The west and east coast of Bonaire have radically different sea conditions. The rough eastern coastline is exposed to the trade winds, high waves and strong currents, making it unsuitable for snorkeling. On the contrary, the western coastline is protected against the constant eastern trade winds. It offers sheltered beaches and coral reefs, calm sea, crystal-clear water. For this reason, almost all snorkeling spots in Bonaire are located on the west side of the island, or in Klein Bonaire, a small coral limestone island located less than 1km off Bonaire’s west coast.
Most of Bonaire’s snorkeling spots are made up of narrow fringing coral reefs, which begins practically at the shoreline, and ending in a drop off to the open sea. The health of the reefs is variable, with many reefs still showing in some areas signs of severe degradation. The most popular spots on Bonaire’s west coast are, from south to north, Tori’s Reef, Windsock, Bari Reef, Petries Pillar, 1000 Steps and Karpata, but there are dozens of other spots to explore all along the shoreline. Te Amo Beach, right in front of the airport, is one of the most recommended spots for beginners. All the spots of the west coast have a free shore access. Just like the dive sites, many of Bonaire”s snorkeling sites are marked by roadside yellow stones.
Lac Bay, a large semi-enclosed bay on the east coast of Bonaire, hosts two of the best snorkeling spots on the island: Lac Bay/Sorobon Beach, a shallow lagoon sheltered by a fringing barrier reef, with healthy staghorn coral colonies, and Lac Cai, a sheltered seagrass area located at the northern tip of the inlet of the bay, where sea turtles come daily to rest and feed.
On Klein Bonaire, No Name Beach is the most visited spot, but its reef has suffered for storms and the high number of visitors. Opt instead for more remote spots, where the reef is best preserved, reachable with snorkeling tours.
The islands concentrate one of the greatest underwater biodiversity in the Caribbean. It is home to over 55 species of soft and hard corals, and more than 350 fish species. Hawksbill, loggerhead and green sea turtles are common on many snorkeling spots around the island. For these reasons, Bonaire has a long tradition of protecting its natural environment. Bonaire National Marine Park, established in 1979 (turtles are protected since 1961 and spearfishing was banned in 1971), covers all fringing reefs, seagrass beds and mangroves of Bonaire and Klein Bonaire islands. All visitors of the Marine Park must purchase a “nature tag” as admission to help in the preservation of Bonaire reefs. The cost is $10 for snorkeling (for one calendar year). Payment can be made at all dive shops, the Tourism Office in Kralendijk, and at STINAPA offices. More information about Nature tag is available on STINAPA official website.
The climate in Bonaire is constant and suitable for snorkeling all year round, with a sunny and dry weather, and an average daytime temperature of 84 to 88°F (29 to 31°C). Rains remain rare, with an average of less than 600 millimeters of rain fall per year, with a small peak between October and December. It is often recommended to visit the island during low-season, from may to october, where there are fewer crowds and lower accommodation prices.
More than 170 spots have already been published on Snorkeling Report, but there are still many spots to be added! You too can contribute to populate the map by sharing your favorite snorkeling spots around the world. The more snorkelers will contribute, the easier it will be for you, and other snorkelers, to find sites and enjoy the underwater world!
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Unmissable at Lac Cai; common on many spots like 1000 Steps and Karpata
Occasional sightings at Lac Bay; sometimes observed on reef slopes of the west coast
Massive and healthy colonies in Lac Bay and 1000 Steps
Found on many reef spots; healthy colonies in the shallows of Karpata
Frequently sighted on all spots; very inquisitive with snorkelers at No Name Beach
On all reef spots
On all spots
Found on all spots, especially in deep areas; juveniles are often found feeding in Lac Bay
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