Many people are drawn to the Caribbean for its stunning beaches, year-round sunshine and laid-back way of life. But it also has a rich history of carnival and celebration. The annual calendar is jam-packed with festivals in the Caribbean that celebrate dance, music, food and more. There are plenty of events for sports lovers too, such as the world-renowned Sailing Week in Antigua.
These events can take over a whole island for days, weeks or even months, totally transforming the character and atmosphere of the area for the duration of the celebration.
If you’re planning a Caribbean holiday, it’s a good idea to check out the events calendar for your destination to make sure you don’t miss out on an amazing event that could transform your holiday experience into something truly unforgettable. From the Bahamas to Tobago and St. Lucia holidays, every Caribbean destination has a hectic schedule of annual events to enjoy.
1. Sailing Week in Antigua — May
Antigua’s sailing week is one of the biggest events in the global sailing calendar. Started in 1968 by a group of friends who wanted to hold a regatta, it now attracts an average of 5,000 spectators, 1,500 participants and up to 200 yachts each year. Even if you don’t class yourself as a sailing buff, it’s impossible not to be swept up in the excitement and carnival atmosphere created by this world-class five-day racing series. While the sporting action takes place in daylight hours, at night, the streets come alive with music, dancing and celebration.
Not surprisingly, accommodation for sailing week books up fast, so if you want to be part of this event, plan well in advance. Most of the racing takes place in Falmouth Harbour, so hotels in this area will be the first to go.
2. Bahamas Carnival in Junkanoo — December, January, July and August
The Junkanoo parades are some of the biggest festivals in the Caribbean, if not the world. The history of the Junkanoo is somewhat unclear. Locals all have their own version to tell, but one of the most popular is that the event started as a celebration of the legendary West African Prince, John Canoe, who successfully outwitted the English. He became a local hero and the streets were filled with celebratory sounds and displays.
Parades are held every Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and during the summertime, with each having its own theme. The streets are filled with performers dressed in vibrantly colored costumes singing and dancing from dusk till dawn. The Junkanoo dance troops, comprising up to 1,000 performers, musicians and costume designers, spend months preparing for each event. This dedication to delivering a professional spectacle is certainly evident in the final performances, and some will be rewarded with cash prizes for the best music, costume or group display.
You can experience the carnival from many places on the island, but Nassau is one of the most popular spots. Bahamas holidays are popular year-round but especially during the period of the summertime Junkanoo. Hotels will have limited availability if you leave it too late to book, so bear this in mind when you plan.
3. Tobago Jazz Festival in April
If an island taken over by sports events or street carnivals sounds a little too lively for your relaxing Caribbean getaway, the Tobago Jazz Festival might be a great alternative. Many performances take place outdoors against the stunning backdrop of Tobago’s beaches and sunsets. Caribbean musicians add their own twist to traditional jazz styles, creating a unique sound, and the event has attracted some big names in the past. In 2019, Michael Bolton will be the headline act.
Tobago holidays are all about relaxation, luxury and indulgence. What better way to make your experience truly unforgettable than by visiting during this world-class jazz festival? Book up before tickets and accommodation sell out!
4. Barbados Crop Over Festival from May – August
The Crop Over Festival is one of the island’s most popular and vibrant festivals in the Caribbean. The event originated in the 1780s as a celebration of the end of the Sugar Season. At this time, Barbados was the world’s largest producer of sugar. While the sugar industry has since declined, the festival lives on and, if anything, has become an even bigger spectacle.
The Opening Gala and the Ceremonial Delivery of the Last Canes mark the start of the event. During these ceremonies, the most productive male and female cane cutters of the season are crowned King and Queen of the Festival.
There’s plenty to see and do during festival time. Sample some local street food or pick up a piece of art as a souvenir from one of the many stalls at Bridgetown Market. Enjoy the music and dance performed as part of “Cohobblopot”, a huge carnival show. Calypso is a big part of the event and there is a wide range of competitions that locals enter and are great fun to watch. The festival closes with the “Grand Kadooment”, a street parade with bands, dance and performers dressed in elaborate costumes.
This is a great time to visit Barbados as a family. There’s plenty for everyone to enjoy, from young to old. Barbados holidays are a popular family choice year-round, but visiting during the Crop Over Festival will be a whole new experience!
5. St. Lucia Food and Rum Festival in September
The annual St. Lucia Food and Rum Festival is heaven for foodies! The event has been running since 2006 and grows in size and popularity each year. The organizers aim to promote the food, drink and culinary skills that are abundant in the Caribbean to an international audience.
There are, of course, dinners and samples aplenty, but there is so much more to enjoy during this four-day event. Food demonstrations are delivered by internationally renowned chefs; rum boat cruises are available and wine tasting sessions are plentiful. There’s also a range of musical styles performed, from calypso and reggae to jazz.
The event has skipped some years and is not always held in the same month, so it’s a good idea to check that it is running when you’re planning your St. Lucia holiday. In 2019, the event is scheduled for 19th – 22nd September.
The Caribbean has so much to offer if you’re keen to experience a local event or festival. We’ve given you a taster of the best festivals the Caribbean has to offer, but whether you’re browsing St.Lucia holidays, planning a trip to the Bahamas or you have your heart set on Tobago, time it right and there will be a perfect event to make your holiday unforgettable.