Lighthouses on Bonaire

To ensure the safety and orientation of maritime traffic around Bonaire, eight strategic locations feature both monumental and modern lighthouses. Some of these lighthouses are centuries old, have been granted monument status, and are well worth a visit. Out of the eight lighthouses two belong to the category of light beacons, which do not have the form of a traditional tower. These are the Wecua lighthouse and the Klein Bonaire lighthouse.

Boka Spelonk lighthouse BonaireThe Boka Spelonk lighthouse is about 98 feet high.

Brandaris

The development of lighthouses on Bonaire all started with the Brandaris. At 241 meters, the Brandaris is the highest mountain on the diving island. In the past, the mountain was of great strategic importance. Fire and smoke signals were given from the Brandaris to the neighboring island of Curaçao whenever danger loomed. When the Dutch West India Company (WIC) ruled over Bonaire, the Brandaris was used as a lighthouse. The name Brandaris is a corruption of 'Brand daar is' (Fire there is). In the past, on Bonaire, 'making a Brandaris' meant 'night fire' and 'smoke signals'.

From Brandaris to Monumental Lighthouses

The island government of Bonaire is responsible for the management and maintenance of the lighthouses. Rijkswaterstaat (the Dutch Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management) is responsible for keeping the lights in the lighthouses burning on the diving island. In 2012, all of Bonaire's lighthouses underwent major renovations. As a result, the lighthouses have become safe again for the technicians who must perform periodic maintenance work. Moreover, they have become visually more attractive for tourists. Additionally, in 2012, five lighthouses on Bonaire were granted monument status and are now listed as monuments. These are the Willemstoren lighthouse, the Malmok lighthouse, the Seru Bentana lighthouse (Ser'i Bentana lighthouse), the Boka Spelonk lighthouse, the Fort Oranje lighthouse, and the Punt Vierkant lighthouse.

  Since Location Active Condition of maintenance
Willemstoren Lighthouse 1838 South Yes Good
Boka Spelonk Lighthouse 1910 East Yes Good
Malmok vuurtoren 1921 North No Ruin
Seru Bentana Lighthouse 1927 North Yes Good
Punt Vierkant Lighthouse 1931 West Yes Good
Fort Oranje Lighthouse 1932 West Yes Good
Wecua Lighthouse - West Yes Good
Klein Bonaire Lighthouse - West Yes Good

Willemstoren Lighthouse

A few centuries ago the atmosphere on the oceans and seas was not comparable to today's situation. During those times, pirates, robbers, and sea bandits ruled, and it was occasionally very dangerous.

Willemstoren LighthouseWillemstoren Lighthouse

Sometimes the Bonairians were 'lucky' when a ship with valuable cargo sank off the coast of the coral island. For example, in 1825, an American ship ran into trouble just off the coast and sank. The ship's cargo washed ashore on Bonaire and the inhabitants could pick up cheeses, flour, tobacco, meat, and even a piano from the beach for days. Eventually, something had to be done. In 1762 they started with a pile of stones and a fire as a primitive lighthouse. Despite this limited beacon accidents still happened too often. Therefore in 1838 the Willemstoren was built, named after King William I of the Netherlands.

King William I of the Netherlands was the first king of the Netherlands. On King William I's birthday (August 24) the lighthouse on the coral island was lit for the first time. The Willemstoren, which is shaped like a Doric column, was erected near the southern salt pans of Bonaire. This location is known as Lacre Punt or Sedusu, derived from Southeast Corner. The round cylindrical stone Willemstoren is 21 meters high and was the first lighthouse on the Caribbean island.

Next to the Willemstoren lighthouse stands the lighthouse keeper's house. Since the lighthouse is now fully automated through a satellite system there is no longer a need for a lighthouse keeper. The lighthouse keeper's house has since fallen into ruin. The lighthouse's lighting operates on solar energy.

Boka Spelonk Lighthouse

The Boka Spelonk Lighthouse is located on the east side of Bonaire. Next to the lighthouse stands the lighthouse keeper's house. The lighthouse keeper's house is no longer in use and has largely fallen into ruin.

Boka Spelonk LighthouseBoka Spelonk Lighthouse

The round red-and-white cylindrical lighthouse is over 98 feet high. The lighthouse's lighting operates on solar energy.

Punt Vierkant Lighthouse

Punt Vierkant is one of the suburbs of Kralendijk where a lighthouse is strategically situated. Initially, a wooden structure was erected in 1931. In 1941 this wooden structure was replaced by the current concrete lighthouse. The Punt Vierkant lighthouse is not open to the visiting public.

Seru Bentana Lighthouse

The Seru Bentana lighthouse is also located in the far north of the Washington Slagbaai National Park on the east side. As the name suggests the lighthouse stands on a hill. From this point you also have a magnificent view over the Washington Slagbaai National Park. However, you cannot enter the lighthouse itself. On the night of October 20 to 21, 1954, disaster struck. The lighthouse, which at that time had a gasoline-powered lamp, was struck by lightning.

Seru Bentana LighthouseSeru Bentana Lighthouse.

During the fire that followed one lighthouse keeper died and another was injured. In 1999, the lighthouse was named after the deceased lighthouse keeper: Ricardo Winklar Lighthouse.

Malmok Lighthouse

The Malmok lighthouse is located in the far north of the Washington Slagbaai National Park on the east side. Next to the Malmok lighthouse stands a research building. As a result of World War I, the construction of these structures was never completed. On June 14, 1921, the light of the Malmok lighthouse was turned on for the first time. However, because the location was not ideal for a lighthouse the Malmok lighthouse remained operational for only six years. It was decided to build a new lighthouse a short distance away, the Seru Bentana Lighthouse. Both the lighthouse and the research building have fallen into ruins. The lighthouse ruin is about 26 feet high.

Fort Oranje Lighthouse

Fort Oranje is the first stone structure built on Bonaire, dating back to 1639. Fort Oranje is named after the Dutch royal family, making it one of the ten forts worldwide named after the House of Oranje. The fort on Sint Eustatius also bears this name.

Fort Oranje LighthouseFort Oranje Lighthouse

The fort is encircled by walls that are approximately 13 feet high and is equipped with 4 cannons. This armament was installed by the English occupiers in 1811 on a platform behind the fort walls to better equip the fortification against enemy powers. However, no gunpowder smoke has ever risen from Fort Oranje; the cannons have always remained silent. The fort was equipped with a wooden lighthouse in 1886. This was replaced in 1932 by the current 33 feet high stone lighthouse. Until 1837, Fort Oranje was the residence of the commander. Over time the fort has served as a storage place for goods, a prison, a police station, a fire station, and a museum (Museum Fort Oranje).

Wecua Lighthouse

The Wecua lighthouse is located in the north of Bonaire on the west coast. The lighthouse's lighting operates on solar energy. The Wecua lighthouse is not accessible to the public and belongs to the category of a beacon light.

Klein Bonaire Lighthouse

Located 2625 feet off the coast of Kralendijk lies the beautiful uninhabited coral island of Klein Bonaire. Here too, on the west side, stands a lighthouse that is also not accessible to the public. The Klein Bonaire lighthouse belongs to the category of a beacon light.

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