Jamaica Carnival has it all – sun, colourful costumes, great music and brilliant food.
It returned with a bang this year after a two-year hiatus due to covid and marked the start of carnival season in the Caribbean.
People lined the streets to see bands Xodus and Bacchanal make their procession through Kingston, with brilliantly dressed dancers moving to beats of reggae, calypso and soca.
The celebration, also known as Bacchanal, was moved from April to July this year and wasn’t as big as usual, but it still provided great carnival vibes.
By the end, everyone wished for more and luckily they won’t have to wait much longer as it will be back on its usual date in April 2023.
We’ve come up with a guide to surviving carnival week to prepare you, which includes what parties to attend, where to eat and where to visit to unwind.
Jamaica has one of the biggest carnivals in the Caribbean alongside Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.
It accounts for tens of millions of pounds to the economy each year and is at the heart of cultural celebrations in the country.
This year the shortened road march in Kingston covered Hope Road, Lady Musgrave Road, Trafalgar Road, Oxford Road, and Knutsford Boulevard.
Next year’s celebrations are back in their usual place which is a week after Easter, from April 12 to April 18, 2023.
If you want to participate in the march you’ll need to join one of the mas bands, which include Bacchanal Jamaica, Ocho Rios Carnival Band, Xaymaca Internation or Xodus Carnival.
The different bands usually have their own special route and provide an all-inclusive service with costumes, food and unlimited alcoholic drinks as part of the fee.
This year only Bacchanal and Xodus took part but the roads were still packed and the atmosphere was great.
The carnival began at around 10:30am and it got pretty lively quickly as the drinks flowed.
The best way to approach the day is to pace yourself as you don’t want to burn out (get wasted) too quickly.
Thankfully there was a stop at lunchtime so everyone could have a rest and refuel.
The event then restarted in the afternoon and went full steam ahead until late in the evening.
For the hardcore partiers, there was the Big Wall afterparty on Kings House Road but we fancied a more relaxed Sunday night so visited the Kingston Dub Club on Skyline Drive instead.
Located in the hills of St. Andrew, overlooking Kingston, it is the leading spot for conscious roots reggae music and entertainment in the city.
It was the perfect way to unwind after a big day.
You can still have a great time at the carnival without being part of the march.
Most people watched the mas bands from the side of the roads as they made their way through the city.
Many brought their own drinks and gathered with friends and family, while others attended private viewing parties lining the route.
Jamaican Carnival is used as an umbrella term for a number of events over a month period.
There are plenty of carnival parties during the week leading up to the march, including fetes, beach parties and live music events.
We attended Bacchanal Jouvert in Kingston which is a paint fete combined with a road march.
It probably goes without saying but don’t turn up in your best clothes as you’ll be covered in paint by the end (start).
The event basically involved everyone throwing colourful paint and powder over each other and partying all night to soca music.
The Xodus Remedy party the following night also had a great vibe.
It started off at the National Stadium in Kingston with all-inclusive drinks part of the entry fee.
DJs played a mix of music, including soca and dancehall, to get everyone into the mood for the road march the next day.
It ended with a mini road march with revellers following the Xodus Remedy bus as it made its way around the exterior of the stadium.
Other carnival week parties to watch out for include I Love Soca, Tribe Ignite, Medz Breakfast Party, Frenchmen’s Bazodee and Xaymaca Lyme.
Wear comfortable shoes
Bring footwear that you can dance in for hours without feeling pain in your feet and don’t mind being stepped on.
Wear sunscreen and lip balm
In the Caribbean sun, this will be crucial.
Drink plenty of water
It’s hot, the drinks are strong, and you’re dancing. If you do not keep hydrated things could take a turn for the worse pretty early and you may find yourself steaming drunk by mid-morning.
A toilet truck follows the band so you can afford to drink plenty of water.
Leave your valuables at home
You need only really need some cash and your phone.
The sound systems are loud so you may want to bring some earplugs if you fancy some respite.
Jamaica is full of amazing sites and places to visit if you fancy some downtime in-between the parties.
These are some of the things you can do away from the celebrations.
Craighton Blue Mountain Coffee Tour – Irish Town Kingston
We took a trip to Craighton Estate and learned how coffee plants are grown and beans reaped and processed.
And of course, we tasted some brilliant coffee.
J. Charles Swaby’s Black River Safari Tour – I Crane Road Black River
Why not take a tour of the crocodile-infested Black River?
The stretch of water is the longest navigatable river in Jamaica and is home to The Great Morass, a stunning wetland preserve.
Our boat tour took us from the mouth of the open sea upriver to where the water goes dark and mangroves arched over the water.
The area is home to more than 100 species of birds, tarpon and snook and crocodiles.
Bob Marley Museum and Trench Town Culture Yard
It would be a crime not to pay homage to one of the greatest musicians ever when visiting Kingston.
The Bob Marley Museum is the former home of the reggae legend and is located at 56 Hope Road Kingston.
The iconic star’s home is filled with rich memories and treasured mementos, which seek to preserve his life and accomplishments.
A visit to the museum can be combined with a trip to Trench Town where Bob Marley and many other great reggae artists from Jamaica grew up.
The Culture Yard is located at 6 and 8 Lower First Street, in Trench Town, and is an architectural and cultural museum.
It has a small souvenir shop, containing articles, instruments and furnishing used by reggae artists Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer in their younger years.
Sun Valley Plantation for tour and lunch – St Mary
Sun Valley is a working plantation located in the town of Oracabessa.
The 90-minute tour of this plantation tells the story of the property from the slave era to the present day you’ll learn about tropical fruits and plants, taste coconuts, otaheite, apples and other exotic fruits.
Kingston Art-Walk – Downtown Kingston
The art walk celebrates the rich history and unique cultural presence of the Downtown communities through art especially painting murals.
Food in Jamaica is second to none and we’ve picked out a few places you shouldn’t miss.
Crystal Edge Restaurant
Crystal Edge is a popular local eatery that is one of the stops along the Blue Mountain Culinary Trail.
It serves Jamaican favourites like Oxtail or stewed pork with rice and peas
Middle Quarters Peppered Shrimp Experience
One of the most iconic stops on Jamaica’s South coast is in Middle Quarters.
It is nestled between YS and Luana, about 15 minutes outside of the famous Bamboo Avenue or Holland Bamboo.
Ital Corn Soup
Located on the side of the road at Spur Tree, Manchester, this is the best spot for boiled corn with soup.
Floyd’s Pelican Bar Experience and lunch
Located in Parottee Bay on the South Coast of Jamaica it is one of the most unique places to eat and have a drink in the entire Caribbean.
Floyd’s Pelican Bar is a tiny bar made of driftwood stilted on a huge sandbar about three-quarters of a mile out from the coast.
You’ll have to take a speedboat out to get there but it’s worth it and once there you can sunbathe, swim in the shallow ocean, drink a cold beer and eat some fresh lobster or fish.
Devon House I-Scream
Devon Houshouse, I-Scream, makers of Jamaica’s premier brand of ice cream has its flagship store on Hope Road, Kingston, at the historic property.
Devon House is home to over 27 flavours including their famous Bordeaux cherry, rocky river, strong back, devon stout, mango, coconut, coffee and sour sop and their most popular flavour the devon stout.
Devon house’s ice cream was voted the 4th best ice cream in the world by Nat Geo.
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