Bonaire Snorkeling Guide

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 Bonaire is a Dutch administered island in the southern Caribbean just off the coast of Venezuela. Along with Aruba and Curacao they are known as the A B C islands. Bonaire has been a well-known dive location for a long time. But snorkelers can enjoy many of the same spots. A healthy reef system around the island and a consistent drop off make this an attractive destination. Above all the best feature about the island is the abundant shore access to snorkel locations. Everything but one location listed in this review can be reached from shore for free. The freedom to access locations from shore allows you to save some money and choose when and where you want to go.

The island officially lists 86 different shore and boat dive locations. Many of these sites with shore access are marked with yellow painted rocks. Large sections of the shoreline, especially on the southern end are marked every couple hundred meters with a dive spot. You can certainly jump in just about anywhere on the southern end of the island and many other places. That does seem a bit overwhelming when trying to plan a trip, so I narrowed it down to the sites that I feel are the best for snorkeling and a few other locations that are unique. Bonaire is a big island so this is not intended to not be an exclusive review of every location. Just enough to fill a week vacation.

Bonaire Snorkeling Locations Map

(Click the box on the map header to open in Google Maps app)

 

Click to jump to each location:

1000 Jumps

I came across this spot on my second visit to 1000 Steps. Saw some divers getting ready and found out it was a one-way swim to 1000 Steps. What makes it a one-way swim is the fact you need to actually jump in with no option to get back out till you get to 1000 Steps. Find it by following the point on the Bonaire Snorkel Map. It’s a concrete structure about 400 meters past 1000 Steps. I parked my scooter at 1000 Steps and walked over. It’s a fun swim below the cliffs with some small caves to peek in. Also swim out deeper and explore the corals Note: the road turns into one-way after 1000 Steps. You need to commit to drive all the way through the town of Ricon to get back to town. Might as well plan a day of it and stop by Karpata snorkel spot on your way through.

1000 Steps

Popular location north of town. Distinguished by stone steps leading down to the beach area with fairly easy access to the water. Snorkel and explore off in either direction from the beach in a large area. Note: the road turns into one-way after this point. You need to commit to drive all the way through the town of Ricon’ to get back to town if you continue. Might as well plan a day of it and stop by Karpata snorkel spot on your way through.

Buddy Dive

Dive resort towards the north side of town. Easily accessible dock to snorkel from with some nice fun depths before the drop off. Coral here isn’t spectacular but there are other reasons to come here. I saw several tarpon cruising around the docks, I think they are fairly common to see there. There’s also a small boat wreck to the north west of the Buddy Dive dock in about 20 feet of water. I had a lot of fun here in the later afternoon. Boat traffic seemed to be the calmest. To get to the dock, park at the resort and head straight back to the dive operations area.

Cliff/Dive Friends

Small dive shop on the north side of town with their own shore access. Named for the drop off being close to shore. Friendly folks at the dive shop, they have a nice painted map of the area right in front of the dive shop showing small boat wrecks and other things to check out underwater. Good first stop of the day if you are planning to continue north to 1000 Steps and Karpata.

Divi Flamingo

(Day or Night snorkel) – This spot is best done as a night snorkel but can be enjoyed during the day. I would recommend exploring it during the day first before trying it at night so you can become familiar with the swim. This is a one-way snorkel going from one dock to another without leaving the resort. The entrance point is a small dock on the south end of the resort that is slightly hidden. Go into the resort and head to the south end. There is an elevated pool area here. Go past that towards the water and down some steps to a small skinny dock. I placed the point on the map right on this dock and a line showing the general snorkeling route. Once in the water swim north along the rocks and look for animals hiding among the rocks. Eels and spiny lobster can be seen here. The exit is the far side of a large dock that’s the main dive boat dock. There are some nice steps on the north side of the dock to exit from. Before your swim starts, maybe walk down and check out the exit dock first. For a fun bonus, snorkel this in the afternoon and wait on the dock to watch a cruise ship leave the port nearby. I wouldn’t be in the water right when it leaves though. The ships push a fairly strong current through here when they leave. Need a dive light?

Day Snorkel Video:

 

Night Snorkel Video:

Hilma Hooker

(Wreck)-This is not well-known as a snorkel spot, but the water clarity and size of the ship makes it worth visiting. It’s a 235-foot cargo ship with an interesting history. Its laying on its side in 60 to 100 feet of water. The stern is the shallower end with the propeller being about 60 feet deep. There are two buoys attached to the bow and stern. Use those as a reference point to swim to and I believe you can see those buoys from shore. At the very least just follow some shore divers out there. It’s longer swim out to the ship and it’s in deep, fairly exposed open water. Go on a day when the wind is calm and only go if you have more advanced snorkeling skills.

Karpata

Great snorkel spot far north of town. The corals here are beautiful and thick which makes it a commonly visited spot. Well worth the trip up here. Try to make a day out of it and stop by Cliff, and 1000 Steps on your way up here. Note: the road turns one-way after 1000 Steps. You need to commit to drive all the way through the town of Ricon to get back to town.

sorry, limited video available :(

Klein Bonaire

Accessible by boat. My favorite snorkel spot on Bonaire. It’s a small uninhabited island about a half mile off the west side of Bonaire. The entire island is a marine reserve and has a beautiful secluded beach that slopes gently to the depths below. Either side of the beach is surrounded by coral reef that starts shallow and drops off fairly quickly. Just a beautiful spot that beginner to advanced snorkelers can both enjoy. There can be a brisk current that is known to switch directions, so plan accordingly. Both sides of the beach are great, but the east side seems to have better shallow coral. And the west side had a steeper wall that free divers might enjoy more. Why not try both!

To get to the island you have two different boat options that are marked on the Bonaire snorkel map. The first option is the most common, that departs from a marina in town across from It Rains Fishes restaurant. However, when there is cruise ship in town, they sometimes close to the public and cater to the cruise ship passengers only. That is when you use the second option. It leaves from the side of a bar a short distance away, Karels Beach Bar. Both of the boats follow the same format. After they drop you off on Klein Bonaire and they come back once an hour throughout the day, so you can stay as long as you like. There is nothing on the island other than a few shade structures. You will need to bring all your own food and water for the day. It’s a great place to visit, and I highly recommend.

Lac Bay

I consider this place to have best shallow coral on the island. Sheltered behind a barrier reef on the east side of the island and in about 6 feet of water, you can get up real close with some spectacular coral. It’s a little bit of a journey to get here from shore, but it’s not difficult. Start at the Jibe City area on the south end of Lac Bay and locate a floating dock a fair distance from shore. I placed a point on the snorkel map right above what I believe is this dock. Head out to this dock to start your snorkel. The way out to the dock is rather shallow and sandy, so you can walk most of the way out. Once at the dock, your main snorkel area is to the north and east. This area is roughly circled on the snorkel map, basically the darker colored areas on the satellite image is the coral reef. Be careful to not touch the coral in shallow water.

Red Beryl

Great place along the southern edge of the island. Good healthy corals and plenty of fish to view. Being farther from town you can enjoy some solitude out here. The location is harder to find, there should be some yellow painted rocks but sometimes not. Use the point on the snorkel map to navigate here. Also, being on the southern edge it can be more exposed to winds causing larger waves. Plan to go on a calmer day for the best enjoyment.

Margate Bay

This spot is right next to Red Beryl and has some similarities. I couldn’t decide which location I liked better. You should really check out both spots as long as you are down here. The video is a combination of the two spots. And hey why not, you could one-way snorkel between the two.

Salt Pier

Large pier for docking ships loading with salt from the nearby salt evaporator ponds. When there is no shipped docked, the public is allowed to snorkel and dive below the pilings. Coral is attached to the pilings and fish congregate here. Depths up to 30 feet, so best enjoyed with some intermediate to advanced snorkel skills. The shallow parts are boring here.

Windsock

Large beach area right near town. Corals are not as great as some of the other locations listed. But its easily accessible and has a long beach area to explore. Some of the better areas seemed to be around the dock towards the northern end. Just for fun, you can swim from here to Windsock the Beach Bar and Restaurant.

sorry no video :(

 

Windsock to Bachelor's Beach

-With a stopover at Windsock the Beach Bar and Restaurant: This one-way snorkel is just for fun. I came up with this route near the end of my trip after visiting each place individually. Start on the southern end of Windsock Park (or Donkey Beach Park) and snorkel to Bachelor’s Beach with a stopover at Windsock the Beach Bar and Restaurant. They have a beautiful and relaxing place right on the water with easy snorkeling access to the water. Take a break from your snorkel and get some food or beverages. Then continue your snorkel south to Bachelor’s Beach. The reef along this route is not spectacular, but it’s a fun route to do. Go exploring around the docks and see what you can find. There are lots of docks along this route, so I would stop by the restaurant and familiarize yourself with their water access before attempting.

 

Batchelor's Beach (exit)

 

Hey, check this out:

For even more detailed information on these snorkeling sites, download our Bonaire Snorkeling Map. Full color maps in .pdf version. Extra notes, tips and tricks to maximize your experience. Download for offline use and take with you to the snorkel spot.





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