Diving off this boomerang-shape island’s west side is basically foolproof. Plop in anywhere, anytime for a relaxing, critter-packed shore dive. Rusty with a compass? For the most part, you won’t need one underwater: The reef slopes gently but obviously enough to serve as a constant reminder of your whereabouts. And after more than three decades of enforced marine-park protection, the payoffs are many: You’ll see all manner of reef fish, plus squid, several species of eel, turtles and, if you’ve got the eye, seahorses and frogfish, which add to this Dutch island’s appeal. If you can’t detect eyes and snouts among all those sponges, just ask. Many divemasters can offer virtual GPS coordinates, especially for critters on house reefs.
It’s not all shore entries though: Most dive packages include boat charters to nearby Klein Bonaire. And for something completely different, cruise the east side for fast-moving water. Here, advanced divers encounter Caribbean reef sharks, tarpon, eagle rays and schooling horse-eye jacks.
Here, everybody — or darn near everybody — dives, but you can try windsurfing in Lac Bay, mountain biking or hiking in Washington- Slagbaai National Park or photographing the flamingos at Gotomeer Lake. Bonaire’s night life is delightfully casual and fuss-free. Sip happyhour cocktails at Kralendijk’s quaint bars or listen to music and party at Karel’s Beach Bar on the waterfront. Try Karel’s tequeños — a variation of cheese sticks.
Don’t expect paved walkways on this cave tour, led by Bonaire local Clay Davelaar. It’s somewhat strenuous to enter the second cave, but the rewards are great. You’ll find bats, pristine formations and gin-clear pools where you'll snorkel between stalactites and stalagmites. Plus, you may be surprised by what might learn. For starters, did you know Bonaire is pockmarked with more than 200 caves? Book through your resort or jentis-tours.com.
INSIDER TIP: "Don’t miss the fluorescent night dive with Buddy Dive. They give you a blue wavelength light and a yellow Plexiglas mask filter. Dull-brown lettuce leaf coral becomes blood red with flecks with gold. I liked it so much that I bought my own." — Robert Reeves, training manager at Gigglin’ Marlin Divers, Houston