Top 10 things to do in Caribbean Netherlands

Caribbean Netherlands


Caribbean Netherlands is a country.

The Caribbean Netherlands are the three special municipalities of the Netherlands that are located in the Caribbean Sea. They consist of the islands of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba, although the term "Caribbean Netherlands" is sometimes used to refer to all of the islands in the Dutch Caribbean. In legislation, the three islands are also known as the BES islands . The islands are currently classified as public bodies in the Netherlands and as overseas countries and territories of the European Union; thus, EU law does not automatically apply.

Bonaire is one of the Leeward Antilles and is located close to the coast of Venezuela. Sint Eustatius and Saba are in the Lesser Antilles group and are located south of Sint Maarten and northwest of Saint Kitts and Nevis.

Legal status

The three islands gained their current status following the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles on 10 October 2010. At the same time, the islands of Curaçao and Sint Maarten became autonomous countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The island of Aruba is also a country of the Kingdom located in the Caribbean. The term "Dutch Caribbean" may refer to the three special municipalities , but may also refer to all of the Caribbean islands within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The population of the BES islands is 21,000. Their total area is 328 square kilometres .


The special municipalities carry many of the functions normally performed by Dutch municipalities. The executive power rests with the Governing Council headed by a Lieutenant governor. The main democratic body is the island council. Dutch citizens of these three islands are entitled to vote in Dutch national and in European elections.

Officially the islands are classed in Dutch law as being and not . Unlike normal municipalities, they do not form part of a Dutch province and the powers normally exercised by provincial councils within municipalities are divided between the island governments themselves and the central government by means of the National Office for the Caribbean Netherlands. For this reason, they are called "special" municipalities.

For many Dutch laws there is a special BES version. For example, social security is not on the same level as it is in the European Netherlands.

National Office

The National Office for the Caribbean Netherlands is responsible for taxation, policing, immigration, transport infrastructure, health, education, and social security in the islands and provides these services on behalf of the Government of the Netherlands. This agency was established as the Regional Service Center in 2008 and became the National Office for the Caribbean Netherlands on 1 September 2010. The current director is Sybren van Dam. The Representative for the public bodies of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba represents the Government of the Netherlands on the islands and also performs tasks similar to a King's Commissioner. The current representative is Wilbert Stolte.

Relationship with the European Union

The islands do not form part of the European Union and instead constitute "overseas countries and territories" of the Union, to which special provisions apply. The Lisbon Treaty introduced a procedure where the European Council may change the status of an overseas territory of Denmark, France, or the Netherlands regarding the application of the EU treaties to that territory. In June 2008, the Dutch government published a survey of the legal and economic impacts by a switched status from OCT to OMR. The position of the islands will be reviewed after a five-year transitional period, which began with the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles in October 2010. The review will be conducted as part of the planned review of the Dutch "Act for the Public bodies Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba" , where the islands have been granted the option to become an Outermost region - and thus a direct part of the European Union.


The Caribbean Netherlands form part of the Lesser Antilles. Within this island group,

  • Bonaire is part of the ABC islands within the Leeward Antilles island chain off the Venezuelan coast. The Leeward Antilles have a mixed volcanic and coral origin.
  • Saba and Sint Eustatius are part of the SSS islands. They are located east of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Although in the English language they are considered part of the Leeward Islands, French, Spanish, Dutch and the English spoken locally consider them part of the Windward Islands. The Windward Islands are all of volcanic origin and hilly, leaving little ground suitable for agriculture. The highest point is Mount Scenery, 887 metres , on Saba .

  • Map showing Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba within the former Netherlands Antilles.

  • Relative distance between mainland Netherlands in Europe and the Caribbean Netherlands.

  • The Caribbean BES islands are subdivisions of the country of the Netherlands and are therefore referred to as the Caribbean Netherlands.


The islands of the Caribbean Netherlands enjoy a tropical climate with warm weather all year round. The Leeward Islands are warmer and drier than the Windward islands. In summer, the Windward Islands can be subject to hurricanes.


Until 1 January 2011, the three islands used the Netherlands Antillean guilder; after that all three switched to the US dollar, rather than the euro or the Caribbean guilder . The decision to introduce the US dollar on the three islands was taken in November 2008.


The telephone country code remains 599, that of the former Netherlands Antilles, and is shared with Curaçao. The International Organization for Standardization has assigned the ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 country code ISO 3166-2:BQ for these islands. The IANA has not established a root zone for the .bq Internet ccTLD and whether it will be used is unknown.

Overall rating: 4.7
Address: Caribbean Netherlands
Typical length of visit: 7 days

Top 10 things to do in Caribbean Netherlands

Sint Eustatius

Sint Eustatius
Sint Eustatius, also known affectionately to the locals as Statia or Statius, is part of the Caribbean Netherlands: i.e. it is a Caribbean island and a special municipality of the ...