Kralendijk

Overview

Introduction

Bonaire's capital and principal town is Kralendijk (pronounced Kraal-en-dake). It's tiny—the center encompasses all of three blocks and has a population of about 1,300. It's very picturesque, though, with brightly painted Dutch-Caribbean buildings and sidewalk cafes. As you explore, look down occasionally to see the flamingo images in the sidewalks (pictures of the bird, the national symbol of Bonaire, are everywhere). Kralendijk is known locally as Playa, but that doesn't mean there's a beach—there is no sand to speak of in the town.

Though Kralendijk is easy to navigate, it's a good idea to pick up a free walking map of the town at the tourist office, right on the corner of the main streets at Kaya Grandi 2. Phone 717-8322.

Stop by the fish market on the waterfront, the oldest outdoor market in the region. Besides fish, you can buy fruit and produce brought in by sailing ships from Venezuela. Wilhelmina Park is a pleasant place to relax under big, shady trees and enjoy the cool breezes as you gaze across the water at Klein Bonaire. The park has a monument to Queen Wilhelmina, and a plaque commemorating the time in the 1940s when Eleanor Roosevelt visited American troops stationed on Bonaire. Across the street at the cruise pier, a tall monument bears the names of all Bonaireans who died in military service.

Other sights include tiny Fort Oranje, built in the 1600s to defend the island, but its guns were never fired. It is now home to the harbormaster and the courthouse. The Museo Boneriano, located just outside town, is a good place to visit for a look at Bonaire's early history and lifestyle. Some interesting paintings depict island myths and celebrations, and an extensive shell collection is on display. Since shells are on the restricted list of souvenirs, we asked about this array. Turns out the collectors, who had spent years at their hobby, gave the entire collection to the museum when shell gathering was declared illegal.

Toiling alongside the slaves in the misery of the salt pans were donkeys. The Donkey Sanctuary, south of the airport, takes care of donkeys that are old, orphaned or injured (usually by cars). If you stop by the sanctuary, you can feed and pet the donkeys, and your donation helps take care of them.

On the very southern tip of the island is the Willemstoren Lighthouse, which was erected in 1837.

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