Bonaire, the shore diving capital of the world, has abundant and easily-accessible coral reef dives, seagrass beds, wrecks and mangroves. This Caribbean biodiversity hotspot will astound you with its colourful reef life and dramatic coral structures, plus turtles, manta rays and even passing whale sharks.
Diving in Bonaire
The southern Caribbean is home to the ABC Islands, of which one is Bonaire, a famed scuba diving destination with pristine water, beautiful beaches and favourable ocean conditions. Its warm water and tropical climate remains all year round, meaning it’s a perfect place to dive no matter the season.
Suitable for all divers, dive spots are very accessible, with most dives being done from the shore or by boat. The dive sites here are perfect for beginners and those wanting to undertake dive courses due to a lack of currents, and with exceptional coral reefs, shipwrecks and unbelievably clear visibility, this Dutch Caribbean island gem is sure to blow your mind with its beauty. This isn’t the only reason why Bonaire is thought to be one of the greatest dive destinations in the world - the island has done well to protect and preserve its marine life for over three decades, meaning its incredible ecosystem under the waves continues to thrive for all to enjoy.
The majority of beach hotels and resorts have amazing house reefs where you can spot some of Bonaire's 470 species of fish, or for those wanting to venture a little further, Bonaire National Marine Park is visited by diving boats daily, so it’s impossible to miss out on a trip here.
With a large handful of dive centers and resorts to choose from, Bonaire’s underwater world is easy to access no matter your budget or preferences. Whether you’re a newbie, or a seasoned diver, fun diver or wishing to gain further dive certifications, you’ll easily be able to get what you’re looking for thanks to a generous number options.
Best time to dive
Like most places in the Caribbean, there isn’t a wrong time to dive in Bonaire. It benefits from a year round agreeable climate, so it’s a great part of the world to choose your next diving vacation no matter the time of year.
Bonaire does experience mild seasonal climate differences, with air temperatures averaging around 28°C/84°F in winter and 31°C/89°F in summer. Ocean temperatures similarly vary, at around 25°C/78°F in winter and 29°C/84°F in summer, which is comfortable year round. The drier season is April to November, and the rainy season, December to March, however, Bonaire has very little rainfall, with most showers passing quickly.
Types of diving
Although famous for it, Bonaire isn’t just about rainbow reefs and pretty fish. There is some noticeable variety in its 60 dive sites.
Wreck dives are among divers’ to-do lists in Bonaire, where they can visit the Hilma Hooker wreck, that is accessible by shore as are all of Bonaire’s dive sites. This vessel is shallow and hosts a myriad of life, and thus can be enjoyed by divers of all levels of experience.
Almost all dives are shore dives, with sprawling coral gardens, rainbow reefs and colorful fish. It's considered the perfect spot for underwater photographers, particularly those that prefer wide angle shots. The picture perfect reefs with vibrance, excellent colors, fish and sea fans are akin to diving in a fish tank, which is perfect for wide angle photo enthusiasts.
A popular reef shore dive in Bonaire is the famous Bari Reef, which is an easy dive with calm conditions. Boasting not only amazing reef system, here divers can encounter octopi, seahorses, and an extremely diverse fish population of over 300 documented species.
A short distance from the mainland is the tiny island of Klein Bonaire, which is only accessible by boat. Here divers can enjoy boat dives and liveaboard trips if that’s a preference. Furthermore, this tiny islet not only has beautiful shallow dives, it also has some dramatic underwater topography, where divers can marvel at walls covered with life.
What to see
As marine life has been successfully protected in Bonaire for over 35 years, a wealth of thriving marine life lives healthily here. Mostly famed for its breathtaking reefs, sea fans and reef fish, such as at Bari Reef, and amazing coral structures, such as the elkhorn coral that stretch ten feet towards the surface at the Karpati dive site, that’s not only what you can encounter here. At the One Thousand Steps site, divers have had encounters with hawksbill turtles and manta rays, and even passing whalesharks.
Among other things, you can see many more awesome marine critters at all of Bonaire's dive sites, such as parrotfish, schooling fish, seahorses, octopi, groupers, pretty anemone fish and various soft and hard coral species. Popular spots to see such life include Alice in Wonderland, Andrea 1 and 2, and Salt Pier.
For macro lovers, smaller creatures like frogfish, juvenile spotted drums, seahorses and filefish can be spotted at sites dotted around Bonaire, however, a notable site for encounters is Rappel, just north of the capital, Kralendijk.
Best places to dive
As Bonaire’s entirely is a diver’s paradise, it’s difficult to say which are the best dive sites among its 60 plus spots. But to mention just a few, we’ll start with the Rappel dive site, North of Kralendijk and is only accessible by boat. here natural light illuminates the plentiful macro life that resides here on the pretty reef.
Just south of Kralendijk lies Angel City, one of Bonaire’s must dive sites. Divers can view the double reef here that is present on the southern coast. It boasts not only gorgeous reefs and fish species aplenty, divers can also spot stingrays on the sandy areas, and if you’re lucky, an eagle ray or two.
Another exceedingly popular site is Salt Pier. Its calm conditions, shallow depth (about 5-15 meters/15-50 feet), easy shore entry and vibrant marine life makes it the perfect spot for divers of all levels of experience. It hosts macro life, as well as larger fish like barracuda and schools of grunts.
Lastly, there’s Klein Bonaire, the small islet just offshore of the mainland. Only accessible by boat, it’s 26 dive sites are on many divers’ bucket list. At all the dive sites here, coral gardens teeming with life, like trunkfish, fairy basslets and damselfish, put on a colorful display, while turtles fly around you. On the southern part is the dramatic structures, including impressive drop-offs. One of the most famous sites is Captain Don’s Reef, named after the man who worked all his life to keep Bonaire’s marine life protected. Here you’ll enjoy various life forms on the shallow reef, including tube sponges and brain coral, in addition to some cheeky eels. There’s also a memorial plaque honouring Captain Don here, so keep your eyes out for this special underwater landmark.
Open Water Diver prices range from €187-€352. See all Open Water Diver courses in Bonaire.
You can obtain your Open Water Diver in Kralendijk.
You can obtain your Advanced Open Water Diver in Kralendijk.