Bonaire is a Caribbean island on the northern coast of South America. Together with Aruba and Curaçao, it is refered to as one of the ABC islands of the Leeward Antilles. Bonaire is a special municipality of the Netherlands and an overseas territory of the European Union.

Bonaire covers 294 sq km (113 sq mi) and has a population of 16,000 (2011 estimate). Its capital and largest city is Kralendijk. The state uses the US dollar as its official currency. It is four hours behind Coordinated Universal Time (UTC-4). Traffic is driven on the right, the same as in the Netherlands and the United States. The phone IDD code here is +599. Bonaire is considered a constitutional monarchy with the Queen of the Netherlands being the monarch.

Included within the special municipality of Bonaire is the 288-km (111 sq mi) island of Bonaire and the smaller uninhabited Klein Bonaire, along with a string of islets. The islands are ringed with coral reefs. The whole coastline has been made a marine sanctuary to protect the coral and fish life. The island of Bonaire is famous for its resident flamingo population.

Today Bonaire is heavily dependent on tourism. Most tourist come here for snorkeling and diving expeditions, to enjoy its crystal clear waters. Other water sports such as windsurfing is also popular.

The earliest inhabitants of Bonaire are the Caquetios Indians. The first European to sight the island was most likely Alonso de Ojeda in 1499. He was in the company of Amerigo Vespucci and Juan de la Cosa, whose map recorded Bonaire as Isla do Paso Brasil, meaning “Brazilwood Island”.

Bicycle against a painted wall in Bonaire
Author: Moebiusuibeom-en (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)

Bonaire was occupied by various European powers through its history. The Spanish appointed Juan de Ampies as commander to oversea the ABC Islands in 1526. Between 1568 and 1648 the Dutch and the Spanish fought a series of wars which resulting in Bonaire falling into Dutch control in 1636. The Dutch then built a fort there to strengthen their position.

During the Napoleonic Wars, the Dutch lost Bonaire twice, with the British gaining control of it, and nearby Curaçao, until the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814 returned the ABC Islands to the Dutch.

After the Netherlands Antilles was dissolved on 10 October, 2010, a referendum was held on 17 December, 2010, for the people to vote for their future. 84% voted to become part of the Netherlands. However, as the voter turnout was only 35%, the results were declared invalid.

Willemstad waterfront in Willemstad, Curaçao
Author: janderk (public domain)

Visiting Bonaire

You can fly to Bonaire from Amsterdam on KLM, and from

San Juan, Puerto Rico, on American Eagle. There are also flights from Houston and Newark.

Major Cities in Bonaire

  1. Kralendijk – capital
  2. Boven Bolivia
  3. Rincon

Places of Interest in Bonaire

  1. Washington-Slagbaai National Park

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