Bonaire Main

bonaire-main

The words on the license plates are a clue: "Diver's Paradise. " From fantastic snorkeling just off the beach (just imagine being dropped into a tropical fish tank) to deep wall dives, Bonaire offers what is arguably the best diving in the Caribbean. Much of the credit goes to its visionary Marine Park - the island waters have been protected since 1979.

Yet Bonaire is no one-hit wonder. Sure, other watersports are popular (windsurfers find steady tradewinds and a conveniently shallow sandy bottom at Lac Bay) and it's not hard to find a secluded beach (the black sands of Boca Cocolishi are often deserted), yet this is an island with surprising natural attractions. Granted, the interior is mostly an arid, desert-like terrain complete with countless cacti, and the coast is lined with miles of salt pans, but the 13,500-acre Washington Slagbaai National Park is a wildlife sanctuary not only for iguanas but nearly 200 bird species, including the island's national symbol - the flamingo.

In the end, however, it's the underwater scene that brings most visitors to Bonaire. Even the nightlife in the main city, Kralendijk centered at the hotels, is likely to begin around the bar with discussions about the day's dives.