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A wonderful island in the Leeward Antilles blessed with natural beauty, Bonaire is recognized as a top vacation spot in the Caribbean. It is a leading shore diving destination with vibrant corals and rich marine life, but you don’t have to dive to enjoy its spectacular underwater world since there are many shallow reefs too to explore for those who seek nice snorkeling in Bonaire. For the best chance to spot rays, turtles, octopus, colorful fish and lively corals, this guide tells you what places to visit!
Bonaire snorkeling conditions
This Caribbean island is known for its easy snorkeling places; most spots are accessible from the shore, so you can explore them on your own or by signing up for Bonaire snorkeling tours if you prefer that way. Moreover, all dive and snorkel spots are marked with yellow painted stone with the name of the spot on it so it should not be a problem to locate them.
Snorkeling in Bonaire is fantastic for all levels of snorkelers. Almost all of the island’s waters are part of the National Marine Park that guarantees healthy corals and rich marine life.
With clear and shallow waters, the conditions are ideal to observe marine species even close to the shore, but advanced underwater explorers will also find a lot to see when exploring reefs that are further away the shore.
The Caribbean Sea is warm enough any time of the year with temperatures around 79-80F/26-26.5C in winter and 83-84F/28-29C during the summer months. Thanks to the tropical climate, there is no bad time to visit Bonaire, but if you are looking for the best conditions for water activities, we recommend arriving between February and September, but keep in mind that UV radiation can be extreme, so don’t forget about sun protection.
Bonaire, along with the other ABC islands Aruba and Curacao are outside the hurricane belt, therefore are considered as safe destinations even in the Caribbean Hurricane Season.
Best places to go snorkeling in Bonaire
When looking for easy snorkeling from beach in Bonaire, Bari Reef is the spot you want to add to your places-to-visit list. With plenty of fish (lots of baby fish but also big tarpons), eels, octopus and an abundance of corals including elkhorn, fire and also sponges, Bari Reef is some of the best Bonaire snorkeling beaches.
The spot is located in front of Sand Dollar Condominium (which is a fantastic place to stay by the way) not so far from the capital Kralendijk. The beach provides easy water entry, but it is rocky, so wearing aqua shoes are recommended. Besides exploring the reef, swim along the old pier too where big shoals of baby fish can be observed!
Sorobon Beach – Lac Bay
On the southern end of island lies Sorobon Beach that has extremely transparent waters with superb marine life. Although it is a bit challenging to get to the reef, but if you are a good swimmer who is ready to take the extra effort (and you choose to go out on a low-wind day) you can explore one of the nicest Bonaire snorkeling spots.
There is a small fishing hut on the shore that marks where you should enter the water, about 200 m before the Sorobon Beach Resort. Since the water is very shallow, you might need to walk a little (200-250 m) until it gets deeper to put on your snorkel fins to start swimming.
Before you reach the reef, you will pass a sandy area. Look around here too because often rays hang around searching for food. Keep swimming another 200-250 m to reach the reef. Here -although the corals are partly damaged- a wide variety of Caribbean fish can be observed such as wrasse, butterfly and sergeant major fish, but if you are lucky you may spot a turtle too.
To find the nicest part of the coral area you need to go further out (like another 100 m) where an extensive staghorn coral field runs approx. 250 m long. This area is so healthy and lively that it would be a mistake not to visit Lac Bay when on the island, but keep in mind that is pretty far from the shore therefore it is recommended for advanced snorkelers only. Also, it is good carrying an inflatable snorkeling buoy for your safety.
As part of the Slagbaai National Park, this area offers not only picturesque views for exploring the island but also superb swimming and snorkeling too. Since it takes quite a long time to get to the beach once you enter the park (approx. 1 hour if you drive slowly on the unpaved rocky road) usually there aren’t too many people around.
Although the shallows don’t have extensive reefs (unfortunately the shallow corals are pretty damaged) but despite this, there is many fish too see, moreover the sandy bottom provides habitat for eels and rays. Recently a restaurant opened here too in one of the buildings so you can get some snacks and drinks if you get hungry or thirsty.
The small beach called 1000 steps about 15 minutes drive from the downtown is certainly the best place for snorkeling in Bonaire if you want to see a variety of sea life. The spot is marked with a yellow rock as most diving and snorkeling beaches in Bonaire.
1000 Steps is one of the top Bonaire snorkeling places if you want to swim with turtles. Usually, there are several of them around in the morning or late afternoon, a little outside the main beach area. The most beautiful part of the reef is about 70 m from the shore with healthy staghorn corals.
This beach is our best recommendation if you are looking for easy and good snorkeling, but don’t forget to bring beach shoes to protect your feet because there are many dead coral pieces on the beach as well as sea urchins in the shallow water.
Andrea Dive Site
With a coral reef just meters away from the shore, Andrea is one of our favorite places for snorkeling in Bonaire. The beach is not that well-known therefore usually it is very quiet. Due to the difficult rocky beach access, this spot has medium difficulty, consider this when planning to come here.
The Andrea dive site is kind of a transition zone between the shallow coral garden and the deeper reef so rich marine life is guaranteed here. You can see lots of different fish including huge tarpons, moray eels, octopus and turtles.
Tip: are you curious what is better, snorkeling in Curacao or Bonaire? Then make sure to check out our Curacao snorkeling guide too!
The Lake Divingsite
As its name shows, The Lake is another spot where usually divers go, but it is very enjoyable for snorkelers too. There is many fire, staghorn coral here and gorgonians that provide shelter to many kinds of fish and sea creatures.
On the right of the last building, there are big boulders underwater that function as cleaning stations for fish and critters. A little further away from the shore where the bottom is sandy often rays and green turtles can be spotted.
Just about 500 m from the Lake Divingsite, there is another Bonaire snorkeling spot you should not miss out visiting. Angel City is easily accessible from the shore and has a beautiful underwater landscape with a double reef and lots of fish.
The first reef is suitable for snorkelers with a maximum depth of 16-20 ft (5-6 m), the second one lies at about 60-65 ft (18-20 m). Angel City Beach was named for the angelfish that live here, so expect to see many of these colorful species!
Since this beach is a bit remote (you need a car to get here) it is a perfect spot for those who wish to stay away from the crowd and relax. Nearby you can see flamingos, goats and donkeys too.
Tori’s Reef can be found between the white slave houses and Salt Pier. It is better known as a dive site but it is an excellent snorkel spot too with an abundance of marine life. Although the shore is pretty rocky here, but the bottom is sandy between the reefs (this place has a double reef like Angel City) that attracts eagle rays to the area.
The entry is easy, and there is lots of fish to see and usually only a few people are around, so Tori’s Reef is a great place to visit if you prefer spending your time on a relaxed beach.
An excellent spot to go if you are looking for a beach that has idyllic views and good snorkeling. Pink beach got its name from the color of the sand that has pinkish color because of the crushed shells of tiny pink sea creatures. If you come here, it is also worth having a look at the nearby old slave houses too.
The best is to enter the water at the northern end where you can encounter a wide variety of reef fish well as morays, eels, and squids. Near the sandbar, often eagle rays are around. There is even a chance to swim with turtles here, usually between the beach and Salt Pier.
Karpata Reef is considered by many the best Bonaire snorkeling place on the northwestern coast. The exact location is in front of the Landhuis Karpata, where the Kaminda Karpata and Queen’s Highway meet.
The water is relatively shallow here (10-13 ft/3-7 m) and the corals are healthy and you can see many kinds of Caribbean Reef fish like angelfish, filefish, trumpetfish besides parrotfish, blue tangs and sergeant majors. This is a good place to find hawksbill turtles too so make sure to bring your underwater camera!
Visiting the tiny uninhabited island of Klein Bonaire that lies just half-mile offshore from the main island should not be missed. This little piece of paradise (that is a national park by the way) has not only perfect beaches but also offers some of the best snorkeling in Bonaire with vibrant reefs and crystal-clear waters.
Klein Bonaire’s most beautiful beach is the so-called No Name Beach that offers easy access to the island’s most pristine snorkel site (it is known as Playa Neme locally). Depending on your snorkeling skills, you can explore the shallow lagoon or the main reef.
The reef is pretty nice close to the shore too with elkhorn, brain, staghorn, fire corals, and lots of fish around including bannerfish, butterflyfish, damselfish, tangs, groupers, porcupine, and triggerfish. If you are a strong swimmer you can swim out to the reef drop-off too where the corals are even more vibrant and you can easily find turtles, rays here.
The easiest way of getting to Klein Bonaire is by taking a water taxi or renting a boat. We recommend choosing the water taxi that travels back and forth several times a day so you can decide where you want to leave. The journey takes about 20-25 minutes, and the drop-off/pick-up point is at No Name Beach. Bring some snacks and water since there are no facilities on Klein Bonaire except a few simple cabanas.
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