While the end of Aruba’s treasured Carnival season is always hard to accept, the most anticipated parades finally make their appearance, the Grand Carnival Parades! If you plan to join the big party in the streets and visit during Carnival season, we are here to share some helpful insight and tips so that you can fully enjoy our island’s favorite time of year.
Grand Carnival Parades
The island does not close out Carnival with just one grand parade; the Grand Carnival Parade has always been celebrated in both Oranjestad and San Nicolas, making for two amazing final parades (because one just isn’t enough). On Saturday morning, the people in the streets of San Nicolas dance, sing and parade until the sun goes down. And on Sunday when the sun comes back up, the festivities continue in Oranjestad lasting until the evening and for some, even longer.
Grand Carnival Parade San Nicolas (2023) is held on Saturday, February 18th from 12 PM – 6 PM.
Grand Carnival Parade Oranjestad (2023) is held on Sunday, February 19th from 11 AM – 6 PM.
Note: 2024 Carnival parade dates and times will be announced as soon as they are released.
Where to watch
Arrive early to grab a spot behind the barriers alongside the parade route, or, if you really want to have the full carnival viewing experience (and better mingle with the locals), join a “kavel”. A “kavel” is a designated spot reserved by large groups, usually under a tent with a built platform (not all are on a platform some are on the ground) including stadium-like seating or chairs. To join a “kavel” you must sign up and purchase a ticket ahead of time, admission tickets can include music, live DJ’s, food, drinks, portable bathrooms, and more. Some “kavels” provide food and open bars, while others provide coolers, refreshments and ice for you to bring your own goods and serve yourself. Who hosts “kavels”? “Kavels” are usually hosted by restaurants, bars, organizations, and families.
It is important to note that parade routes can slightly alter each year or depending on the specific parade taking place. However, for most of the main parade events in San Nicolas this is the general route to expect:
Joe Laveist Sport Park – Pastoor Hendrickstraat – Torenstraat – Caya Dick Cooper – Caya Captain R. Rodger – Lagoweg – Bernardstraat – Dr. Scheapmasntraat – Pastoor Hendrickstraat – Joe Laveist Sport Park
It is important to note that parade routes can slightly alter each year or depending on the specific parade taking place. However, for most of the main parade events in Oranjestad this is the general route to expect:
Aruba Entertainment Center – Avenida Milo Croes – Vondellaan – Rotonde Las Americas – LG Smith Boulevard – Rotonde Wendy’s Boulevard
Important Note: The routes above were valid for the Grand Carnival Parades 2023 (Carnival ’69), routes for the 2024 Carnival Parades are not yet released.
Essential Carnival Gear
As a spectator, you will want to come to these parades prepared (trust us, it will make all the difference). Here are some essential items for our proposed “Aruba Carnival Starter Pack” so that you can enjoy your day to the fullest:
Drink tumbler – This is a must so that you can keep your beverage of choice cool all day long! Browse and order yourself a tumbler so that you don’t go thirsty.
Backpack cooler – To get to your viewing spot you’re likely to be doing some walking as many streets are closed off, rather than lug a heavy cooler around in the crowds come prepared with a backpack cooler so that you can easily bring along your beverages and snacks. Reminder: don’t forget to pack plenty of water to stay hydrated, Aruba’s sun is no joke! Browse and order a backpack cooler and leave no drinks and snacks behind!
Chair – If you aren’t one for standing up for hours on end and you are not joining a “kavel” with provided seating, we suggest you bring along a fold-up chair so that you can take a rest every now and again. Browse and order a fold-up chair so you can take it easy. PS – you can also use it for the beach.
Sunglasses – Don’t forget a pair of shades, the sun is bright out there and it will be a long day!
Reef-friendly sunblock – As mentioned before, the sun is strong, while you may not always feel it due to the constant breeze, you’ll want to protect yourself from harmful UV rays. Browse and order your sunblock to protect your skin.
Earplugs – There is one thing about Carnival that will not go unnoticed, it is extremely LOUD. The plethora of bands and marching bands passing by from the very beginning of the parade to the very end create quite some noise and it is impossible to get away from. If you have sensitive hearing or would like to protect your eardrums, definitely bring a pair of earplugs!
Eco-friendly body glitter or body paint – Body glitter and/or body paint of course is not exactly a necessity but it does add some extra fun pizazz, and allow you to be a part of the colorful and sparkling Carnival scene! Browse and order bio-degradable glitter.
Local Carnival Groups
Interested in participating in the Carnival madness by joining in on the actual parades? Check out a selection of Aruba’s local Carnival Groups below and contact your group of choice directly to inquire if there is availability and for ways to purchase a ticket.
Every year there is a range of parades to join, from the casual Fakkel parade (where you only need to purchase a ticket for a small fee and receive the group t-shirt to join) or, officially join a Carnival group and purchase a ticket for a larger fee to be a part of the entire experience (participation of all the main parades, a full costume, open bar, etc.).
Note: Groups can alter at any time.
For more information on Aruba Carnival, please visit the Facebook page of the official Carnival organization committee.
Stay tuned for next year’s Carnival celebrations, we will be sharing the official schedule here.
Stay safe and have fun!