One of the best-kept secrets in the Dutch Caribbean and just 50 miles north of Venezuela, Bonaire is unspoilt and laid-back.
A relatively undeveloped island with only two real towns and an area of 111 square miles, natural beauty is its main attraction. Fringed by a coral reef that begins at the water’s edge in most places, inland you’ll find a variety of cacti, fossilized coral, caves and volcanic rock.
Although the beaches are mostly slivers of rocky sand, you can find some nice spots for a wedding ceremony, as well as many places overlooking the amazing scenery and the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea.
Some beaches even have a pink hue, produced from coral that has been washed ashore and ground into small pieces – and if you’re lucky you might even see the rare pink flamingo!
One thing’s for sure about a wedding on Bonaire – it’s about being relaxed and keeping things simple.
Most Popular Beach Locations
Boka Slagbaai - Although there are some rocky patches, this is a beautiful beach with a good amount of sand. For those who like historic buildings, there are some nearby dating back to 1869.
Lac Bay - The tranquil waters and the sand on this beach make it a swimming paradise. Just keep in mind that there are bands playing from two in the afternoon at the weekend!
Pink Beach - Easily accessible, Pink Beach is in fact pink, due to the coral that has been washed ashore. Near the flamingo’s habitat in the south, you might just catch a glimpse of this rare bird here.
Playa Chikitu - In Washington National Park, Playa Chikutu is a beautiful spot. As swimming is forbidden due to the dangerous current, you won’t have to deal with too many tourists!
Private Beaches - Some of the resorts in Bonaire have their own private sandy beaches and offer wedding packages to suit.
Travel & Transportation (airports, ferries, etc). How to get there.
There are numerous international carriers serving the island of Bonaire. The airport is called Flamingo International Airport.
Entry Requirements; passports, visa, etc.
· You will need either a valid passport or your original birth certificate along with a valid driver’s license. Whether or not you need to apply for a visa depends upon your citizenship. You can check your requirements at: http://www.infobonaire.com/entryrequirements.html
· The maximum a visitor can stay is three months (90 days) in a six-month period (180 days). Visitors may leave and return during the timeframe of 180 days until 90 days are reached. However, citizens requiring a visa might have a reduced maximum stay period, depending upon what their visa stipulates.
· Dutch citizens are allowed to stay up to six months in a 12-month period. They may stay longer by applying for a residence permit. If their parents were born on Bonaire, this rule does not apply.
Languages Spoken / Official Language - The official language is Dutch, since Bonaire is part of the Netherlands, however Papiamentu is the local language, and English and Spanish are also used.
Currency - The official currency is US dollar (as of 1 January 2011).
Tipping - Tipping in Bonaire is very important as service employees earn very little or no base salary and the tips they earn comprise the vast majority of their income. Tipping is much the same as in the US. For restaurants (waiters, bartenders) tip 10-15% of the total bill (check first if the tip has been automatically added to your bill). For taxi drivers and dive or other services, a 10% tip is standard; tip daily for chambermaids depending on the number of people staying and the state of your rooms (US$3 per day is a good guide); and tip porters US$1 per bag, more if you have very heavy luggage or they have to walk up stairs. Always tip in cash!
Taxes - In Bonaire there is an 8% tax on virtually all services (ABB tax), however retail items are normally exempt from this tax. A Departure Tax of US$35 for international destinations is due at the airport upon departure, however this is only payable if it is not already included in your airfare.
Electricity - The electrical systems in most residential and commercial sites in Mexico use 220-240V – double that used in the US. There is no way to know if your appliance is compatible with this higher voltage, except to check, which could ‘fry’ your appliance or even start a fire! Having said that, most modern digital appliances (especially those that run on batteries) are now made to be compatible with voltages worldwide, from 100V in Japan to 240V in the UK. Such appliances include cell phones, digital cameras, digital camcorders, digital music players, portable game devices, laptops and PDAs – at higher voltages they will just get a bit ‘hotter’.
In Bonaire, dive shops and resorts offer guests stations for charging camera batteries and other such equipment, and it’s recommended that you use these to avoid damaging delicate equipment.
The electrical plug in use is one of the European standard electrical socket types: the Type C Europlug, or the Type E and Type F Schuko. Visitors from the US will need an adaptor. http://electricaloutlet.org/type-e
Other (immunizations, health issues)
All travellers going overseas should be up-to-date with their routine vaccinations, which are usually given to babies and children, with some boosters given in adult life. Adults should have had a Tetanus booster in the last 10 years and consider having an Influenza vaccination if they have not had one in the past year.
In Bonaire all mains water is distilled from seawater and it’s safe to drink. Bottled mineral water is widely available. Milk is pasteurised and dairy products are safe for consumption. Local meat, poultry, seafood, fruit and vegetables are generally considered safe to eat.
A yellow fever certificate is required from all travellers over six months of age coming from infected areas. Occasionally outbreaks of dengue fever occur in the area. Vaccination against Hepatitis B and Tuberculosis, if not already administered as part of routine vaccinations, is recommended.
Marriage Requirements, Licenses & Wedding Information
Currently the Following Applies:
· You don’t need to be a resident of Bonaire to get married there. However, couples must write, at least two months in advance, to the Governor of Bonaire asking permission to marry and requesting a temporary residence permit for at least one person in the couple.
· Witnesses from home should also apply for temporary residency. Alternatively, your wedding coordinator can arrange for local witnesses.
· To apply for your marriage license, you will need a copy of the first page of your passports (signature and photo page); two passport photos of the bride and groom and your witnesses (if from home); date of arrival in Bonaire; and intended length of stay. Note that your passports must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the intended departure date from Bonaire.
· You will also need original birth certificates that: have been issued by the state or province of birth; feature a raised seal; have the names of both the mother and the father on them; and for citizens of the US, Canada, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela and the UK, they must have an Apostille affixed to them (an Apostille is an internationally recognized validation of a certificate or document).
· If you are previously married, you will need a copy of your divorce decree or copy of the death certificate of a deceased spouse (divorce or widow decrees must be affixed with an Apostille).
· Even if you’ve never been married before, you will need a Declaration of Marital Status prepared by the Civil Registry in your state (this also must be affixed with an Apostille).
· All certificates must be originals and they must have been issued no more than six months prior to applying for a marriage license.
· Your marriage license will cost US$150.
· Couples must submit all necessary paperwork four to six weeks before the wedding date. This can be done by mail, however note that original certificates are required. Once on the island, it will take four to seven days for all the paperwork to be processed.
Requirements for a Beach Wedding:
To find out if you need a permit for your beach wedding, check with the Tourism Corporation Bonaire info@TourismBonaire.com
Tourism Office Information
Tourism Corporation Bonaire
Kaya Grandi #2
Tel: +(599) 717-8322
Other Bonaire Related Websites
Climate Information (When is the Best Time to Travel)
The climate is beautiful year-round; moderate with little rainfall (less than 22 inches annually) and very few tropical storms. There’s very little variation between months (it doesn’t have seasons typical of temperate climates), with January, the coldest month, seeing average highs of 84ºF, and July through September, the warmest months, seeing average highs of 89ºF. So with a variation of just 5ºF between the coldest and the warmest times of year, anytime is a good time for a wedding in Bonaire.
High & Low Season for Travel
High season, when the price of travel and accommodation is higher, is from December 15 to April 14 (with a peak around Christmas). Low season runs through the remainder of the year, from April 15 to December 14.
Map of Bonaire
http://www.infobonaire.com/maps.html (Bonaire island)
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/caribbean (Interactive map of the Caribbean islands)
Local Attractions & Must Do’s
One of the top three scuba diving destinations in the world, Bonaire is a diver’s paradise. The beautiful underwater landscapes, crystal-clear waters and rich marine life of Bonaire Marine Park make it unforgettable.
For the less adventurous, try snorkeling over the coral reefs. If you’re not a great swimmer it’s best to stick to the calm western side; besides, the coral grows better there.
An ideal location for windsurfing, Lac Bay is the best spot for beginners, while the stronger and more experienced windsurfers could try the leeward (eastern) side. Bonaire also offers excellent deep sea and light tackle fishing, hosting several fishing tournaments each year.
Moving inland, you should visit Washington Slagbaai National Park, which covers the northern 20% of the island. Home to numerous bird and reptile species and native plants, it’s almost completely untouched, except for some historic buildings.
Finally, you can’t visit Bonaire without at least trying to spot a pink flamingo in its native habitat, and the best place to do that is The Pink Lake Flamingo Sanctuary in the south.
Top 5 Most Popular Hotels
Here are some of the best hotels in Bonaire. To find others to suit your needs, visit http://www.tourismbonaire.com/en/accomodations
Captain Don’s Habitat
Founded in 1976 by renowned underwater environmentalist Captain Don Stewart, Habitat has been in the forefront of environmentally sound developments on the island of Bonaire. http://www.habitatbonaire.com/
Divi Flamingo Beach Resort & Casino Bonaire
Colorful, unpretentious, and fun, the Divi Flamingo Beach Resort & Casino is the perfect base for vacationers. Spacious oceanfront and garden guestrooms and suites are decorated in bright, tropical colors. http://www.diviflamingo.com/
Eden Beach Resort
Located on the northwest coast, Eden Beach Resort has one of the few sandy beaches on Bonaire. It offers all the amenities you would expect from a seaside resort and is close to dozens of dive and snorkel sites. http://www.edenbeach.com/
Harbor Village Beach Club
Bonaire’s most exclusive resort and member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World offers the finest accommodations, services and amenities in a luxury setting. Thirty colonial-style beachfront suites and rooms are set on a four-acre peninsula, with a private white sand beach and marina. http://www.harbourvillage.com/
Plaza Resort Bonaire
Another fine oceanfront resort, here you can enjoy everything you would expect from a luxury resort, including a white sand beach. http://www.plazaresortbonaire.com/index.html