Food and drink on Bonaire: A culinary journey around the island
Discover Bonaire’s rich culinary culture in this article, in which we take you on a tasty journey through local dishes, food customs, various dining options, and a funny anecdote about a local chef sharing his family recipe for sòpi di piská.
A culinary journey through the food and drink on Bonaire vacation was our first experience with the island. During our first visit to Bonaire some 15 years ago, we immediately became fascinated by the island’s rich culinary culture. It is almost impossible not to fall in love with the flavors, aromas and colors of Bonairean cuisine. Read our updated report, with a pinch of personal experiences and a dash of anecdotes from back then.
Bonairean cuisine: local dishes and ingredients
Bonaire’s cuisine is a melting pot of different cultures. Some of the signature dishes include:
- Stoba (stew): I still remember the delicious flavors of my first stoba with chicken and goat meat, served with funchi.
- Sòpi di Piská (fish soup with coconut milk): A delicious soup we sampled on a sunny afternoon at the beach.
- Funchi ku Piská (cornmeal with fish): I found this dish surprisingly tasty and filling.
Eating habits on Bonaire
Bonaire has a diverse array of dining options, ranging from local takeout to sophisticated restaurants. Some dining customs include:
- Eating out: Bonaireans often enjoy eating at restaurants or picking up a quick meal at the local Chinese restaurant.
- Diversity of restaurants: On Bonaire you will find both local and European cuisines, making for a diverse culinary experience.
- Extensive home cooking: Antillean cuisine is extensive, but somewhat limited by the availability of ingredients. Many a Bonairean family still manages to put fantastic meals on the table!
Supermarkets and local markets
In exploring Bonaire, I encountered a mix of large supermarkets and smaller stores. The smaller supermarkets are often Chinese-owned. As a result, to eat and drink on Bonaire, there are many non-native products for sale:
- Large supermarkets: Located around the center of Kralendijk, Playa, especially on the Kaya Industria. They offer a wide range of international products.
- Smaller Supers and the Venezuelan Fruit Market: As already cited, the Chinese smaller Supers offer many non-native products. The Venezuelan fruit market in the kiosk on the boulevard, has been reinstated after a hiatus. The boats bring delicious fresh fruit!
Eating and drinking on Bonaire, in restaurants and other eateries
There is a wide range of great dining options on Bonaire. As the population and number of tourists increases, so does the number of high-quality restaurants! There are small “snèks,” local joints where many a Bonairean drinks their cold beer later in the afternoon and enjoys local delicacies. And at the other end of the spectrum we find the top restaurants with celebrity chefs! Some examples to eat and drink according to island custom on Bonaire:
- Maiky Snack: one of the most famous local snèks, with delicious local dishes and lots of fun!
- Brass Boer: top restaurant at the Delfins Beach Resort, from star chef Jonnie Boer, known for De Librije in Zwolle.
- Kanti Awa: best known for its ice cold beer, with icicles on the bottles, the great stories of proprietor Gaston and the super location on the boulevard.
Drinking water on Bonaire
Bonaire’s drinking water is of excellent quality, even better than in any other location on our globe. Although the water from the tap is not very cold, it is very safe to drink. For a very long time, Bonaire had to make do with only rainwater and water from natural wells. In the course of the last century, however, a fresh water shortage developed. The supply of well water was not sufficient for the growing population. Since then, drinking water on the island has been extracted from seawater.
Culinary tourism and events
Culinary events are a great way to explore Bonaire’s cuisine and culture. Today there are two major, regularly recurring happenings on the island:
- Taste of Bonaire: During this event at Wilhelminaplein, visitors will have the chance to learn about food, culture, local crafts and all that Bonaire has to offer through a variety of small stalls selling local delicacies.
- Bonaire Culinair: A recurring 15-day culinary event that takes place all over the island. It is the opportunity to discover the wide variety of restaurants Bonaire has to offer.
Dietary and allergy restrictions
On our first trip to Bonaire, we were pleasantly surprised by the options available for various diets and allergy restrictions. Today, because I don’t think that existed 15 years ago, that has even been expanded to include vegan menus:
- Vegetarian and vegan options: A number of restaurants at the time had a variety of vegetarian dishes and now also vegan dishes.
- Food allergies and dietary restrictions: I noticed at the time that most eateries were well informed about food allergies and were willing to make accommodations, and today this is much more established.
A great culinary anecdote
During our first stay in Bonaire, we had the pleasure of having a special encounter with a local chef. We were sitting one day at a small but popular eatery in Playa. Delicious smells were coming from the little kitchen and we couldn’t resist taking a cheeky peek inside. To my surprise, the chef, a friendly and good-humored man, was standing in his kitchen waving a huge fish as if it were his magic wand.
He noticed my curious look and immediately invited me into the kitchen. “I see you are interested in my magic sòpi di piská!” he called out, smiling. The chef, who called himself “e bruho di laman,” revealed his family recipe for sòpi di piská with great pride and flair.
Family secret about food and drink on Bonaire
He told me that his family had kept this recipe for many generations and that he had learned it from his grandmother. According to him, the secret to the soup was the “magic of the sea” that he added to each pan of soup. “You have to talk to the fish and thank it for its contribution,” he explained while giving his fish a pat on the back.
I couldn’t contain my laughter when I saw the chef interacting with his ingredients. Despite the funny moment, I was impressed by his passion for cooking and the love he put into each dish. After tasting his sòpi di piská, I can say with certainty that there is indeed a touch of magic in this extraordinary chef’s family recipe. Eating and drinking on Bonaire never became the same again for us!
Eating and drinking on Bonaire is a unique and enriching experience that will stimulate your senses and give you a deeper understanding of the local culture and traditions. Whether you enjoy an authentic stoba in a local snèk, or a refined meal in an upscale restaurant, the flavors of Bonaire will capture your heart.