The big event of the year is the Curaçao Carnival, which starts on New Year's Day, with various festivities and dozens of parades extending until Mardi Gras and the Grand Farewell Parade. The schedule is available at the tourism office. The most fun events, similar to hoedowns, are called "jump-ups." The highlight of Carnival is the Festival di Tumba, the second week in February, in which the island's musicians vie for prizes. Other Carnival events include the crowning of a queen and king, street parades, concerts, and even a children's parade.
A Word About Carnaval -- A passing comment from a visitor to Curaçao went something like this: "I don't know what all the fuss is about with regard to Carnival. We were here last year and after hearing all about the lavish parade and festivities, it turned out to be nothing more than a bunch of kids in some costumes dancing around in the street for the afternoon." Ah, had she only known that Carnival is not an event, not a parade, and not an afternoon; it is a full-fledged season, running for months and culminating in a series of elections (to see who will be crowned king and queen of each parade division running from children up to adults), contests, parties, and a series of about 20 different parades, all ending on Carnival Monday. Seeing one parade and making a judgment is much like watching one school play about the Nativity and thinking you understand the frenzy around Christmas.
It really doesn't matter whether you celebrate Carnival in Curaçao (where Carnival is an all-out frenzy), Aruba (where things are even more lavish and extravagant), or Bonaire (where the parties are more subdued and the contests are taken very seriously). On all three islands, don't for a moment think you've seen it all if you've seen only one or two parades. Trust me, you haven't seen the half of it!
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.