Bonaire has a rich culture and as a result is home to many festivals throughout the year. One of the island’s most celebrated gatherings is naturally Dive into Adventure, which incorporates numerous marine events. Music is also a pivotal part of the island’s identity and every May Bonaire Heineken Jazz Festival comes to town, drawing many international visitors.
Late February/early March sees the most colorful and spectacular festival of the island’s calendar and is one of the best times of the year to visit Bonaire. No matter where you go, it is virtually impossible to escape the party atmosphere and the beat of the Caribbean drum once it’s in full-swing. The most elaborate and hedonistic celebrations tend occur on the streets of Kralendijk where everybody puts on crazy costumes and does away with their inhibitions. The dancing, drink and downright debauchery goes on for days with music, fireworks and huge parades.
A folk festival held in April, the celebration was originally a harvest event. Originally farmers, with the assistance of friends and family, would head to the fields to rake in the crop. It remains a family-orientated day with lavish feasts thrown, which tend to include signature dishes such as goat soup, giambo (okra soup) and repa (pancakes). The wapa, a traditional dance which involves rows of people moving simultaneously, is a highlight and sees most townsfolk join in.
Bonaire Dive Festival
Bonaire has hosted this dive festival every June since 1997, which focuses primarily on conservation. Non-profit organization CORAL (Coral Reef Alliance) hold the event annually in order to raise awareness of the preservation of marine beauty. The two-week event includes seminars, environmental awareness projects, underwater dives and cocktail parties.
Bonaire Heineken Jazz Festival
Held every July, Bonaire’s jazz fest has been running since 2005. The main event takes place on Saturday night, while many other concerts and activities are held across the area. Each year, hundreds of visitors and established musicians head to the island for a number of workshops and interactive events help to promote jazz and music among the young population.
Bonaire International Sailing Regatta
An annual sailing event every October, the Bonaire regatta includes a variety of boat races along the coast. Vessels from around the world come to compete, while numerous windsurfing and freestyle competitions take place. After sunset, attention turns back to the shoreline, notably the Sea Promenade, Wilhelmina Park and Kralendijk, where jovial, usually booze-fueled, social events go on late into the evening.