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The Complete Guide To Washington Slagbaai National Park, Bonaire


by Harlie Robillard



Welcome to Washington Slagbaai National Park, a stunning natural oasis located on the island of Bonaire in the Caribbean. This remarkable national park is a haven for nature lovers, offering a diverse range of ecosystems, breathtaking landscapes, and abundant wildlife. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a birdwatching enthusiast, or someone seeking tranquility in nature, this park has something for everyone.


Washington Slagbaai National Park covers a vast area of approximately 13,500 acres on the northwestern part of Bonaire. It was established in 1969 and has since been an integral part of Bonaire’s commitment to preserving its unique natural heritage. The park is named after Washington Slagbaai, a former plantation that operated within its boundaries.


What sets Washington Slagbaai National Park apart is its remarkable biodiversity. The park is home to an impressive array of plant and animal species, many of which are native to Bonaire. From cacti and mangroves to flamingos and parrots, the park encapsulates the incredible ecological diversity found on the island.


Aside from its rich biodiversity, the park is also known for its striking landscapes. You’ll find rugged hills, dramatic cliffs, tranquil lagoons, and pristine beaches, all waiting to be explored. Whether you’re hiking along the park’s scenic trails or snorkeling in its crystal-clear waters, there is no shortage of natural beauty to behold.


Moreover, Washington Slagbaai National Park offers a range of activities and attractions that cater to varying interests and preferences. From guided tours and birdwatching expeditions to snorkeling and diving adventures, there is no shortage of ways to experience the park’s wonders. The park’s historical sites, such as the old plantation buildings and the lighthouse, also provide fascinating insights into Bonaire’s past.


Whether you’re a seasoned explorer or a curious traveler, Washington Slagbaai National Park offers an unforgettable experience. Immerse yourself in the wonders of nature, engage with the local flora and fauna, and discover the beauty and serenity that Bonaire has to offer. So, tie up your hiking boots, grab your binoculars, and get ready to embark on an extraordinary adventure in Washington Slagbaai National Park.


Location and History

Washington Slagbaai National Park is located on the northwestern end of the island of Bonaire in the Caribbean. Situated within the Dutch Caribbean territory, Bonaire is known for its pristine beaches, vibrant marine life, and exceptional natural landscapes. The national park is situated approximately 15 kilometers (9 miles) from Bonaire’s capital city, Kralendijk.


The history of Washington Slagbaai National Park traces back to the era of slavery in Bonaire. The area was originally a plantation owned by Washington Slagbaai, a Dutch slave owner. After slavery was abolished in 1863, the plantation fell into disuse, and the land was eventually acquired by the Bonaire government in the mid-20th century.


In 1969, the government officially established Washington Slagbaai National Park as a protected area to preserve the unique natural attributes of the region. The park was the first nature reserve to be designated in the Dutch Caribbean, setting a precedent for conservation efforts in the region.


Since its establishment, Washington Slagbaai National Park has played a vital role in Bonaire’s commitment to environmental preservation. It serves as a sanctuary for the island’s indigenous flora and fauna, protecting its delicate ecosystems from development and human interference.


The park’s strategic location on the northwestern coast of Bonaire provides a crucial habitat for numerous bird species, including the Caribbean flamingo, the yellow-shouldered Amazon parrot, and the brown pelican. Additionally, the park’s coastal areas are vital nesting sites for endangered sea turtles, such as the hawksbill and green turtles.


Today, Washington Slagbaai National Park is not only a conservation area but also a popular recreational destination for visitors. It offers a unique opportunity to experience the natural beauty and cultural history of Bonaire in a pristine and undisturbed setting.


With its picturesque landscapes, diverse wildlife, and rich cultural heritage, Washington Slagbaai National Park truly embodies the essence of Bonaire. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a history buff, or simply seeking a peaceful escape, this national park invites you to delve into its treasures and create unforgettable memories.


Flora and Fauna

Washington Slagbaai National Park is a paradise for nature lovers, boasting a remarkable diversity of flora and fauna. The park is home to a wide variety of plant species, many of which are endemic to Bonaire. From towering cacti to vibrant wildflowers, the park’s flora showcases the unique beauty of the Caribbean.


One of the most iconic plants found in the park is the Kadushi, or candelabra cactus. These impressive cacti can reach heights of up to 15 feet and have distinct branching patterns resembling a candelabra. Other notable plant species include the Watapana, or divi-divi tree, known for its distinctive windblown shape, as well as various species of orchids, bromeliads, and mangroves.


When it comes to fauna, Washington Slagbaai National Park is a haven for bird enthusiasts. Over 200 species of birds have been recorded within the park, making it a prime destination for birdwatching. One of the park’s most recognizable residents is the Caribbean flamingo, with its vibrant pink plumage and distinctive curved beak. Other bird species commonly sighted in the park include the yellow-shouldered Amazon parrot, the brown pelican, and various species of herons and shorebirds.


In addition to birds, the park is home to a diverse range of terrestrial and marine animals. Visitors may spot reptiles such as the Bonaire whiptail lizard, the iguana, and the boa constrictor. The park’s coastal areas provide vital nesting grounds for endangered sea turtles, including the hawksbill and green turtles. Underwater, the park’s coral reefs teem with colorful fish, sea sponges, and other marine creatures.


Exploring the park’s trails and coastline offers ample opportunities to observe and appreciate its rich biodiversity. Whether you’re birdwatching, snorkeling, or simply enjoying a leisurely hike, you’ll have the chance to encounter some of Bonaire’s most captivating wildlife in their natural habitats.


Washington Slagbaai National Park serves as a vital sanctuary for Bonaire’s indigenous flora and fauna. The park’s conservation efforts, along with ongoing research and education programs, ensure that future generations can continue to appreciate the unique and fragile ecosystem of the island.


So, grab your binoculars, camera, and sense of adventure, and get ready to be awe-inspired by the diverse and captivating flora and fauna of Washington Slagbaai National Park.


Geology and Landscapes

Washington Slagbaai National Park is a geologist’s dream, showcasing the incredible geological diversity of Bonaire. The park’s landscapes are a testament to the island’s volcanic origins and the forces of erosion that have shaped its terrain over millions of years.


The park is characterized by its rugged hills, rocky plateaus, and dramatic cliffs that overlook the pristine turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. These elevated areas offer breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding coastline and are ideal for hiking and photography.


One of the notable geological features in the park is the volcanic diorite intrusion known as Brandaris. Rising to an elevation of 784 feet, Brandaris is the highest point on Bonaire and offers a challenging but rewarding hike for those who crave adventure and stunning vistas.


As you explore the park’s trails, you’ll encounter a variety of geological formations, including limestone formations, volcanic rocks, and fossilized corals. The limestone formations, created through the accumulation of marine sediment over millions of years, provide a unique habitat for specialized flora and fauna.


The park is also home to several picturesque beaches, such as Wayaka and Slagbaai, where the clear turquoise waters meet sandy shores. These secluded beaches are perfect for relaxation and snorkeling, providing an opportunity to witness the vibrant marine life that thrives in the surrounding coral reefs.


Another fascinating feature of Washington Slagbaai National Park is the presence of saliñas, or salt flats, which are shallow coastal lagoons with high salt concentrations. These salt flats are important feeding grounds for the park’s bird population, including flamingos and other wading birds.


Whether you’re scaling the cliffs, exploring the caves, or marveling at the unique rock formations, Washington Slagbaai National Park offers a captivating glimpse into the geological wonders of Bonaire. It is a landscape shaped by time, forces of nature, and the resilience of its ecosystems.


As you traverse the park, remember to take nothing but photographs and leave nothing but footprints, respecting the fragile balance of this exquisite geological and ecological treasure.


Activities and Attractions

Washington Slagbaai National Park offers a plethora of activities and attractions that cater to all types of nature enthusiasts. Whether you’re seeking adventurous pursuits or a peaceful retreat, the park has something for everyone to enjoy.


One of the most popular activities in the park is hiking. With over 20 well-marked trails, visitors can explore the park’s diverse landscapes on foot. From leisurely strolls to challenging hikes, each trail offers a unique experience, allowing you to immerse yourself in the park’s natural beauty. The trails lead you through dense forests, scenic coastal areas, and rocky hills, providing breathtaking vistas at every turn.


In addition to hiking, Washington Slagbaai National Park is a haven for water lovers. The park boasts some of the best snorkeling and diving spots in the Caribbean. Explore the vibrant coral reefs, swim alongside tropical fish, and marvel at the incredible underwater world that exists just off the park’s coastline. Scuba divers can also explore submerged caves and tunnels, adding an extra layer of adventure to their underwater explorations.


Birdwatching is another popular activity in the park, given its rich avian diversity. With a chance to spot flamingos, parrots, herons, and a variety of other bird species, enthusiasts can spend hours observing and photographing these magnificent creatures in their natural habitats.


For those interested in Bonaire’s history and culture, the park offers opportunities to explore its historical sites. Visit the old plantation buildings that once operated within the park, providing a glimpse into Bonaire’s colonial past. Don’t forget to pay a visit to the park’s iconic lighthouse, which has stood tall for over a century, guiding ships along the treacherous coast.


Make sure to stop by the visitors’ center, where you can learn about the park’s flora, fauna, and conservation efforts. Knowledgeable park rangers are on hand to answer questions and provide valuable insights into the park’s natural wonders.


As you venture through the park, keep an eye out for the unique and diverse wildlife that calls Washington Slagbaai National Park home. From lizards basking in the sun to sea turtles nesting along the beaches, each encounter promises to be a memorable experience.


Whether you choose to explore the park on foot, snorkel through its vibrant underwater world, or simply bask in the tranquility of nature, Washington Slagbaai National Park offers a wide range of activities and attractions that are bound to create lasting memories and a profound appreciation for Bonaire’s natural splendor.


Visitor Information

When planning a visit to Washington Slagbaai National Park, it’s important to have essential visitor information to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. Here are some key details to keep in mind:


Opening Hours: The park is open daily from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. It is recommended to arrive early to make the most of your visit and avoid the heat of the day.


Entrance Fee: There is an entrance fee to access the national park, which goes towards the conservation and maintenance of the area. The fee can be paid at the visitor center upon arrival.


Guided Tours: For those seeking a more informative experience, guided tours are available within the park. These tours, led by knowledgeable guides, offer valuable insights about the park’s history, flora, and fauna. Bookings can be made in advance or upon arrival at the visitor center.


Facilities: The park provides basic facilities, including restrooms and picnic areas, where visitors can take a break and enjoy a packed lunch amidst nature’s beauty. However, visitors should note that there are no food or beverage services within the park, so it’s recommended to bring your own supplies.


Equipment Rental: If you plan on snorkeling or diving in the park, equipment rental is available in nearby towns. Snorkeling gear, including masks, snorkels, and fins, can be rented from various dive shops. Scuba diving equipment can also be rented for those who wish to explore the underwater wonders of the park.


Weather and Safety: The climate in Bonaire is typically warm and sunny year-round. It’s important to stay hydrated, wear sunscreen, and protect yourself from the sun by wearing a hat and lightweight clothing. Parts of the park can be rugged and remote, so it’s recommended to wear sturdy shoes and bring along a map or GPS device. Additionally, it’s crucial to practice responsible snorkeling and diving by respecting the marine life and reefs.


Accessibility: Some areas of the park may present accessibility challenges for individuals with mobility issues. However, there are certain trails and viewing points that are more accessible, offering opportunities for all visitors to enjoy the park’s natural wonders.


Remember to adhere to the park’s regulations, respect the environment, and leave no trace behind. By doing so, you can help preserve the park’s beauty for future generations to enjoy.


With this visitor information in hand, you are ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure in Washington Slagbaai National Park, immersing yourself in the wonders of nature and discovering the treasures of Bonaire.


Accommodation and Facilities

While there are no accommodation options available within Washington Slagbaai National Park itself, there are several choices nearby that cater to different preferences and budgets. Here are some accommodation options to consider:


Hotels and Resorts: In the surrounding area, there are various hotels and resorts that offer comfortable accommodations and a range of amenities. These establishments provide a convenient base for exploring the park during the day and relaxing in comfort at night. Many of these hotels also offer additional services such as on-site restaurants, swimming pools, and spa facilities, ensuring a relaxing and enjoyable stay.


Vacation Rentals: For those seeking a more private and independent experience, vacation rentals such as villas, apartments, or cottages are available in the vicinity of the park. These accommodations provide the freedom to have your own space, whether you’re traveling solo, as a couple, or with a group. Vacation rentals often come equipped with kitchen facilities, allowing you to prepare your own meals and truly make yourself at home.


Ecological Lodges and Eco-Friendly Resorts: If you have a deep appreciation for the environment and want to stay in accommodations that align with sustainable practices, there are eco-friendly lodges and resorts available in the area. These establishments prioritize eco-conscious initiatives, such as using renewable energy, minimizing waste, and supporting local conservation efforts.


In terms of facilities, Washington Slagbaai National Park offers basic amenities to ensure a comfortable visit. The park has parking facilities available, allowing visitors to safely leave their vehicles while exploring. Additionally, there are restrooms located at the visitor center and picnic areas throughout the park, providing convenient spots to take a break and enjoy a meal amidst the natural surroundings.


When it comes to dining options, visitors are encouraged to bring their own food and beverages, as there are no food services available within the park itself. Packing a picnic or snacks is a great way to enjoy a meal while immersing yourself in the park’s beauty. Additionally, nearby towns offer a variety of restaurants and supermarkets where you can stock up on supplies before entering the park.


Whether you choose to stay in a hotel, a vacation rental, or an eco-friendly lodge, the accommodations near Washington Slagbaai National Park provide a comfortable and convenient base for exploring the natural wonders of Bonaire. From enjoying the tranquil evenings after a day of adventure to savoring the local cuisine, your stay will be a perfect complement to your experience in the park.


Park Regulations

As with any national park, Washington Slagbaai National Park has specific regulations in place to ensure the protection of its delicate ecosystems and the safety of visitors. It’s important to familiarize yourself with these regulations before entering the park. Here are some key regulations to be aware of:


Stay on Designated Trails: To minimize impact on the park’s flora and fauna, it’s essential to stay on designated trails at all times. Straying off the trails can cause damage to sensitive ecosystems and disturb wildlife habitats.


No Feeding or Disturbing Wildlife: As enticing as it may be to interact with the wildlife, it is crucial to refrain from feeding or disturbing them. Feeding wildlife can disrupt their natural foraging behavior and lead to dependency on human food, which can be harmful to their health.


Take Nothing but Photographs, Leave Nothing but Footprints: It’s important to practice Leave No Trace principles by not removing or damaging any natural or cultural resources within the park. This includes not picking or disturbing plants, shells, rocks, or artifacts.


No Camping or Fires: Camping and open fires are not permitted within Washington Slagbaai National Park. Visitors are required to adhere to camping regulations and find accommodation in nearby establishments.


Respect Wildlife Closures and Nesting Areas: Some areas of the park may be closed off to protect nesting birds or other wildlife during certain times of the year. It is essential to respect these closures and avoid entering restricted areas.


Dispose of Waste Properly: Visitors are responsible for their own waste management. There are no trash facilities within the park, so it’s important to pack out all garbage and dispose of it in designated areas outside the park. This includes cigarette butts and any other small items that could harm wildlife.


Properly Secure and Store Food: To prevent animals from accessing human food and potentially becoming habituated or aggressive, it is crucial to properly secure and store food in animal-resistant containers or lockers.


Respect the Park’s Regulations and Guidelines: Lastly, it’s important to respect and follow all park regulations and guidelines as provided by park rangers and posted signage. These regulations are in place to ensure the safety and preservation of the park for present and future generations to enjoy.


By adhering to these park regulations, you can help preserve the natural beauty of Washington Slagbaai National Park and contribute to the overall conservation efforts on the island of Bonaire. Respect for the environment and wildlife ensures that the park remains a sanctuary for generations to come.


Safety Tips

Exploring Washington Slagbaai National Park is an exciting adventure, but it’s important to prioritize safety during your visit. Here are some essential safety tips to keep in mind:


Come Prepared: Before entering the park, ensure you are adequately prepared for outdoor activities. Wear appropriate footwear, such as sturdy hiking shoes or sneakers, and dress in lightweight, breathable clothing. Bring plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, insect repellent, and a hat to protect yourself from the sun.


Check Weather Conditions: Be aware of the weather forecast before heading to the park. Bonaire has a warm and sunny climate, but sudden rain showers or storms can occur. Bring a lightweight rain jacket or poncho and be prepared to take shelter if needed.


Stay Hydrated: Bonaire’s warm climate can lead to dehydration, especially when engaging in outdoor activities. Drink plenty of water throughout your visit to stay hydrated, and avoid excessive consumption of alcoholic or caffeinated beverages, as they can contribute to dehydration.


Take Precautions While Snorkeling and Diving: If you plan to snorkel or dive in the park’s waters, ensure you have the necessary skills and experience. Follow safe diving practices, such as diving with a buddy, checking your equipment before each dive, and respecting the marine life and coral reefs. Be mindful of currents and tides, and always snorkel or dive within your skill level.


Be Cautious of Wildlife: While the wildlife in the park is mesmerizing, it’s important to observe them from a safe distance and avoid approaching or feeding them. Respect their natural behaviors and habitats, and remember that they are wild animals. Do not attempt to touch or handle any wildlife you encounter.


Watch Your Step: The park’s terrain can be uneven and rocky, so it’s crucial to watch your step at all times. Pay attention to the trail markers and follow them to avoid slipping, tripping, or getting lost. Use caution when walking on slippery rocks or near cliff edges.


Protect Yourself from Mosquitoes and Insects: Bonaire is home to mosquitoes and other insects, particularly in the evenings. Apply insect repellent to protect yourself from mosquito bites, especially if you plan to be outdoors during dawn or dusk. Wearing long sleeves and pants can also provide an additional layer of protection.


Stay Updated on Park Regulations: Familiarize yourself with the park’s regulations and follow them accordingly. Respect closures, signage, and instructions provided by park rangers. They are there to ensure your safety and the preservation of the park’s natural environment.


Use Caution near Water: Whether you’re swimming, snorkeling, or enjoying the coastal areas, use caution around the water. Be aware of rip currents and waves, and swim only in designated areas. Even if you’re a strong swimmer, it’s important to exercise caution and never swim alone.


Inform Others of Your Plans: Before entering the park, inform someone of your plans and expected return time. This way, if an emergency arises, someone will be aware and can seek help if needed.


By following these safety tips, you can have a memorable and enjoyable experience while ensuring your well-being and the protection of the park’s natural resources. Stay aware, be prepared, and embrace the wonders of nature in Washington Slagbaai National Park.



Washington Slagbaai National Park is a true gem of Bonaire, offering a captivating blend of natural beauty, diverse wildlife, and rich cultural history. With its vast array of ecosystems, scenic landscapes, and thrilling activities, the park provides an unforgettable experience for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike.


From the moment you step foot into the park, you will be immersed in its stunning surroundings. The towering cacti, vibrant wildflowers, and unique rock formations create a picturesque backdrop for your journey. As you traverse the trails, you’ll encounter an abundance of wildlife, from colorful birds to curious reptiles, giving you a glimpse into the rich biodiversity of the island.


Whether you’re hiking along the rugged hills, snorkeling through the crystal-clear waters, or basking in the peacefulness of the sandy beaches, the park offers activities that will ignite your sense of exploration and connect you with the raw beauty of nature.


Beyond its natural wonders, Washington Slagbaai National Park also provides a window into the island’s history and culture. The remnants of the old plantation buildings and the iconic lighthouse tell stories of Bonaire’s past, offering a deeper understanding of the island’s heritage.


As you navigate the park, remember to abide by the regulations and practice responsible tourism. By respecting the wildlife, staying on designated trails, and leaving nature undisturbed, we can ensure the preservation of this precious ecosystem for future generations to enjoy.


Whether you’re a dedicated explorer, a wildlife enthusiast, or simply seeking tranquility in nature’s embrace, Washington Slagbaai National Park provides an unparalleled experience. It is a place where the wonders of the natural world unfold before your eyes, leaving lasting memories and a profound appreciation for the beauty of Bonaire.


So, lace up your hiking boots, pack your snorkel gear, and embark on an adventure of a lifetime in Washington Slagbaai National Park. Let its enchantment awaken your senses and leave you with a lasting connection to the remarkable island of Bonaire.