If you’re planning a trip to any of the Caribbean ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao) and you love snorkeling, you’ll definitely want to consider a Bonaire snorkeling tour. While Justin and I would love to return to the beautiful island of Bonaire for a week or longer, we only had one day in Bonaire from a cruise ship. We decided to go snorkeling in Bonaire and it was an excellent way to spend a few hours there.
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When you go diving or snorkeling in Bonaire, you’re going to experience a magical side of the island’s wondrous nature. The Bonaire National Marine Park is home to many colorful fish, expansive coral reefs, and sea turtle nesting grounds. If you want to see turtles in their natural habitats, Bonaire is a fantastic place to do so.
I’m going to show you how to book an epic Bonaire snorkeling trip to a small, uninhabited island off the coast of Bonaire called Klein Bonaire. But first, let me tell you a little bit more about the amazing Bonaire National Marine Park.
Bonaire National Marine Park
The Bonaire National Marine Park (BNMP) is the oldest marine reserve in the world, established in 1979. The journey to protect these waters and the creatures in them began with turtle protection in 1961. Then, Bonaire prohibited spear fishing in 1971 and offered protection for all coral (living or dead) in 1975.
The BNMP includes all of the waters surrounding Bonaire and Klein Bonaire for an area spanning 27 km² (6672 acres). This includes all of the fish, creatures, coral reef, sea grass, and mangroves. There are 86 public dive sites in total with a strict no anchoring policy to protect the coral reef. You can access these dive sites from boat and many of these are great dive and snorkeling sites from the shore.
All About Klein Bonaire
Our Bonaire snorkeling tour went straight to Klein Bonaire because it’s one of the best places to snorkel and scuba dive in the Caribbean. Klein Bonaire is a only a short distance from the coast of Bonaire, only 800 meters away at its closest point. It’s Dutch for “Little Bonaire”.
Klein Bonaire formed approximately 600 million years ago due to underwater eruptions and formations in the ocean. Then, 60 million years ago, Klein Bonaire became an island above sea level, but just barely. The island is extremely flat and its highest point is less than one meter above sea level.
Klein Bonaire is a paradise for divers and snorkelers alike. It is surrounded by brilliant coral reefs that are home to many fish and sea creatures. The island itself was purchased by the government in 1999. It’s now managed by the Bonaire National Marine Park. Even though it is unusual for land to be part of a national marine park, it is an important turtle nesting site.
Furthermore, the island used to be heavily populated by goats that grazed and degraded its natural vegetation. Over the last 40 years, goats no longer live at the island, so its flora has made a comeback. Klein Bonaire has many plants and animals that don’t even live on Bonaire itself.
Bonaire Snorkeling Tour to Klein Bonaire
Justin and I decided to book our Bonaire snorkeling tour with a private company independent of our cruise ship. We chose Woodwind Cruises because we heard good things about their tours. Once our cruise ship docked, we met with members of the tour company by the catamaran. It was about a ten minute walk from the cruise port.
Our first impressions of Bonaire were wonderful ones: Bonaire is bright, beautiful, and clean. We walked without any issues to the catamaran dock, which was down the street and past a lovely resort (Divi Flamingo Beach Resort). There were some signs to help us on the way, too.
We booked a three hour Bonaire snorkeling excursion with Woodwind Cruises in advance. Justin and I didn’t have to pay in advance. We paid once we arrived on the day in US cash. They also accept debit cards from the USA, but no credit cards.
Sailing Aboard the Catamaran
It was a hot, sunny day outside with a bit of a breeze with perfect conditions for sailing and snorkeling. Unlike other excursions, there’s a maximum of 25 people allowed on these tours. I’ve been on some snorkeling tours in the past with 50-100 people and it’s hard to find your own space in the winter with that many people.
It wasn’t too long before we arrived at our first snorkeling spot at Klein Bonaire. We participated in something called Drift Snorkeling. On some snorkeling excursions, you’ll visit one spot, get back on the boat and ride to another spot. Drift snorkeling will allow you to cover a vast area simply by drifting with the current. You’ll be able to see more with less effort. The captain keeps the boat with the snorkelers so you can get back on board anytime.
Bonaire Snorkeling Tour with a Knowledgeable Guide
On our Bonaire snorkeling excursion, Woodwind Cruises provides all the snorkeling gear so you don’t need to bring your own. The tour also includes a knowledgeable guide who will point out lots of marine life, including turtles.
Even with 25 people, you have a more private experience with a few tour guides. Woodwind Cruises broke the group down into three smaller groups, each with their own guide in the water. We were grateful to have our own space and personal service.
When I stuck my face into the water, it was a whole other world down there. It was brimming with sea life, like a huge tropical fish tank that goes on and on as far as you could see.
There were huge corals everywhere in any shape imaginable, and so many different kinds of fish in all sizes and colors swimming all around. I couldn’t get enough of it and would never grow tired of that sight!
Viewing Sea Turtles in Bonaire
On 99% of their trips, Woodwind Cruises spots turtles at Klein Bonaire. During mating season, there’s a 99.9% chance. I like those odds! If you want to see turtles too, make sure you don’t venture too far from your guide. The tour guides know exactly where to look and will point out turtles and interesting sea life.
Swimming with the sea turtles was the highlight of the snorkeling trip. Justin called me over (I got a little bit behind the group due to taking so many photos and not paying attention) because one of the tour guides spotted a turtle. By the time I got there, it swam deep into the ocean. Thankfully, another one swam right over next to me!
I was swimming alongside this magnificent, huge turtle with the most soulful eyes and relaxed expression on its face. He swam so close to me that he nearly brushed up against my arm. It was so amazing.
After drifting to three separate snorkel sites (it was an endless display of beautiful coral and rainbow fish!), we got back on the boat. Swimming with those majestic sea turtles is something that I’ll never forget.
Lunch Time on the Catamaran
Once we were back on the boat, we sailed towards the shore. They stopped the boat near the shore and brought us all out some lunch. That was totally unexpected and such a lovely surprise. It shows how Woodwind Cruises really goes above and beyond!
If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet like we do, be sure to let the staff know ahead of time. We were so stoked that they made us vegan versions of the meal. There were noodles with soy sauce, fresh tomato, cucumber, green onion, and fried plantains. It was so yummy and so satisfying after snorkeling. Justin and I also enjoyed fresh mango juice and rum punch.
Open Bar on the Catamaran
Did I mention that this Bonaire snorkeling tour has an open bar? Here are the drinks served during the tour: Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Sprite, fruit juices, water, tonic and soda, ice cold beer, white and red wine, rum, gin, vodka, whiskey and of course, rum punch.
For those wondering if there is a toilet on the catamaran: yes, there is! Drink as much as you’d like. I suggest drinking after the snorkeling trip so you don’t feel too tipsy in the water!
Best Snorkeling in Bonaire: More Options
While we highly recommend the Bonaire snorkeling tour that we took with Woodwind Cruises, there are other options if you’re interested. We don’t have any personal experience with these ones, but they have great reviews from happy customers.
This snorkeling tour in Bonaire will take you to two different snorkeling sites at Klein Bonaire with snacks in between. It starts later in the afternoon so you can be out on the catamaran to see the sunset.
Looking for something a little more private? You can charter your own private sail and snorkel safari in Bonaire. You’ll be able to sail, snorkel, swim, and relax in the sunshine on your own private yacht. You can even customize your itinerary with the captain to spend the day exactly as you like it.
Where to Stay in Bonaire
While we traveled to Bonaire for the day aboard a cruise ship, we’d love to experience the island to its fullest potential by staying a week or two in the future. There are lots of fantastic hotels in Bonaire and Airbnb accommodations as well. Here’s a helpful map if you’d like to browse all hotels and Airbnbs in one place to compare them.
More Things to Do in Bonaire
There are lots of great things to do in Bonaire besides snorkeling and diving. If you aren’t into underwater adventures, here are some more ideas for you.
First, you might want to get a great overview of the entire island. Check out this Bonaire sightseeing tour. It’s a 3.5 hour excursion in an air conditioned mini-van from Kralendijk to various landmarks like the salt flats, a museum in Rincon, and the flamingo sanctuary at Goto Lake.
You can also spend the day at Washington Slagbaai National Park in Bonaire. Go off-roading in a 4×4 to isolated beaches and blowholes at this ecological reserve. You can do some wildlife viewing, go for a hike, and even sprinkle some snorkeling into your day.
If outdoor adventures are more your style, here are some great suggestions for unique activities in Bonaire:
- Bonaire Landsailing Adventures (go sailing on the beach!)
- Bonaire Cave Tour (visit 3 caves with a local tour guide)
- Clear Bottom Kayak Tour in the Mangroves (and snorkeling, too)
- Private Two Hour Kitesurfing Lesson
More Great Snorkeling in the Caribbean
The Caribbean islands have some of the best snorkeling in the world. Justin and I are fortunate to have gone snorkeling at many Caribbean destinations. Here are a few related blog posts that will inspire you to plan some more tropical snorkeling trips.
- The Best Snorkeling in the Caribbean
- Snorkeling in St. John, USVI: The Trunk Bay Underwater Trail
- Snorkeling Tour in St. Martin (St. Maarten)
- Snorkeling Tour in Aruba (Including my story of getting stung by a jellyfish!)
- Snorkeling at Cas Cay in St Thomas, USVI