Please note that Carnival will not be held in 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bonaire’s Karnaval (Carnival) Celebration is always an event to attend.
Each year, with everyone barely recovered from the year-end festivities, the island gets up and raring to go with preparations for the annual Karnaval (also known as carnival) parties. Be sure to check out the Calendar of Events to see all Karnaval activities that may be scheduled during your visit.
Karnaval (Carnival) Season begins early in the year.
Many visitors who enjoy the island during the months of January, February, or March, get to also enjoy the unique Karnaval period. Although most visitors are only familiar with the spectacularly colorful pageantry of the ending parades, in fact, there is a wealth of advance events and preparation for the final parades, either by Bonaire’s children, or their partying adults.
Tumba music festivals begin as the first events.
After the official opening of the Karnaval period, the first events are the Tumba festivals, and there is one for the children of Bonaire, as well as an adult festival. These are serious competitions for those involved in Bonaire’s cultural music, as the winners of each competition will be spotlighted in each of the ending parades. Tumba is a musical form native to the ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao. It is of African origin, although the music has developed since it was first introduced on the island centuries ago. Nowadays Tumba can take on some influences from Latin jazz or merengue.
Jump-ins are common during the Karnaval (Carnival) season.
Jump-ins also occur during this time. Jump-ins are events which take place in public areas and there is a profusion of music, dancing, or just following the crowd, eating and drinking. They can be staged in one area, or be mobile and moving, in which case just follow along and take your cues from the locals. Be forewarned: Jump-ins can be very loud events, so if you are sensitive to loud music, take some earplugs. The final parades are the favorite events for many. Traditionally, the adult parades are tied to the timing of the Catholic religious holiday of Ash Wednesday, which hearkens the beginning of Lent and personal sacrifice, so the festivities evolved as a way to enjoy oneself before the somberness of Lent.
The Grand Karnaval (Carnival) Parade
The first adult parade is customarily held in Rincon on Saturday afternoon, and it is a smaller version of the parade, while the Grand Karnaval Parade by Bonaire’s adults is held in Kralendijk on Sunday afternoon. To view these, be in either town by about 2:30 PM–many are already there enjoying the festivities. The parade routes can vary from year to year, so check with your accommodation’s reception for the final details.
The Youth Karnaval (Carnival) Parades
But, one week prior, the youth take to the streets and strut their stuff during the Children’s Karnaval Parade. Once again, there is a smaller version of the parade held in Rincon on Saturday, with the full Children’s Karnaval Parade taking place in Kralendijk on Sunday.
Visitors should remember that Karnaval Monday, the day after the adult Grand Karnaval Parade, is always a legal holiday and most establishments are closed. The children will have their closing parade on Monday evening.
The Burning of King Momo
The season will come to an end on the final Tuesday before Lent, when the parade will re-trace the same route once again in the evening, culminating at the stadium with the burning of King Momo at midnight! Momo is a representation of all the elements that must vanish before the period of fasting begins with Lent, and explains why his effigy is burned.
Be sure to enjoy these fantastic and unique opportunities!