Located East to Aruba and Curacao, Bonaire is the second-largest island in the Dutch Caribbean. While the fringing coral reefs all around Bonaire have suffered in recent decades from storms and bleaching events, Bonaire’s coral reefs remain among the healthiest and the most spectacular in the Caribbean. With its shallow reefs, its calm and warm waters, its exceptional marine biodiversity and its dozens of snorkeling spots just steps from the shore, Bonaire offers some of the world’s best snorkeling.
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, a calm sea, and 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 shore and ending in a drop off to the open sea. The coral health is variable, with many reefs still showing in some areas signs of severe degradation.
The best options for snorkeling close to Kralendijk are Cliff, Buddy Dive, Windstock, and 18th Palm. Te Amo Beach, right in front of the airport, is one of the most recommended spots for beginners. North of town, 1000 Steps, where sea turtles are pretty common, and Karpata, which boasts healthy staghorn coral, are two fantastic options, some of the best snorkeling in Bonaire.
In the same area, you can also enjoy Bonaire’s underwater world in Petries Pillar, Andrea I and Andrea II, and Nuklove. South to Kralendijk, Yellow Hut, Red Beryl North, Salt Pier, and Tori’s Reef are some of the most recommended locations, but there are dozens of other spots to explore all along the shoreline.
All the spots on the west coast have free shore access, are marked by roadside yellow stones, making Bonaire a true snorkeling paradise.
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 (but with currents) 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 from storms and a 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 $25 for snorkelers (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.
If you are planning to snorkel the ABC Islands, we recommend bringing with you the excellent Reef Fish Identification: Florida Caribbean Bahamas (also available in ebook), the reference guide to ID the fish you will encounter snorkeling the islands.
The very best 👇👇👇 of our snorkeling time in the ABC Islands. Exploring the islands of Curacao, Bonaire and Aruba, trying to see as many sea life as we could! These three islands are a coveted playground for snorkelers: calm and warm waters, shallow coral reefs, beautiful shipwrecks, and a myriad of sea life. The name of the snorkeling spot where the images have been shot is mentioned on each sequence.
The climate in Bonaire is constant and suitable for snorkeling all year round, with 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 fewer than 600 millimeters of rainfall per year, with a small peak between October and December. It is often recommended to visit the island during the low-season, from May to October, where there are fewer crowds and lower accommodation prices.
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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
Reef drop off with fish and turtles
Seagrass meadows with sea turtles
Level: Free shore access
Shallow lagoon with staghorn coral and colorful fish
Level: Free shore access Resort nearby
Vibrant coral reef with sea turtles and colorful fish
Reef drop off with coral and colorful fish
Small shallow fringing reef with colorful fish
We snorkeled Bonaire in 1999 and honestly there’s so many places to go there it’s a snorkeler’s paradise! Lots of from-the-beach snorkeling, with various wildlife to be seen. We spent hours in the water in each location and ended up visiting 11-12 different places in the two and a half weeks we were there. I do highly recommend the Reef Smart Guide: Bonaire book for the island, it helped us find many great spots, and also give us an idea of what to expect before stepping into the water. This is a definite do-not-miss island!
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