When asked to name islands in the Caribbean, few Americans would be able to list Bonaire, yet this small, tropical paradise of barely more than 110 square miles possesses an economy based almost exclusively on the tourist trade. Considered a "special municipality" within the European nation of the Netherlands, Bonaire is home to approximately 15,000 permanent residents.
The most popular tourist activities on Bonaire revolve around the beautiful Caribbean waters surrounding the island. While there are some sandy beaches, these are few compared to the number of reefs offshore. These tropical reefs draw both scuba divers and snorkelers to Bonaire. Indeed, underwater sports are so popular on the island that license plates here carry the motto "Diver's Paradise" written in English, not Dutch, with the choice of language reflecting the predominance of tourists from the United States and other English-speaking nations.
Other popular sports include wind surfing, which takes place mostly on the eastern end of the island. Here, large waves and strong gusts of wind make this portion of the Caribbean ideal for the sport. Lac Bay, on the other hand, is often home to beginning and intermediate sailors, who can perfect their skills there because of the shallow water and windy conditions that prevail. Holiday homes on Bonaire are never located far from the shore on this small island; most are also located conveniently near dive shops that can offer equipment, advice, and support to visitors interested in trying one or more of the water sports that prevail on the island.