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The Beauty of Bonaire

Island Paradise Welcomes Travelers to Experience Unique Adventures

Bonaire doesn't have the name recognition of Jamaica, or Cozumel, or the Bahamas. In fact, the usual response to mentioning a trip here is: "Never heard of it."

But there are travelers who not only know the name, but mention it with a reverence reserved for truly exceptional destinations.

This tiny island, 111 square miles, is located in the Caribbean Netherlands, just 50 miles off the coast of Venezuela and is considered to be the shore diving capital of the world. With over 60 mainland dive sites that are walking distance from their parking lots, Bonaire is an underwater how-does-this-even-exist experience for scuba diving and snorkeling.

Colorado resident Kristi Herd planned a trip to Bonaire for a milestone birthday.

Inviting 17 friends to join her for a week of scuba, sun and celebration, Herd says, "I thought Bonaire would be perfect for a group trip because it is relatively easy to get to from the U.S., fairly inexpensive considering it's an island trip, and also the diving is considered good for all levels of divers."

Jennifer Bukacek of Highlands Ranch had five dives under her weighted belt and was recovering from ACL surgery when she was invited on the trip. She didn't want to baby her knee, but she had some reservations about how much stress she'd be putting on it using fins underwater.

Luckily, Bonaire doesn't have strong currents since the dive sites are so close to shore. Bukacek says, "We had plenty of time to check out the amazing sea life and coral reefs as we slowly drifted along. I've never seen so many shades of purple. As a beginner, with a bum knee, it couldn't have been a better dive vacation spot."

For those travelers who would rather not come face to face with teeming schools of fish, Bonaire has vacation-worthy sites and adventures that are above sea level.

The capital city of Kralendijk's quaint main street features colorful, charming shops that are a draw for photographers as well as shoppers. And the town of Rincon, founded in 1527 in an inland valley so it would be hidden from passing pirates, has a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere where hours pass easily.

Distinctive only on Bonaire, adventures include a Donkey Sanctuary that cares for the island's wild donkey population where feeding, photos and petting the sweet four-legged residents is encouraged. Tours and tastings at the Cadushy Distillery provide samples of the world's only liqueur made from cactus. While a trip to the Pekelmeer Flamingo Sanctuary offers views of one of only four areas in the world where Caribbean flamingos breed. The main nesting season for the flamingos is March through mid-July when the number of birds at Pekelmeer is estimated to be in the thousands.

And there's a thriving culinary scene.

"I was intrigued by the food on Bonaire because I love seafood," says Herd.

Herd made reservations at several restaurants that made her must-eat-at list, including It Rains Fishes, Sebastian's, Harbor Village and Chefs.

Herd considers the group's dinner at Chefs a trip highlight. Owned by chefs Han ten Winkel and Mark Tromop, Chefs website states, "a true Chef must strive to fuse experience, ideas, technique, cultures and the best ingredients into an unforgettable culinary experience." Based on TripAdvisor's rating of Chefs as the number one restaurant on Bonaire, it seems they have succeeded.

"It was amazing food, fabulous paired wines, and it was only our crew in an intimate, U-shaped setting where you can watch the chefs prepare the food," says Herd.

So, while Bonaire may not be the most well-known island in the world, it is a special place that appeals to scuba divers and any traveler hungry for unique experiences and world-class meals. It is an island paradise with limitless adventure for those lucky enough to have found it.

To see more photos of Bonaire and this dive trip, visit citylifestyle.com/highlandsranch

“It’s like fish rush hour,” says Ginny Singer of Denver about diving in Bonaire. “I love the big schools of fish, and seeing seahorses, frog fish and especially blennies was amazing.”

  • Photo credit - Lorenzo Mittiga
  • Photo credit - Tourism Bonaire
  • Photo credit - Chefs Bonaire
  • Photo credit - Jennifer Bukacek
  • Photo credit - Jennifer Bukacek
  • Photo credit - Tanju Targout
  • Photo credit - Tourism Bonaire
  • Photo credit - Tourism Bonaire
  • Photo credit - Tourism Bonaire