Bonaire is all about reefs, not sandy beaches, but the stretch of coast in front of the Plaza Resort offers both. Find snorkel gear rentals at Toucan dive shop, drinks and snacks at the Coconut Crash beach bar, full lunch and dinner at the Banana Tree restaurant. Showers and restrooms are available, but they do charge nonguests a fee to use the beach and facilities.
There are two entry points, one in front of Coconut Crash and the other in front of the Tipsy Seagull. "Right at the entries you'll see rock formations and loads of juvenile fish," says Emile von Aesch, manager of Toucan Diving at the Plaza Resort. "And you'll find all the adults and larger species just a bit farther out, about 10 yards." Along with all the usual suspects of reef fish, there are plenty of marquee species. "Watch for squid and octopuses in the shallows," says von Aesch, "and eagle rays, small turtles and tarpon in the deeper areas." As 18 Palms lies on Bonaire's lee and reefy west side, the conditions here are almost always calm and clear.
WHERE TO STAY
Plaza Resort Bonaire
Large, full-service beach-and-marina resort offering suites and villas; beach bar plus three other restaurant/bars; dive operation.
From $190 in low season ($240 high); plazaresortbonaire.com; 800-766-6016