Monuments and Landmarks in Caribbean
The southern part of Bonaire is flat, arid, very lightly populated and with a rugged coastline. But it holds many interesting sights and landmarks important to Bonaire's history that can be enjoyed by following a southern loop along the coastline (we recommend renting a scooter, the most flexible option). It shouldn't take more than an hour to circle the entire loop without stopping, but all the fun IS stopping and exploring along the way. Starting by the east leg of the loop, the road goes through thorn bushes and giant cacti territory with goats roaming everywhere. It then follows Lac Bay and some mangrove areas where flamingos can often be seen, down to the beach at Sorobon, a windsurfers favourite. The rest of the leg until the southernmost point is as barren as it gets. Then start appearing the yellow rocks pointing to dive sites on the west coast. Inland, the pans are a surprising sight, especially at sunset, with their pink lakes and bright white mounds of salt. Salt harvesting has been a major industry in Bonaire for many centuries. At first, the hard work was done by slaves, and the obelisks and huts are a grim reminder of these times. The four different-coloured obelisks along the coast used to direct the ships to the proper areas for loading salt, while the tiny huts sheltered the slaves after a long day of work (it's almost impossible to imagine they crammed six of them in such a small space). And we're back to modern times at the end of the loop when the road goes by the airport and re-enters Kralendijk.
After the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Grotte de Lourdes in France in 1958, some inspired Rinconians decided to build a replica in Rincon to honour the Virgin Mary. The perfect site was found on the outskirts of the village, just where the hills start. Legend has it that after setting the cave, the place still wasn't glorious enough for its divine purposes because a giant boulder was blocking the view. After much thought and prayer, guided by a vision of one of the devotees, the villagers put the rock on fire until it became incandescent and then poured water on it. The rock broke into pieces, leaving the view unobstructed for Our Lady's enjoyment. Whether this is true or not, we're not here to say, but we can say the view over the valley is superb, especially if you climb on top of the grotto (there's a staircase behind the alter). Behind the grotto also starts a walking trail marked by pink stones, winding its way up the hill among cacti and thorn bushes. This well kept secret makes certainly one of the most enjoyable walks in all of Bonaire.
If people prone to seasickness feel a little queasy when crossing Queen Emma bridge in Willemstad, it's because it is actually floating on water. The only floating pontoon bridge in the world, Queen Emma links two of Willemstad's historic neighbourhoods (Punda and Otrobanda) and is the centre of a lot of tourists' attention. But it is really quite a show to hear the alarms go off, and see the bridge detach from Punda and be pushed aside to let ships enter the bay. A show that one would be very unlucky to miss as this happens several times a day.
When making a short list of the greatest travellers and explorers in history, one name is almost always at the top of the list; Christopher Columbus. Paying homage to the man by visiting his final resting place is almost like a rite of passage. But it's easier said than done. A little known fact is that Columbus travelled as much in death as he did in life. Originally, he was buried in Spain. However his remains were moved many times afterwards: Spain to Dominican Republic to Cuba back to Spain and back to Dominican Republic. Or at least that's the theory. Nobody is 100% sure where his remains are. But the leading candidate is the Faro a Colon (Columbus Lighthouse) in the Santo Domingo. Built to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the "discovery" of the America, the lighthouse is a beacon to travellers old and new.
If you're going to declare yourself a king, you need a palace. Sans-Souci Palace was the royal residence of King Henri I, although folks around here call him Roi Christophe. This was supposed a gem of a building; beautiful with no expense spared. Sadly, an earthquake in 1842 destroyed much of the building and it was never restored. It is hard to believe that chances are any given traveller will have the ruined palace to themselves. If it were in any other Caribbean country, it would be overrun with tour buses. Instead, San-Souci sits alone in a quiet valley. The site is an absolute must especially since it is little doubt mass tourism will come eventually.
Pigeon Island National Park lies at the northwestern tip of St. Lucia. It's actually no longer an island, as it got artificially joined with a strip of sand to the mainland in the 70s. Today, it's a natural park with some ruins dating back to the colonial times when the British controlled St. Lucia. But the main reason to come here is to walk up to the top of Fort Rodney and afterwards scale Signal Hill, for magnificent views over Rodney Bay and the north coast. Within the tiny national park there are also a nice small beach and a restaurant, also with great views.