The capital of Bonaire is “Kralendijk” and this town has about 12.500 inhabitants. Kralendijk was founded in the beginning of the 19th century. It is a quiet town with some historic buildings, such as Fort Orange. The Fort dates from 1796. All sights are within walking distance of each other. Kralendijk is about 10 minutes drive from Flamingo Airport Bonaire.
Kralendijk has a center and a shopping boulevard and there are also some excellent restaurants. From the restaurants on the boulevard you’ll have a wonderful view of the ocean. In the heart of Kralendijk you will find the museum “Bonaire” which has a large shell collection.
The capital of Bonaire only has low-rise buildings where the buildings are no more than three floors high. Most houses have pastel shades where flamingo pink is obviously a favorite.
The Dutch colonial times have left a clear mark on the architecture of Kralendijk. The town is full of ocher-colored beautiful monumental buildings.
Plaza Wilhelmina (Wilhelminapark / Wilhelminaplein) is the center of Kralendijk. On the fence of the adjacent Protestant church you can see the old Dutch name of the square named Wilhelminaplein. In Plaza Wilhelmina there are several benches where you can sit comfortably. In addition, the park is blessed with tall trees that provide a pleasant shade during the hottest times of the day. The park is the place where the Bonairians like to meet each other.
At the square is also an obelisk in memory of the Dutch past. On 26 July 1634, Johannes van Walbeeck first set foot on Bonairian soil. The West India Company (WIC) was looking for salt pans to harvest salt and found it on Bonaire. There is also another monument on the Plaza Wilhelmina in honor of 34 fallen Bonairians during the Second World War. It is an impressive monument by a modern artist.
The square is also the place where all the children of Bonaire gather when Sinterklaas visits the diving island in November. The Sinterklaas celebration is also an extremely important party on Bonaire. Sinterklaas enters the port of Kralendijk with a tugboat. Finally, at the Plaza Wilhelmina, there is a small music chapel where local bands of music regularly present themselves.
Not only Queen Wilhelmina is honored by the Plaza Wilhelmina. In Kralendijk is also the Julianaplein in honor of Queen Juliana. In the middle of Julianaplein is a beautiful water fountain.
The highest building in Kralendijk and Bonaire is the administrative office. This building is eight meters high. Once a law was made that no building on Bonaire should be higher than the administrative building. Unfortunately, it has recently been discovered that this law has never been ratified. Now it is feared that there will also be higher buildings than eight meters on Bonaire in the future.
Kralendijk was created in the 19th century around Fort Oranje and the natural harbor on the mid-western side of Bonaire.
Kralendijk is a corruption of 'koral dike' referring to the 'dike of coral stone' or 'coral bottom' on which the town is built. The name Kralendijk came around 1835. The inhabitants of Bonaire prefer speaking of 'Playa', Papiamentu for beach, when they talk about their capital. Until 1868 Bonaire was owned by the government and it was forbidden to settle on the coral island. From 1868, free establishment on Bonaire was allowed and Kralendijk growed into the town that it is now.
The Kaya Grandi and the Kaya J.N.E. Craane are the two main streets of the picturesque town. The first one is the main shopping street and the second is the pleasant promenade (boulevard) on the waterfront of Kralendijk with several restaurants, cafes and bars. The Kaya Grandi and the Kaya J.N.E. Craane runs almost parallel to each other and on the coastline of the Caribbean Sea on the west side of Bonaire.
The Kaya Grandi (large street / wide street) is supposedly the shopping street / main street of Kralendijk and runs from south to north. The monumental buildings on the Kaya Grandi date from the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. At that time people lived upstairs and the shops were downstairs.
At the Kaya Grandi are restaurants, ice cream parlors, cafes, (dive) shops, boutiques, hair salons, banks and shopping malls. The main post office, the pharmacy and the Bonaire Tourist Office can also be found on this street in Kralendijk. When the cruise ships call Kralendijk, there are a lot of of cruise tourists at Kaya Grandi who wants to buy souvenirs. This is a spectacular scene that you can watch for hours.
Along the waterfront of Kralendijk there is a beautiful promenade that is richly filled with nice restaurants and cafes. From these establishments you have a beautiful view of Klein Bonaire and you can witness a colorful sunset while enjoying a snack and drink. During sultry summer evenings it is recommended to walk along this water promenade. It gives a magnificent view over the island's harbor. A port that is filled with the expensive 'yachts' of the 'rich and famous', but also with impressive large cruise ships.
The pier along the waterfront is now made of concrete. In 1923, a pier was constructed for the first time in Kralendijk. This pier was made of wood and was called Ro-Ro Pier. At this pier a ship from Curaçao was welcomed for the first time with a football team. The wooden pier was eventually replaced in the seventies of the last century by the current concrete pier because the Dutch diving island was confronted with heavy storms a few times. A concrete pier provides better protection against possible natural violence.
Originally Bonaire consisted of six villages: Antriol, Nikiboko, North Saliña, Playa, Tera Cora and Rincon. The villages of Antriol, Nikiboko, North Saliña, Playa, Tera Cora have grown during the years and they now form the five neighborhoods of Kralendijk. Rincon is a bit further north and has remained a separate village. Every district of Kralendijk is built up from different neighborhoods. In total, the five districts of the capital of Bonaire are divided into nineteen different neighborhoods.
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