The allure of Bonaire, a hidden gem located just off the coast of Venezuela, has captivated countless visitors and convinced them to make the island their permanent home. For Susan Davis, a scuba diving enthusiast from Chicago, one trip to Bonaire in 1988 was all it took to fall in love with the Dutch Caribbean paradise. Just four years later, she bid farewell to her American life and embraced the island’s beauty, becoming a bird guide in the process.
Davis is not the only one who has been enticed by Bonaire’s charm. The population of the island has more than doubled since the 1960s, with about 23,000 people now calling it home, according to Statistics Netherlands (CBS).
For those considering a move to Bonaire, the process is relatively straightforward, though it requires some patience due to standard paperwork procedures. Rolando Marin, the information officer for Tourism Corporation Bonaire, attributes the island’s positive and peaceful vibe as the main draw for tourists and potential residents alike.
While Bonaire is renowned for its exceptional scuba diving opportunities, its appeal goes far beyond this. The island’s small size, just 111 square miles (287 square kilometers), makes it easily navigable, with a three-hour direct flight from Miami. The capital, Kralendijk, is only a 10-minute drive from the airport, where most of the resorts are located. The island offers various accommodation options, from resorts with mini-kitchens for extended stays to affordable rental homes via Airbnb.
In addition to its stunning natural beauty and pristine diving sites, Bonaire boasts a strong commitment to conservation. The island takes pride in its communal efforts to protect and preserve its ecosystem, with initiatives ranging from a donkey sanctuary and sea turtle conservation group to banning single-use plastics in 2022.
Bonaire’s dedication to preserving its natural treasures has been evident for decades. A land deal in 1969 led to the establishment of Washington Slagbaai National Park, covering nearly 14,000 acres, ensuring limited development and serving as a nature sanctuary. Moreover, the government’s purchase of Klein Bonaire in 1999, an uninhabited island just offshore, guaranteed its preservation as a naturally pristine haven.
For many like Harry Schoffelen, co-owner of the Cactus Blue Bonaire food truck, one visit to the island was enough to forge a deep connection. Schoffelen, who visited Bonaire from the Netherlands in 2010, was so enchanted by its beauty that he decided to make it his permanent residence.
Beyond its natural beauty and safety, Bonaire offers a warm climate, excellent public schools, and free healthcare for residents. The absence of traffic lights adds to the island’s unique charm, with goats and flamingos freely roaming the landscape.
With Bonaire’s magnetic appeal, it comes as no surprise that visitors often find themselves contemplating making this enchanting island their forever home. As the island continues to enchant travelers from all corners of the world, it remains a well-kept secret that has captured the hearts of those fortunate enough to experience its magic.