Scuba is a main driver of Bonaire’s tourism for a good reason. The reef is everywhere, the fish are plentiful, and access is easy. During our three months in Bonaire, we dove a few times a week for pleasure, and about once a week for reef renewal. After a lot of trips to some great dive destinations, I can see why Bonaire is a diver’s paradise.
If you’re not a diver, there are plenty of great snorkeling opportunities in Bonaire! Enjoy the marine life in that beautiful water.
Ease of Diving in Bonaire
The dives sites are well marked, with a yellow stone alongside the road for shore dives and a yellow in-water buoy for boat dives, many with both, so it is easy to find the site you want.
Some, like the 1000 Steps, involve careful climbing, but others are an easy wade-in from land, or slide out of your dinghy. Easy to use maps of the sites are posted in all the dive shops and online.
Since most of the dive sites have moorings, we could move Sava for a day and go diving. We didn’t do that often, but when we did, it was worth it. One of my favorite days on Bonaire was when Brian and I drove our sailboat north to the national park just to go diving! It was a 90 minute trip each way, but it felt like a day trip escape from our regular life in the mooring field. Funny how a move on the boat can make such an impact. If you are on your boat in Bonaire, definitely take advantage of these moorings.
Excellent Support and Services
Bonaire beats every other island we’ve visited in the Caribbean for scuba shops and services. We have our own tanks, but even if you don’t, you can rent tanks easily and cheaply, for less than $10 per tank, and you can rent any gear you need for diving just as affordably.
Not only is the stuff cheap, it’s so convenient. One of the dive shops has a drive-through where you pick up your tanks and drop them off and huge tubs where you can rinse off all your salty equipment! Other places have delivery services and many of them have dinghy docks so we could drop off without leaving the water. Are you starting to see why Bonaire is a diver’s paradise?
You can buy anything scuba related and get it serviced at better prices than we’ve found elsewhere, except maybe for U.S. websites. We bought gopro accessories very affordably in Bonaire.
Need To Know
Diving in Bonaire may be cheap and easy, but it isn’t free. Since all the waters of the island are protected and part of a marine park, there is a fee to use them. STINAPA is the guardian of the park, and the Bonaire nature fee is $45 for a calendar year for diving, and $25 for other marine activities. We bought ours when we arrived in July and that is valid for the whole year. These fees help pay for the staff, the moorings, and cleanup, conservation and more. You can purchase the tag at a dive shop or online. We preferred the online method because it doesn’t involve printing or any waste, just an electronic image file. Once you’ve purchased, the parks staff can look it up online anytime. If you visit the National Park, just show your ID and they will find your name and that you have already paid. Easy peasy!
If you will be diving in Bonaire for more than a couple of weeks, consider getting a guide book. We loved the Reef Smart Guide, available at many dive shops on the island. The book details many of the dive sites, with information on how to enter and what routes to take.
We dove close to 50 times in our three months in Bonaire. One of my favorite dive sites was the Salt Pier. It’s not a reef dive, but there are so many large and small creatures feeding and swimming under the dock that you barely need to move to enjoy. It’s an incredible place to dive, and even snorkel with the turtles and squid in the shallows.
Another favorite dive site in Bonaire is the 1000 Steps. The entry/exit wasn’t easy, but it’s only 50 or so steps as opposed to the titular 1000, and was much better than advertised. I was expecting worse and happily surprised. Down under the water the site is beautiful, with varied corals and lots of eels and schools of fish.
I already miss the ease of diving in Bonaire, the protected reefs and schools of huge tarpons swimming by us under the sea. After three months there, I understand why Bonaire is a diver’s paradise.
One of the important parts of diving is to give yourself a break, or surface interval, between dives, to off-gas your body. When we do a two-dive day, we need a lunch break and surface interval. Ocean Oasis Beach Club was our favorite stop and we ate there almost every time we drove to the south of the island for dives. The servers are excellent, the surroundings beautiful, and the food, especially the seafood and truffle fries, delicious!
So Many Fish in This Sea
While we saw more rays and turtles in Martinique and Antigua, we did see a lot of interesting creatures diving in Bonaire.
We dove at least a couple times a week, and saw multiple eels, drumfish, puffers and giant groupers, a few turtles and eagle rays and one octopus. A diver’s paradise indeed!
I have never seen so many scorpion fish as I saw in Bonaire. They seemed to be everywhere on some days, and boy are they ugly/beautiful!
Eels in Bonaire
We saw a lot of eels, probably more in our time in Bonaire than I have seen in all my previous dives combined, and I love to watch them move. I followed a few around during our dives, and stayed in the same spot just watching some too!
Eels grow extremely large in Bonaire, as do lobsters, tarpons and lion fish.
We saw one octopus on all our dives, not for lack of looking. If you haven’t seen My Octopus’ Teacher, watch it! They are incredible. Here is the one octopus we saw in all our dives in Bonaire.
More Diving Photos
Drumfish and pufferfish are plentiful and many are not scared of divers.
More Diving Videos
We used our gopros a lot. Check out some more underwater videos from our time diving in Bonaire.
Hopefully now you understand why Bonaire is a diver’s paradise. I miss it already.