islands including Dutch Airlines Express and Arkefly.

Charter Airlines include Tiara Air.

Departure Fee for all international destinations is USD $33.40 per person, payable in cash or debit/credit card at the airport prior to check-in. MasterCard, Visa, Discover, Maestro, are all accepted, but American Express is not.

By boat

There are not currently any passenger ferries operating to or from Curaçao or Venezuela. Cruise ships do occasionally and increasingly visit Bonaire, epecially "in season". Some shops and restaurants may remain open extra hours to cater to their passengers.

You can also use different Bonaire Water Taxis including Kantika di Amor and the Seacow Watertaxi.

Private boat moorage is available. Dive operators operate boats to many dive sites including those located off the small uninhabited island of Klein Bonaire. Some boat operators also specialize in snorkel tours and their are regularly scheduled passenger boats to Klein Bonaire. Some include the Woodwind, Bonaire Pirate Cruising, Oscarina, Bowalie and more.

Get around

By car

Automobiles can be shipped to Bonaire and Rental cars are available at the airport and at selected hotels. Reservations are strongly suggested as, especially during peak times, all vehicles may be rented. You can drive around the entire island in a couple of hours!

By bus

There is an informal bus system on the island that utilizes vans. There are a small number of medium sized tour buses on the island as well.

By taxi

The island has a growing fleet of cabs scaled to service cruise ships.

Pink Flamingos
Pink Flamingos
  • Iguanas (wild)
  • Disused Slave Shelters
  • Washington-Slagbaii National Park
  • Rock art
  • Salt flats
  • Flamingoes
Squid at Calabas Reef
Squid at Calabas Reef
  • Scuba Diving
  • Snorkeling
  • Fishing
  • Windsurfing
  • Kiteboarding
  • Mountain Biking
  • Sea Kayaking
  • Sailing
  • Bird Watching


There are a few shops on Bonaire:

  • 3 Bookstores
  • 3 Department Stores/Hardware/Household Goods
  • 1 Electronic/Appliance Store
  • 3 different flower shops
  • Jewelry: Atlantis, Litmans and a few more typical for cruise ports.
  • 3 hospitals/pharmacies
  • Around 23 Souvenir/Clothes Shops


Bonaire has many restaurants and quite varied cuisine given the overall island population. "Aki ta Bende Kuminda Krioyo" will inform a visitor that local-style food is available, generally heavy on soups, stews, fried foods and fish. Traditional foods that may be found on the menu include conch, cacti, wahoo and rock lobster. Much of the fish is caught locally by line fishermen in season. Though traditionally eaten, iguana is not generally served in restaurants.

Bonaire has no real fast food, though there is the "smallest KFC franchise outlet in the world" in a shopping plaza by the Kralendijk and a Subway sub shop. Check out "Swiss Chalet", a local favorite serving Fondu. Bobbejan's is an extremely popular weekend-only barbeque joint. Other cuisines common on the islands are Argentine, Italian, Indonesian, Suriname, and lots and lots of Chinese. Island-made ice cream is available in many places, with Lovers Ice Cream being a local favorite. Arrive before noon, as they often sell out.

Almost all eateries are open for limited hours during the day, and all close briefly during siesta time between 2-3pm. Call or check ahead to determine if a restaurant is open for lunch, dinner, both, or only open on weekends. Some are closed certain days of the week, such as Sunday.


Despite the small size of the island, Bonaire has a lot of possibilities when looking for places to stay, from large resorts to small privately owned houses which you can rent on a daily basis. Along the coast you have multiple places that combine a dive school with cabañas where you can sleep for a moderate price. Most of the accommodations on the island are relatively small, averaging 15 rooms or less.

Several mid-size apartment complex devoted to tourists exist. These tend to be a bit more upscale than the smaller accommodations. There a several larger, more resort like places as well. These are still somewhat small, with only the Plaza Resort Bonaire and Captain Don's Habitat having over 100 rooms.

  • KonTiki Beach, Kaminda Sorobon 64, +(599) 717 5369 (), [1]. Brightly coloured beachfront studios, villas and apartments, on-site restaurant and cocktail bar at Lac Bay lagoon. US$ 85-335.  edit
  • Venezuela is only a short distance away, as are fellow Antille Curaçao and former Antille Aruba. For Venezuela, consult what can be frequently changing travel advisories and visa requirements, especially for U.S. citizens.
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Wikipedia has an article on:


Proper noun




  1. An island in the southern part of the Caribbean Sea off the west coast of Venezuela, belonging to the Netherlands Antilles.



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