Snorkeling Bonaire vs. Hawaii

by Jack
(Santa Fe, NM)

I was wondering which you liked best for a two or three week snorkeling trip, Kona area in Hawaii or Bonaire?

My wife and I snorkeled in Bonaire on three trips in the 1980's and early 90's. We loved it, but are worried about the storm damage you mention. Is it that bad?

We are also curious about Hawaii. We snorkeled many years ago on the north side of Kauai, but have never been back. It sounds like the snorkeling is not so great on Kauai except in summer. Is the Big Island better?

My wife's 60th birthday is coming up, so something that trumps Bonaire or Hawaii would be considered.

Thanks in advance.

Comments for Snorkeling Bonaire vs. Hawaii

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Feb 18, 2011
Snorkeling Hawaii or Bonaire?
by: Galen & Nicole

Hi Jack. That is kind of a tough question. Since we have not snorkeled Bonaire before the storms, we can't really say if you would be disappointed now or not.

As you have probably read on our site, we loved Bonaire, and despite the storm damage found tons of great snorkeling, particularly if you are willing to rent a boat and explore around Klein Bonaire. We would definitely go back.

As for snorkeling Bonaire vs. snorkeling in Hawaii? Some folks who snorkel in the Caribbean don't like snorkeling in Hawaii as much. Mainly because there is less diversity in terms of both soft corals (almost none in Hawaii), and fish variety.

But we love both, probably because we don't really try and compare them. Each is unique.

Interestingly Bonaire and Hawaii have a lot of similarities. Both have a good amount of shore access, without needing to use boat companies (although Bonaire has less after the storms). We like that. Both mostly have their snorkeling on the west side of the islands, due to the trade winds buffeting the east sides. Bonaire is much more of a desert island, whereas there is much more climatic diversity in the Hawaiian Islands (although the west side of the Big Island is very desert like in some areas.)

What you get in Bonaire that is amazing is beautiful soft corals and sponges. You will mostly only see hard corals in Hawaii. But in Hawaii you have a much greater opportunity to swim with big sea turtles compared to Bonaire. Maui in particular has tons. We love the turtles. We have also really enjoyed our encounters with Dolphins in Hawaii (we did not see any in Bonaire).

But you also have to consider the out of the water experience for a fun trip. Bonaire is lovely, but very small. Your choices for restaurants and other activities are very limited compared to Hawaii. And generally we don't consider Bonaire as beautiful as Hawaii topsides. Overall, Bonaire is a touch more expensive than Hawaii, when considering flights, rental cars, accommodations and food.

So basically, we love them both, for different reasons, and we would not recommend one over the other, unless you really want to see specific things underwater.

In the islands yes, we think Kauai is a summer snorkeling spot. We love the snorkeling on the Big Island. And you are probably going to have a much higher percentage of luck getting in the water at great spots on the Big Island vs. Kauai due to weather. Maui is also excellent, particularly for turtles.

Hopefully that helps! Have fun.

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