Today we recommend our personal Top Twelve Bonaire Dive Sites to visit on your upcoming trip to Bonaire. We will stick with only shore diving sites. You're going to be here for at least a week so here are the Top 12 dive sites you must visit while you're on the island. We've added a couple of East Coast dives at the end, based on experience level and the time of year you visit the island. Just throw your gear and tanks in the back of one of our trucks and take off on your next adventure - book your truck today!
1. Red Slave
On the South end of the island located next to the second set of slave huts, this site is recommended for experienced divers only. For the most part it's an easy entrance down a small slope from the slave huts - however, it's always good to check the surf first, before committing to this dive. Eagle Rays, Horse-eye Jacks, Turtles, Scorpionfish and Barracuda are seen here regularly, along with the occasional Southern stingray - offshore, schools of Baitfish and Bigeye Scad are frequently pursued by larger predatory fish. You will also find some of the most beautiful soft coral on the island at this site. We recommend heading South provided the current is favorable.
2. The Lake
There is so much to love about The Lake. This was our first dive on the island and still remains one of our favorites. It's easy to find as it's the first site next to the beach villas on the South end of the island. It starts with an easy entry into little to no surf. The Lake has a beautiful double reef with fine hard and soft corals and lots of fish including Rock Beauties, Honeycomb Cowfish, Smooth Trunkfish, Conch, and the occasional Eagle or Southern Stingray soaring over the outer reef. This is the most shallow section you can dive of the double reef. It's an excellent site for both beginners and advanced divers. The name Lake refers to the ‘lake of sand’ between the two reefs.
3. Hilma Hooker
Anyone who doesn't have Hilma Hooker on their list just doesn't know enough about Bonaire diving. Found on the South end of the island (between The Lake and Angel City), this is an awesome dive. One of the cons of Hilma are the numerous dive boats that can be found from early in the morning until mid-afternoon. Later in the day when everyone is gone is the perfect time to schedule your dive here. Sure the sand is a bit stirred, up but you get a sense of the history of this former drug boat as you drift between the many Tarpon, Horse-Eyed Jacks, and Angel Fish and stare into the ship and imagine what once was...
No list of Bonaire's top dive sites is complete without Karpata. It's located at the end of the one-way section on the coastal road on the North side of the island (with the dilapidated yellow Aloe plant ruins on the right).The site is famous for its excellent visibility and beautiful panoramas. The pristine hard coral reef has incredible shapes and forms and the water is teeming with fish. Karpata is perfect for wide-angle photography and a great dive site to spot Turtles - recently this is the spot where some reef sharks have been showing up...if you're luck, maybe you'll see one too!
5. Salt Pier
A very popular site but somehow we rarely see anyone while we're down. Salt Pier takes you to depths between 20-55 feet, where you’ll dive throughout a maze of sponge-covered pillars in vibrant shades of purple, yellow and pink. Barracuda, Schooling Grunts, Snapper and Parrotfish are just a few of the resident species hanging around the white-sand bottom, and on the corals you’ll see Spotted Trunkfish flitting around the colorful tube formations. Don't forget to look for Turtles on your way in and out along the sandy bottom. The only caveat, make sure you have an alternate site picked out when you drive South as Cargill will not allow you to dive when a ship is at the pier.
6. Andrea I
Andrea I is the first site to the left in the subdivision on the Northern end of the island. You can clearly see the yellow rock as you drive North on Bulever Gob. N. Debrot. We prefer this site over Andrea II as it's much easier to access for essentially the same dive. There's also a parking area to gear up at Andrea I, which is a plus. This is a serene, blissful dive with both hard and soft corals in abundance. Here you can see Angelfish, the occasional Flounder, Turtles and different types of Parrotfish - be sure to look for Terminal Parrotfish in the shallows on your way in. This is the perfect choice if you're feeling a bit lazy from all of your time underwater.
7. Tori's Reef
We don't dive this nearly enough - mostly because it's so popular! Tori’s Reef is one of the most visited sites on the the island. One reason is because of the easy entrance through a tidal pool that feeds into Cargill's salt pans which is right next to the parking area. It's a super cool site with a lot to see. This is still part of the double reef system with a huge sandy bottom that separates the two. Don't waste your air heading to the outer reef as it's very deep at this point. You'll see all the usual suspects along with Barracuda, Stingrays, Goldentail Moray Eels, Spotted Drums, Scorpion Fish and much more. Based on studies by STINAPA this site is ranked #2 in the Caribbean for fish diversity.
8. The Cliff
This is one of our favorite sites on the island, partly because it's so convenient and the other is it's very close to where we live. It is located right next to one of Dive Friends locations inside Hamlet Oasis. You can park next to the shop and walk down the steps to a very easy entrance. Once you're done, rinse your equipment at the dive shop. This dive's main feature is a vertical wall which runs steeply from 30 to 75 feet, thus the name. The wall lies to the left about 5 minutes out and is covered with whip coral. The Cliff is one of the best spots in Bonaire for macro photography; Sponges, French Angelfish, Large Tarpon, Flounder, Sharptail eels, etc., can all be found here.
9. Angel City
Is located on the Southern end of the island. This is the place to see Queen and French Angelfish. It has a slightly tricky entry and exit as you have to cross a series of loose coral and flat rocks with holes - just take it slow and all will be fine. Angel City’s inshore reef sits in about 25 feet of water, followed by a separation of about 50 feet of sand and then a second, deeper reef that sits in about 60 feet of water. Check out the sandier stretches and you may find stingrays or the occasional eagle ray. The second reef is covered with large brain and star corals and tube sponges, with many large and small fish. Keep an eye out for lettuce leaf sea slugs and the occasional Spotted Drum here, as well.
10. Tolo or Ol' Blue
Is located on the Northern end of the island past 1000 Steps. It offers all of the wonders of Karpata without the risk of surges during entry and exit - ideal for both beginners and advanced divers. It also provides one of the shortest kicks out to the reef of all sites on the island. Tolo is also a great place to take a surface interval as it provides one of the few areas with a beach. The dive consists of mostly hard corals (plate) and the occasional soft, but, if you head North the underwater topography is much more diverse. Tolo or Ol' Blue is named after it's azure waters full of Tarpon, Parrotfish, Snappers, Horse-Eyed Jacks, Flounder, and Turtles - and the occasional free-swimming Green Moray Eels in the late afternoon. .
11. Lac Cai
No list would be complete without a couple of East Coast shore dives. Be advised it's highly recommended for more advanced divers (over 100 dives - ideally a lot of those are shore dives) and do your first one (or two) with someone who has dove this site before. Having said that, Cai is a fantastic dive where you will see more big fish with sprawling green vistas unlike any other dive on Bonaire. If you drop down early in your kick out, you'll descend into a shallow blue hole filled with Tarpon. At Cai, you will frequently see Eagle Rays, Lobster, Ocean & Queen Triggerfish, Horse-eyed Jacks, Snappers, Grouper, and tons of Turtles - if you're lucky you'll find the resident Nurse Shark sleeping under its ledge.
12. Baby Beach
This is one of the most challenging entries and exits of any dive site on Bonaire - located right next to the old fish plant on the Southeast end of the island. Again, be advised it's highly recommended for more advanced divers (over 100 dives - ideally a lot of those are shore dives) and do your first one (or two) with someone who has dove this site before. Many will say you need a wind-reversal to dive this site but that's not true. You do need to check Windfinder. We have found you should only dive Baby Beach when the wave height is not above 3 feet. This is the best site to see sharks (Reef and Blacktip) along with Eagle & Southern Stingrays, Turtles, Lobsters, Ocean and Queen Triggerfish, Jacks, Barracuda, and so much more.