Although a relatively small island, Bonaire is worth taking the time to explore. I recommend renting a car or pickup truck as there is no public transit and it is too big and hot to walk or cycle. In our three months in Bonaire, we shared a pickup with friends from another boat. The truck was perfect on the rough roads and to transport dive tanks for shore diving. It’s not just the roads that make driving in Bonaire an interesting experience.
The Good Parts of Driving in Bonaire
Unlike other Caribbean islands, you don’t need to pay for a driver’s license in Bonaire. This is a plus because it saves you money and a trip to the police station. Seriously. In Grenada and Dominica you have to get a license at the police station to rent a car, and some places they sell it to you at the rental agent. In Bonaire, it’s much easier as there’s no license to buy!
Another plus about driving in Bonaire is the flat terrain. And the drivers are pretty polite. You don’t get honked at as much as back home. Plus, they drive on the same – right – side of the road just as we are used to back home. So for the most part, driving in Bonaire is a good experience. Here’s what makes it interesting.
An island 500 miles east of Venezuela, Bonaire covers 113 square miles and is only 11 miles long and at max 24 miles wide. Comparatively, that is less than half the size of Toronto and about the same as Orlando, Florida.
So it’s small, but it’s not easy or quick to get around because the roads are rough. The main roads are full of potholes, and many side roads are dirt roads, so when it rains, they get messy and even unpassable. But, when you take into account the sights and views when you drive here, you won’t want to speed. When exploring Bonaire by car, take your time.
It’s not a safari, but driving around Bonaire does offer good opportunities to see animals, exotic and otherwise.
A key reason to drive slowly in Bonaire is so you don’t miss any animals! Or so you do miss hitting them but not seeing them. No joke. The donkeys are plentiful and apparently a lot of them are the source of traffic accidents on the island, especially after dark.
The island is also full of wild goats, which some attribute to the disrepair of the roads. Because goats eat everything, the plant life is weak and mud spreads in the rain and concrete cracks from the heat. They even blame the goats for ruining the reefs, but they are still cute.
You also will see a lot of lizards of all sizes on the roads in Bonaire. Sometimes they just sit there in the middle of the road. Sometimes there are dead lizards in the middle of the road, which is what happens when the living ones don’t move out of the way! Be prepared.
Finally, you want to keep an eye out for birds. On a few drives, we’ve seen pairs of the local parrot flying past, and the pink flamingoes are scattered in the inner lakes, sometimes close enough to the road for photo taking.
The tourist maps in Bonaire include a few “scenic routes” to drive. They highlight landmarks and other things to see. I would say it’s worth doing at least one of those rings if you have the time.
But, be forewarned, many of the “Highlights” on these scenic routes are easy to miss and not that exciting to begin. We did see the longest tree of Bonaire though and took a photo.
I recommend this if you have time because we had fun driving these rings, but we had lots of time in Bonaire!
In our travels, we’ve found a lot of cool and unique landmarks through geocaching. Sometimes these hidden treasures are at obvious popular tourist sites, but often they are placed at spots we never would have heard of without the app. The same holds true in Bonaire. We followed the app to cool caves in a residential neighborhood and a lagoon on the east side of the island.
There’s even a geocache at a dive site in Bonaire! Diver’s Paradise indeed.
Confession About Driving in Bonaire
I have to confess, even after my training in South Africa, I still can’t drive standard. Which means I was never the driver on these adventures driving in Bonaire. My role was the passenger, and I tried to follow maps, both online and printed, and find the geocaches, scenic sites and more. And spot but avoid hitting animals. So far, so good!
What do you like or fear about driving while abroad? Share in the comments!