Tolo: Off-The-Beaten-Path Beach on Bonaire

Tolo Bonaire Beaches

Off the beaten path Bonaire

We thought we’d share a few photos from another gorgeous off the beaten path Bonaire beach. Come swim, snorkel and relax at the dive site Tolo.

A long drive home

What makes this Bonaire beach a little more off-the-beaten-path than many others is that you have to commit to it! Once you continue along the Queen’s Highway past Thousand Steps on the road toward Tolo you literally cannot turn back. The Queen’s Highway becomes a one-way road at a certain point before arriving at Tolo. To get back to your home base you have to continue North toward the little town of Rincon and then double back. Most likely you won’t encounter traffic – probably not a single other car for miles. But still, it’s hot and isolated and the two way road back towards civilization is kinda on the beautiful side making it hard to commit to getting back via the long back road.

Why we love Tolo

But Bonaire is for adventurers. And Tolo is worth it. The two little cement benches under the trees have been there as long as we’ve been visiting the island.  So if you don’t bring beach chairs you know you’ll at least have a place to sit that’s not on thorns and with a bit of shade.

Sea Urchins on Bonaire

The only real novelty from previous years is the amount and density of the sea urchin population. If you want to swim plan your entrance carefully. You can scuba dive, swim and snorkel here with a fairly easy entrance. There’s even quite a bit of open space for playing paddle ball. This location also works for a slightly larger group of people to come gather than at a smaller and thornier beach like Jeff Davis.

Tolo is the perfect off the beaten path Bonaire day trip. Have a picnic, get some shade and get away from it all. When out exploring the Queen’s highway on a day trip we suggest a stop at Tolo after other stops along the way. First have a swim at Oil Slick Leap, then check out the little sandy beach at Jeff Davis, next a snorkel at Weber’s Joy and last make the descent down to Thousand Steps. Round out your exploration of this route with a swim at Tolo.

If you continue on through Rincon after stopping at Tolo, stop for a Bonairian style lunch at the non-touristy, off the beaten path Bonaire local restaurant Rose Inn. Tip: try the goat stew – cabritu stoba.

queen's highway bonaire scenery; off the beaten path bonaire divi divi tree on bonaire at Tolo; off the beaten path Bonaire

tolo dive site off the beaten path bonaire sea urchin invasion bonaire 2018; off the beaten path bonaire

Jeff Davis Dive Site – The perfect off the beaten path beach day

Jeff Davis Dive Site Bonaire

Jeff Davis Dive Site wonderful for non-divers too

On arrival at the popular Thousand Steps for a little snorkeling one Friday afternoon we stumbled onto seven or eight cars in the parking lot. Well, that’s a crowd on Bonaire! We put the car in reverse and drove back toward where we’d come from. We wanted a spot with a bit more privacy and elbow room – Jeff Davis Dive Site.

What we love about Jeff Davis Beach

Our brief search took us about a half mile down the road to the dive site Jeff Davis. This special place, named for medical researcher, war veteran, and NASA scientist Dr. Davis, cannot be beat for privacy. Dr Davis, an American medical doctor, pioneered using hyperbaric oxygen in the treatment of decompression sickness in divers. This treatment remains in use for divers suffering from that illness.

What a beautiful spot to go for a swim, snorkel or just to take in the view. We found only one couple at the beach, one scooter parked in the “parking lot” and an entire beach for our own private enjoyment. Amazing snorkeling, shocking crystal clear blue water and even some sand, unusual on Bonaire. This beach wins for perfect off-the-beaten-path place to beach for the day.

Entering the water for a snorkel, swim or dive

The entrance into the sea is pretty rocky – you need to step down a few steps on rocks because no ladder or any easy access exists. Shady areas consist only of thorny rocky areas under thorny unwieldy divi divi trees, so bring beach chairs. No facilities are in the are so make sure to bring water and snacks.

Location

Jeff Davis Dive site, marked by one of the iconic yellow stones that indicate all marked dive sites on the island isn’t hard to find. The location on the Queen’s Highway along the same road where you find Thousand Steps, Weber’s Joy, Tolo and Karpata provides gorgeous scenery and abundant nature. This is a wonderful road for biking, running, walking or just going for a ride to check out Bonaire’s amazing scenery.

Tip: bring beach chairs  and watch for thorns on the ground!

   

Frequently asked Question:  Renting a car on Bonaire: is it necessary?

renting a car on Bonaire

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:

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.

Sunwing Airlines offers direct flights from Toronto to Bonaire

Sunwing Airlines Sun Wing airlines non-stop Toronto Bonaire

Sunwing Airlines offers direct flights in High Season

Great news for our Canadian guests! SunWing Airlines, a Canadian low-cost air carrier, successfully began non-stop service from Toronto to Bonaire two years ago. After yet another successful year, flights will be offered again in high season, December 2019 to April 2020.

Sunwing Schedule to Bonaire 2019-2020

Scheduled flights to Bonaire in 2019 and 2020 take place December 15th, January 5th, 12th 19th, 26th. Flights in February take place the 2nd, 9th, 16th and 23rd. Flights in march take place March 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th. In April flights are on the 5th and 12th, returning April 19th. The April 12th 2020 outbound flight from Toronto marks the end of Sunwing’s seasonal flights to Bonaire.

All outbound flights leave Toronto at 10am and arrive in Bonaire at 4:10pm, with a one hour change when daylight savings time ends in Toronto.Inbound Flights leave Bonaire at 5:20pm and arrive in Toronto at 9:50pm

The fleet and details

Sunwing Airlines fleet consists of 26 Boeing 737-800’s with a capacity of 189 seats.

Flights on Ontario Canada based Sunwing leave Toronto Canada (YYZ) and arrive at Flamingo International Airport . Bonaire’s airport code is BON and it’s also known as BIA or Bonaire International Airport.

In addition Sunwing Airlines flies between Toronto and Aruba (AUA) on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays in high season. So if tourists find getting flights into Bonaire difficult they can look into flying into Aruba and transferring with one of the puddle jumper airlines. For companies that fly between Aruba and Bonaire try Aruba Airlines, Divi-Divi or WinAir. However these airlines possibly stop in Curacao.

It’s expensive to get to Bonaire!

Although the Canadian Dollar is low against the US Dollar Canadian tourists will be happy about Sunwing’s service. Because this low cost airline offers flights beginning at about $700CAD Canadian tourists can get to this beautiful island for a little bit less. Need more information about how to get to bonaire?