The second-largest island in the Dutch Caribbean, Bonaire boasts staggering marine biodiversity. With sunny weather and bathwater warm sea temperatures year-round, snorkeling in Bonaire is always a good idea. There are opportunities to commune with everything from grunts to green sea turtles, with plenty of easy-access sites for beginners too. Over on the east coast, the sea conditions tend to be rougher thanks to the exposed eastern trade winds and strong currents so most of the best snorkeling spots can be found on the west coast or Klein Bonaire. But where to choose? We’ve rounded up seven spots for the best snorkeling in Bonaire.
Best snorkeling in Bonaire
1. Te Amo Beach
Located practically in front of the airport, Te Amo Beach is one of the best snorkeling spots for beginners. The large sandy stretch offers easy access to a shallow reef in front of the beach, making it a great option for kids and novice snorkelers. There’s little in the way of corals here, but there are plenty of opportunities to bump into sergeant majors, damselfish, orange-spotted filefish, butterflyfish, parrotfish and trunkfish. There’s also several species of wrasse. More confident snorkelers can swim out deeper for the chance to swim alongside turtles too. The sea rod and fans are healthier at the top of the drop-off too.
The water here is extremely calm and there’s a wide range of restaurants further inland. If you’re particularly hungry, the Kite City food truck is a good option.
The northernmost snorkeling spot in Bonaire, Karpata is around seven km (4.3 miles) north of Kralendijk. The snorkeling area stretches for 50 metres between the beach and the ree drop-off and is relatively easy to access via a concert platform. A popular dive site, it’s best suited for more advanced snorkelers since the area frequently experiences rough sea conditions. The site features a staggering variety of marine life, including blue tang, hogfish, French angelfish, filefish, bluehead wrasse and elkhorn coral. It’s a popular spot with sea turtles too – snorkel on the east side for the best chance of an encounter.
The coral formations are close to the water’s surface, so it’s safest to snorkel here when the conditions are calmer. This spot is a little off the beaten track too, so make sure you bring everything you need for a day out. The closest facilities are in Rincon, around a 10-minute drive away.
3. 1000 Steps
Not too far from Karpata is 1000 Steps, so-called because of its iconic limestone steps (though thankfully there’s on 70 steps to worry about). Once you’ve found the spot, marked by two yellow barriers, it’s easy enough to access the site. Just hop down the famous steps and find yourself a sandy patch to enter the water. It’s one of the best places in Bonaire to swim with turtles, who paddle about in the shallow waters, but it’s also rich in vibrant corals. There’s a huge and healthy section of staghorn coral reef offshore, as well as sea fans, tarpons, trumpetfish and grunts. Schools of brown Chromis swim around the corals too.
Like Karpata, 1000 Steps is a fairly isolated spot without any facilities, so make sure you’ve packed lunch and sunscreen.
4. Lac Bay
This idyllic cove, situated in front of the idyllic Sorobon Beach, features a partially-covered shallow reef with a healthy staghorn coral colony and marine life. It’s a challenge to swim out to it from the beach though, which means it’s best suited to more experienced snorkelers. Highlights include bluehead wrasse, trumpetfish, parrotfish and blue tangs. Further out in the sandy beds there are schools of small barracuda, tarpons and a few eagle rays. It’s best to head here at high tide to avoid walking for miles.
Lac Bay is a popular watersports destination too, so when you’ve tired of snorkeling you can try windsurfing or book a guided kayak tour through the mangroves. Head to Sorbon Beach, Wellness and Windsurf Resort to refuel with a tasty lunch.
Not-very-enigmatically-named No Name Beach is located on the uninhabited island of Klein Bonaire. It’s a 15-minute boat ride from Bonaire’s capital but it’s worth the extra effort. The shallow reef features some healthy corals, as well as the best chance to encounter large schools of fish. There are French Angelfish, parrotfish, peacock flounders, blue tang and other larger reef fish. It’s well suited to both beginners (who can splash about in the shallow lagoon) and more experienced snorkelers who can swim further out.
The amenities are few and far between on Klein Bonaire, so it’s wise to come prepared.
This remote snorkel site is more secluded than most and a haven for adventurous snorkelers. There’s a handful of snorkeling sites to choose from within the park, but two of the best are Boko Slagbaii and Wayaka II. As is the case with most snorkeling sites in Bonaire, the corals here are pretty damaged but once you get out of the shallows the reefs are much healthier. The sandy bottom sea bed is popular with rays and eels, while the park’s shores serve as nesting grounds for hawksbill, loggerhead and green sea turtles. Back on dry land, you’ll get to encounter Caribbean flamingos too.
The park is open daily with the last admission at 2.30 pm.
7. Tori’s Reef
Red Beryl North and Margate Bay on the southwestern coast of Bonaire are brimming with brilliant snorkeling spots. As well as healthy corals, they pack some of the most diverse marine life too, such as barracudas, octopuses and rays. Given its wide appeal, the area sees a lot of traffic bu Tori’s Reef – located by the Salt Pier – is generally quieter than most. It’s easy to access the site through a channel from the road but the currents here tend to be stronger so it’s best suited to more experienced snorkelers. The sandy bottom is home to some spectacular fire coral and there are lots of rare fish and eels hiding out here too.