Many travelers visit Aruba in search of authentic Caribbean music and art. Known as a melting pot of over 96 distinct nationalities, Aruba has all kinds of different authentic cultural experiences to offer, and the best way to access them is by attending a music or art festival on the One Happy Island.
Here we have compiled a top 10 list of Aruba’s best Music, Culture and Art festivals for 2016:
Aruba Carnival | February
The biggest Caribbean music and dance celebration certainly deserves the number 1 spot on our list, and that’s Aruba Carnival. Aruba Carnival dates all the way back to 1954; which was then just a small series of street parades, but which has now grown into massive colorful and festive grand events lasting for more than a month. Participants dressed in the bare minimal of sequins, feathers and rhinestones dance to sweet soca music whilst spectators marvel in awe at this over- the-top flamboyant show. The Carnival season kicks off with the Torch Parade, followed by the Lightning Parade, the Children’s Parades, the Payama Party, the Grand Carnival Parade in San Nicolas and the exciting finale - the Grand Carnival Parade in Oranjestad.
Dates: In 2017 and 2018, the Grand Parades will take place respectively on Sunday February 26 and Sunday February 11.
Aruba Soul Beach Music Festival | May 25-30
A household name in Caribbean music festivals is the Aruba Soul Beach Music Festival, which will hold its 16th edition this Memorial Day Weekend at the Harbor Square Arena. This year’s headliners are award-winning powerhouses such as The Isley Brothers, featuring Ronald and Ernest Isley, Grammy nominee Miguel, Grammy nominee Jazmine Sullivan and singer-songwriter Fantasia and , who will be delivering breathtaking main stage concert performances. In the past artists such as Mary J. Blige, Tony Braxton, Alicia Keys, Sinbad, Jennifer Hudson, Ne-yo, Babyface, Robin Thicke, Charlie Wilson, and Trey Songz have all performed at this popular event featuring music performances, comedy shows and beach parties.
Dates: May 25th-30th
Aruba Summer Music Festival | June 24-26
Relatively new but extremely popular is the Aruba Summer Music Festival, which kicked off its first edition last year with International Latin Grammy Award winners Pitbull, Nicky Jam and Carlos Vives. This year’s star-studded event will feature the embodiment of Latin sensuality: Enrique Iglesias, along with successful merengue/urban duo Chino & Nacho, Wisin, Tito Nieves, Destra, and chart dominating Gente de Zona known for La Gozadera ft. Marc Anthony. Besides these international superstars, the best of Aruba’s local bands will also represent local music styles.
Dates: June 24th, 25th &26th, 2016
Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival | September 23-24
Jazz it up at the Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival! This annual festival ignites Aruba’s music scene with an impressive lineup of international and local jazz, Latin, soul, and funk musicians at Renaissance Market Place. It is not only about music; the vibrating atmosphere, tasty food stands, and numerous bars make this an unforgettable, unique experience. This year the Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival will be celebrating its 10th edition this year with Kool & The Gang, Unity Feat. Jon Secada and the Caribbean jazz queen Izaline Calister. Enjoy the four-day warm-up preceding the festival held at smaller, intimate venues as well!
Dates: September 23 - 24, 2016
The Aruba Reggae Festival | November 4-6
We’re jamming, and I wanna jam with you during the Aruba Reggea Festival! Aruba’s first reggae festival took place in 2014, bringing together internationally renowned Reggae artists from all corners of the world, such as Ziggi Recado (NL), Pressure Buss Pipe (USVI) and Jah9 (JA), yet showcasing the excellence and diversity of local Reggae bands. Besides music, the Aruba Reggae Festival also highlights Caribbean cuisine, handmade arts & crafts and the Caribbean’s cultural heritage.
Aruba Reggae Festival 2016 promises to once again provide incredible music, authentic, handmade souvenirs and delicious Caribbean food in a cozy and unique setting for Reggae and culture lovers alike. So get ready to feel Irie in November!
Dates: November 4-6, 2016
Island Heritage Festival| | June 4
The Island Heritage Festival is one of the newest music festivals on our list. This summer festival is all about bringing locals and visitors together to enjoy something old, something new, something borrowed and something turquoise blue; in the form of an event filled with a solid music lineup and locally made treasures. The rustic setting of up-cycled decors and care-free ambiance makes this festival truly one of a kind in Aruba.
Dates: June 4th 2016
This pop up art festival called Korteweg started in the heart of Oranjestad, the perfect setting for an art movement where local artist sell hand-made arts and crafts to the public in a very cozy atmosphere. Exhibiting their various art forms in a pop-up style market made of reclaimed wood, visitors are welcome to meet the local artists, purchase unique locally hand-made art, crafts and snacks made out of cacti, whilst enjoying local vibes. Stay updated on when the next Korteweg is planned to take place by visiting their Facebook page:
Contact: (297) 5941420 / 5640819
Bon Bini Festival
This weekly cultural festival meaning “Welcome!” in Papiamento, is the perfect way to explore Aruba’s folkloric music and dance as well as the warmth and hospitality Arubans are known for. The Bonbini Aruba Festival takes place in downtown Oranjestad every Tuesday at 6:30 pm in the outdoor courtyard of Fort Zoutman, Aruba’s oldest building. Enjoy the flavor of the island, its history, people, music and cuisine during this entertaining evening held every Tuesday.
Dates: Every Tuesday from 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m, entrance is only $5.
Dande Festival | December 27
This year-end celebration the Dande Festival, is also Aruba’s biggest traditional musical event, with more than 50 singers accompanied by typical musical groups presenting their original composition and lyrics as well as the traditional Dande song. Dande bands are traveling groups of musicians who pass by Aruban families during New Year’s bestowing blessings with their Dande songs and in this event all Dande groups come together to compete for the best Dande song.
Dates: 27 December 2016
Cadushi Festival, which is Papiamento for Cactus Festival, is a gathering of local artists and creative vendors in a relaxed and inviting atmosphere. The idea was born out of a necessity for something different than your usual retail events. This festival showcases local artists, creative small business owners, and out-of- the box entrepreneurs. Cadushi Festival is not just a market; it is an experience like no other, a celebration of creativity and positive energy. The festival also offers a variety of healthy food, good music & much more. Their motto: Slow Down, Buy Local!
National Flag & Anthem Day Celebrations | March 18
Even though this day celebration is not categorized as an “event”, it certainly merits a spot on this list as this day is the epitome of Aruban culture.
A strong sense of pride is displayed every year on March 18th when Aruba celebrates its National Flag and Anthem Day. The festivities begin on March 17th when the annual Cultural Festival filled with an impressive variety of local cuisine and cultural shows takes place on Plaza Betico Croes in Oranjestad. On March 18th the celebration continues with the official Flag Day parade in front of the Aruban Parliament. Throughout the day there are many cultural and music events for kids and adults. There is no better way to experience the Aruban culture than during this celebration.