Facts About Saba You May Not Have Known

Let me introduce you to a Caribbean island that you probably never heard of before. Saba is a small dot on the map, stretching only 3 miles across, located in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. It is often referred to as “the unspoiled queen” because it is largely uncommercial and well preserved. You will not find any cruise ships, all-inclusive resorts or mass tourism on this Dutch-Caribbean island. But you will see gorgeous scenery, experience friendly hospitality and indulge in unique eco-friendly experiences. If you are planning a trip to Saba, or just wanting to learn more about it, here are some fun facts to know before you go…

Saba has the shortest runway

Shortest Runway in the World

Landing on Saba is an experience in itself! Smaller jumper planes touch down on the 400 meter long “world’s shortest runway” at the Juancho E. Yrauquin airport. You will be very close to the water and mountains at this tiny one-room airport. Arrivals and departures are also super easy as the airport is really small.

In less than 5 minutes after landing, you will be ready to go explore Saba.

The Island Has Funny Names

The names of locations on Saba are named appropriately to take the guesswork out! Sabans have a witty sense of humor it seems. The airport is located on Flat Point and the tallest peak on Saba is called Mount Scenery. The Road connects the four settlements – Windwardside (tourist center), The Bottom (Saba’s capital), Hell’s Gate and St. Johns. The first two are named because of their geographical locations.

Did you know Saba is European

Saba Has a European Feel

My first view of Saba reminded me of the scenery of Switzerland. First, it was a lot cooler in Saba than where I was coming from (the neighboring island of St Maarten). The morning mists rose above the lush green valleys, veiling a rising Mount Scenery towering over the entire island. Below it were uniformed red roofed, green shuttered, and white colored West Indian style cottages dotting around the villages. Cobblestone streets with little houses made up the charming hamlets. There were rabbits and chickens running around. It looked like European countryside.

Saba is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the official language is Dutch. Besides the scenery, you can feel the European influence in the local culture and lifestyle.

Facts about Mt Scenery

Saba is For Outdoor Lovers

Saba does not have long stretches of beaches other Caribbean islands are known for. It is mostly green, mountainous, and has sea views from practically every spot on the island. Saba attracts those who like a peaceful and quiet atmosphere but also enjoy outdoor adventures. You can hike up 800 meters to the summit of the volcano, Mount Scenery. The Mt Scenery trail is a must-do even if you visit Saba for a day trip. You will need to climb 1064 steps among mahogany and palm trees, orchids, banana and hibiscus to see amazing views of Saba and its surrounding islands.

Alternately, you can take a guided hike to 15 other trails with Saba Conservation Foundation. Your guide will point out the ancient flora and fauna, in what feels like a tropical rainforest. My guide, known as “Crocodile” James Johnson, was born and raised on the island and told me he had only seen one bad hurricane in his entire life. We went on a relatively easier hike on Mas Cohones Trail and still enjoyed pristine views.

On the water, dive, snorkel or swim in the crystal clear waters around the coast and 1300 hectares of Saba National Marine Park. Interesting lava rock formations, clear visibility (over 90 meters), and abundance of professional diving schools, makes Saba show up as one of the top 10 diving destinations in the world. You won’t find any speedboats or jet skis here. The coral reefs and underwater world are protected to allow sustainable visitation.

The People are Very Friendly

With a population of little over 2,000 stuck on a small island, it is likely that everyone in Saba knows each other. The Bizzy B Bakery at Windwardside is a favorite gathering spot in the morning, where people get their cappuccinos and croissants and read their newspapers. You can start a conversation with anyone, no one is a rush to get anywhere. Sitting in the open-air terrace on a high elevation feels more like a European village, rather than a Caribbean beachfront.

Artists in Saba

The population is also very diverse and enterprising. You will find several artists and curators around the island, offering workshops and selling handmade products. Stroll through Kakona and the Five Square Art Gallery for locally made paintings, jewelry and gifts. Visit world-renowned quilter and dyer, Els Mommers studio in Troy Hill, and take an indigo dying workshop with Anna Keene at Windwardside where you can make your own souvenir t-shirt, scarf or napkins to take back home.

Take a workshop

Another thing you may not know about Saba is that it is home to Saba University School of Medicine, one of the most esteemed medical schools in the Caribbean. It attracts students from all over the world to study in an “undistracted” environment.

Saba is an Affordable Travel Destination

There are absolutely no name brands on Saba. Every restaurant, hotel and shop is locally owned. However, it is still affordable as a tourist destination. You can find low budget accommodations (under $100 a night) at Lollipop’s Inn, a rustic, woman-owned home with private rooms with shared baths and beautiful views. Even the more upscale cottage or suite at Juliana’s Hotel, a gorgeous boutique hotel perched on the top of the mountain, costs between $150-250 per night. The newest hotel on the island – Saba Arawak Hotel, is what comes closest to a resort. It has a swimming pool, restaurant, bar and 27 rooms and suites.

Though there are only about 15 restaurants and cafes on the island, they are reasonably priced and offer fresh quality food. Make sure to ask for the fresh catch of the day and lobster tanks!

Affordable dining in Saba

Tips for Visiting Saba

If you only have a few hours or a day, you can take a small plane from Sint Maarten (SXM) to Saba. The 28-mile flight on WinAir takes less than 12 minutes, but it is an international flight, so you will need to clear customs and immigration. An Airport and Harbor departure tax fee of $10 is payable when departing Saba. There are no ATMs at the airport and harbor so bring cash.

Scheduled ferry rides from St. Maarten operate throughout the week and offer a scenic 90-minute ride over to Saba.

Pack for cooler weather. Most people arriving from surrounding Caribbean islands don’t realize how different the climate on Saba can be. You can have spring-like mornings, afternoon showers, and warm evenings – all in one day! Make sure to pack a rain jacket, light sweater and good walking shoes.

streets in Saba

Saba is truly a hidden gem designed in a way that it is visited by very few tourists to sustain its nature and people. If you visit, you will be pleasantly surprised by how the small island has managed to be developed, environment friendly and constantly innovative.

And if you have more time, continue your island hop to nearby St Eustatius, St Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, St Barts, Anguilla, Saint Marten (French), Sint Maarten (Dutch) – all located within a few minutes from Saba.

What To Do When You Test COVID Positive When Traveling

It seems that the entire world is tired of staying home for over 2 years, and travel has returned with vengeance. In fact, airline ticket sales are at their all time high and hotel prices have skyrocketed this year. People are traveling abroad despite the confusing and constantly changing policies. For example, Europe now allows vaccinated travelers as long as their last shot was taken within 270 days. And USA still requires a negative COVID test result within a day of departure to the country.

With the rise in travel, no more masks or social distancing mandates, it is inevitable that you will encounter someone who has COVID-19 during your trip. On my recent flight from Atlanta to Aruba, there were people coughing (without covering their mouths) and there was no way for me to protect myself (yes, I had a mask on). Even though I was vaccinated and boosted, I probably caught the virus on the flight, or somewhere at the airport, because I tested positive during my stay in Curacao. Therefore, my 7-day long business trip turned into a 10-day long wellness and recovery stay.

Testing positive when traveling abroad means, you cannot leave the destination, and if you are an American citizen, you cannot travel back home. So what should you do if you test COVID positive when traveling abroad? Here are some tips based on my recent personal experience.

stay positive while traveling abroad
Colorful downtown Willemstad in Curacao.

Don’t Panic

The first and most important thing when you do test COVID positive is to not panic! It is hard when you are stuck abroad, not knowing where you will stay, when you will get home, and how you will deal with work and family responsibilities. Moreover, if you have symptoms, you may not be feeling so good. So, don’t cause yourself more anxiety, and don’t stress. Take a deep breath. Remember, this too shall pass. Make a plan of action. Talk to your close friends and family members. Discuss with your local contacts or hotel manager. And read this blog!

Seek Medical Attention

If you are having any COVID symptoms, such as high fever, cough, cold, chills, body aches, ask your hotel to call for a doctor immediately. When I started feeling a scratchy throat while traveling in Curacao, I first tried to self medicate, thinking it was probably just the air conditioning or change in weather. Two days later, I was lying in bed with 101 F fever, chills and sweats. The resort called the doctor on my request, who came to my room for only $200. He prescribed antibiotics that were included in the cost. This helped me recover quickly.

traveling to beach destination
Enjoy a quiet walk at the beach.

Self Care

At this point, I did not test positive for COVID, but had all the symptoms. My doctor advised me to drink lots of fluids, eat light food (soups and fruit), and rest. I always carry Vitamin C packets, my favorite Masala Chai powder, and a few over-the-counter medications (such as Ibuprofen) with me when I travel. Also, I purchased a few self testing COVID kits that came in handy. They were only $5 each at the pharmacy in Curacao.

It is very important to self isolate, rest, and wear a mask when you go outside. Since I was staying at a hotel by myself, I had no choice but to out to get food and medicine, so I wore a mask and kept distance from people.

Still, try to breathe fresh air by sitting at the balcony or taking a walk on the beach. Keep your mental health in check by talking to people on the phone, watching funny movies, and getting lots of sleep.

I had a great support system while in Curacao. The owner and manager of Terra Boutique Hotel were available 24 hours a day via WhatsApp. Every morning, they delivered breakfast to my room, comprising of fresh orange juice, tea, omelette, toast, fruits, and granola. My room was cleaned and sanitized daily. The kitchen at the hotel was well stocked with bottle water, tea and fresh tangerines, so I could stay hydrated. And they arranged for doctors, medicines, airport drop offs, as well as any request I had. Since I was traveling alone in a foreign country, it was calming to know that there were friendly and caring people I could count on whenever needed.

Often, you can get this kind of personal service only at smaller boutique hotels. The 300-room resort I stayed at previously offered no such help, and their reception desk rarely answered the phone.

restful sleep while traveling abroad
Relaxing room at Terra Boutique Hotel.

Test Regularly

Most travelers take their COVID test only 24 hours before flying out. If your test is positive, you cannot board your flight. The USA and few other countries still have this restriction. Most countries only check your COVID vaccination card. And the general protocol is that you have to isolate for 5-10 days before you are cleared to fly. Now, the problem with this rule is that your waiting time starts from the first time you tested positive, not the first day you had symptoms. Which means, in the best case scenarios, you can fly 4 days after your scheduled flight.

If you test regularly at a clinic, you will be able to detect the virus early on and your countdown will start earlier. For example, if you first tested positive 3 days before your flight, that will be your day 0, and you may only need to stay 2 extra days. Note that home test kits don’t apply. You have to test at a lab and obtain a written document showing the date of your test.

eat healthy food to combat COVID
Breakfast basket at Terra Boutique Hotel.

Call the Health Department

According to the CDC, you should self isolate for only 5 days, after which you can move about freely as you are no longer infectious. However, you also need to obtain a negative COVID test for air travel, or get a note from the doctor that you have fully recovered. The main problem with this rule is that you can test positive for COVID for weeks and months after you may have had it. Therefore, you may not be able to return home if you simply rely on test results.

So the only way to get around is to obtain a recovery letter from a local health authority. This can be a little complicated, as most doctors are not even authorized to give the letter. In Curacao, the doctor who saw me at the resort said that he was not allowed to write the recovery letters, and there were only 2 doctors on the island who could do it. I had to look them up, contact them individually, and because it was a long weekend, they were unavailable.

There are also many online healthcare companies who will give you the letter. You will need to fill out a form, pay a fee, and perhaps do a virtual consultation. The catch is they will only do it 10 days after your first positive test. You should have had no fever and recovered from all symptoms.

Because every destination has its only policy on who and when is authorized to give recovery letters, your best resource is the local health department or ministry of health and epidemiology. I had a phone consultation with the public health official, texted them my records, and they emailed me the letter within a few hours. This allowed me to travel internationally back to the US even though I was testing COVID positive.

Some travelers revert to the US Embassay for this information, but they are often not able to help.

what to do when you get COVID
View from my balcony at Mangrove Corendon Curacao Resort.

Carry Good Travel Insurance

During this time of uncertainty, it is more important than ever to carry comprehensive travel insurance that covers sickness resulting from pandemics. I have Allianz Travel insurance which covers cost of hotel, meals, flights, doctors, etc. for me and my caretaker (if I was traveling with someone who had to stay back). Make sure to save every receipt, test results, and doctor’s records. Having this protection will cause less stress as you don’t need to worry about the extra bills you encounter abroad, and can focus on just getting better.

Stay at a Sustainable Boutique Resort in Aruba

If you are turned off by mega all-inclusive beach resorts, where thousands of people in their swimsuits wander from the breakfast buffet to the pool bar and back like vacationing zombies, you have come to the right blog site! When I travel, I look for places to stay that offer a peaceful atmosphere without sacrificing luxury. Manchebo Beach Resort and Spa is a gem I recently discovered on the island of Aruba, which is often brushed off as being too commercial.

Located away from the row of chain resorts, Manchebo is one of the oldest hotels in Aruba on the picturesque Eagle Beach, only 2.5 miles from downtown Oranjestad.

It was created by Dutch entrepreneur, Izaak “Ike” Cohen 50+ years ago, but looks almost brand new!

Balinese style spa

Wellness Focus

The oceanfront oasis promotes wellbeing through its daily offering of yoga and Pilates classes (by the beach) that are free for hotel guests. There is a beautifully designed spa constructed with teakwood imported from Bali. You can get a massage in one of the private cabanas overlooking the ocean and feel the sea breeze in your hair (it gets quite windy in Aruba).

Manchebo is one of the few resorts I have been to that offers carefully designed vegan menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I tried several vegan dishes during my stay and loved how flavorful, fresh and well incorporated they were. Vegan food here is not an afterthought to accommodate special dietary requests, rather a culinary lifestyle.

Vegan ceviche made with fresh lychee

Instead of cocktails on the beach, you can enjoy fresh fruit smoothies throughout the day. Made with local fruits like aloe, pineapple, papaya and mango, the blended drinks will keep you hydrated and healthy through your vacation.

Environment Consciousness

From the hotel’s electric cars (you can request airport transfers and drop offs in town), to using local products and Green Natura bathroom amenities, Manchebo is committed to operating in an eco-friendly manner and recipient of Green Globe’s Platinum Award. They also employ locals and track environmental impact as their sustainable tourism practice.

Relaxed atmosphere & perfect sunset viewing

The resort’s Green Team continues to support the environment and the community through means of sponsorship, supporting of local musical scholarships (there’s live music at the hotel almost every night), charitable fundraising, local school support, contributions to the Aruba Reef Care Project and Annual Coastal Clean-ups. Don’t be surprised to find nesting sea turtles on the hotel’s beach!

Manchebo Resort & Spa Aruba

Boutique Structure

There are only 72 rooms across 2-stories at Manchebo, which offers more privacy and great views of the Caribbean from practically everywhere. The rooms are modern and comfortable, yet also practical. Each room comes equipped with a microwave, mini refrigerator, beach towels and a picnic cooler so you can enjoy time on your balcony or the beach. Did I mention its pooch friendly too?

As if there weren’t enough reasons to book a stay at Manchebo, it also boasts the broadest beach in Aruba! Dushi, ha?

Make better choices when you travel. Stay at family-owner, sustainable and eco friendly resorts such as Manchebo Aruba.

Bonaire – The Dutch Caribbean Paradise

Located south of Aruba and 50 miles East of Venezuela, Bonaire is a small island in the Dutch Caribbean. It is part of the ABC islands – Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao. Bonaire is the smallest of the three, and the least developed when it comes to tourism, which is why it makes for a perfect travel destination for those who enjoy getting away from crowds.


Turquoise blue water, picture perfect sunsets, Dutch Caribbean architecture, landscapes that vary from lush green hills to barren desserts doted with giant cactus, and not to forget some of the best dive sites in the world. If you enjoy nature, this is the place to be.



Kralendijk is the capital and the main city in Bonaire. It is located less than 10 minutes from Flamingo International Airport. With colorful buildings, downtown Kralendijk is a charming area with a cruise port (operating 6 months of the year), gift shops, restaurants and central amenities like tourist office, post office, police station, city hall. Surrounding residential neighborhoods and streets have theme names after musical instruments, names of countries, etc. making the city easy to navigate without many signs or even traffic lights.

Rincon is the only other city on the island. Once a town inhabited by the salt slaves who worked on the island, now Rincon is mostly a quiet residential area.


While there are a few dive resorts and small hotels in the area, you will not find any brand-name chain hotels or upscale all-inclusive resorts. The most beautiful hotel is Harbor Village Beach Club. Nestled on a private, four-acre peninsula, the charming Caribbean Bohemian style retreat feels more like a private estate than a hotel. Private villas and suites are surrounded by a burst of colorful flowers, yellow stucco facade, red terra cotta roofs, and golden tiled floors. Palm trees draw shade on to hammocks and beach lounges, while guests swim in the turquoise warm waters of the Caribbean. On the other side of the resort is a small harbor with a few dozen yachts and sailboats that would marvel any spot in the Italian Riviera.

At Harbour Village Beach Club, diving adventures are just steps away with Great Adventures Bonaire, the PADI five-star Instructor Development Center offering instruction courses for all levels, retail shop, a full range of services and daily boat dives from the Harbour Village dock. On site amenities include swimming pools, gym, spa and restaurant. Designed in the style of an antique Spanish ship with a dining deck located on a jetty extending over the water, La Balandra Restaurant and Bar offers diners a feeling of cruising while they enjoy daily fresh catch cooked with fusion flavors, paired with an extensive wine list.

Bonaire food


The restaurant scene in Bonaire is very eclectic. You can find authentic Italian, French, Indonesia, Cuban and Senegalese restaurants within walking distance of each other. Since immigrants from all over the world populate the island, there is a strong “international” culture blended in with Dutch and Caribbean. Here are some highly recommended restaurants:

At Sea – Rated #1 few years in a row, this cozy 1912 Bonairian house turned restaurant is run by a young French couple that share a passion for quality ingredients and breathtaking presentation. Each element of the plate is cooked to perfection and brought out as edible pieces of art. Enjoy daily changing menu served al fresco or inside the house.

Ingridients – Located at Buddy Dive Resort, Ingredients is a place to really treat oneself. Cool ocean breeze passes through the entire restaurant, as diners enjoy picture perfect sunsets. Diners can nibble on small plates of marinated olives, ham crostini, tuna tartare and tasty flatbread pizzas. Order the “pasta with cheese special” not listed on the menu and the server will cook tagliatelle tableside inside a 2 feet block of Italian cheese. It is a must try!

Bistro de Paris – The French food at this happening bistro located next to the harbor is some of the best you will find outside of Europe. Delicacies such as bouillabaisse Provençal, grilled tartine of snails, Foie gras, and frog legs are cooked to order by the French owner/ chef. Adjacent is an open air bar where locals hang out throughout the week.

Spice Beach Club – After a relaxing time at the beach, soak your feet in the sand, as you enjoy cocktails, typical Dutch snacks, and fresh salads. Spice Beach is a place where people come to enjoy the view, take a swim and chill through the afternoon.

Bonaire spice beach

Capriccio – This Italian restaurant in city center offers the largest wine selection on the island. It is go-to spot for homemade pasta, pizza and gelato in a relatively formal setting. Capriccio is also one of the handful of restaurants open on Sundays.


Twizy Tours – The coolest way to explore the tiny island of Bonaire is aboard a self-driven electric vehicle. Road Runner Bonaire offers tours of the North and South, which begin in the capital Kralendijk. South tour proceeds along the coast passing by famous diver spots, Cargill salt hills, slave houses, Atlantic Beach and Jibe City. On the way, you can stop to take photos, swim, dive, windsurf or kite board.

roadrunner bonaire

Washington Slagbaai National Park – A fifth of the island of Bonaire is a nationally protected nature sanctuary where visitors can spend an entire day hiking, walking, snorkeling, diving, swimming and bird watching. Everyone shoud have the chance to go snorkeling if they get the opportunity. That’s why you should make sure that you invest in a good snorkeling mask so you can make the most out of this experience as you may never get the chance to do it again. Expect to see more secluded beaches, caves, tall cactuses, giant windmills, goats, iguanas and hundreds of elegant pink flamingo parties. The geology of the coral island is also very visible inside the park, forming interesting patterns and colors, making it a photographer’s paradise.

Flamingos Bonaire

Rancho Washikemba – Horseback ride through a private ranch passing through cactus trees, dessert landscapes, open fields, and along the coast. Take a break at a secluded lagoon where you can go swimming with your horse. Rancho Washikemba offers horseback riding lessons, tours and parties and since horses are not native to the island, this is the only official, fully licensed and certified horseback riding ranch on Bonaire.

The Windsurf Place – Take a windsurfing lesson with one of the oldest companies on the island. Here you can rent gear and lockers, eat lunch, and practice on your own or with an instructor. The waters are warm, shallow and picturesque, resembling a vast swimming pool.

dive city Bonaire

Buddy Dive Resort – Beginner and expert snorkelers and divers will enjoy watching the underwater Coral Restoration project at Buddy Diver. Help plant, cut, and clean the coral farm, while enjoying a swim in the Caribbean waters. The dive shop offers classroom training, certifications and personal instructors. It’s a great way to give back your time and skills while on vacation.

Bonaire coral

Klein Bonaire – An undeveloped little island makes for a perfect day out. Pack your picnic and beach gear for trip to Bonaire’s west coast. Water taxis and dive boats transport passengers who want to swim, snorkel, or explore the beautiful beaches and clear blue waters. Some natives claim this is their favorite spot to getaway.

Mangazina di Rei – Visit this cultural center in Rincon to get a feel for Bonaire’s history. Aside from the nice views of the valley, you will also find a museum, gift shop, live music and interactive tours.

Bonaire culture


Sea Salt Bonaire – After driving around for a few minutes you know the island relies heavily on the production of salt as one of its exports. Run by a Dutch guy nicknamed “The Saltman”, this tiny shop off the main square sells everything made of salt. Boxes, tubs, salt mills, grinders, loose salt and bags of colored bath salt are available for personal consumption, gifts and souvenirs. You will also find Bonaire Sea Salt at most local restaurants.


Elements – Here you will find handmade dichroic glass jewelry designed by South African, Charlene Bosch while her Italian husband, Gabriele Tixi manages the store. Shop from a vast collection of glass bracelets, earrings, pendants and household gifts. Themes of designs included Africa collection, Ocean collection Sunset collection and many more. Each piece is beautifully done and no two pieces looked alike.

elements Bonaire

Hand-Made Elements

This is a romantic “boy meets girl, moves to an island and starts their own enterprise” story. South African, Charlene Bosch met Italian, Gabriele Tixi aboard Queen Mary 2, where they both were working at the time. They feel in love, got married, decided to quit living at sea, and moved to Bonaire in February 2011.

Charlene always had a passion for design and learned the art of working with glass from her mom. She started a little dichroic glass business, selling hand-made jewelry at the cruise port’s market stand in Bonaire six months of the year. Her unique designs reflected the beautiful aqua colors of the ocean and the bold and bright tones of the Caribbean. Visitors to the Dutch Caribbean island enjoyed purchasing local jewelry that was inspired by the surroundings.

With growing demand for her products, Charlene and Gabriele decided to open a store, Elements Bonaire in downtown Kralendijk. Soon their families moved from Italy and South Africa to join the business. Now they have stores in Bonaire and St Maarten.

elements Bonaire

I visited the store in Bonaire which was decorated with color changing tree in the center of the room surrounded by a vast collection of glass bracelets, earrings, pendants and household gifts. Themes of designs included Africa collection, Ocean collection Sunset collection and many more. Each piece was beautifully done and no two pieces looked alike. Gabriele flaunted glass cufflinks from their men’s collection. Shapes include turtles, angel fish, squares, triangle, long rectangles, packed in a zebra strip box, keeping in line with Charlene’s African roots.

elements Bonaire

Dichroic glass consists of multiple layers of metals which are vaporized in a vacuum chamber and electro beamed onto the glass. The glass is then cut into various shapes, layered together and then fused at almost 1500˚F for around 9-12 hours. From every angle you can see the colors change. The glass gives off brilliance and shine against different shades of light.

elements bonaire

All of Elements jewelry is made with stainless steel which is hypoallergenic and does not tarnish. They also make custom ordered products, such as monogrammed champagne glasses for wedding gifts and party favors.

The pieces range from $15-$55 and are also available online.

Photos tour of Washington Slagbaai National Park

Who knew that a fifth of the island of Bonaire is a nationally protected nature sanctuary? Washington Slagbaai National Park was established in 1969 and covers an area of 5.643 hectares. Once a private property of Julio Caesar “Boy” Herrera, the land was sold to the government of Netherland Antilles with the promise of not developing it commercially. As a result, this beautiful area is home to protected plant and wildlife, now maintained by the non profit organization, STINAPA Bonaire.

How the park got its name is an interesting story. In the early 1920’s the land was a private plantation named “America” and the main entrance (now visitor center) was the spot where the workers came to receive their wages and apply for work. This house came to be known as the capital of America – Washington, as symbol of decision making and prosperity.

Washington Slagbaai National Park merits a day long visit, specially if you really want to enjoy all its benefits. It is possible to do a driving tour of the park in less than 2 hours, stopping to see pristine beaches, caves, and flamingoes in their natural habitats. If you pack a picnic and gear, you can spend the day hiking, walking, snorkeling, diving, swimming and bird watching. There is only one restaurant/ inn inside the park but it’s not open year round.

The park is a photographer’s dream as one can spend countless hours capturing barely moving iguanas and elegant flamingo parties. Then there are tall cactuses and giant windmills. The landscape feels more like Arizona, then a Caribbean island, but no words can capture what you see yourself.

Here are some images I took at Washington Slagbaai National Park.

The visitor center houses a small museum that gives an overview of the island of Bonaire, especially its flora and fauna, its pioneer citizens, what they cultivated and tools they used. Pick up maps and cold drinks before heading inside for the day. Tickets are $25 per person.

visitors center Washington Slagbaai National Park

There is abundant wildlife inside the park, including iguanas, lizards, wild goats and 203 species of birds. If you look closely, you will see how the aloe plant attaches itself to the goat and transports itself for pollination.

goats at Washington Slagbaai National Park

The geology of the island is also visible inside the park. You will see dark rock formations, remains of solidified volcanic ashes as well as light colored coral rocks. The oldest dating sediments found in the area are 100 million years old. High winds and waves have caused erosion of the rocks, forming interesting patterns of erosion.

erosions at Washington Slagbaai National Park


The Subí Brandaris Trail leads visitors to the highest peak on Bonaire, 241 meters (784 ft.) high.  On a clear day you can see the island of Curaçao (46 km (30 miles) away from Bonaire, and, on exceptionally clear days, the Santa Ana Hill in the Paraguaná Peninsula of Venezuela, and the mountain range south of Puerto Cabello, Venezuela.

highest peak at Washington Slagbaai National Park

The west shore of the Park has many beaches where one can enjoy snorkeling and swimming. The dive sites are great as the coral around the area is well protected and not crowded.

Washington Slagbaai National Park

The park is one of the best places on the island for observing birds, due to its remoteness and also the many types of habitat that includes salt-flats, fresh water wells, beaches, limestone plateaus by the shoreline and thorny forests. Flamingos at Washington Slagbaai National Park

Dutch influence is evident with these windmills, harvesting clean wind energy for the island. Bonaire is very environmentally conscious and generates most of its own energy.


All rights reserved @ Sucheta Rawal

Bonaire’s Mr Saltman

Walking around downtown Kralendijk, Bonaire, my curiosity led me into a store called “The Saltman.” Having seen the Cargill Salt hills on the southern part of the island earlier that week, I had some idea about the connection of salt with Bonaire. Production of salt started in Bonaire circa 1636 by the Dutch West India Company and their African slaves. Even today, over 20% of the island is used for production of sea salt, in a completely natural way through sun drying.

Walking in the store, I was completely overwhelmed with “everything salt.” From salt crystals, table sea salt, salt mills, bath bombs, to bath salts and lotions, this was a salty oasis!


I was greeted by the owner Mr. Sjoerd Vanderbrug (aka Saltman) himself. Vanderbrug is Dutch, who moved to Bonaire from Indonesia. Never been I had met someone who was so passionate about salt. He explained to me in what seemed like 100 Benefits of Sea Salt, why salt was the single most important spice that sustained human life, how it has been used over civilizations from preserving food through the winter to exfoliate the skin, that sodium is the sixth most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, how it regulates blood pressure and pH balance, and keeps your teeth clean. He spoke about how the discovery of salt on Bonaire put the island on the map, as there were no other valuable resources. saltman bonaire

So “whats the difference between Himalayan vs Kosher vs Regular vs Sea Salt” I asked the Saltman himself. The difference is in source, production, texture, color and taste. Regular table salt is highly refined and enhanced with iodine (an important dietary supplement), whereas sea salt is made by evaporating water. Himalayan sea salt has a pink color from traces of iron oxide found in it. Kosher salt is more coarse than regular salt and is often used for sprinkling on top of food. When cooked, there is no remarkable difference between the flavors of different salts.

Vanderbrug buys the salt from Cargill and spends considerable effort into marketing the product. He started with a dome shaped box to resemble the salt hill and expanded his packaging to boxes, tubs, salt mills (grinders), loose salt and bags of colored bath salt. When cruisers and vacationers come to Bonaire, they want something they can take home as souvenirs and gift to their family and friends. With the limited number of local products available on the island, Bonaire Sea Salt definitely stands out. It is also available at local restaurants and airport gift shops.

La Placita Bonaire

Adjacent to the shop, Vanderbrug also has a coffee shop and a bed and breakfast.

Twizy Tours of Bonaire

Perhaps one of the coolest ways to explore the tiny island of Bonaire is aboard an electric vehicle. Hans Joern Buschmann, a professional race car driver recently immigrated from Germany to Bonaire and started a unique tour company, Road Runner Bonaire.

He picked me up from my hotel in his truck and drove me to his charming villa near downtown. After saying hi to his friendly dog and visitors at his holiday home, we proceeded to his backyard where he had small electric vehicles in vibrant colors, that looked like a cross between a Smart car and a go-cart. Technically, the car can seat two adults – one in the front and one in the back. The doors opened upwards like a Lamborghini. I boarded a black one with pink decor inspired by his girlfriend’s wedding planning business. Once behind the vehicle, it was easy to navigate with an accelerator, break and steering vehicle.

roadrunner bonaire

Road Runner offers tours of the North and South. On this day, we decided to do the southern tour of Bonaire. The 3-hour trip began in the capital Kralendijk and proceeded along the coast. We drove off into the main streets, accelerating at the maximum speeds since there was hardly any traffic.

Along the way we stopped at different viewing points to admire history, nature and architecture. At each spot, Hans gave a brief description of what I was looking at and volunteered to take photos of me posing on cliffs with waves splashing in the back. We saw some beautiful houses by the bay, drove past the Flamingo international airport, and stopped at Atlantis Beach to watch people kite boarding. Given his friendly personality, it seemed like Hans knew everyone on the island, as he waived to them and stopped for a brief hello.

Bonaire houses


Next, we saw some of the famous dive sites in Bonaire and a group of flamingos just hanging out by the marshes along the road.

Bonaire diving

Flamingos Bonaire

Hans is very passionate about the island, which makes him a great tour guide. Ask him anything about corals, historic significance or the best viewing spots, and he will have an answer for you. He explained to me the process of salt production in front of the Cargill Salt Hill, a magnificent site if you have sever seen mountains of salt before. Against the backdrop of blue skies, turquoise waters, and pink salt pools, the white hills stood out and made for a photo stop.

Cargill Salt Hill Bonaire

In the 1600’s Dutch settlers on the island employed slaves to work in the salt fields and traded the product by waterways. Till today, you can see slave houses and port markers in red, white, blue and orange identifying which landlord the salt fields and slaves belonged to.

slave houses Bonaire

salt traders Bonaire

A lone lighthouse stood next to an abandoned church as we continued our journey to the southern tip.

Our next stop was at Jibe City, a place for swimming, windsurfing, eating and drinking. I had a glass of fresh juice while watching kids and adults balance on their boards and sailing into the shallow blue waters.

dive city Bonaire

The adventure ended back at the house, where we dropped of the vehicles at their electric charging stations and went off to lunch. Hans tells me that Road Runner Bonaire has become one of the most popular ways to explore the island among visitors of all ages. “You don’t need to rent a car or be stuck on a tour bus. You have control over where you stop, for how long, and it’s a lot of fun driving!” he adds.

Tours start at $25 per person based on age, route and hours. Group sizes 2-8. Reservations are required.