Caribbean Festivals Galore


Carinval in Trinidad & Tobago
Carnival draws a huge crowd to Trinidad & Tobago each year.


We say one of the best ways to experience a destination is to experience it like a true local. Here are some traditional festivals coming up that have all the local flavor you can handle.

Planning on being down in Jamaica for Independence Day? No worries about missing that backyard barbeque; foodies will flock to The Portland Jerk Festival July 4 in Kingston. Jerk, a spicy mixture used to flavor meats, is to Jamaica as baseball is to America: religion. The festival showcases the best of jerk that, when dry-rubbed or marinated on foods, is explosive (think jerk lobster, conch, sausage, pork and, most known, chicken). Visitors to the event will also enjoy performances from local artists and community dance groups.

Aruba’s  harvest festival, St. John’s Day, is held every year on June 24. Characterized by the symbol of the rooster, locals celebrate with song and dance across the island. The festival trademark? A dera gai (bury rooster) chant, accompanied by drums, violins and local instruments. Tip: Don’t forget to don your red and yellow shirts and black trousers. This is the traditional garb that Arubans wear to represent fire during the celebration.

For added extravagance, don’t miss Barbados’ Crop Over Festival, held July 3 through August 2. We hear this is the country’s biggest, loudest and best-loved event. Note: The festival dates back to the 1780s and celebrates the end of the sugarcane harvest. Think live music, dancing, carnivals, markets, cultural presentations and more. Insider’s Tip: Kadooment Day, August 2, marks the end of the festival when, much like Fat Tuesday, parades, bright costumes and, we are told, plenty of rum abound.

While we may think of Carnival being only a Rio de Janeiro attraction, fact is it’s just as big in Trinidad & Tobago. Musical competitions make up a large part of Carnival with groups and individuals competing to win the coveted title of Calypso Monarch, one of the island’s greatest honors.

Like other Carnivals, people dress up in fanciful whimsical costumes and dance through the streets to the sounds of steel bands. Next year’s Carnival is March 7. Note: It’s not unheard of to plan a Carnival trip more than a year in advance. Hotels fill up fast.

While Carnival is the main attraction, the Tobago Heritage Festival, held July 16 to August 1, is the cultural showpiece of the island. During the festival, villages pull out all the stops to give visitors a taste of culture, folklife, music, dance and cuisine.

Every year, a different village is selected to create a day’s worth of activities, all of which culminate in a production that highlights the country’s heritage.