While everyone has heard of the Bahamas, Barbados, and St Vincent and the Grenadines, the Caribbean has many hidden gems that are worth exploring.
One such gem is the Caribbean Netherlands, a group of three islands called Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba. While the number of visitors to the Caribbean Netherlands is increasing, with 183,700 tourists flying to the islands in 2022, the islands are still an unknown quality. This makes them perfect for those who want a Caribbean vacation away from the more popular and busy tourist spots. If you are thinking of vacationing in the Caribbean Netherlands, here are 10 reasons to do so.
Most visitors come to the Caribbean for the beaches, and there are plenty of stunning beaches across the Caribbean Netherlands. Bonaire has some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. Tel Amo, which translates to ‘I love you,’ is a long white beach located on the west side and is considered the most romantic beach on the island. For a more exclusive island paradise, visit No Name Beach. The beach can only be reached by water taxi and is loved for its white sand and azure blue sea. While both Sint Eustatius and Saba don’t have the long white sand beaches of Bonaire, visitors should check out the black sand beaches, which are home to lots of different wildlife.
Nature and National Parks
Like all regions in the Caribbean, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba are stunningly beautiful and picturesque. Saba, in particular, is covered in rainforest, making it perfect for those who want an adventure away from the sea. A guide to Saba’s hiking trails recommends going to the top of Mt. Scenery and visiting Saba Bank, the island’s national park. For those who do prefer an ocean adventure, they can visit the Bonaire National Marine Park and snorkel and scuba dive in one of the world’s most biodiverse oceans.
Speaking of diving, the Caribbean Netherlands is one of the best spots in the region to dive. Bonaire has around 80 dive sites, while Saba has 30 sites, and Sint Eustatius has around 36 sites. Accommodating divers of all levels, each island has numerous dive schools that can teach and take you out. For more advanced divers, the Hilma Hooker Wreck, a sunk cargo ship, is a must-try dive.
Charter a Yacht
For those who want to stay on top of the water, the region offers several yacht options. These yachts offer different tours, ranging from sunset tours to snorkel adventures. They will also provide local food and drink for the ultimate sailing experience. The best way to experience the Caribbean is on the water, and chartering a yacht should be on your bucket list.
Luxury Resorts and Villas
The Caribbean is famous for its luxury resorts, with many visitors looking to combine the tranquil beach life with extravagance. The Caribbean Netherlands has luxury resorts and villas that offer the best in hospitality. The new luxury resort on Sint Eustatius is the Gold Rock Resort, a dive and nature resort situated under the island’s volcano. Guests can enjoy ocean-view suites, spa treatments and their own beach club. The hotel is also very sustainable, using solar panels to power the resort.
For those looking for a more private experience, there are many Bonaire luxury villas dotted across the island. Sunwise Bonaire offers over 50 luxury villas that cater to all price ranges. From the Nex-Ta-Sea, a large villa on the seafront, to the Kas Flamingo, a luxury island hideaway in Punt Vierkant, you can easily tailor your accommodation to your perfect Caribbean vacation.
The Caribbean Netherlands has an abundance of wildlife both under the sea and on land. Between January and April, Sint Eustatius is one of the best places to go whale watching and see humpback whales. For those looking for more interaction with wildlife, Bonaire has a large donkey sanctuary.
The Caribbean Netherlands has a rich history, and this can be explored in the region’s museums. The Dutch Museum of Saba features a collection of Dutch artifacts from the 1600s. Visitors can also learn about the Dutch West India Company. Sint Eustatius Historical Foundation Museum is an award-winning museum that showcases the history of the island all the way back to the time of the pre-Columbian inhabitants, giving visitors a unique insight into how the island was formed.
Water and Land Sports
For those looking for an adventure holiday, the region has many different types of sports. Popular activities include kayaking through the mangroves on Bonaire’s Lac Bay and Boven National Park on Sint Eustatius. Due to its flat white beaches, Bonaire is a popular spot for kitesurfing, with Atlantis Kitebeach being the main location. For something a bit more unique, visitors can try land sailing on Bonaire, a fun and eco-friendly way to speed across the beaches.
Food and Drink
The Caribbean is the perfect destination for those looking for a gastronomic adventure, from fresh seafood on the beach to native Caribbean wines, there is much to try. On Bonaire, those who are looking for a taste of the Caribbean can try local restaurants like It Rains Fishes, which pays tribute to the island’s fishing culture by serving fresh fish. For a more fine dining experience, the Ocean Oasis is run by former Michelin star chefs and offers a beachside gastronomic feast.
The food scene on St Eustatius is heavily influenced by American, European, and Asian cuisines. The aforementioned Gold Rock Resort is known to have one of the best restaurants on the island, with the premium restaurant Breeze serving a wide array of local and international dishes.
While the three islands of the Caribbean Netherlands have stunning beaches, seas, and natural scenery, the towns are also well worth visiting. The Dutch heavily influenced the architecture of the Caribbean, and this can be seen in the small towns around the island. The Bottom, Saba’s capital, is a small town of around 500 inhabitants. Visitors should look to visit during Saba Day, where the town hosts concerts where local Caribbean artists come to perform. Oranjestad in Sint Eustatius is a historic harbor town and a good base to explore the rest of the island for those looking for a place away from the beaches.
The capital of Bonaire is Kralendijk, which is full of Dutch-style buildings. Visitors can relax in the Kaya Grandi, where they can find local restaurants, cafes, shops, boutiques and shopping malls. The town also hosts the Sinterklaas celebration, where Old Nick arrives on a boat. It is the biggest party on the island.
If you are looking for a Caribbean destination that is away from the usual hotspots, we hope these 10 reasons will make you consider the Caribbean Netherlands for your next vacation.