Best Carnivals in the Caribbean

Welcome to CARNIVAL!

(pronouncedˈkɑːnɪv(ə)l) and usually referred to as the the greatest festival on earth!

So what is this carnival you ask? well its an annual festival, typically during the week before Lent in Roman Catholic countries, involving processions, music, dancing, and the use of masquerade (costumes).

  1. “the culmination of the week-long carnival”
    festival, fiesta, fete, gala, jamboree, holiday, celebration, party.
So now that you know what it means in words (yes its a huge street party!), lets take a look at five of the top carnival celebrations within the Caribbean.

Trinidad and Tobago

Up first we have the mother of all carnivals Trinidad and Tobago. Officially celebrated on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday and starts off with its famous Jouvert celebrations Tuesday morning to signal the start of Carnival!
Preparations starts as early as July/August and Trinidad and Tobago’s carnival is famed for its elaborate parties (there are parties every weekend leading up to carnival), beautiful people, soca music, elaborate costumes and a high energy atmosphere that’s hard to recapture anywhere in the world. But don’t take my word for it check it out for yourselves or even better come and experience one of the best carnivals and trust me you’ll want to do this over and over!
Carnival festivities start just after Christmas and continues until Ash Wednesday, its loaded with dozens of high energy parties from cooler parties to the all inclusive parties to everything in between and premier cultural competitions. It should be noted this is a extremely high period and rooms are usually booked months in advance, so unless you plan to bunk with friends or family, book early!
And remember anyone can join so have fun dancing and partying away!

Trinidad Carnival Dates 2018: Monday 12th February and Tuesday 13th February.

video credit Ken Sambury

image courtesy Yuma Carnival Band
One of the many huge parties for carnival

Barbados Crop Over Festival

Probably the second greatest carnival experience in the Caribbean, Barbados Crop Over festival has firmly established itself as one of the must go to carnivals. Crop Over season is held throughout July and ends in a big Grand Kadooment Day finale parade on the first Monday in August.
The Fore Day Morning Jump Up starts the Friday night before the Monday Grand Kadooment Day parade. This night-time street party continues into the early hours of Saturday morning where revelers plaster themselves with mud, paint and oil as they jump up and dance to the big music trucks as they make their way down the road.
The grand finale of the Crop Over season is the infamous Grand Kadooment Day parade. There’s lots of action on this day and even if you’re not part of an official jumping ‘band’, you can still enjoy all that this highlight has to offer from the sidelines. Food and drink stalls line the Spring Garden Highway and there’s plenty of entertainment for all to enjoy.
This large street parade brings both local and international revelers to ‘jump up’ in extravagant costumes, where the party continues to the early hours of the morning. And the best part is anyone can join in the festivities, so it’s a definite ‘must do’ while you’re in Barbados.
Barbados Cropover Dates 2017: Monday 7th August (Grand Kadooment Day Parade)

Video courtesy CARNIVAL LIVE TV

A gorgeous Crop Over Reveller
Foreday Morning Jump up

Grenada Carnival (Spice Mas)

Grenada Carnival, also known as ‘Spice Mas’ brings together a collage of traditional, elaborate masquerade costumes, parade of the bands, Children’s Carnival, Rainbow City Festival, National queen show, J’ouvert, beautiful steel pan music and Monday Night Mas competition.
Its usually celebrated in the early part of August and this festival usually lasts for about 10 days. One of the highlights is Monday Night Mas which is the peak of Carnival Monday’s events where several bands sporting festive colours and bright lights parade through the streets. This is an event to remember whether you play with the band or watch on the sidelines. Its an energetic atmosphere in the air! Not to be forgotten its J’ouvert celebrations perhaps the most famous J’ouvert in the Caribbean. It usually begins in the early hours of Monday morning before the Carnival parade
Jab-Molassi are creatures of colour, with Blue, Yellow and Green Devils joining in the early morning parade but be warned you can also get the characters covered in stale molasses, tar, grease, creosote or mud, and wearing little more than their horned helmets. These colourful and sometimes scary devils are much more playful in character, wanting only to dab a bit of their body paint onto unsuspecting bystanders, as they dance through the streets to the rhythms of the accompanying drums, steel bands and calypsos from huge DJ trucks.
All of these activities reinforce the synergy of Carnival but not without the sensational rhythms of ‘Soca’ and Calypso music to make you dance, jump and party the days away!
Grenada Spice Mas Dates 2017: Monday 14th and Tuesday 15th August

Video courtesy truebluegrenada

One of the amazing costumes
Stunning Masquerader

Jamaica Carnival

Although relatively new to the carnival scene, Jamaica Carnival has grown in popularity over the last few years and now sees a huge parade through Kingston annually. It usually takes place at the end of Lent, over the weekend after Easter.

There is usually a series of big parties or “fetes” that happens on various weekends before the actual day of parade which then culminates into a day driven by soca and revelry through the streets of the capital, Kingston. Soca is the rhythm of choice. Despite being the mecca for Reggae music, Jamaica usually play soca for carnival as its the official music for carnival and the rhythm works better for the energetic dancing and party atmosphere  involved with Carnival.

Although the main event happens in Kingston, carnivals do take place in the other Jamaican towns which is fun if you’re staying in that part of the island and can’t make it to Kingston.

Jamaica Carnival Date 2018: April (date to be confirmed)

Video courtesy Matthew Williams

Image courtesy

On the road Jamaica Carnival!

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

And last but definitely not least is Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Carnival or better known as ‘Vincy Mas’. Vincy Mas has an identity all of its own. The official launching happens in May and carnival celebrations stretch all the way through to July, culminating in the world famous street parties of J’Ouvert and Mardi Gras.

J’Ouvert is a contraction of the French term Jour Overt meaning early morning/dawn break. Participants usually take one of the following options.. either creating a satirical costume which is paraded at will or purchase an all inclusive ticket with a large j’ouvert band. The ticket includes a fete (party) which runs from midnight to early dawn after which the band takes to the streets of Kingstown enabling the revelers to parade their masterpiece. This event culminates at mid morning with lots of water action taking place.
Mardi Gras is the parade of the various mas bands and signals the culmination of Vinci Mas. Masquerade Bands compete for the ‘Band of the Year’ title in a marvelous spirit of keen rivalry. Adorned in fancy and fabulous costumes at their assembly point, masqueraders journey through the streets of Kingstown to display their energy on the Stage at Carnival city. After this Judging session they parade the length of back street where they are judged a final time. It is during the parade along the streets that revelers are encouraged to throw off their inhibition and fuse their bodies with the rhythm of the pulsating Soca songs.

Video courtesy Lj Mitchell
Gorgeous Vincy Mas costume
Mardi Gras Parade

While there are numerous carnivals throughout the world, nothing compares to a carnival experience in a Caribbean island and although I highlighted my top five, there are carninvals in Saint Lucia, Cayman Islands, Cuba and all the rest so be sure to experience at least one in a lifetime but make sure if you’re doing one add Trinidad and Tobago’s carnival to the top of your list! 🙂










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