Curacao events occur in the Punda District of Willemstad every day that one of the passenger ships on Caribbean cruises makes a port stop on the island. The Punda District is the main shopping area of the capital city, and the merchants in the area put on a festive Bon Bini street fair to welcome the disembarking passengers. Bon Bini means welcome in the local Papiamentu language, and they provide some of the best events in Curacao in the compact five-block Punda area that makes up the oldest part of the city.
However, the indisputable best events in Curacao occur during the annual Carnival, which last throughout the entire month of January and most of the month of February. Carnival is part of the island’s history, and has similar origins to other Carnival celebrations on most of the other Caribbean islands. Slaves would hold small Curacao festivals in their backyards and slave quarters, while their masters held grand masquerade balls as they had done in Europe. Eventually the small slave celebrations spilled out into the streets, and the unique mix of nationalities and cultures that make up the island’s population have combined to make it one of the Caribbean’s most popular celebrations. Curacao events during this period occur daily. There are parades, music, parties, music, parties, parades, and more music. Oh yes, and food. Some of the best dining on regional specialties is available during this time.
Other Curacao festivals include the prestigious Curacao Regatta held in November and drawing competitors from all over the Caribbean. There are concerts with well-known headliners. If you’re interested in fishing, this marks the only time that you can fish within the waters of enclosed Willemstad Harbor. There is a tarpon tournament held during this time, and avid anglers are looking to land a specimen weighing more than 200 pounds. Another of the popular Curacao events for anglers is the March International Blue Marlin Release Tournament (all marlin specimens under 300 pounds must be released back into the sea). As of 2010, tournament sponsors are still offering a car or pick-up truck (in addition to the $10,000 cash first prize) to the contestant that breaks the 1985 record marlin of 803 pounds. The unique geography of Willemstad Harbor, which is almost completely enclosed by land creating a large lake-like setting, makes it possible for spectators on land to have excellent views of the fishing and sailing action.
More Curacao festivals involving the water include the Curacao Dive Festival held in May. The ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao) boast some of the best diving and snorkeling anywhere in the Caribbean. You can enjoy free diving and snorkeling workshops led by experts and nighttime diving movies on the beaches near the city. Also in May is the Curacao Jazz Festival, featuring Grammy winning stars such as John Legend and showcasing the rich musical heritage of this cosmopolitan island. There is also a Gospel Festival, a Food Festival, a Navy Festival (featuring ships from the United States Navy and the Netherlands Royal Navy), and an African Diaspora Film Festival. There are so many festivals for so many interests that choosing the best events in Curacao really depends on who you ask.
Image: Curacao Tourist Board