I know of no island nature reserve that is as wild and wonderful as the Washington-Slagbaai National Park in Bonaire.
As you drive through the park’s thick forest of prickly and tall Kadushi cacti, you may see exotic birds perched atop the stalks or flying overhead and thousands of lizards basking in the sun on the one-way dirt road.
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You’ll also get to see hundreds of pink American Flamingos float peacefully on the water or duck their heads below the surface to feast on the brine shrimp and algae that give them their rosy hue as they age.
Beyond the nature and birdwatching opportunities, Washington-Slagbaai National Park boasts hidden bays, geological mountains and caves, pristine beaches, and prized snorkeling and diving sites.
The only possible downside to the park is that is so big that one trip won’t suffice! That’s why I’ve made this guide so you can make the most of your visit.
Read more below to discover all the treasures that lie protected within the Washington-Slagbaai National Park—established in 1969 (the first nature reserve in the Dutch Antilles)! 🇧🇶
The Complete Guide: Washington Slagbaai National Park
What to Know Before You Go
🎫 Entry into Bonaire’s national park costs $45 USD. Your STINAPA nature tag (for diving and park access) provides free entry to the park (bring your ID).
🛻 It’s wise to rent a 4×4 or high-clearance vehicle because the road is rough, muddy, and rocky. (And make sure you have at least a half tank of gas!)
💦 Carry at least one gallon of water per person!
🚁 No drones allowed.
🍎 Pack earth-friendly snacks or a picnic lunch.
🌿 No facilities (e.g. food, water, etc) are available for purchase inside the park.
⏰ Park hours are 8 AM to 5 PM. Last entry is 2:30 PM.
🌵 It takes 1.5 hours to drive the short route and 2.5 hours to drive the long route (not including time to visit the park).
☀️ Use reef-friendly sunscreen and wear a hat and sunglasses!
Washington Slagbaai National Park Map
You will be able to pick up a map/park brochure upon entry into the park, but here is a preview so you can plan your route in advance!
As you can see, the long route is indicated by the thick yellow line and skirts the edge of the park. This is the most popular route to take if you’re visiting Washington Slagbaai in just one day.
Note that you cannot turn around and go back in case you missed something.
Things to See & Do in Washington Slagbaai National Park
Hike Mount Brandaris
Mount Brandaris is Bonaire Island’s tallest peak, standing at 790 ft (241 m) above sea level. The climb to the top is definitely worthy of a bucket list checkmark!
On this hike, you will be handsomely rewarded with panoramic views over the Washington Slagbaai National Park and the entire island of Bonaire. On a clear day, you can also see Curaçao and the coast of Venezuela.
Here is what to know before setting out on this underrated hike:
- ⏰ Be ready at the park entrance at 8 AM to have ample time to hike in the morning.
- 🛻 Rent a 4×4/high-clearance vehicle and take the park’s short route to reach the trailhead.
- 🥾 The hike is moderately difficult, with a steep rocky scramble, especially near the top. Plan for at least one hour (up) and 45 minutes (down).
- 💧 Pack at least one gallon of water per person!
- ☀️ Don’t forget to wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses.
We saved hiking to the top of Mount Brandaris for our last day in Bonaire and the experience ended up becoming the highlight of our trip!
⛰ For more trail details and photos, read my guide to hiking Brandaris on Bonaire!
See the Flamingos at Saliña Goto
Washington Slagbaai Park is one of the best places to see flamingos in the wild on the island. There’s no doubt you will see hundreds during your drive through the park!
Saliña Matijs, Bartol, and Slagbaai are all prime locations to spot these white and pink birds. You may also see flamingos on your way to the park if you’re coming from 1000 Steps, at Goto Lake (or Gotomeer).
Lounge at Boka Kokolishi
Kokolishi Bay is a hidden slice of paradise on the northern side of the park. It has a beautiful beach surrounded by fossilized coral cliffs.
Unlike Playa Chikitu, the beach is sheltered from the strong winds, allowing swimmers to wade in and lounge in the bay’s half-moon pools.
Snorkel at Wayaka II
Wayaka 1, 2, and 3 are all popular snorkel spots in Washington Slagbaai Park, but site number 2 is particularly beautiful. Expect to see plenty of colorful parrotfish!
Cliff Jump at Boka Slagbaai
Boka Slagbaai has one of the prettiest beaches, thanks to its striking yellow building—the island’s old port and storage house for salt and goat meat—which contrasts beautifully with the bay’s turquoise-blue water.
While you’re here, you can observe flamingos in the lagoon behind the bay (Saliña Slagbaai), have a picnic under the shady shelter, and snorkel in the coral garden.
And don’t miss out on the chance to go cliff-jumping off the coral chunk of rock jutting out over the water! It might not look that high until you get up there and it’s your turn to jump!
Visit the Park Museum
The on-site museum located at the entrance of the park is a great place to visit on your way out of the park. I say on the way out because you should start the day inside the park as early as possible (8 am).
The museum details more about the history and geology of the park and island; features exhibits of the animal and bird species found inside the park and of the flora and fauna of Bonaire; plus a “save our sharks” project!
Lastly, before you leave the park, don’t forget to walk over to view the reconstructed bones of a baby whale that was found washed up on a beach in Bonaire.
More Things to Do in Washington Slagbaai Park
- Malmok Ruins — See the history and geology of the Malmok site, with Amerindian camps from AD 800 to shipwrecks to the Malmok Lighthouse ruins.
- Diving — There are at least seven diving and snorkeling sites inside Washington Slagbaai Park. Look for the yellow stones indicating the location of the dive/snorkel site!
- Birdwatching — There are well over 100 exotic bird species that call the park home. You can see Parrots, Parakeets, Tropical Mockingbirds, Bananaquits, Eared Dove, and many more. Pos Mangel and Put Bronswinkel are two idyllic birdwatching spots.
- Mountain biking, hiking, and walking trails — Between Brandaris and the Kasikunda hiking trail, there is plenty of opportunity to explore on your own two feet.
- Suplado Blow Hole — This blow hole is a marvel to witness, but the wave and wind conditions need to be just right!
Which Is Better? The Short VS the Long Route
You won’t be able to see and do it all in just one day! It would be impossible not only because the park is huge and there is so much to see, but because the road is one-way only and you need to choose to do either the short route vs the long route.
If you decide to take the long route, you will get the chance to stop at:
- Playa Chikitu / Saliña Matijs
- Suplado Blow Hole
- Boka Kokolishi
- Dive sites Boka Bartol, Boka Katuna, Playa Bengé
- Pos Mangel and Saliña Bartol
- A handful of the mountains and geological formations at Seru Mei Mei and Seru Bentana
- Plus all the sites located after the two roads convene as one again (e.g. Wayaka 1, 2 & 3, Boka Slagbaai)
If you take the short route, you will pass:
- Mount Brandaris (and the trailhead)
- Put Bronswinkel
Really, the only highlight of taking the short route is if you wish to go birdwatching at that particular freshwater lake or hike up Mount Brandaris.
We visited the park on two trips so we had the chance to do both!
If you absolutely have just one day to visit the park, the long route is the most popular choice. But then again, one of the highlights of our trip was reaching that amazing panoramic view from atop Brandaris!
Last Tips for Planning Your Visit to Washington-Slagbaai Park
Don’t underestimate how large the park is, or how long it takes to get through it! Here are some final reminders to help you plan your trip.
Entry to Washington Slagbaai National Park costs $45. If you’ve already paid your STINAPA nature fee to go diving and have park access, then just show your QR code and ID to enter.
If you’ve paid a $25 nature fee (snorkeling around Bonaire only) or a $20 fee (park access only, no water access), you just pay the difference at the gate. In sum, it’s best to just pay the $45 and have access to everything!
Always consider your impact when visiting natural spaces such as Washington Slagbaai Park, or wherever you go! Of course, never feed, hurt, touch, remove, or disturb any of the plant or animal life. No drones allowed. Pack out all trash you pack in! There are restrooms at the entrance to the park and at Boka Slagbaai.
Read more about sustainability and ecotourism on Bonaire 🌿
What to Pack
Since there are no facilities in the park, you need to come prepared for an all-day adventure. That means packing and wearing reef-safe sunscreen, a sunhat, and sunglasses, plus plenty of water and snacks.
Time to Visit
Remember, it takes 1.5 hours to drive the short route and 2.5 hours to drive the long route (not including time to visit, hike, snorkel, dive, etc). For that reason, new visitors are not allowed past 2:30 pm.
Keep a watch (pun intended) on the time, since you’ll need to leave Wayaka by 3:30 pm and Boka Slagbaai by 4:00 pm in order to have enough time to leave the park by 5:00 pm. You should factor in time to visit the museum on your way out as well.
So, are you ready to visit Washington Slagbaai National Park? Without a doubt, it’s one of the best things to do on Bonaire Island, so don’t miss out!
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