This year's Karnaval is cancelled due to COVID-19 – but let's look back at last year's as a reminder of things to come!)
Karnaval divides between the two major towns, Kralendijk and Rincon with events easily accessed by car each day of the celebration.
If you're fortunate enough to be in town during Karnaval, there's a week-long celebration leading to Ash Wednesday with a line up with parades and activities for kids and for adults.
At the culmination of the kids' celebration, on Monday, there were fireworks. On Shrove Tuesday, "Mardi Gras," there is an adult parade, similar to the daytime parade on Sunday, but with lights that make everything that much more magical.
Kralendijk This port town has all the souvenir shops and seaside paths you'd expect. The larger parades are held here – with 40 -50 floats driving through town over the course of two hours. It's laid-back flair contrasts well with the energetic dancing of the GEAUX cup carrying dancers of the parade. Live music or DJs on floats add to the party atmosphere.
During the day, stop at one of the excellent gelato shops (we like Luciano's flavors a little better, and Gio's only accepts cash). "Town" is a great place to walk around, meet the locals, and shop at the pop-up market the artisans put up when the cruise ships are in town and Karnaval is in progress.
When the parades end, though, it's peaceful and lovely and not so crowded that you can't enjoy the artwork scattered throughout. There's a flamingo feeding her baby, made completely from recycled materials.
Or walk along the seawall and down to the Divi Flamingo Resort. Our favorite remains the Chibi Chibi Restaurant at the Divi Flamingo Resort. The variety and quality of items at this restaurant and the attentive service makes us want to return often.
And it's always great to visit the local churches. Bonaire is 75% Catholic, according to the Tourism Bureau, and has a lovely little church in town as well as several others on the island. The Dutch are predominantly Protestant, which accounts for the majority of the other houses of worship.
Stop by the Tourism Bureau with any travel related questions. They're lovely people who know how to help. There is a two-hour self-guided walking tour of Kralendijk monuments. Ask them for more information.
And then, at night, go back to the center of town, eat from the pop up stands along the parade routes and be ready to dance the night away.
Karnaval Parades wind past the Cadushy Distillery, the graveyard and through town. It has much more of a New Orleans vibe to it.
The parade floats move at a slower pace, past residents and visitors lining the parade route sitting in lawn chairs and enjoying their barbecue.
During the week, stop at the Cadushy Distillery. It'll be a highlight of your trip.
Have you ever tried to drink a cactus? These people will happily show you how to do it.
We stopped for photos but were invited in and offered a taste of their green spirit. "Try it. If you like it, buy it."
There's a tour offered of the small distillery. And a movie available in the courtyard if you don't have quite enough time for the tour (or the line is too long).
Enter via a small courtyard that opens into a plaza with multiple seating areas, and restrooms in the upper right-hand corner. There are plenty of photo opportunities available with cute cactus signs and vignettes ready for your loved one to jump right in and pose.
The drink is 95% proof alcohol, so taste carefully. Some tell me you can acquire the taste, but the Distillery personnel tell me it really is more of a "You like it, or you don't. We're glad you try."
And, of course, diving in Bonaire is consistently the greatest available – whether you dive from shore or from a boat.
Karnaval in Bonaire is safe, fun, exciting and colorful.
So, when you think of Carnival for 2022 when the pandemic has been safely contained, consider the Netherlands. You'll be glad you did!