Bonaire is a municipality of the Dutch Kingdom and part of the ABC islands in the Caribbean, along with Aruba and Curaçao. This tropical island, surrounded by turquoise water with sea turtles and kite surfers, is particularly known for the flocks of flamingos that live there year-round. Despite Bonaire’s many acclaims, we rarely hear about its culinary scene. So, with an empty stomach and an unstoppable hunger, I’m going on a culinary tour around the island.
My first post-pandemic journey across the Atlantic brings me right to the heart of the Caribbean, just 50 kilometers from the coast of Venezuela. Bon bini na Bonaire (with a soft “e” at the end) or welcome to Bonaire!
On my first day in paradise, everyone’s telling me where to find the best dive and kite surfing sites. “But what about dining hotspots,” I ask, and nobody can give me a straight answer.
How odd, given that the Dutch and Caribbean influences have created a tasty culinary mix. I’ve read about an array of dishes, such as kroket uit de muur (croquettes from a vending machine), bitterballen (deep-fried meatballs), karko stobá (conch stew), and iguana soup. All of these options get me excited to dive headfirst into the culinary scene—rather than in Bonaire’s famed turquoise waters.
The most idyllic lunch in the world
While bumming around from beach to beach and checking out all the impeccable underwater life, it’s easy to live on island time— where hours pass by in an instant. The restaurants on wheels around the shores can be a real lifesaver if you get the sudden urge to feed the soul.
Kite City Food Truck is one of the top spots on the island for seafood. The menu varies, depending on what the fisherman caught that morning, but the fish is as fresh as it gets. Tourists and locals alike line up at the truck every day at lunchtime, which is a good sign. The fish is prepared with a big smile and wrapped up alongside local vegetables and herbs. Absolute perfection!
Another food truck worth visiting is Stoked. The owner transformed an old English double-decker bus from Birmingham into a restaurant on wheels, with a kitchen on the first level and a dining room up top. With views over the bay of Kralendijk, Bonaire’s capital city, and Té Amo Beach, this is by far the most idyllic place for a food truck in the world. For a bonus view, have an afternoon snack at Stoked around 4 PM, and a KLM flight straight from Amsterdam will fly just above your head. I promise you are in for a treat!
Kralendijk and Rincón
Kralendijk is Bonaire’s multi-cultural city. Many of its best dining options have strong international influences.
Cuba Compagnie is one of my top picks, offering great food in a zesty environment. The salsa beats send your dancing shoes to Havana while your stomach enjoys the catch of the day on a beautiful terrace.
Another great spot is Ocean Oasis Beach Club, bringing Ibiza vibes to the turquoise surroundings of Bonaire. This trendy beach club serves up delicious tapas and one of the city’s best sunset views.
Another place you can’t miss is the flamboyant Eddy Trenidad’s bustling Tiki & Co. Eddy left Bonaire to shake cocktails in the US and ended up opening the best cocktail bar in the Netherlands, Bricks, in The Hague. He came back to his beloved Bonaire, bringing all his experience with him. Among the eclectic interior, witness Eddy’s unstoppable hunger for quenching your thirst.
Whereas Kralendijk feels modern, time stands still in the city of Rincón, where you’ll find Bonaire’s best traditional delicacies and a relaxed vibe. Caribbean music floats through the air as locals sit for hours discussing their day—life in all its simplicity.
I first stopped at Kosbonso to grab a bottle of water on my way back from Goto Lake. It was excruciatingly hot outside, but there was a warmth emanating from this place that had nothing to do with the weather, and I decided to return for dinner. Though you’ll find an occasional tourist here, this is a popular dinner spot among locals. And that dinner is finger lickin good: fried chicken with rice, pork with rice, or a daily special with rice and/or beans. Simple but scrumptious and all of this for about $10.
To get a taste of the real flavors of Bonaire, Posada Para Mira is the place to go. On top of a hill with magnificent views over the plains, you can get some truly exotic offerings. I went for karko stobá (conch stew) and iguana soup. Never in my life did I imagine eating conch or iguana, but that’s the beauty of travel. I’m glad I tried these regional delights, served up by friendly staff with warm smiles. I would advise making reservations here in advance.
My last stop in Rincón is a gem: The Cadushy Distillery. Eric Gietman welcomed me with lots of enthusiasm and an unstoppable thirst for sharing his spirits. After explaining the process of distilling and what makes his spirits special, he insists we try some. We taste his liquors and spirits, including the one he made for the Dutch King, of which he is very proud.
As the afternoon sun warms our skin and spirits warm our bellies, exotic birds join us in his beautiful garden. I can feel the exotic rhythm of Bonaire slowly taking us along, making way for the rhythm of the night. If you are looking for paradise, you’ll find a piece of it in Rincón.
Bonaire is about 10 hours flying from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and about 6 hours from the US, with direct flights from Newark, Houston, Atlanta, and Miami. The least known of the ABC islands is a true hidden gem. With its variety of culinary discoveries combined with some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and best diving spots, Bonaire is a must-see destination.