Since 1924


Caribbean Netherlands

(WIPO code: BQ) (latest review October 2023)

Caribbean Netherlands locations

  Location   Location
Bonaire 81 km or 52 miles east of Curaçao. St. Eustatius or “Statia” 61 km or 38 miles south of St. Maarten.
Saba 50 km or 30 miles south of St. Maarten.
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Total area

328 sq. km.

Total population

29,418 (2023).


See Location


U.S. dollar (USD).

Languages (official)

Dutch, English and Papiamentu.

Constitutional status

Public bodies, as laid down in the “Wet op de Openbare Lichamen BES” (the “Law on the Public Entities BES”).

Legal system

Based on the Charter of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

As a result of the constitutional reform in 2010 of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the former Netherlands Antilles (NA) have ceased to exist on October 10, 2010.

The Netherlands Antilles comprised of the Windward Islands of Bonaire and Curaçao, the Leeward Islands Saba, St. Eustatius, and the southern part of St. Maarten (the northern part being part of France).

Under the new 2010 Charter of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Curaçao and St. Maarten became autonomous countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, whereas the island territories of Bonaire, St. Eustatius (“Statia”) and Saba became overseas parts of the Netherlands as public bodies that function as semi-municipalities and have been given the territorial name “Caribbean Netherlands”, also referred to as the “BES Islands”.

Only the Kingdom of the Netherlands can be considered a State. Only the Kingdom – not the individual autonomous countries or the public bodies – has international legal personality.

The three islands do not form part of the European Union and instead constitute “overseas countries and territories” (OCT status) of the EU, to which special provisions apply. Thus, EU law does not apply. Instead specific BES law applies.

The Supreme Court (“Hoge Raad”) of the Netherlands also functions as the Supreme Court of Caribbean Netherlands.

The “green” BES Islands derive their national income mainly from stay over and cruise tourism; divers and snorkelers greatly enjoy the beautiful reefs and sea life around the three islands.

Bonaire’s Pekelmeer Flamingo Sanctuary is one of only four areas in the world where flamingos breed. “Pekelmeer” means “salt lake” in Dutch. Pools appear pink against the white salt flats because an abundance of tiny rosy brine shrimp live in the water on which the flamingo’s and their chicks feed daily.

Saba hosts a tropical rainforest up and around volcanic Mount Scenery, which many times a year has its peak in the clouds at its height of 887 meters (2,910 feet).

The Quill is a dormant stratovolcano located on the island of St. Eustatius. The summit elevation is 601 metres (1,972 feet) above sea level. Its crater contains a lush rainforest populated by native and introduced tropical trees and plants.

Next to being “green”, Bonaire and Statia each also house a fuel storage terminal of considerable size.

On Saba and Statia, English is the common language, while on Bonaire it is the creole language Papiamentu.

The distance between Saba and Statia is circa 32 kilometers, the distance between Saba/Statia and Bonaire is circa 815 kilometers, the distance between Bonaire Flamingo International Airport and Dutch Schiphol Airport is circa 7,800 kilometers.

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