Every June Aruba hosts the harvest festival of Dera Gai, complete with cultural performances and bonfires. // © 2014
For travelers to the Caribbean who want to go beyond Aruba’s gorgeous beaches and crystal-blue waters, local events during the off-season provide an eclectic mix of options.
Whether they dig into Aruba’s history during the harvest festival of Dera Gai or a plate of food at the annual Battle of the Food Trucks, visitors will enjoy island events without the tourist crowds. The island’s off-season runs from mid-April through mid-December.
"We Arubans love every chance to share our culture with visitors,” said Jonathan Boekhoudt, Aruba’s trade relations liaison. He said the island hosts more than 50 events and celebrations throughout the year.
We’ve selected a handful of the most dynamic, unusual and mouth-watering of the various festivals and happenings during Aruba’s off-season.
Dera Gai: June 24
This traditional harvest festival originated about 100 years ago. The event takes place on June 24th (Saint John’s Day) every year and is celebrated all around the island. Festivities reflect the influences of the Arawaks and Spanish missionaries and include bonfires, colorful dress and traditional dances.
The name Dera Gai translates to “bury the rooster.” In the past, a rooster was buried up to its neck during one of the festival dances. A man was selected from the crowd, blindfolded and challenged to kill the rooster in three tries. If he failed, another man was selected. For Christians the act was meant to symbolize the decapitation of Saint John the Baptist while the Arawaks believed that the blood of the rooster would fertilize the ground and promote a good harvest season.
No animals are harmed in today’s celebration of Dera Gai. A fake rooster or other symbol (a gourd or a flag) is used in its place.
Aruba Food, Wine and Art Festival: September
Combining the cultural mediums of art and cuisine, the Aruba Food, Wine and Art Festival showcases the best of both worlds on the island. The annual two-day festival kicks off with an exhibition of some of the island’s most talented artists and photographers. Then the culinary contest begins as Aruba’s food and wine luminaries compete for top honors in Iron Chef and Iron Sommelier contests.
Aruba Reef Care Project: September
The Aruba Reef Care Project is a great event for travelers who want to help care for Aruba’s natural environment, and it offers the bonus opportunity to work on Aruba’s stunning beaches. Every year about 1,000 volunteers (made up of locals and visitors alike) come together to clean up Aruba’s beaches and reefs, including Boca Grandi, Arashi Beach and Boca Catalina, among others.
Battle of the Food Trucks: October
What tastier way to explore Aruba than at the annual Battle of the Food Trucks? Food trucks from around the island gather to serve up their most delicious dishes and vie for the coveted title of “Best Food Truck on the Island.” Live music and cultural performances accompany the culinary showdown.
Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival: October
Fans of outdoor music festivals and jazz will find the perfect combination at the Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival. The festival originated in 2007 and has since attracted an impressive lineup of local and international musicians in jazz, Latin, soul and funk every year. Bars and food stands serve refreshments throughout the festival grounds.