San Nicolas, Aruba
San Nicolas, Aruba: Where to Celebrate Carnival All Year AroundGiven Aruba’s love for Carnival, it's no surprise San Nicolas residents stage and celebrate a colorful, cultural Caribbean Festival every Thursday night. Imagine pop-up tents featuring fruit smoothies, street food, hand-crafted treasures, colorful performances and more. Most hotels offer packages, including transport, to the festival too.
I mingled with locals who cheered on the dancers in costumes. Visitors swayed to music inspired by Calypso and reggae. The icing on the cake was a mini carnival resplendent with masks, sequins, and genuine characters. We saw a man simulating the Aruban sun with dazzling plumes of red and orange—and enough glitter to make a Broadway star go bonkers. I too wore a plumed mask and joined in the crowd of drum-beating, feather-sporting, salsa-stepping locals and had a blast. The festival is also a great morale-booster to locals who can share more with locals.
Created in 2011 as part of a $1 billion island refresh initiative (San Nicolas used to be the island’s legal red light district), the Carubbian Festival encourages locals and visitors to celebrate weekly. If you drive past the colorful capital of Oranjestad and the giant cruise ships, you’ll find yourself on the other side of Aruba in San Nicolas. Here the roads are quieter, the low-rise houses are residential and Carnival can be celebrated year round.