It’s easy to find serenity in a hammock on the shores of Bonaire, the “B” of the ABC island chain: Like neighbors Aruba and Curaçao, Bonaire offers year-round sunshine, clear waters and a trade-winds breeze, and it’s located outside of the hurricane belt. But you’ll find that many visitors here seek serenity literally beneath the surface, exploring the sea life on the world-famous reefs of this “diver’s paradise”—the island’s motto. And what could be more romantic, really, than shutting out the world after the wedding craziness and handholding your honey in the Caribbean, pointing out turtles, seahorses and tropical fish?
At Harbour Village, Bonaire’s only five-star resort, you’ll find friendly scuba and snorkeling instructors, plus lots of on-land pursuits to keep you busy if getting in the water isn’t your thing. (Aromatherapy massage, anyone?) Plus, Bonaire’s focus on conservation has led to strict laws about development. You won’t see any big hotel chains or a single McDonald’s, which makes this isle far quieter and more pristine than its neighbors—just about perfect if seclusion is what you’re after.
BY DAY Don’t be intimidated out of diving just because serious divers are in your midst: Bonaire’s shallow reefs and calm waters are perfect for beginners. Harbour Village offers a PADI dive center and an intro package that lets you dive down to 40 feet with an instructor even if you aren’t certified. If you already dive, rent a pickup and hit the road looking for the yellow rocks that mark shore-diving sites. Diving too intense for you? The snorkeling right off the beach is also excellent, as is windsurfing at Jibe City on Lac Bay, on the southeast side of the island. Rather relax? At Harbour Village, you can grab a hammock, bird-watch by the pool (the island is home to more than 200 species), or visit the lovely spa. For a great tour, take a ride with Bonaire Taxi Services. The friendly locals will give you the full scoop on the island’s history, drive you past the pink salt ponds and donkey sanctuary, and help you spy pairs of Bonaire’s famous wild flamingos. (Did you know they mate for life?)
BY NIGHT Nightlife on Bonaire is mostly casual and subdued, but you’ll find a bit of activity along the streets of downtown Kralendijk, about a five-minute cab ride from the hotel. For drinks with a view, sit on the deck at Karel’s Beach Bar (don’t be afraid of the name—try the delish “Sex With an Alligator”) or at Rum Runners restaurant at Captain Don’s Habitat resort, where the water is so clear you can see the fish. You’ll find a late-night crowd at cigar-bar Little Havana or the small casino at the Divi Flamingo, which offers table games and slots. For a different nighttime excursion, climb aboard the Samur, an authentic 56-foot junk boat built in Thailand, for a cocktail or dinner cruise or a moonlight sail.
WHERE TO STAY Harbour Village is the island’s lone member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. It offers diving, snorkeling, a spa, a private white-sand beach, a full-service marina, and breakfast, lunch, dinner and a bar at La Balandra, their restaurant on the water. Go for the honeymoon-perfect Premiere Beachfront Suite, which includes a living room, a patio, a hammock and a fully equipped kitchen.
WHAT TO EAT At La Balandra, get a table overlooking the water and try any of the carefully crafted daily specials. For breakfast, the eggs Benedict with orange-Cajun hollandaise and gouda (this is a Dutch isle, after all) is a standout, and for dinner, don’t miss the sesame-crusted seared tuna. Off the resort, check out It Rains Fishes. Housed in a historic 100-year-old home, this pretty open-air restaurant boasts an on-staff fisherman who brings back the catch of the day. For dessert, sweet-tooths won’t want to miss the gelato at Gio’s in downtown Kralendijk.
WHAT TO PACK An underwater camera (or phone case) is a must to capture the sea life while snorkeling and diving. Also bring: passport, resort casual wear, bug spray for mosquitoes, and a hat and good sunscreen—Bonaire is a mere 12 degrees north of the equator, and the sun is strong. No need to change currency, as the island uses the U.S. dollar.
BEST TIMES TO GO Anytime, really— the island offers year-round sunshine and very little rainfall. You’re also safe from hurricanes and tropical storms here, which makes Bonaire a great worry-free honeymoon choice. Note that the island gets busier (and the accommodations more expensive) during peak season, from December through April. For extra fun and partying, visit during the annual Bonaire Regatta in October, which draws sailing teams from around the globe.
NEWLYWED NEWS Harbour Village’s romance package includes seven nights’ accommodations, a full American breakfast daily, a torch-lit dinner on the beach, an aromatherapy massage for two, resort scuba experiences for non-certified and certified divers, and one night with a reserved double hammock on the beach and a bottle of champagne. You can register online for guests to contribute toward your honeymoon, at honeymoonwishes. com.
GETTING THERE During high-traffic months there are direct flights on United Airlines from Newark. But for a quick one-stop anytime, fly from Philly to Atlanta and take Delta’s Saturday-only flight to Bonaire. Otherwise, fly to Fort Lauderdale, Aruba or Curaçao and take Insel Air or Tiara Air for the last leg of the trip (about 15 minutes flying time from Curaçao and 35 from Aruba). Be aware that Tiara Air flights are often late, so leave plenty of time if you have a con- nection coming home. If you do fly home through Aruba, you’ll clear U.S. customs and immigration there, saving time when you land back in the U.S. — Jessica Remo