The Caribbean island of Bonaire is quite small, you can easily get a feel of the island in a day. But I suggest you stay longer, because Bonaire simply is amazing.
When we arrived at Bonaire’s Flamingo International Airport, we were greeted by Hans, an ultra-friendly German expat with whom we would spend the day discovering the island he now calls home. Hans had left his kitesurfing career to open Road Runner, a tour company offering the unique -and oh so fun!- possibility to tour the island using a Twizy, a small two-seater electric car made by Renault that Hans imported from Europe.
Bonaire is a protected National Marine Park so the nation cares deeply about the environment. The idea of touring it by electric car appealed to us so when Road Runner came to our attention, we knew we had to try it. I must say I wasn’t sure at first: I’m not a fan of Segways or similar gimmicks, but I was open-minded and wanted to explore Bonaire badly and see as much as possible during our short visit. Hans’ enthusiasm was terribly contagious and I ended up having one hell of a fun day. Here’s a little review of our tour!
A Tour of Bonaire in a Twizy Electric Car
Hans welcomed us into his home and showed us to our respective cars to explain the Twizys’ basic controls; we then hopped in and drove out to start our exploration. Driving the Twizy was surprisingly easy and agreeable! We drove through Kralendijk, Bonaire’s capital, to reach the island’s only road, following each other as pedestrians and drivers looked at us smiling. Soon enough, we were the only ones on the road, with the Caribbean Sea on our left and the island’s drylands on our right. We reached 84km/h, the Twizys’ highest speed, which was perfectly fine for our little vehicles.
After driving for about 10 minutes, we stopped at a gravel parking, the access point for the famous 1000 Steps beach, one of the island’s best. The view was breathtaking! We stood there in awe as Hans gave us more info about the island. As we were walking back to the Twizys, he opened an icebox and asked if we would like a drink. We just couldn’t stop laughing: “But we’re driving!” we exclaimed. Turns out, driving a Twizy on Bonaire is pretty laid-back. Every time we’d start buckling up, Hans would tsk tsk us! Bonaire is one of the safest and most peaceful islands in the Caribbean, and it is something that is noticeable even on the road. With the breeze coming in, a drink on the dashboard and my camera in hand, I drove on the island’s narrow roads overlooking the Caribbean Sea with the biggest smile on my face. I felt totally free, and it was the best feeling in the world!
We then headed to Pekelmeer, the flamingo sanctuary on the southern part of the island, where we got to see an amazing number of these colorful and graceful birds. I was swooning! Cars would drive by but Hans understood that we wanted a bit more time to try and photograph the flamingos, and we were grateful for that as we snapped away at the pink creatures, the island’s emblem – it’s even on their passport stamp!
We headed further North to Rincon, the island’s second largest town (pop. 2000), located in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere. The architecture was much different than what we’re used to seeing on other Caribbean islands, the Dutch style was recognizable but with a strong influence from the island’s slave trade history, which was very moving.
As we were driving towards our next stop, we slalomed through high rows of cacti on both sides of the road. I was minding my own business when I heard a loud thud and heard shrieking sounds. To my horror, feathers were flying on my windshield and I realized that I HAD HIT A CHICKEN!! I was horrified but at least I knew it was still alive as I had heard his protesting shrieks. I had fallen behind on my two partners so sped up to catch them, yelling to whoever wanted to hear “I’VE HIT A CHICKEN!”. When I recounted my incident, Hans took great pleasure in making fun of me as I remained appalled at myself. Oh well.
We had reached our next stop: the Cadushy Distillery, one of the most popular spots on Bonaire, and with reason. The distillery is the idea of an expat couple – Eric and Jolande – who decided to produce cactus liqueur. The family business is now thriving with tourists eager to taste this peculiar alcohol and to learn about the fabrication of their products. We sampled some and other spirits all made on site; the liqueur is very strong, with a pronounced herbal taste. The fluo green color is just amazing! We were offered some rum balls by the hilarious Petri, pictured below, and these were absolutely delicious. A must when you visit!
We left the distillery to slowly make our way back to Kralendijk via the waterfront, stopping en route to enjoy the view over the island and to peek at a few beaches. Soon enough we had to head back to charge up the Twizys…
Overall, the day flew by and we had a blast; it was one of the most fun tour experiences I’ve ever had, especially since it didn’t feel like a tour. We were just a bunch of friends driving carefree on a little slice of paradise, stopping when and where we wanted. Cars would let us pass them, people would wave, and we’d sometime pull up to one another to chat about the island and the scenery.
And about that: Bonaire’s scenery is incredible. Narrow roads swirl through arid patches of land where cacti grow in all shapes and forms, and turquoise waters lap the coast. It is a little slice of paradise so worth discovering, especially in a Twizy. I cannot recommend Road Runner enough; the tour with Hans was laid-back and offered greater flexibility than on a car tour. We were sad to leave but I’m glad we made a friend along the way and I know we’ll be back to explore more.