If you are looking for an awesome spot for reef dives and wreck dives then look no further than diving in Bonaire. The island makes up one third of the ABC islands, Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao.
These islands are Dutch territories in the Caribbean Sea north of Venezuela. You can experience everything from wall dives to drop offs and see plenty of coral and aquatic life. All against the backdrop of white sandy beaches and tropical greenery.
Let’s take a look at the best Bonaire has to offer divers.
Best Scuba Diving in Bonaire
#1 The White Hole
When you’re looking for a unique dive to get away from the usual reef formations, this is it. The White Hole is a giant area where the reef has formed around the white sands. This area is about the size of a football field (American football so about 100 yards).
You can get some amazing views of the reef on all sides of the hole. This creates some amazing habitats for ocean life to gather around. This site is on the east coast of the island, which is less hospitable due to currents and choppy waters. For this reason, we recommend this site for more advanced divers.
- When to Dive: Year-round. Bonaire, and the other ABC Islands, are awesome places for year-round diving. The weather is generally consistent throughout the year. The wet season is from December to May. But, the average total rainfall per-year is only 55 cm (22 in).This is less than many other areas of the Caribbean. So, chances are that even during the rainy season you will be experiencing mostly sun with a few hours of rain.For this specific site, the main thing you want to take into consideration is the wind. Since this site is on the east coast of the island it is more susceptible to disruption due to choppy waters. May through July tends to be the windiest time of the year.
- What to See: This site is one that won’t disappoint. The reef here is quite vibrant and the aquatic life plentiful. It is not uncommon to see schools of tarpon, sea turtles, schools of rays, and other colorful fish species. Lucky divers may even see an occasional nurse shark in the area. This video will give you a glimpse of what this dive site has to offer.
We’ve put this first on our list just because it is so different from many of the other sites more popular with divers. The White Hole is one of Bonaires better kept secrets.
Because it is on the islands east coast, a site less frequented by dive operators, many divers avoid the site. If you feel comfortable with choppier waters and potential currents this is a great area to dive.
#2 Margate Bay
This is a fantastic spot for seeing pristine coral fields. Many of the spots around the islands west coast have seen the coral fields destroyed. Margate Bay, though, still has coral fields which begin right from the shore.
One of the more interesting things about this location is that above water is just as interesting as below. You can get some awesome views of mangroves around the beach before entering the water. While this isn’t the best place for seeing large marine life, you can expect some amazing reef and macro life.
- When to Dive: Margate Bay is on the islands west coast which makes it a great site year-round. You can see on a map of Bonaire that the island is shaped in a way that the west coast is protected. So, outside of any major storms, you can access this area all year.
- What to See: This dive site is going to give you coral overload. The fields of staghorn coral are near endless. Keep an eye out for creatures that hide in the coral including crabs, shrimp, sea snails, and small fish.This is a shore dive and you can quite easily use a full tank just in the shallows. If you are experienced with deep dives you can find an excellent drop-off here. The currents can be a bit strong at this drop off so make sure you are comfortable with this. Here is a great video to tempt you.
This is a great dive site for those of you who want to experience pristine coral. You can expect some amazing photo opportunities in this area. As mentioned above the currents can be stronger here as you move closer to the drop off so be aware of this.
Also, there is a kite rental shop near this site so look out for boats that run around this site and others on the island. Aside from these two potential hazards this is a great site regardless of your skill level.
#3 Bari Reef
Another of the amazing reefs that surrounds Bonaire. You may not be impressed with the initial view of Bari reef. Upon deeper inspection though you will find that this is one of the most biodiverse areas of the island.
You can access this site from the shore, as with many of the sites around the island. This is a fantastic spot for beginner divers as it is on the west coast of the island and well protected. Make sure you bring the camera for this one. There are plenty of instagram worthy photo opportunities around this site.
- When to Dive: You can hit this spot all year-round. The beauty of bari reef is that it is on the west coast and protected by the way the island is shaped. The waters stay warm throughout the year and aside from any major storms, which are rare, the waters will be calm.
- What to See: This is a great spot for you to see larger aquatic life. It is not uncommon to see octopus, schools of barracuda, and schools of tarpons. There are normally large schools of fish which swim around the jetty on the northern side of the site at the shore.You may not be as impressed with the coral at this site, but the aquatic life more than makes up for it. Here is a video of some of the aquatic life to give you a better idea.
This is a great site for beginners looking to see larger aquatic life and large schools of fish. As with other sites on the west side it is important that you stay aware of your surroundings. Sail boats and other smaller boats regularly dock at the small jetty on the northern side of the site. You have to make sure and stay aware of any boats in the area which could present a hazard.
#3 Something Special
The name may be strange for a dive site but it doesn’t lie. This site is indeed something special and one you should not miss. If you want to do a two tank dive you can easily go from Bari reef to this site which is a little further south.
Because this site is on the islands west end, as with Bari reef and a number of other sites, it is a great spot for new divers. You can get a great view of both hard and soft coral as well as various fish species. If you are interested in night diving this is a great spot.
- When to Dive: Year-round. You can expect this area to be calm throughout the year except during major storms. Because this dive site is on the west side of the island it is protected from the open sea. This site is also between the main island and a smaller one adding further protection.
- What to See: This is a great site to see marine life. You can get some great views of a wide range of species including frogfish, parrot fish, angelfish, and other species. It is not uncommon to see large bait balls in the area.There are also rubbish patches in the area overgrown with hard and soft coral. These areas are great for spotting smaller fish species which hide in the coral. Here is a video to give you some perspective on the site.
If you are already planning to dive at Bari reef then Something Special should also be added to your list. It is a short drive south from Bari reef and can be easily accessed from the shore.
This is the perfect dive for beginners and a great spot for underwater photographers. As with Bari reef, you have to be on the lookout for boats. Make sure to stay close to the bottom during this dive to more easily avoid boats.
#4 The Hilma Hooker
For most of the dive sites around Bonaire the main attraction is the reef and the animals. If you want to switch it up though the Hilma Hooker is a great wreck dive to consider. The site is on the west side of the island, not too far down the road from Bari reef and Something Special.
The Hilma Hooker is a cargo ship which was built in the 1950’s. After being confiscated during a drug raid, the ship fell into disrepair. Eventually, it sank and has rested at the bottom since. If you are a more experienced diver you can penetrate this wreck with a bit of caution.
- When to Dive: This is another year-round diving destination. As with other entries on this list on the west side of the island, the Hilma Hooker is protected from choppy waters.You can easily get to this wreck from the shore and the visibility can be up to 30m (90ft). Major storms, which are infrequent for the ABC islands, may disrupt access to this and other sites.
- What to See: The wreck is obviously the prime attraction that is going to draw you here. But, there are also an abundance of fish species which hang out in the area you won’t want to miss. You can expect to see schools of tarpon, wrasse, and other fish species around the wreck. It is also quite common to see eels embedded in the sand around the ship. This video does a great job of showing of the entirety of the wreck.
This is an awesome site for divers of all levels to get away from the usual. As we have mentioned, you can penetrate this wreck, but only if you are an experienced wreck diver.
Unlike many other wreck sites, this ship was not sunk intentionally and was not cleared. This means there is furniture, pipes, and other objects inside which present potential hazards.
#5 Salt Pier
This site is one that shows up on most of the lists of top dive sites in Bonaire. But, that’s for good reason. Our final site on this list is a bit further south from the Hilma Hooker on the west side of the island.
The site is a pier and is great if you are looking to see some amazing aquatic life. You can access this site from the shore. This site is acceptable for divers of all skill levels. If you are looking for a good night dive then you can also check this out. Night dives here are best at sunset when the light sinks below the pier.
- When to Dive: Year-round. Another site on the west side of the island, which means the waters stay calm. The rare exception is during major storms which are infrequent around this area.
- What to See: You can expect to see a large diversity of sea life around the pier. It is not uncommon to see green sea turtles swimming around. Usually, you can see schools of tarpon and angelfish are also quite common. Occasionally, you can find rays in the area.
This is the perfect site for you to begin your exploration of Bonaires west coast. You can begin here and then make your way north to some of the other sites on our list. Don’t forget your camera as you will have plenty of photo and video opportunities.
Practical Advice for Diving in Bonaire
Bonaire is a divers paradise because of the pristine coral and the amazing aquatic life. Make sure that you rent a car when you visit as you can get to the vast majority of sites on the island from the shore.
The sites are usually marked so you shouldn’t have much trouble finding them. Parking is usually easy to find for each site. You can rent equipment from any of the shops as well as tanks and refills.
If you are going this route then make sure that you are choosing sites within your experience level. Consult with a local dive master or dive instructor before attempting any dives. It is best to plan your dives beforehand so you can ask questions at the dive shop when you rent equipment.
Remember that the west side of the island is protected and the east side exposed to the trade winds. For this reason, the east side is going to be better for experienced divers.
So, what do you think?
If you’re like us then Bonaire can easily become one of your favorite islands for diving.
This is an amazing island because of the consistent climate. We love diving here due to the ease of getting around and the fact that divers of all levels can find something. We also enjoy hearing from other divers just like you.
So, if you have experience diving in Bonaire then make sure to share in the comments below.