Many people think of sunshine, glistening oceans and palm tree lined beaches when they think of Caribbean islands. But these fun-filled nations also pack a punch when it comes to throwing a party like no other.
Carnivals are now synonymous with the Caribbean. From the famous Crop Over in Barbados to Junkanoo in the Bahamas, each nation has a carnival they’re insanely proud of. But which are the best places to catch a carnival in the Caribbean? Explore our guide for all the intel.
Flamboyant, colourful and fun, carnivals in the Caribbean are out of this world. We’ve all seen the vibrant, sequin-sparkling costumes and gigantic headpieces packed full of feathers attributed to carnivals. However, carnivals in the Caribbean are so much more. They’re a celebration with plenty of live music and dancing, filled with a side-helping of rum-soaked cocktails, tasty street food and a party atmosphere that’s second to none. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself on a Caribbean island during carnival celebrations, be sure to grab yourself a front row seat to the entertainment.
Street parties and carnival events in the Caribbean take place throughout the year. Some have religious aspects whereas others are seeped in history. Whilst the premise behind each one may differ slightly you can guarantee they’ll all share masses of energy, parades through the streets and a carnival band. The locals love to put on a show and tourists are very welcome at the carnival street parties. So, read on to discover which carnival floats your boat.
Turn up the music at Trinidad & Tobago Carnival
Islanders plan all year for this annual 2 day event that takes place just before Ash Wednesday in Trinidad & Tobago. The tradition started back in the 18th century with French influences and it’s now the largest carnival in the Caribbean. With historical significance this pre-Lent celebration attracts thousands of revellers and is a big event on everyone’s social calendar. This time of year is when the biggest and best costumes are paraded, the food stalls are prepped and everyone gets ready for the time of their lives.
Port of Spain, the island’s capital hosts most of the carnival festivities and the famous street parades. Monday and Tuesday carnival days are a rum-fuelled experience, with the party-loving Trinidadians socialising right through ‘til dawn to the sounds of soca music.
If you want to ‘play mas’ and dance through the streets in full-on carnival costume then you need to join a masquerade band. Alternatively, you can join the street party in your own costume and party until dawn. Carnival is all about the costumes, nothing is considered too extravagant or elaborate.
Party, party, party at Vincy Mas
Vincy Mas is the largest carnival in St Vincent & The Grenadines. This epic party is all about celebrating Vincentian heritage including music, dance and cuisine. This acclaimed carnival used to be held just before Lent but now takes place in the summer months. Perfectly timed for summer visitors, the celebrations start in June and culminate with two enormous street parties in July. J’Ouvert is the Monday event and Mardi Gras happens the following Tuesday.
Like every good carnival there’s an abundance of vibrant costumes, dancing and music. Grab your dancing shoes and bust some moves to the sounds of the steel pan and calypso bands. Similar to other Caribbean carnivals, Vincy Mas combines elements of both European and African festivals.
Remember to pack your favourite band t-shirt if you’re heading to watch Vincy Mas. One of the street parties encourages everyone to dress up in t-shirts adorned with their favourite band and parade through the streets of the capital, Kingstown. There’s fun for all ages at Vincy Mas, so be sure to add it to your list of must-see carnivals.
Catch the carnival feels at Crop Over, Barbados
Often regarded as the pinnacle of all carnivals, Crop Over is without doubt one of the best places to catch a carnival in the Caribbean. Back when Barbados was largely British sugar plantations in the 17th century, the Crop Over festival rejoiced the end of the sugar cane harvest season. Over the years it’s grown into a hugely popular carnival and one of the largest in the Caribbean. Celebrating Bajan culture, heritage, music, dance and food this magnificent event attracts over 100,000 people from all over the world!
Not many carnivals can count a celebrity ambassador but Crop Over certainly can. Local treasure Rihanna loves to join in with Crop Over and has been spotted in full costume regalia dancing the night away.
Get your jive on at Junkanoo
The history of this popular event dates back to colonial times in The Bahamas. There are two fun-filled street parades on Boxing Day and New Years Day in the capital Nassau. Junkanoo began as a small street party but over the years has grown into a fully-fledged carnival complete with extravagant costumes, entertainment, fireworks, dancing and live music.
Junkanoo groups perfect their dance routines for months ahead of the event so this makes for a fascinating watch and an electric atmosphere. The hottest spots to watch the parades are Bethel Avenue, Blue Hill Road and Shirley Drive, making The Bahamas one of the best places to catch a carnival in the Caribbean.
Dance across the islands
There are numerous other carnivals to explore whilst in the Caribbean. The most noteworthy being the late February carnival in the Dom Rep which displays Spanish influences and the music changes to merengue and bachata. Summertime in St Lucia is dominated by the Saint Lucia carnival which is part of the larger Soleil Summer Festival. A week of parades, music and dance takes over the capital Castries and what seems like the whole island gets involved. Finally, the island of Grenada celebrates Spicemas where revellers adorned with masquerades take to the streets to join in the fun.
Carnival is calling
Want to visit the Caribbean during carnival season? Then chat to us to find out how we can help. Remember, everyone wants to be there for these much-hyped events so book accommodation early to guarantee a spot.