Book early if you want to experience the exuberant carnival festivities, the most colourful and exciting of all celebrations hosted by Aruba, beginning usually in February and carrying on for several weeks with a wonderful programme of entertainment including incredible parades with amazing floats, costumes, dancing and opportunities to party. Witness the islanders in their fantastic fancy dress indulging in ‘jump-up’ events and rituals such as the Tivoli’s Torch Parade in Oranjestaad and the Grand Evening Parade where King Momo, symbol of the flesh, is ceremonially burnt. All this to the intoxicating Caribbean rhythms of the Antillean ‘tumba’, to calypso and steel drum harmonies and to the unstoppable Latin salsa beat.
If you love music, you should catch the Aruba Music Festival which takes place each year during either September or October. Past years have featured such retro rock musicians as Crosby, Stills and Nash and Pat Benetar: line-ups designed to be both nostalgic and hugely entertaining. The Aruba Entertainment Center lies just outside Oranjestaad and allows for performances to be held in the open air, which simply adds to the attraction and unique ambience of a gorgeous tropical night as the perfect setting for a great night out.
Some of the island’s festivals are steeped in history: in the case of St John’s Day, you will experience a remnant of the Spanish settlers’ tradition of San Juan, infused with Caribbean spice. It has become a celebration of the local harvest and is accompanied by traditional song and dance and images of the rooster, while the vivid colour scheme of red, yellow and black gives the entertainment the most stunning backdrop you can possibly imagine. The colours of the flag prevail when Aruba celebrates its National Anthem and Flag Day with much pomp and ceremony in the Plaza Betico Croes in Oranjestad. Alongside the formal events are a series of patriotic sporting events and games which take place around various sites on the island.
In fact, many events focus on the incredible sporting opportunities that Aruba offers. The island holds a very popular Half Marathon with its course beginning at San Nicolas and ending at Oranjestad, 21km later. Meanwhile the Royal Nationals Drag Race held at the Palo Marga International Raceway Park, is one of the major events in Aruba’s racing calendar. The Aruba National Beach Tennis Championships provide some fantastic entertainment over three days at Moomba Beach during the summer season, while at Malmok Beach, the Aruba High-Winds Competition is a big windsurfing and kiteboarding get-together where the fun includes events for men, women, juniors, masters and freestyle. Aruba’s Catamaran Regatta in November has become a highlight of the yachting calendar, as both champions and eager beginners gather on Palm Beach for some exciting sailing off the pleasantly breezy coasts of the island. Golfers will be delighted by the luxurious facilities available at the Tierra del Sol Resort and Golf Course, where the International Pro-Am Golf Tournament is held each August.
Of all the events in Aruba that are able to evoke a sense of the uniqueness of this tropical paradise, the Caribbean Festival in San Nicolas and the Bonbini Festival at the Fort Zoutman in Oranjestad which are both held weekly, provide the visitor with a real feel of all aspects of local culture, from dance and music to food. A quaint local tradition that visitors in December will love is the arrival of Saint Nicolas, the Dutch Santa Claus, at Oranjestaad’s Paardenbaai Harbour by boat, heralded by a fanfare of trumpets and the excited cries of children as he parades around the beautiful harbour.