Ask any Carnivalesque local in Aruba what they like most about their Carnival, and the probable answer will boil down to the preparation part. Surely, the Carnival parades, queen elections and music contests are the main focus. Just don’t underestimate the creative and wildly joyful process of designing costumes, floats and road pieces together.
A massive amount of productive hours are spent in the company of cheerful friends and family. Add music to match, beer and bites, labor and laughter, and what’s left is the pure pleasure of anticipation.
Aruba's Carnival Queen 2014 — Photo courtesy of Eric Boeldak
Aruba’s official opening of the Carnival season is ignited by the Fakkel Optocht or Parada di Flambeu ("Torch Parade") in Oranjestad. Over the years, the fire-lit torches have been replaced by battery-operated ones – increasing the overall safety without spoiling the fun. The popularity of this event keeps on growing, due to its informality, accessibility and low participation fee.
During the months of January and February, the whole island lives and breathes Carnival. Apart from the official schedule of events issued by the Foundation Managing Aruba’s Carnival, locals and visitors have plenty of related festivities to choose from. Nightclubs, bars and resorts feature popular local bands, dance groups and costume parties to warm up for the grand celebration.
Visitors have an array of parades and happenings to pick from, daytime, nighttime, after-and pre-party options like the much-talked-about event J’ouvert Morning, alias "The Pajama Party," in San Nicolas.
Start early at 4 a.m. till about 7 in the morning, eat a good breakfast afterwards, sleep if rest is needed or relax all day at the beach.
Aruba’s Grand Lighting Parade in Oranjestad is next on the list, and it's worth the long evening ahead.
Families with children shouldn’t miss the Children’s Parades in Oranjestad, San Nicolas and Noord district. The Carnival Queen Elections are also family-friendly events full of entertaining shows, music, food and people.
Note that ear plugs are recommended for the youngest ears at all Carnival events; there are no sound restrictions during these events.
Aruba's Torch Parade in Oranjestad — Photo courtesy of Albert Braamskamp
Aruba’s Grand Carnival Parade in Oranjestad and San Nicolas, the Children’s and the Lighting Parades, J’ouvert Morning and Hebbe Hebbe Happening, these are all public Carnival events that are free of charge. The music contests and queen elections do have a fee.
Whatever the party preference, just keep these Carnival savers in mind: sunblock, water, hat, nutrients, ear plugs, moderation and responsibility.
All set? Jump up, jump up and get down on it!