Bonaire, the Dutch island situated just miles from the eastern coasts of Aruba and Curaçao, is the hidden gem of the Antilles where aquatic life teems through winding reefs and the sun sparkles on the salt flats. Dive into the crystalline waters of the Caribbean where relaxation is as fundamental as “ABC”.

Salt bubbles froth at the waterline, lapping at the feet of wild iguanas and adventurous sunbathers alike. To approach the island of Bonaire by sea is to be an explorer, discovering uncharted territory. Still wild and seemingly untouched by the modern hands of man, this Dutch island offers 100 square miles of daring adventure and relaxation where time stands still.

What sets Bonaire apart from its Caribbean neighbors is this preservation of the physical beauty and cultural heritage of the isle. Led by the efforts of wildlife preservationists and the late local town hero, Captain Don Stewart, Bonaire maintains a thriving ecosystem sheltered from overproduction. In fact, over 60% of the land’s mass is dedicated to its flawless beauty, ensuring a protected environment for the vast array of flora and fauna that call Bonaire home, like the wild donkeys which roam the cactus-strewn hills and sandy beaches, happy to pose for curious tourists.

An intricate network of caves allow divers the unique opportunity to explore the ancient sedimentary layers of the isles foundation and gaze upon ancient marine fossils that line the sea walls. Dare to take a night dive and experience firsthand the plethora of aquatic creatures that lurk along the island’s edge, including the ostracod, a bioluminescent shrimp species, which against the dark depths of the salt sea sparkle like a million little stars in the night sky.

Bonaire offers thrill seekers prime cliff diving opportunities along the jagged coastal edges. Have a local take you out and introduce you to all the secret spots that are only reachable by vehicle or moped. Hold your breath and dive into the inviting emerald waters.

For those of us looking for a little less action and a little more relaxation, find yourself in the epicenter of Bonaire: Rincon. Slink along the town streets lined with quaint yellow cottages, admiring local art, food and indigenous culture. Though Dutch is the official language, you’ll likely overhear jovial conversations among old friends in Papiamento, a Spanish creole language spoken by the locals. Make friends, attend a beachside barbecue or soak up the rays seaside.