8 Best Attractions You May Not Know They Exist In Bonaire – B of Caribbean’s ABC Islands

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Port of Kralendijk, Bonaire

A cruise port at Caribbean‘s B of the ABC islands and located in downtown Kralendijk, capital of Bonaire. The ships dock exactly near Wilhelmina Square where passengers enjoy a lovely walk along the promenade that spreads to a few blocks from the port. It was not regularly visited by mega-ships of important cruise lines like Royal Caribbean or Carnival before but of late, Bonaire has been “discovered” thus, Port of Krendijk is now a major port of call of Caribbean itineraries.

Port of Kralendijk is situated at an open bay on the southern part of the west coast of Bonaire. It has piers for dry cargo transfer, break bulk and container cargo as well. There is also a fuel oil storage terminal of BOPEC (Bonaire Petroleum Corporation) for multiple grades of refined and non-refined oils from Venezuela and refineries from Aruba and Curacao.

A Brief Background of Bonaire:

So this is the B in Caribbean‘s trio of ABC (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) and although they share a lot in common, don’t be misled by this notion that: ” well, you have seen one, have seen ’em all” because Bonaire has its own natural wonders. When Alfonso de Ojeda and Amerigo Vespucci, the first Europeans who came to Bonaire in 1499, they find this desolate island of no value but claimed it for Spain nevertheless. They enslaved the Caiquetio Indian settlers instead and moved them out of the island to work at plantations in Hispaniola Island, leaving Bonaire uninhabited for at least a century.

In 1526, some herds of cattle were brought in by then Spanish governor Juan de Ampues so the Indians were returned back to tend for the animals. The cattle were raised primarily for their skins, not for their meat so they were allowed to roam freely in the island eventually outnumbering human population. Aside from the Caiquetios, some of the inhabitants of Bonaire were convicts from other Spanish colonies in South America and the only permanent settlement in the area then was Rincon, a village located far inland, safe from marauding pirates.

When the Dutch took possession of the ABC islands in 1633, Bonaire became a plantation of the Dutch West Indies Company. African slaves were brought in and forced to work cutting dyewood, cultivating corn and harvesting solar salt. By 1837, this island was a thriving center for salt production and in 1954, it became a part of Netherlands Antilles but when it was dissolved as a country on October 10, 2010, Bonaire was just a special municipality of Holland (The Kingdom of The Netherlands) until the present.

Map showing the location of Bonaire.

Perhaps it is your first time to hear about Bonaire. While it is one of the ports of call for Caribbean cruises and famous in the world for its spectacular diving sites, a lot of people don’t actually know that this amazing island exists, unless you are a seafarer. I saw Bonaire in 2006, aboard M/T Edgeless wherein we docked at Port of Kralendijk for crude oil loading at BOPEC (Bonaire Petroleum Corp.). It is a small island with a population of around 18,000 at that time, but it comes big in points of interests and let me tell you 8 best attractions you may not know they exist in Bonaire.

Kaya Grandi, Kralendijk

Bonaire may not be the first island in the Caribbeans for stunning Dutch-inspired architecture, but Kaya Grandi in downtown Kralendijk absolutely lives up to it. This is the main shopping area and a best attraction you may not know for it takes pride of its colonial period buildings that date back to the 1800s. Kaya Grandi is a walking distance from the pier and it actually reflects a real Caribbean vibe, the buildings traditionally house families on the second floor with their shops or restaurants on the first floor.

Bonaire Art & Craft Market

A pendant made of Dichroic Glass by Elements, one of the souvenir shops at Bonaire Art & Craft market.

Another best attraction you may not know in the center of Kralendijk at Wilhelmina Square is the Bonaire Art & Craft market. Offering a unique shopping opportunity for you, the stalls here sell local products and handmade items by Bonaire residents with an emphasis on distinctive pieces of jewelry made up of Dichroic Glass and scented bath salts harvested at the island’s salt flats. Dichroic glass changes color when exposed to different types of light and is made into a beautiful and unique piece of jewelry here in Bonaire.

Donkey Sanctuary Park

Visit Donkey Sanctuary Park, Bonaire‘s best attraction you may not know and meet its friendly residents. Founded in 1939 by a Dutch couple, this sanctuary which is also found in Kralendijk provides a shelter for sick and orphaned donkeys. The animals are set free to roam in this huge park and you can feed them with carrots or apples while taking a drive through or you may give them a little support by buying a souvenir from the park’s gift shop.

Old Village of Rincon

All that you see when your cruise ship dock at the pier is Kralendijk and even if you wander far, the old village of Rincon is out of sight, unless you cross the mountains of Bonaire and there, this quaint hamlet will emerge into view. A best attraction you may not know it exists, Rincon is the island’s oldest existing settlement way back to the 1500s. Thought to have established by the Spaniards, it was built there on purpose surrounded by the hills to obscure its sight from pirates during those times.

Cadushy Distillery & Its Unique Cactus Liqueur

Have you ever tried drinking a cactus? Down in the heart of Rincon is a best attraction you may not know, a place which you can not simply miss – the Cadushy Distillery. Bordered by an attractive garden of ancient trees and chirping hummingbirds at historical Cinelandia Complex, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to witness how this world’s only liqueur from cactus is made. Entrance to this distillery is free including tasting of the spirit after the educational part of your visit, so don’t leave Rincon without making a stop at Cadushy‘s visitor center.

Salt Flats of Pekelmeer

At first glance they seem like colossal pink lakes brimming with white foam. The salt flats of Pekelmeer, best attraction you may not know and a stunning site south of Kralendijk is the topmost export of Bonaire as well. In the 17th century, the Dutch transported salt to Europe for curing fish and meat before the dawn of refrigeration, these days the salt “mountains” are exported to cold countries for their roads in winter. The unique pink color of the salt flats which changes from fuchsia to pale pink before your eyes is due to the evaporated sea water which then produces algae and bacteria eaten by pink brine shrimps, favorite food of Bonaire‘s flamingoes.

Slave Huts of Orange Pan, Kralendijk

Scattered along the coast in Kralendijk are small huts that served as sleeping quarters of African slaves working at the salt flats, separated from their families during the 1800s. While it is considered a best attraction you may not know in Bonaire, the slave huts of Orange Pan are grim reminders of the inhumane conditions the slaves had gone through in those times. Maintained and kept in their original setting, you will find information boards at the area explaining the history of salt extraction and of the slavery linked to it.

Bonaire is absolutely a must-see if you love scuba diving or snorkeling – this is the best spot for shore diving in the world. If you’re into outdoor adventure, this tiny island offers opportunities for that activity as well. In fact there is always something in store for every type of traveler here. The official tender is the US dollar so no need to look for exchange rate centers.

Reference: Wikipedia