Bonaire Dive Sites | Before You Dive
The best Bonaire dive sites offer visitors a chance to experience what Caribbean reefs were like 50 years ago. Your biggest challenge is choosing between all of the pristeine diving locations!
These Sites are the Benchmark for Healthy Caribbean Reefs
Bonaire dive sites are the benchmark for healthy reefs in the Caribbean. Since the 1960’s various individuals have began making concerted efforts to preserve Bonaire and Klein Bonaire dive sites.
Captain Don Stewart was one of the first to recognize the value in conservation as he and others lobbied to ban spear fishing. In 1979 Bonaire passed legislation that sought to protect the reef. Bonaire is now a fully dedicated national marine park.
Bonaire Dive Sites are Easy to Access and Dive
Diving Bonaire is incredibly easy and most all of the sites are readily accessible. Yellow-painted roadside stones make it nearly impossible to miss each dive site. All you have to do is park your truck, gear up, and dive in.
The island gears its commercial infrastructure toward getting you in the water. For example: rental pickup trucks have tank racks and some resorts even feature drive-through tank delivery.
But You’ll Need a Tag Before You Dive
Before you dive, you’ll need to get a $25 diving tag from the national park agency (good for one year’s admission). Once you have your tag, you’ll need to attach it to your BCD. This proves that you’ve paid the park dues.
Best Bonaire Dive Sites:
Karpata – 20-100 feet (6-30 meters)
One of the most popular Bonaire dive sites is Karpata. You can access Karpata easily by shore or you can make it a boat dive. This is a site perfectly suited for all levels of divers.
Dive Karpata and you’ll experience extraordinary underwater scenery that consists of coral walls, caves and enormous elkhorn coral structures that extend up toward the surface. You’ll frequently encounter sea horses, parrot fish, tiger fish, sniperfish, angelfish and many other species here.
The panoramic views and numerous ship anchors embedded in the coral (along with good overall visibility) make for excellent wide-angle photo opportunities.
Bari Reef – 30-100 feet (10-30 meters)
In terms of marine life, Bari Reef is one of the most diverse. Over 300 individual species of fish reside on this reef, making it number one in the entire Caribbean for fish diversity. We recommend that you dive at a depth of 9m to 18m. This is where you’ll find the greatest abundance of marine life. You’ll also want to stay vigilant for tarpon, seahorses and octopi.
You can access Bari Reef easily from shore via the Sand Dollar Resort. This is typically an easy dive with calm waters, but always be mindful of the potential for strong currents.
Andrea 1 & 2 – 20-100 feet (6-30 meters)
If you’re a novice diver or snorkeler, then Andrea 1 and 2 are perfect for you. Andrea 2 is small private site just North of Andrea 1. These sites offer relatively easy entry. Once you park, you’re just minutes away from an excellent dive.
Here you’ll find all types of anemones and soft corals. This is a dive site where predators and preys like to hide. You’ll enjoy seeing huge, different colored parrot fish like the blue, midnight and the rainbow. These guys are all huge – each over three feet in length!
Seahorses have also been spotted in both dive sites, so keep an eye out.
Hilma Hooker – 60-100 feet (18-30 meters)
“Hilma Hooker” (so named for the sunken freighter that lies in the depths) has the best wreck dive in Bonaire. If you’re into wreck dives, this internationally known dive site featuring a 242 foot long drug smuggling cargo ship that was sunk back in 1984 is the place for you.
Situated in the southern part of the island (South of Kralendijk), you can access this dive both by shore or boat. If you make this a shore dive its a bit of a swim, but along the way you’ll find the shallows filled with a diversity of marine life.
Photo opportunities are abundant. Amongst the wreck’s colorful orange coral you’ll spot barracudas, tarpons and even eels – all using the wreckage for shelter.
We recommend this dive site to more experienced divers.
Angel City – 30-60 feet (10-18 meters)
Close to Hilma and also in the South, you’ll find Angel City – so named after the friendly Angelfish that follow divers during their dive.
This site’s exquisite double reef system distinguish it from others. In a two reef system, individual reefs are separated by a sandy channel running between them.
Angel City’s inshore reef sits in about 30 feet (10 meters) of water, followed by a separation of about 40-60 feet (12-18 meters) of sand and then a second, deeper reef that sits in about 60 feet of water. Check out the sandier stretches and you may find stingrays or the occasional eagle ray.
You can access Angel City by shore or boat, but entry and exit to the site is slightly tricky. Go slow and mind the rocks and urchins.
On a typical dive, you’ll descend on the outer reef for the outbound leg and then hook around and follow the inner reef for the return.
Salt Pier – 40-70 feet (12-21 meters)
It’s easy to see why Salt Pier is one of the island’s most popular dive sites. You’ll discover that shore entry is easy, it’s not too deep and there’s an incredible array of sea life hiding amongst the pylons of the pier.
You’ll want to take your time and look for the plentiful macro life that lives amongst the coral and sponges that live on the pylons. If you’re not a macro hunter, don’t fret. The pier attracts a lot of large fish too. These include barracudas and tarpons, and an ever-present school of grunts.
Salt Pier is perfect for photographers seeking wide angle opportunities. The pylons make for some cool shots and there’s some other cool scenery along the shore as well – lots of white salt surrounded by pink salt flats. Alice in Wonderland – 30-100 feet (10-30 meters) This is an easier dive site that gives you the chance to really experience the double reef structure that consists mainly of fan, leaf, star and brain corals. Alice in Wonderland starts with a sandy bottom followed by the first drop-off at 8 meters.
The second of the reefs isn’t immediately visible, so you’ll have to locate it using your compass. We recommend that you watch your depth gauge and exercise some caution especially when crossing from one reef to the other.
The far side of the outer reef is an absolute explosion of life. This site is also close to the Hilma Hooker (a site that typically draws a lot of divers), so earlier may be better if you’re looking for a low key experience.
One Thousand Steps – 20-100 feet (6-30 meters)
One Thousand Steps is one of Bonaire’s most popular dive sites. Its named for the limestone steps (more like 67 than 1000) that you’ll take down to the beach to access the site. Limestone cliffs surround the white sand of this cove.
One Thousand Steps is perfect for divers and snorkelers. You’ll find outstanding star coral formations that rise from the depths and resemble pagoda-like structures with hollow cores.
You’ll find and an abundant array of reef creatures here. Manta Rays and Hawksbill Turtles are often found in the shallow, turquoise waters. Look inside the star coral formations for bluish eggs. These are guarded by slate colored male sergeant majors. Some divers have even seen passing whale sharks here.
Sweet Dreams – 30-100 feet (9-30 meters)
You can access Sweet Dreams by boat or from the shore; however, we recommended doing so by boat as the currents can be strong.
This site is known for its lush array or corals in the shallow depths. As you go deeper you’ll spot larger formations of stony species.
Keep your eyes out for various species of fish, rays, turtles and sponges.