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2010-11-27 03:18:56

Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean

BONAIRE, Dutch Caribbean

The Dutch Caribbean island Bonaire is often referred to as one of the last unspoiled paradises on earth, with 288 km² (111 sq. miles) of land area (excluding the uninhabited islet of Klein Bonaire) and only 13,389 inhabitants counted on January the 1st 2010 by the Island Registry, meaning a population density of way less than 50 inhabitants per km².

Bonaire is situated only about 80 km (50 miles) north of Venezuela, well protected right outside of the hurricane belt and has a perfect and steady climate with an average temperature of about 30°C (86°F), a nice refreshing breeze almost all year round and some tropical rain showers every now and then (about 22 inches per year) to keep the island beautifully green and full of wildlife.

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), the average of stay-over tourists per year counts about 75.000 people, together staying around 700,000 nights, of which about 35,000 are US citizens, more or less 32,000 visitors come from Europe and about 8,000 people from other countries, mostly carrying South American passports. Every year about another 180,000 tourist visit Bonaire on cruise ships, mostly in the period from October to April. The Flamingo International Airport counts about 15,000 commercial aircraft landings per year. The hotel occupancy on Bonaire is about 80%.

Next to the love for the island, its beautiful nature, the great atmosphere, the relaxed lifestyle and its very friendly inhabitants, probably the largest amount of visitors are attracted by the fact that the beautiful turquoise waters around Bonaire are very well known as "Divers Paradise" which is even proudly stated on all car license plates. The boomerang shaped island sits on a huge coral reef offering some of the most gorgeous underwater views on earth, with colorful corals and an amazing variety of underwater wildlife.

The unspoiled environment is very actively protected by Bonaire´s inhabitants, who prefer the current natural tourism over large developments and a huge tourist industry.

Bonaire´s History

The name Bonaire is thought to have its origin from the Caiquetio word "Bonay". The early Spanish and Dutch modified its spelling to Bojnaj and also Bonaire, which means "Good Air".

The earliest known inhabitants of the isolated island were the Caquetios Indians, a branch of the Arawak who came by canoe from Venezuela in about AD 1000. Apparently the Caquetios Indians where very tall people, since the Spanish conquerors who discovered Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao in 1499 called the islands "las Islas de los Gigantes", translated: "The islands of the giants". These same conquerors decided that the three ABC Islands were useless and deported the natives in 1515 to work as slaves elsewhere.

In 1525, Juan de Ampies, the new Spanish commander of the ABC Islands decided that Bonaire could be used as a cattle plantation. He imported animals from Spain like cows, donkeys, horses, goats, sheep and pigs and brought back some of the Caquetios Indians to work the farms. The Spanish inhabitants lived mostly in Rincon, an inland town that kept them safe from pirate attacks.

During the Eighty Years War the Dutch lost the island Sint Maarten to their Spanish enemies. The Dutch reacted to this loss with attacking Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. Bonaire was taken over in March 1636. Three years later the Dutch built Fort Oranje. While Curaçao emerged as a center of the slave trade, Bonaire became a plantation of the Dutch West India Company. A small number of slaves from Africa where brought to work to cultivate dyewood and maize and harvesting salt, alongside Indians and convicts. Small stone slave huts can still be found in the area around Rincon and on the Caribbean ocean front, close to the saltpans.

During the Napoleonic Wars, Curaçao and Bonaire were lost to the English twice, once from 1800 - 1803 and from 1807 - 1816. The islands were given back to the Netherlands under the Anglo-Dutch Treaty. During these periods of English control, a large number of white traders settled on Bonaire and built Playa, also known as kralendijk.

A total of 607 government slaves and 151 private slaves were freed under the Emancipation Regulation on September 30, 1862. In 1867 the government sold most of the public lands, and in 1870 they sold the saltpans. The entire population became dependent on two large private landowners, causing a great deal of suffering for many people, forcing lots of them to move away from Bonaire.

Bonaire Since 10 October 2010

Since the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles on 10 October 2010 (10-10-10), Bonaire became a public body of the Netherlands, together with the two other BES islands, Sint Eustatius and Saba and are now referred to as special municipalities within the Dutch Kingdom. The islands Curaçao and Sint Maarten became independent states.

Visitors to the Dutch Caribbean, who do not require a visa, are allowed a maximum stay of three months every six month period without any special permit needed. Citizens of most countries in the world do not need a visa to visit the Dutch Caribbean. Dutch citizens without a Dutch Caribbean residency are allowed a maximum stay of six months every twelve month period.


As of January 1 2011 the BES Islands will have a complete new tax system. Please click here to read about the new taxes on Bonaire...


The official language on Bonaire is Dutch, but most inhabitants also speak English, Spanish and Papiamento, a Creole language with vocabulary influences from African languages, English, Dutch, and Arawak native languages.


The official currency on Bonaire until the end of 2010 is the Netherlands Antillean Florin (NAF), also known as the guilder. The Naf has a fixed exchange rate with the U.S. dollar: 1.78 Naf = 1.00 USD. The dollar is not only accepted everywhere on the island but will replace the Naf completely in 2011, becoming the new official currency.

Drinking Water

Drinking water on Bonaire is distilled seawater and therefore safe to drink.


Be advised to use adaptors when bringing electrical devices and equipment. The electricity current on Bonaire is 110 volts and has a 50 cycle, instead of for example the 60 cycle common in the U.S.


Bonaire is also very known for its safety and low crime rate. Of course everybody should be advised to keep an eye on their valuables at all times, but statistics learn that the chance for being robbed on Bonaire is a whole lot smaller than on lots of other destinations in the world.

Medical Facilities

Bonaire counts one hospital, called Hospitaal San Francisco, situated in the centre of Kralendijk. Hospitaal San Francisco counts 60 beds. The hospital has a hyperbaric recompression chamber which is run by a highly trained staff. Admittance is through the emergency room.
There is an ambulance plane on call for emergencies and transport to a larger equipped hospital on the neighboring island Curaçao.


Call 911 for all your emergencies. If the line is busy you can also call (+599) 717 8000. An ambulance can also be requested dialing 114 and the hospital can be directly reached on number (+599) 717 8900.

Bonaire Real Estate

Keys Real Estate Bonaire

T: (011)(599) 717 5777




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