Washington Slagbaai National Park: 9 Things to Know Before You Go 

by | Last updated Feb 23, 2024 | Bonaire

One of the top things to do in Bonaire is to explore the Washington Slagbaai National Park. Established in 1969, this wild and rugged nature sanctuary offers a fantastic day trip. There’s plenty to do from snorkeling with fish soup, hiking Bonaire’s highest peak, and chilling with flamingoes.

Uncover the 9 essential things to know for planning an unforgettable day!

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01- You’re Gonna Need a 4WD

Our small SUV we drove through Washington Slagbaai National Park

Our small white SUV we drove through Washington Slagbaai National Park

Expect very bumpy dirt roads with baby moguls. Driving the one-way winding road through the park is an adventure in itself.

You need a 4×4 vehicle!

We rented a small SUV with AB Car Rental, which handled the windy ride very well. Make sure your tank is at least half full. You are out there!

FYI, if there is heavy rainfall, Stichting Nationale Parken Bonaire (STINAPA) will close the park due to road erosion. Always check the weather and the official website to ensure they are open!

02- Long Route vs. Short Route

Washington Slagbaai National Park in Bonaire

Map of Washington Slagbaai National Park in Bonaire

Before you drive through the park, you need to determine if you are going to drive the LONG route or the SHORT route.

There’s no way you can do both in one day.

Long route vs short route at Washington Slagbaai National Park

Long route vs. short route 

Once you drive past the Visitor Center, you’ll reach a sign where you have to choose left (short route) or right (long route).

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LONG ROUTE

The long route takes 2.5 hours and winds around the northern periphery of the park before it eventually joins up with the short route.

There are a few more scenic stops along this route. Make sure to pick up a map before your drive, so you can read about all the sites along the way.

Let’s go through those points of interest, and you can decide if the long route is worth it.

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Playa Chikitu

Playa Chikitu at Washington Slagbaai National Park

Playa Chikitu at Washington Slagbaai National Park

Playa Chikitu is a beautiful white sand beach with STRONG wave action.

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Seru Grandi

Seru Grandi at Washington Slagbaai National Park

Seru Grandi at Washington Slagbaai National Park

Seru Grandi is a 2-level limestone terrace, which contains fossil remnants of coral reefs. Nearby you can combine it with a stop at the Suplado Blowhole.

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Additional Stops

Another stop to check out is Boca Kokolishi, which is a pretty beach dotted with Kokolishi shells and calm half-moon pools that are sheltered from the crashing ocean. 

Although we didn’t visit, the park staff said they opened up Boka Katuna to snorkelers. Only attempt snorkeling here when the sea is calm. If you have snorkeled here, I would love to get your feedback! Let me know in the comments below.

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SHORT ROUTE

The short route takes 1.5 hours and cuts through the middle of the park.

Remember the long route takes 2.5 hours, something to consider if you are short on time.

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Mt. Brandaris

One of the highlights that can only be accessed by the short route is the famous 1.5-hour hike to Bonaire’s highest peak, Mt. Brandaris.

We have not had the chance to do this hike yet, but I heard it involves a steep rock scramble. Do not attempt it if there’s a little rain because the rocks get slippery. Supposedly, you can see all the way to Curacao on a really clear day. 

Hike it early because there’s little shade.

Short and long route meet up at Washington Slagbaai National Park

Short and long route meet up at Washington Slagbaai National Park

Shortly after the trailhead to the hike, the long and short routes meet up and JOIN TOGETHER to take you to the top snorkeling spots (Playa Funchi, Wayaka, Boca Slagbaai).

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OUR PICK: SHORT ROUTE

All the guide books say to take the long route because of the extra points of interest.

Meh.

The snorkeling and the hiking are why you go to the park.

Pick the short route. Otherwise, the drive is going to feel like the Road to Hana (if you have been to Maui, you’ll know what I mean!). 

03- Snorkel with Fish Soup

Massive school of blue tang at Wayaka 2 in Bonaire

Snorkeling with fish soup at Wayaka 2 in Washington Slagbaai National Park

Some of the top snorkeling sites in Bonaire exist in Washington Slagbaai National Park. These spots can be accessed by the long and short routes, which include Playa Funchi, Wayaka 2, and Boca Slagbaai. 

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PLAYA FUNCHI

Snorkeling at Playa Funchi at Washington Slagbaai National Park in Bonaire

Snorkeling with parrotfish at Playa Funchi at Washington Slagbaai National Park in Bonaire

Do not miss Playa Funchi if the water is calm.

It’s a deeper snorkel, but we still saw plenty of blue tang, French angelfish, parrotfish, and an eel.

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WAYAKA 2

Gorgeous parrotfish at Wayaka 2 in Bonaire

Gorgeous parrotfish at Wayaka 2 in Bonaire

One of the top snorkeling beaches in Bonaire is Wayaka 2. It will be busy because everyone knows it is incredible, but it’s worth it.

You have to navigate some stone steps down, but the entry is pretty easy. The beach is super soft. It’s shallow, perfect for snorkeling!

Snorkel north and south from the entry point. We snorkeled with big schools of blue tang and the usual parrotfish. My husband even found a batwing coral crab.

Check out my Wayaka 2 Snorkeling Guide for more details.

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BOCA SLAGBAAI

Swimming with fish soup at Boca Slagbaai

Swimming with fish soup at Boca Slagbaai

I’m surprised I never see other snorkelers at this site. We love Boca Slagbaai and enjoy snorkeling along the rocks to the right of the beach as you are facing the water.

The first time we went we saw several massive Queen parrotfish and a sharptail eel.  

On the second snorkel trip, we saw both a chainlink and a spotted moray eel wrapped up in the same coral, parrotfish, and one big porcupinefish.

04- Flamingos!

Flamingoes at Washington Slagbaai National Park

Flamingos at Washington Slagbaai National Park

There are four salinas (salt lakes) you will likely see flamingoes in the park: Salina Matijas, Salina Bartol, Salina Funchi, and Salina Goto.

They really are that beautiful vibrant pink you see in the photos!

Flamingos get their color from eating brine shrimp and algae. It’s the algae that contains carotenoid pigment, which turns those feathers pink. You are what you eat, literally, if you are a flamingo.

I discovered flamingos are super skittish. Every time I got close, they quickly alerted the others and moved away. The photo above is about as close as I could get.

05- Iguanas Can Be Aggressive

Iguana saying hello at Playa Funchi Washington Slagbaai National Park

Iguana saying hello at Playa Funchi in Washington Slagbaai National Park

Iguanas are all over the park, and they are not shy!

While we were getting ready to snorkel at Playa Funchi, I placed my snorkeling gear on the bench under the palapa.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw an iguana watching me from the distance.

Before I knew it, the iguana jumped onto the table and proceeded to lick my snorkel. They have some attitude! Luckily, they do listen when you shoo them away.

06- Park Does Close

Washington Slagbaai National Park

Entrance to Washington Slagbaai National Park

The park opens at 8 am and closes at 5 pm. You cannot enter past 2:30 pm, so come early!

Don’t underestimate the time it takes to drive through the park.

You need to leave Wayaka 2 by 3:30 pm and Boca Slagbaai by 4 pm to exit the park in time. Remember the speed limit is only 25 km (15 mi)/hr, and you have a very bumpy road to navigate.

07- Make It Easy and Take a Tour

Stairs leading down to Wayaka 2

One of the stops on the Park Tour: Wayaka

My advice is to rent a car and do your own DIY adventure.

But if you don’t have a car, Adventure Makers Bonaire operates a highly-rated small group 7-hour tour throughout the park.

Lunch, snacks, and drinks are included!

08- It’s Going to Cost You

Driving the bumpy roads in Washington Slagbaai National Park

Driving through Washington Slagbaai National Park

STINAPA manages the Bonaire National Marine Park and the Washington Slagbaai National Park.

The funding for the maintenance of these parks comes from the visitors and costs $40 a person.

That nature fee gives you access to all the snorkeling and dive sites and the Washington Slagabaai National Park for one year.

We purchased our tags ahead of time and had them ready to go before entering the park. Also, don’t forget to bring your ID. You’ll need that too.

09- Include These Extra Fun Stops

Enjoying a raisin roll from Real Dutch Bakery at Boca Slagbaai in Bonaire

Enjoying a raisin roll from Real Dutch Bakery at Boca Slagbaai in Bonaire

A day at the park is going to be a long day. Make sure to pack plenty of food and water.

One fun stop along the way to the park is the Real Dutch Bakery. They sell the softest, most delicious bread.

We picked up some cheese & onion bread and a raisin roll. A little savory and a little sweet. These two choices were the perfect snacks after our snorkeling adventures.

We didn’t do this, but I heard you can order your bakery items the night before online. Trust me, the good stuff goes quickly, so go early.

Mango ice cream from John's Homemade Ice Cream

Mango ice cream from John’s Homemade Ice Cream

After the park, fun stop #2 is John’s Homemade Ice Cream in Rincon.

I got mango, and my husband got rum raisin. Super creamy and a great way to end a fun day at Washington Slagbaai National Park.

Washington Slagbaai National Park Itinerary 

Wayaka 2 Beach

Wayaka 2 Beach in Washington Slagbaai National Park 

Here is our Washington Slagbaai National Park itinerary:

 

  • 9:30 AM: Pick up snacks at Real Dutch Bakery
  • 10 AM: Arrive at Washington Slagbaai National Park
  • 11 AM: Snorkeling Spot #1: Playa Funchi
  • 12 PM: Snorkeling Spot #2: Wayaka 2 + Snack #1 (cheese & onion bread)
  • 1 PM: Snorkeling Spot #3: Boca Slagbaai + Snack #2 (raisin roll)
  • 2 PM: Leave Boca Slagbaai
  • 2:45 PM: Exit the park
  • 3 PM: Cocktails at Cadushy Distillery
  • 3:30 PM: Ice cream at John’s Homemade Ice Cream

Final Thoughts

Washington Slagbaai National Park is an incredible place to explore if you love snorkeling, hiking, and animals! Opt for a sunny day and plan in advance whether you’ll take the long or short route. Pre-planning your stops makes for a smooth day. It’s a long day, but we always love our visits to the park when we come to Bonaire.

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Questions about our trip to Washington Slagbaai National Park?

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