If you don’t want to read this whole long article, the answer is yes.
I am asked the car question over and over again by first time visitors to the island: Can I get by for the week on bike or on foot? If I’m not planning on scuba diving couldn’t I just enjoy laying on the beach by my apartment and not drive anywhere? How about public transportation? I don’t mind walking to get groceries. So, is renting a car on Bonaire necessary?
Yes and we mean it
The short answer to any variation on the renting a car on Bonaire question, YES. In our opinion, a car or pick-up truck is absolutely necessary to get the most out of your trip.
That said, a dedicated, hard core biker looking to get lots of exercise during their vacation, can certainly rent a bike and enjoy it. However, the roads have no shoulder and the trade winds regularly blow between 15 and 20 miles per hour. So anyone in less than the hard core category should heed our advice. The heat never lets up so just getting groceries back to your accommodation becomes a chore. Plus you won’t be able to pack your beach chairs on your bike. So we
insist upon suggest renting a car on Bonaire. Don’t even try to walk.
No car = no exploration
Bonaire offers a wealth of places to explore. Bonaire differs significantly from other Caribbean Islands in that tourists don’t come here to sit at their hotel on the beach. On many islands tourists can to soak up the sun and relax at one beach by their hotel and be perfectly happy. Bonaire, on the other hand offers exploration and adventure. Guests to the island want to get at least a glimpse of the flamingos, turtles, pink lakes, iguanas, donkeys, and maybe even the National Park.
The following must see attractions necessitate a car or pick-up truck:
- Thousand Steps and the Queen’s highway
- Lac Bay
- Lac Cai
- The Donkey Sanctuary Safari Park
- The Flamingo Sanctuary at Pekelmeer (breeding grounds for the Southern Caribbean Flamingo).
- More bird and flamingo watching at Gotomeer and then even more at Slagbaai lagoon (breeding sites and foraging grounds for flamingos, pelicans and herons.
- Klein Bonaire (the small uninhabited island reachable by water taxi with white sand beaches and excellent diving and snorkeling and most importantly a great place to see turtles)
- Washington Slagbaai National Park with some of the most beautiful beaches on the entire island.
- Caving and cave tours
- Mangrove kayak tours
- Downtown Kralendijk with it’s restaurants and shopping*
- The sleepy town of Rincon in the North
- The Salt Factory with it’s pink lakes
- The Slave Huts
- Kite Surfing or lessons at Atlantis Beach
- Windsurfing, lessons, or just watching in awe at Sorobon Beach (Jibe City, Bonaire Windsurf Place).
- Snorkeling, Picnic or BBQ at Donkey Beach*
- Hiking up Mt. Brandaris
- Exploring off-the-beaten-path local restaurants like Mi Banana, Maiky Snack, El Fogon Latino, Rose Inn…
- Restaurants that are not in Downtown Kralendijk like Spice Beach, Ingridients, Pasa Bon Pizza, Bistrot De Paris and many more.
Small island but geographically spread out
The point is that these places are not within walking or biking distance of one another. And especially with an average temperature in the 80’s. Additionally we get a LOT of sunshine when it ‘s sunny (most of the time!) a LOT of rain when it’s rainy. And, of course Bonaire’s famous trade winds which keep the island cool and comfortable, a good thing. But not so good when it comes to exploring the island by bike when there is so much to do and so many interesting places to explore.
What about buses you say?
Nah. Sorry. We have nothing to speak of in terms of Public transportation on Bonaire. You can however, hire a tax if you do not drive or feel uncomfortable driving in a foreign country. And you may be able to work out a deal with a local taxi driver to come get you multiple times during your trip. We know of guests that do just that and have ended up befriending the taxi drivers. Taxi drivers on Bonaire are awesome!
Learning the hard way
Based on years of meeting tourists, watching travelers come and go and getting their opinions about the island, visitors seem happiest when they have more freedom to get around. We think a car provides that freedom. On foot you can stay near the one beach near your hotel or apartment. Lac Bay, one of the must see spots on the island would be so far away without a car that you may not even make it that far in your entire time on the island. Thousand Steps, another must see beach and dive/snorkel spot is equally remote without a car. But it’s just a hop skip and jump in your rental car or pick-up truck, maybe even for a quick picnic lunch. Put your snorkel gear in that handy trunk or back seat!
The donkey sanctuary tour is actually a loop of the safari park in your car. Likewise, Washington Slagbaai National Park is designed for exploration by car. And by ‘car’ we really mean pick-up truck. Even if you plan to do the hike up Mt. Slagbaai, you need a car to get not only to the national park itself where Mt. Slagbaai is located, but once inside the park you will need to drive to the starting point of the hike.
Drive to your walking adventure
There’s plenty of adventure to be had on foot – but best to save your energy for the good stuff like the hike itself. Or how about a long walk near thousand steps on the Queen’s Highway We also recommend a walk into town at dinner time and along the boardwalk in downtown Kralendijk. It’s one thing to designate a day or two for biking, it’s another thing to risk missing out on so much.
Scuba diving by car instead of boat! The home of diving freedom.
Bonaire is known not only as Diver’s Paradise -right there on our license plates. But it’s also known as the “Home of Diving Freedom.” That freedom comes from the ease of diving anywhere you want any time you want. Without a pick-up, the freedom is gone. With your own transportation no waiting for a dive boat, or being at the mercy of other tourists or dive operators running late. You pick your dive spot, load up tanks from your favorite dive operator and go. Scuba divers almost always rent pick-up trucks instead of renting a car on Bonaire so that tanks can easily be loaded into the cargo area in the back of the truck. Pick-up trucks also are more rugged for the harsh road conditions of the national park and visiting other off the beaten path locations like Lac Cai. If you don’t scuba dive and do not plan to visit the national park, a smaller car will get you around the island just as well as a pick-up. In either case rent a car. You won’t be disappointed you did.