Bonaire might be a small island but it offers a lot of snorkeling and sightseeing. If your cruise stops at the port of Bonaire, you’ll have your choice of shore excursions, but you’ve only got one day so make the most of it. This guide offers you three options for arranging your own DIY shore excursion at the Bonaire cruise port.
Why DIY Your Bonaire Shore Excursion?
Having your ship arrange a Bonaire shore excursion for you is certainly easy. Just pay your $40-$100 for a pre-arranged tour. But then, everything on a cruise is easy. Which is usually great, but don’t you find that sometimes you want to bust out of the pre-baked itinerary and do your own thing? The Bonaire cruise port is a good place to do that. The island is small and very easy to get around. From Kralendijyk, to everywhere else is only 20 minutes by car. And there are also quite a few options close to town that don’t require a rental car.
Pro Tip: If you do decide to do an organized shore excursion, you should at least price shop it by comparing your ship’s pricing against purchasing your own excursion from Trip Advisor’s selection of Bonaire tours.
DIY Excursions for the Bonaire Cruise Port
#1 Walkable from the Cruise Ship
The cruise port is right in downtown Kralendijk. When you disembark, turn left and breeze past the gauntlet of excursion providers toward downtown. You can spend a few hours having lunch, visiting the craft market on the square and hitting the shops. But the downtown area is small and it won’t keep you busy all day.
Once finished with downtown, you have a few options. You can take a 10 minute walk south to the Divi Resort. They charge cruise passengers a $15 day fee which gives you access to the property. However, the fee does not include use of the guest pool. But you can access the palapas, waterfront and restaurants. And you can also use the activity center. But if you want to rent equipment, it will cost extra. If you would like access to a sandy beach, catch a 10 minute cab ride north to Eden Beach or Coco Beach. They are right next to each other and both have a beach, bar and loungers. Eden Beach also has a restaurant.
#2 Rent a Bike
Bonaire is Dutch after all so make like the Dutch and get around on a bike. You can rent a bike from Bike Rental Bonaire or Scooters Bonaire. They are both located downtown. Rates start at $12.50 USD for a regular bike but you can also upgrade to a mountain bike or an electric bike.
Pick up a tourist map from the bike shop or the Bonaire tourism bureau (located here) and then head south. Go ~8 miles (12.5/k) miles south to the slave huts. These huts once housed the slaves who worked at the Salt Ponds. Visualize yourself and other slaves crammed 12 to a hut and then be glad for the comfort of your cruise ship. Head back north and stop to check out the Cargill salt ponds You can’t tour them but it is worth it to stop and spend time viewing them because they are such a striking feature of the landscape.
Right at the edge of the Salt Ponds, you’ll find Salt Pier. This is a working dock for loading the salt. But it’s also a fantastic place to snorkel. The pilings create a vertical column which brings the fish right up to the surface of the water.
Pro Tip: Bring your own snorkel gear as there aren’t places to rent on the southern island. Mind the rocky entry as it can be rough. And you can’t snorkel at Salt Pier if there is a boat at the dock.
Now head north to Te Amo beach. It’s located right at the edge of the airport. The reef drop off is very close to shore here, and the sandy beach is an easy entry. Grab a beer or a bite from the Wind City food truck and chill out on the beach. Then peddle back into town for an afternoon coffee, ice cream or beer before catching your ship.
#3 Rent a Car
If you can rally a group of four, then renting your own car can be a cheaper option than taking the official Bonaire excursions. Rates start at $25 per day (+fees) for a passenger car. There are several local rental car companies which are a 10 minute walk southeast from the Bonaire cruise port dock. You can rent from AB Car Rental or Fox Car Rental. Check out their location maps prior to disembarkation or visit the Bonaire tourism office for directions and a map.
Once you have a car, you own the island. Check out my 5 day itinerary for Bonaire. It’s packed full of both snorkeling and sightseeing activities. You can easily do one of the itinerary days and have plenty of time for chilling out. Or you can get busy and cover two days worth of itinerary during your one day in port. Options include:
- Head south and visit the slave huts, salt ponds, Salt Pier, donkey sanctuary & Te Amo beach. This is a car version of the above bicycling itinerary combined with an added visit to the donkey sanctuary.
- Head north and snorkel at Andrea I, Karpata and 1,000 steps. Then drive up to the Goto Meer lake to see the flamingos and head into Rincon for a visit to the local Cadushy distillery.
- Head east and go windsurfing and swimming at Jibe City and take a kayak tour with the Mangrove Center in the mangroves on Lac Bay.
Pro Tip: Reserve your car/bike and the mangrove kayaking tour in advance as they both book up early on cruise ship days.
Choosing one of these DIY Bonaire shore excursions will give you maximum freedom to explore the island on your own. You can make the most of your time in the port of Bonaire and head back to your ship having had a good sampling of the island.
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