Carnival in Aruba - The ultimate short guide

When visiting Aruba in the first two months of the year, you can expect to see costumes embellished with colorful sequins and feathers, people dancing to upbeat music, and out-of-this-world decorated floats. Why? Because it’s Carnival season in Aruba!

In this guide we will share with you a brief history of Aruban Carnival, the 2023 parade schedule, where to watch the parades and essentials to bring along. After reading you will be ready to celebrate this Aruban tradition like a true local!

A brief history of Aruban Carnival

The celebration of Carnival is not unique to Aruba. In many countries around the world carnaval is the celebration of the beginning of the Catholic fasting period.

Many Carnaval celebrations and styles were introduced in Aruba by immigrants from Trinidad, Jamaica and British Guyana who worked in the local refinery “Lago”.  In 1954 they organized the first ever Carnival parade in San Nicolas to commemorate the allied victory of World War II.

At the same time, Euro-American style carnival events, such as masquerade balls and queen elections, were organized by Aruban social clubs. 

In the years that followed these various styles and celebrations merged and became what Aruban Carnival is today; a diverse cultural celebration enjoyed by the entire Aruban population.


Parades & festivals

Aruban Carnival is an almost two-month-long celebration starting with the Torch parade in early January and ending with the burning of Momo, the spirit of carnival, just before Ash Wednesday. 

After the torch parade, the carnival Queens, Prins & Pancho are elected and the best Calypso and road march songs are chosen. The winners of which will be featured during the many parades held in San Nicolas, Oranjestad and Noord. When you are visiting Aruba during Carnival season and would like to experience some of the highlights, these are the most notable parades:

Children's Parade in Noord, Saturday February 4, 12 noon; especially suited if you don't want to drive more than 5 minutes, yet still have a brief introduction to the ambiance of Aruba's carnival, its music and colorfulness while watching toddlers pass by in adorable outfits. This is a day-time parade so make sure you keep hydrated and apply sun-protection.


Lighting Parade in Oranjestad, Saturday February 11, starting at 8:00 PM. This is a parade with most participants and floats covered in lights, and takes place in the soothing temperatures of the nighttime. Please note: If you want to be in bed by midnight we strongly recommend finding a spot to watch the parade in the area of the Banco di Caribe building on the corner of Vondellaan, or other spots alongside Vondellaan. If you watch the parade anywhere on L.G. Smith Boulevard changes are you won't see the parade pass by before midnight and will be done by about 2 am. Just something to keep in mind.

Jouvert Morning in San Nicolas, Saturday February 11, starting at 3:00 am. This is not a typ-o, as this parade starts in the middle of the night. The parade, the most authentic and local in its kind, is especially suited for the adventurous souls and the young at heart. Given the wee-hours of the morning a mainly younger crowd gathers in pyjamas or a free interpretation thereof, and literally dance the night away until the sun rises (Jouvert Morning is derived from the French 'Houvert', or: opening the morning). Please note: it's about a 45 minute drive to San Nicolas and it is highly recommended you attend this midnight-jump-up with local friends, familiar to Aruba, San Nicolas and will know where to park and where to go.

Grand Parade Weekend 2023, Saturday February 18 in San Nicolas and Sunday February 19 in Oranjestad. These parades are hands down the highlight of the season with a minimum 4-hour parade of adult carnivalistas passing by in the most beautifully adorned costumes, feathers and make-up, dancing to the beats of local bands and DJ's. Both parades start around midday and it tends to get very crowded alongside the roads, and in parking areas so arrive on time. Also bring plenty of water and sun protection as it tends to get hot. San Nicolas and Oranjestad each have their own charm and we can highly recommend both parades; if driving is not your thing, opt for the Oranjestad parade, it won't dissapoint!

For a full overview of Aruba's Carnival events and parades click here!

Where to watch & what to bring

The best place to watch the parades in Oranjestad is along the L.G. Smith Boulevard. Aruba Tourism Authority is located along this road and welcomes you to watch the parade with them! The children's parade on February 5th, the lighting parade on February 11th and the Grand Parade on February 19th can all be enjoyed from this location. Please let the front desk know if you would like to reserve a complimentary spot!

Here you can find the route from Boardwalk to the location of the Aruba Tourism Authority office. You can park your car along the Adriaan Laclé Boulevard or any of the streets nearby (parking is free). Note that the L.G. Smith Boulevard will not be accessible just before or during the parades starting from the Boulevard Citgo station until the roundabout at Cas Di Cultura (the local theater).

    Make sure to not forget the following items:

    • Water, the Aruban sun at midday is no joke! especially when dancing and jumping along with the music. Drink LOTS of water to prevent heat stroke.
    • Sunscreen, even when standing in the shade it is recommended to wear and re-apply a minimum spf 30 every half hour. 
    • Snacks, the parades can last many hours so make sure to bring something to eat.
    • Cooler, use the cooler provided to you in your casita to bring along your food & drinks. Don’t forget to fill it up with ice from the ice machine near the gate!
    • Boardwalk chairs, ask the front desk for chairs to bring along.
    • Earplugs, we can get a little carried away with the volume levels so make sure to protect your hearing.
    • Wearing breezy clothes, a hat and sunglasses are also recommended.

    Image and video credit: & Biblioteca Nacional Aruba

    Boardwalk News!

    Boardwalk Boutique Hotel Aruba will be an Adults-Only property by the 1st of January 2025.

    For those traveling with children ages 12-17, reservations with departure by December 31, 2024 will be accepted. Please contact [email protected] for more information.