Festival Fun In The Caribbean

No matter what your interest you're sure to find something to do in the Caribbean year round. However, travelers who enjoy taking part in cultural exploration have an especially well-suited option in the islands - the many delightful festivals of the Caribbean.

Carnival Events

The best-known Caribbean festival is Carnival, sometimes spelled Carnaval. On many islands this event takes place just before Ash Wednesday, but the dates vary from island to island. This event is generally characterized by an island-wide party, so parents with younger children may want to keep this in mind, while those interested in becoming a part of island culture will usually enjoy this event.

Traditional Carnival dates are followed throughout much of the Dutch and French Antilles: Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Barthelemy, and Saint Martin – but not Sint Maarten. The Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Dominica, Montserrat, and Trinidad and Tobago also share these Carnival dates.

In Sint Maarten, the Cayman Islands, Haiti, and Jamaica, Carnival falls directly during Easter week, and those in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico continue their celebrations from the week before onto Easter itself. At the end of April, vacationers can enjoy Carnival on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

With Sint Eustatius (sometimes called Statia), St. Lucia, and Antigua and Barbuda travelers can take part in the festivities of a Caribbean Carnival in July. Grenada's Carnival falls in August while St. Kitts' year-ending Carnival festival is celebrated for a week beginning on Christmas Eve.

Every island celebrates differently, and one thing you can be sure to find is a colorful expression of an island's culture. Carnival is particularly known for its festivities filled with traditional characters from island lore. Often, a king and queen are named for the event and, though all Carnival celebrations include music, on some islands musicians vie for competitive titles. If you're looking for a sure way to see and hear the best the islands have to offer, Carnival is one cultural event you shouldn't miss.

Mass Music

While music is a necessity in Carnival celebrations, it's also something islands take particular pride in. Islands often host annual festivals featuring the cream of the crop in reggae, jazz, soca, and more. With so many music festivals in the region, it's easy to find one year-round.

The Barbados Jazz Festival is one of the Caribbean's most popular jazz festivals. Called “Paint it Jazz,” the event is generally held early in the year, around the middle of January, which is the same month a different type of crowd converges on the U.S. Virgin Islands for the St. Croix Blues and Heritage Festival. In February, travelers can enjoy Jamaican styles at the Negril Music Festival.

In May, the sounds of jazz are easy to find. Curaçao's KLM Jazz Festival happens early in the month, and the St. Lucia International Jazz Festival opens its doors mid-month. At the end of May, those who like jazz can also stop in at the Heineken Jazz Festival on Puerto Rico or visit Antigua for their Jazz Festival.

June opens with Jamaica's Ocho Rios Jazz Festival, and those who enjoy reggae may want to stop by in late July or early August for the Reggae Sumfest. Merengue fans also have something to look forward to in July, when the Dominican Republic hosts the Merengue Festival.

Curacao invites travelers to listen to jazz again at the Curacao Jazz Festival in early October, but those who would like to stop in the Dominican Republic can also enjoy their Annual Jazz Festival early in the month. While Jamaica kicks things off in November with the Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival, Trinidad is host to the Pan Jazz Festival mid-month.

Those who like music, particularly jazz, will always find it in the Caribbean, but a music festival in these islands is a unique experience. Enjoy these events year-round across the islands.

Local Socials

Every island has its own local festivals. While many include Independence Day or the celebration of a ruler's birth, there are some traditional festivals that differ among the islands. Of course, most islands host plenty of local festivals, but some of the most famous parties include the following:

* Puerto Rico celebrates its agriculture with a Coffee Harvest Festival for its popular mountain brew. You can celebrate alongside the locals in mid-February.

* Reggae lovers will find plenty to enjoy on the island of Jamaica around January 6th, when Reggae Sunsplash coincides with the Bob Marley Birthday Bash.

* Pirates Week is a popular time to enjoy the Cayman Islands, especially for the young at heart. This celebration of pirates and the past takes place on the last week of October.

* Sailors can enjoy Antigua Sailing Week at the end of April. This popular celebration has included as many as 1,500 participants, with 5,000 onlookers watching some of the world's top sailors.

* Historically, Barbadian field workers celebrated the end of the growing season in July or early August, and this tradition has carried forward in the form of Barbados' Crop Over Festival, one of the best-known Caribbean events.

No matter when you're planning a trip to the islands, you're sure to find something being celebrated. On some islands towns each have their own local celebrations, while on others you may find that other events are more important. However, celebrations make a fun way to see the Caribbean.

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