Aruba vs. Bonaire: Which Island is Right for You? 

by | Last updated Apr 7, 2024 | Aruba, Bonaire

I love doing comparison articles! St. John vs. St. Croix? Sint Maarten vs. Saint Martin? The more you travel, the more you start to compare places. After going to Aruba and Bonaire several times, I’m excited to share my next battle of the islands … Aruba vs. Bonaire? Which island is better for you? Let’s walk through the 7 factors to help you decide. 

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01- Beaches 

Palm Beach Aruba

Palm Beach, Aruba 

ARUBA: If you love super soft, white powdery sand and clear turquoise water, Aruba is your happy place. After all, it’s called One Happy Island for a reason.

It boasts some of the best beaches in the world. In fact, Aruba’s Eagle Beach was rated #2 in the Top 10 Beaches in the World for 2023 by TripAdvisor!

Calm waters at Te Amo with Stoked Food Truck in the background

Te Amo Beach in Bonaire 

BONAIRE: Bonaire is not known for great beaches, but there are a few gems worth exploring including Te Amo and No Name Beach.

Don’t miss my article on the 9 Best Beaches in Bonaire to discover more of these gems.

WINNER OF BEST BEACHES: ARUBA

02- Restaurants

Acai bowl at Eduardo’s Beach Shack

Acai bowl at Eduardo’s Beach Shack in Aruba

ARUBA: Aruba has a wide variety of dining options including Lebanese, BBQ, Italian, Japanese, and Mexican.

Options range from casual like Eduardo’s Beach Shack (my #1 favorite restaurant in Aruba!) to an omakase-style tasting menu at the 14-seater Ever Restaurant (which was rated one of the 50 Best Restaurants in the Caribbean 2024 by the Caribbean Journal!).

Fish platter at Kite City in Bonaire

Fish platter at Kite City in Bonaire

BONAIRE: Bonaire also holds its own in the culinary scene. It was named a Culinary Capital by the World Food Travel Association in 2022.

It has everything from food trucks (do NOT miss the delicious fish platter at Kite City food truck!) to surprise tasting menus at one of the most intimate restaurants we have dined at (see my full review on CHEFS).

In fact, CHEFS and Brass Boer also made the list (in the top 5) of the 50 Best Restaurants in the Caribbean 2024! Who would have thought the small island of Bonaire is fast becoming a foodie destination?

This may be controversial to say, but I feel Bonaire has the edge over Aruba in the foodie category.

WINNER OF BEST DINING: BONAIRE

03- Accommodations 

The Beautiful pool at the Boardwalk Boutique Hotel Aruba

Enjoying the community pool at Boardwalk Boutique Hotel in Aruba

ARUBA: Aruba has a fantastic variety of accommodation options across all budgets including:

→   High-rise hotels with big names like Hilton and Marriott

→   Cute boutique hotels (our favorite is Boardwalk Boutique Hotel!)

→   Overwater villas (Yep, overwater villas! They don’t just exist in Bora Bora and the Maldives!)

→   Condos

→   Vrbo vacation rentals

Soaking in the magnesium plunge pool at our cottage at the Bamboo Bonaire Boutique Resort

Soaking in the magnesium plunge pool at our cottage at the Bamboo Bonaire Boutique Resort

BONAIRE: Bonaire has a decent assortment of lodging options but not as varied as Aruba. Options include:

→   Dive resorts

→   Handful of boutique hotels: Belnem House Bonaire, SENSES Boutique Hotel, and Bamboo Bonaire Boutique Resort (where we stayed)

→   Lots of Vrbo vacation rentals from simple to baller (check out my curated list of some of the best Bonaire properties)

WINNER OF BEST LODGING: ARUBA

04- Ambiance 

ARUBA: Aruba has more of an Americanized, touristy feel (Aruba has McDonald’s, Burger King, etc).

There’s plenty of shopping, casinos, and nightlife, especially in the Palm Beach area.

BONAIRE: Bonaire has more of a European feel and is comprised of a mix of locals and European Dutch.

There’s limited nightlife in Bonaire. The island is really geared around divers and snorkelers.   

I much prefer the ambiance on the island of Bonaire over Aruba just like we prefer the vibe on Saint Martin over Sint Maarten.

However, if I was going with my family, I would prefer Aruba. Different kind of fun.

WINNER OF BEST AMBIANCE: TIE 

05- Snorkeling 

Turtle at Tres Trapi in Aruba

Turtle at Tres Trapi in Aruba

My husband and I are BIG snorkelers and purposely seek out destinations around the world for fantastic snorkeling.

We have done numerous “snorkations” in the Caribbean including Aruba and Bonaire.

ARUBA: I had low expectations for the snorkeling in Aruba, but I was pleasantly SURPRISED. There are a few gems worth seeking out including Mangel Halto and Boca Catalina, which are all detailed in my Aruba Snorkeling Guide.

Porcupinefish at Red Beryl in Bonaire

Porcupinefish at Red Beryl in Bonaire

BONAIRE: With over 60+ dive sites, Bonaire has plenty of fantastic snorkeling sites to check out. One huge perk is you do not have to pay for a boat for access (besides Klein Bonaire). All can be accessed by shore!

And the snorkeling is incredible!

We saw eagle rays, a variety of eels, turtles, barracuda, an octopus, crabs and shrimp, and almost every Caribbean fish imaginable.

If you are an avid snorkeler, do not miss my ULTIMATE BONAIRE SNORKELING GUIDE where I review and rate our favorite 14 snorkeling sites.

WINNER OF BEST SNORKELING: BONAIRE

06- Cost 

ARUBA: Although you can find some good value condo-style properties in Aruba, overall Bonaire offers accommodations at a cheaper price point.

For example, when we stayed at the adorable Boardwalk Boutique Hotel in Aruba it was around $500/night for the Deluxe Coco Casita with a kitchenette and outdoor shower.

BONAIRE: The cost per night at our stay at the Bamboo Bonaire Boutique Resort was around $250/night for a room with a private plunge pool. Even the newer boutique hotels like Belnem House Bonaire are around $250/night.

WINNER OF COST: BONAIRE

07- Activities

Entrance to Tres Trapi in Aruba

Tres Trapi in Aruba 

ARUBA: Aruba has lots of fun activities to participate in. Here are some highlights to give you a taste of what the island has to offer:

→   Beach hop on some of the best beaches in the world (don’t miss my comparison on Palm Beach vs. Eagle Beach).

→   Swim in the famous Natural Pool (which kinda reminds me of Annaly Bay in St. Croix USVI).

→   Hike the Hooiberg Trail in the beautiful Arikok National Park.

→   Tour the Aruba Aloe Museum and Factory to learn how aloe is made and pick up some great skincare products.

→   Stroll through the colorful capital city of Aruba, Oranjestad.

→   Learn to windsurf!

→   Take an ATV and discover Aruba’s Secret Beach.

Picnic area at Washington Slagbaai National Park in Bonaire

Boca Slagbaai Beach at Washington Slagbaai National Park in Bonaire

BONAIRE: Bonaire also offers plenty of fun things to keep you busy. Here are some of my favorite things to do:

→   Of course, snorkel! And if you are diver, you’ll be in heaven with over 60+ dive sites to explore.

→   Enjoy a full day trip at the beautiful, rugged Washington Slagbaai National Park.

→   Water taxi to a stunning uninhabited island.

→   Windsurf at the famous Lac Bay.

→   Experience the wind in your face while steering a blokart.

→   Drink a cactus.

→   Kayak through the mangroves.

All the details can be found in my Top 11 Things to Do in Bonaire.

WINNER OF BEST ACTIVITIES: TIE

Final Thoughts

Both Aruba and Bonaire are incredible Caribbean islands to visit. Which you prefer all depends on your vacation style.

If you love world-class beaches, upscale accommodations, great nightlife, and plenty of fantastic outdoor activities that appeal to the whole family, go to Aruba.

And if you love world-class snorkeling and diving, a laid-back DIY vibe, numerous fun outdoor activities, and an amazing foodie scene, go to Bonaire.

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