Six Carnivals To Make Your Caribbean Summer Unforgettable

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Carnival is a hallmark of Caribbean culture that attracts droves of revelers eager to partake in the vibrant festivities and unique experiences each distinct island destination offers.

Carnival traces its roots to pre-Lenten Mardi Gras and masquerade balls brought over by European Catholics to the islands in colonial times. Eventually, the festivities escaped the confines of banquet halls and spilled into the streets where African slaves infused their own music and practice of “mas” or masquerade into the fete to celebrate the end of harvest and eventually, the abolishment of slavery.

Today, carnival is a year-round affair across the Caribbean with an intoxicating mix of pageantry, exuberant music with a big dose of soca, steel pan, calypso, jazz, and reggae, non-stop parties and parades, and infectious street dancing. While the festivities bear similarities across the region, each island destination features distinct backdrops and traditions that make their carnival a must-experience for any traveler. This summer, revel in these six carnival celebrations and heed the Caribbean’s call to dance from dusk till dawn. Here are the 6 Caribbean carnivals you must be a part of:


Vincy Mas: Play “Mas” and Join the Fun

Vincy Mas - caribbean-carnivals

An explosion of color and electrifying Caribbean sounds, the streets of Kingstown in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines come alive with parades, parties, drinking, and dancing during Vincy Mas. This year, the revelry will run from June 30 to July 14, 2023. While some might prefer to simply groove along and watch the throng of vibrantly clothed paraders from the sidelines, Vincy Mas-goers are in for a treat as they can opt to ditch their khakis, don one of the inspired costumes of the many bands, and tag along in the colorful parade.

Find the perfect mas band costume to rock here.


St. Lucia Carnival: Fete for DaysSt. Lucia Carnival - Caribbean Carnivals

Endearingly known as Lucian Carnival, the St. Lucia Carnival has fetes lined up for days for travelers craving to let loose and party from dawn till nightfall. The festivities kick off as early as June with calypso tents, but the height of this year’s St. Lucia Carnival is slated between July 1 to 19, 2023 when the Caribbean island pulsates with the magnetic Miss Saint Lucia Carnival Queen contest, calypso, and soca competitions, panorama, fetes, boat rides, and two days of Jump Ups that will boast not only international artists but also performers from Trinidad, Barbados, Grenada, and other neighboring destinations. To reach the zenith of the carnival experience, visitors can join the many (about seven) bands on the June 17th and 18th Parade of the Bands and flaunt one of their flashy costumes while shaking their tail feathers on the lively streets of St. Lucia.

Find the fete lineup and schedules here.


Antigua Carnival: Honoring History with Revelry

Antigua Carnival - Caribbean Carnivals

Dubbed the Caribbean’s Greatest Summer Festival, the Antigua Carnival celebrates the culture and creativity of Antiguans against the island’s historic backdrop. Antigua vibrates with tangible excitement as epic parades, exhilarating music, and wet and wild fun permeate the island. Iron bands, composed of locals armed with cowbells, car rims, and any other piece of iron, create infectious beats for spectators, a distinct feature of the carnival. The Antigua Carnival comes into full swing from July 27 to August 8, 2023.

Find the schedule of events here.


BVI Emancipation Festival: A Delectable Taste of Freedom

BVI Emancipation Festival - Caribbean Carnivals

This historic festival celebrates the abolishment of slavery in the British Virgin Islands. Perhaps in honor of this momentous event, the BVI Emancipation Festival is a practice of liberty with extravagant costumes, cutting calypso, and an exploration of delectable cuisine. Various cultural events are organized around the island of Tortola but the festivities converge at the festival village where soca competitions and an assortment of nighttime activities commence. The BVI Emancipation Festival runs from July 28 to August 11, 2023, with one Friday dedicated to a food fair featuring the Caribbean’s diverse cuisine and capped off with an international reggae night in the evening.

Find the schedule of events here.


Grenada Spicemas: Kids are Welcome But Watch Out for the Devil

Grenada Spice Mas - Caribbean Carnivals

The Grenada Spicemas is a celebration of the island’s bounty of spices that runs from August 1 to 15, 2023. Soca Monarch and Panorama bring a pulsating rhythm that underlies the electric feel of this carnival. Adults typically have reign over carnivals but kids are given the spotlight during the Spicemas Children’s Carnival, making Spicemas a friendly event for younger travelers. That is until they discover the Grenadian Jab Jabs, masqueraders with blackened, oil-slicked bodies donning helmets with horns and chains that drag on gravel, a smoked herring protruding from their red lips.

Read more about Grenada Spicemas here.


Barbados Crop Over: Rum Runs and Good Pickings

Barbados Crop Over - Caribbean Carnivals

The Barbados Crop Over is a tradition that goes back to the late 1600s when Barbados was the world’s largest sugar producer and the event marked the end of sugarcane harvest. Happening on August 1-14, 2023, highlights of Crop Over are Pic-O-De Crop, a competition for calypso artists vying for the title of Monarch, and Cohobloppot, a carnival-like show where Kadooment bands display their elaborate and flashy costumes. For gourmands and shoppers, Bridgetown Market offers palatable servings of Caribbean cuisine and exquisite local arts and crafts. To quench your thirst, head over to Mount Gay Rum, the world’s oldest rum producer, to learn about the history of the quintessential Caribbean drink.

Find the schedule of events here.


Whether you want a backdrop other than pristine beaches and clear blue waters for your Caribbean getaway or dream of dressing up in flashy, colorful costumes, these summer festivals are a must for a memorable trip. So, make room for one, two, or even all of these unique carnivals and live your Caribbean carnival fantasies.

To stay up to date on the events taking place around the Caribbean, add to your bookmarks.

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