Planning ahead? Here are four festivals worth traveling for.
You’ve heard of Carnival — the epic fêtes, intoxicating soca music, and costumes adorned with feathers and jewels. This celebration of freedom, created by enslaved Africans in the 18th century and enshrined after Emancipation, is a must for any traveler looking to explore Caribbean culture.
Next year, Carnival will be back in full force after a pandemic hiatus. Tourism booms around the events, so book early — and check out our mini-guide to the most unmissable parties. Working with a Carnival concierge company, like Carnival Jumpers, is highly recommended. They can secure party tickets, costumes, and hotel rooms, which often sell out months in advance.
February 15–22, 2023
In the birthplace of the celebration as we know it today, Trinidad Carnival — known locally as the Greatest Show on Earth — is the biggest event of the year, and was the only major Caribbean Carnival to happen in 2020 before the world shut down. Build your stamina for nonstop parties like the popular MC Boat Experience and Soca Brainwash, and sign up early for popular Mas bands (parade groups) like Tribe to ensure you have the best costume of the season.
Where to stay: Port of Spain is the center of the action; the Hyatt Regency Trinidad downtown is close to both the airport and the hottest fêtes.
April 12-18, 2023
Jamaica has cemented its reputation as one of the top travel destinations in the Caribbean, but it’s newer to the annual Carnival calendar — recently attracting soca artists in addition to its iconic reggae and dancehall scene. It’s a great place to experience all the events that dedicated attendees know and love, but at a more affordable price point. Work with a concierge to secure your costume from local Mas band Xodus and book tickets to popular parties like SunKissed and Duck Work.
Where to stay: The centrally located (and affordable) Courtyard Kingston is a great base for party-hopping and exploring local sites like the Bob Marley Museum.
July 12–19, 2023
Best known as a destination for romance and luxury, St. Lucia turns euphoric when the summer heat turns up and Carnival takes over. Visitors flock to the island for its local music (Dennery Segment) and to join Mas bands like Legends. It’s the perfect place to “get on bad” with stunning views of mountains and sea.
Where to stay: Most events take place in the Rodney Bay–Gros Islet areas, and the Harbor Club, Curio Collection is in the heart of it all.
August 10–15, 2023
One of the most distinctive events in the region, Grenada’s Carnival — called Spicemas — is a celebration of culture, local food, and the colorful pageantry of Mas bands like Oro. But to get the true Spicemas experience, head to the island’s one-of-a-kind Jab Jab J’Ouvert, which signals the unofficial start of the events. Jab is Creole derived from the French diable (“devil”); revelers mock the island’s former colonizers by donning devil horns, covering themselves in black oil, blowing conch shells, and dancing until dawn.
Where to stay: The luxurious Silversands Grenada on Grand Anse Beach is close to the excitement and offers a discounted Spicemas package.
A version of this story first appeared in the November 2022 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline "Jump and Wave."
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