South of Kralendijk on Bonaire, the snorkeling at 18 Palms offers some of the best reefs and marine life on the western coast of Bonaire. It is also a great beginners snorkeling dive site with easy shore access. The 18 Palms snorkeling dive site is house reef for the Plaza Resort Bonaire. This dive site has scattered reefs, rocks and sunken piers to explore spread from just north of the northern Plaza Resort property line to the southern end of the property line near the marina jetty rocks. The best snorkeling at 18 Palms is around the artificial reef in the middle of the property and also near the outher half of the partially collapsed pier. While snorkeling 18th Palm, you may encounter spotted eagle rays, southern stingrays, parrotfish, french angelfish, blue tangs, trumpetfish, spotted moray eels, porkfish and some resting tarpon.
The 18th Palm snorkeling dive site is located offshore of the Plaza Resort Bonaire beach. It is accessible from shore and also by boat at Buoy #35.
To reach the 18 Palms snorkelen dive site from Kralendijk town center, head south on J. A. Abraham Boulevard for 1.2km. Just as the road take a hard left hand turn, continue south into the parking lot. At the south end of the parking lot, there is a gate into the Plaza Resort Bonaire beach. Enter the water on the sand next to the small Plaza Resort Bonaire activity center building next to the gate.
Before snorkelen off Bonaire, it is important to remember that there have been two recent (relative to coral growth rates) storms. In 1999, Hurricane Lenny passed near the island resulting in the first big waves in over 100 years. This wave action over a 24 hour period had a severe effect on the shallow water corals on west-facing coastlines. There was significant toppling of the massive coral colonies, along with bleaching and smothering. Similarly, in 2008, Tropical Storm Omar passed near the island producing heavy wave action along west-facing coastlines. The effects of these storm, along with occasional bleaching events, have left many of the snorkeling dive sites not appearing as they had in past photos nor seeming as described in the brief locally printed snorkeling dive descriptions, which tend to be older. While snorkeling off Bonaire, you'll occasionally encounter some large, older coral formation remnamnts that give clues to the size of the past reefs. And, you may notice some small new growth occuring along the sand flats where new coral is taking hold in the cemented coral rubble, especially quick growing fire coral.
All of the offshore water of Bonaire has been long protected as part of the Bonaire National Marine Park. For several decades, the waters off Bonaire have been guarded to produce a pristine underwater environment offering a unique experience for snorkeling. With water visibility up to 100 feet, Bonaire snorkelers are treated to numerous varieties of coral and abundant marine life. The marine park has dozens of snorkeling dive sites marked by small yellow boulders along the road side and yellow or orange buoys offshore. The marine park requires all snorkelers in Bonaire waters to have an annual snorkeling license visible on their mask with the fees collected to continue protecting the waters (the fee can be paid at any dive shop). Should you happen to spot an lionfish, the Bonaire National Marine Park requests that you report any sightings of the invasive fish by calling them at (599) 717-8444.
Overall, 18 Palms is the 13th most popular snorkel dive spot of all 20 snorkeling dives in Bonaire.