Carnivals are universal and those in the Caribbean have their own distinctive flavor. One thing that every reveler can depend upon is an ample helping of fun, food, and music. Some carnivals are celebrations of specific events or times, but all showcase the local culture in extraordinary ways. Whether the festivities have a specific name or goes simply by Carnival, the following have been rated as the best celebrations in the Caribbean. Here are our picks for the Top 11 Best Caribbean Carnivals.
Celebrated from 1783, it features festivities from Christmas to Ash Wednesday. It’s said to be the birthplace of Caribbean Carnival and one of the most raucous of celebrations.
Barbados, Crop Over
Crop Over marks a 200-year-old tradition that recognizes the end of sugar cane season. Visitors will enjoy folk concerts, parades, calypso music, flower festivals, indigenous arts and crafts markets, and new culinary offerings on every street, along with traveling bars and music trucks.
Known as Bacchanal in Jamaica, the festival incorporates the island’s distinctive food, beverages, and music. It lasts from March to the end of April and has a reputation as one of the most popular Caribbean carnivals. On the final day, the Bacchanal Road March features visitors and locals dancing through the streets – or on band trucks – adorned in paint, glitter, oil, and elaborate costumes to a variety of the nation’s music selections.
Junkanoo is a celebration of culture, music with traditional instruments, and parades featuring extraordinary dance troupes in elaborate costumes of feathers and glitter. It’s a centuries old festival that features a new theme each day.
Dominica, Real Mas
African and modern cultures combine with French traditions of masquerade for the celebration. Pageantry, feasts, traditional Ghanaian garb, dancing, and concerts are all part of the festivities.
Grand Cayman, Batabano
Those seeking a family-friendly carnival will find Batabano to be exactly what they want in a celebration of the island’s culture and its symbol, the sea turtle. Guests can enjoy a family fun day, stilt walkers, mask decorating, parades, music, and local cuisine.
The Day of the She-Devils, Red Devil’s Day, and the ceremonial burning of Vaval, the King of the Carnival, are just some of the activities to find at carnival during the Lenten season. A cast of costumed characters, burlesque shows, and masquerade balls are all part of the fun.
Puerto Rico, Carnaval de Ponce
A week-long family-friendly celebration, visitors will encounter masked vejigantes that will ward off evil spirits in unique ways. It’s a combination of Mardi Gras in Louisiana and Brazilian carnival.
St. Croix, Crucian Christmas Festival
The event dates back to slave days and takes place the majority of December and into the first week of January. The primary events begin on Christmas day and include extravagant costumes, parades themed for children or adults, and calypso contests.
St. Vincent, Vincy Mas
The carnival features dancing in the streets, masqueraders, music, and parades. The festival has been celebrated since the 18th century and combines traditions of European carnivals with uniquely African religious customs.
Virgin Islands, Carnival
It’s a month-long celebration of freedom featuring food, music, fireworks, and masquerades in April and May. It’s a festival for the food-lover in everyone.