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Bonaire’s Karnaval (Carnival) Celebration

Bonaire’s Karnaval (Carnival) Season begins early in the year.

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.

Many visitors who enjoy the island during January, February, or March also get to enjoy the unique Karnaval period.  Most visitors are only familiar with the spectacularly colorful pageantry of the ending parades. However, there are many events and preparation for the final parades, either by Bonaire’s children or their partying adults.

Lively atmosphere at Karnaval 2024 - Posing during Karnaval 2024 - Photo by Sietske Scheulen of Ocean Photo Bonaire

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. 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.

Angelo from the Precious Diamonds - Photo by Ellen Muller

Jump-ins are common during the Karnaval (Carnival) season.

Jump-ins and jump-ups also occur during this time.  Jump-ins are events that occur in public areas with music, dancing, or just following the crowd, eating and drinking.  They can be staged in one area, commonly known as jump-ins, or be mobile and moving, known as jump-ups.  Just follow along and take your cues from the locals. Jump-ins can be very loud events, so it might be wise to 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 is the beginning of Lent and personal sacrifice. The festivities evolved as a way to enjoy oneself before the somberness of Lent.

An enthusiastic dancer in Bonaire's Carnival.

The Grand Karnaval (Carnival) Parade

The first adult parade is customarily held in Rincon on Saturday afternoon. 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 yearly, so check the Calendar of Events for the final details.

The Youth Karnaval (Carnival) Parades

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.

The Burning of King Momo

The season will come to an end on the final Tuesday before Lent. The parade will re-trace the same route once again in the evening, ending 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 King Momo is burned.

Be sure to enjoy these fantastic and unique opportunities!

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