The beauty of the Caribbean islands – on top of simply beautiful surroundings and brilliant weather – is its diversity. There are at least 28 island countries in the Caribbean spread across more than 7,000 islands. But, how do you figure out which one is the perfect one for you? Why do home birds go to St Kitts and resort-hunters head for Dominican Republic? We’ve got the lowdown on the Caribbean Islands so it’s easy to answer the question: Which Caribbean Island should I visit?
Cuba’s exotic rhythms and history give a sense of adventure to sun holidays in the Caribbean. Easily one of the most exciting islands, it is also the least changed or commercialised. Beaches are palm-lined, with white sand and sparkling water. Locals are friendly and are happy to help, rum flows freely and the island pulses to an internal rhythm like nowhere else. Great for: anyone who wants holidays with a sense of adventure.
Carnival is perhaps the biggest and best known festival in the world. Most of the islands have their own events but the most hotly anticipated is the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. The huge street party is held on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. It revolves around Calypso rhythms which start to pulsate early on the first day. Revellers bathed in oil and paint take to streets in elaborate costumes, decked out in feathers and beads and hit the streets to dance and move their hips to the calypso and soca music. Tuesday sees the parade itself with huge floats built to different themes each year. If you’re not on the parade route, you can head for one of the many other activities like steel drum concerts, community gatherings and calypso tents. Preparations start months in advance and it’s said that if islanders are not celebrating it, they are busy preparing it, or reminiscing about last years. Don’t expect any sleep for at least a few days as soon as carnival kicks off.
St Lucia Jazz Festival, May
Since its very first instalment in 1991, the St Lucia Jazz Festival has grown into one of the most well known festivals in the Caribbean and throughout the world. Every May the whole island dances to the jazz rhythms that fill the air. Massive, fantastic concerts are held at Pigeon Island, in an open air auditorium as well as in several other venues around the island. It draws huge names not just from the world of Jazz but lots of R&B and Calypso performers like Wyclef Jean, Smokey Robinson, Lauryn Hill and Santana.
Crop Over, Barbados, July
Usually during July and August, Bajans gather to celebrate the end of the sugar cane harvest… which becomes a 5 week party. The final delivery of cane sees the crowning of King and Queen of the Crop and the party really starts. There’s Cohobblopot, a massive carnival show with local music and Calypso is a main feature, with various prizes and titles on offer like Pic-O-De-Crop Monarch. The cherry on top is the Grand Kadooment, a huge parade with vibrant costumes and thousands of people dancing to Calypso rhythms, finishing with a swim at the beach. As they say themselves: ‘A grand end to a grand festival.’
Festival de Merengue, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, July
Name checked in that famous Barry Manilow song, meringue has been a staple of life in Dominican Republic since… well, forever. The quick up-tempo rhythm is found everywhere, from the supermarkets to the capital and kids learn to meringue almost before they can walk. This is why the annual Merengue Festival is unsurprisingly such a hit. It sees the capital Santo Domingo come to life, with open air stages, huge sound systems, and thousands of people dancing in the street. A must dance festival!
St. Patrick’s Day, Montserrat, March
It’s not just the Irish who throw legendary parties in honour of St Patrick. The tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat likes to forget about its hurricanes and throw a week long party to mark all things green. St. Patrick’s Day in Montserrat has a special importance, not only to the large Irish Catholic population that settled there in the 1630s, but also as the commemoration of the slave uprising on that day in 1768. There you’ll find Calypso music mixed with Ceili dancing, children decked out in green, and a festival atmosphere, as well as guest lectures and historical tours.
Reggae Sumfest, Montego Bay, July
The sun soaked country of Jamaica is famous for its contribution to music; it’s the birthplace of Reggae after all, made famous by Bob Marley. And what better place to enjoy it than in the sun drenched city of Montego Bay that throws a 4 day party to celebrate? Every July crowds gather to dance, sing, and enjoy the sounds of reggae and its variations, ska, dub and dancehall at the huge Reggae Sumfest. Drawing the biggest Jamaican names like Toots and the Maytals, Damian ‘Junior Gong’ Marley and Beenie Man as well as international headliners like Sean Paul, Nicki Minaj and Rihanna, the 4 day blowout is the summer party.
Book your cheap holiday to the Caribbean festivals with (ABTA member) Purple Travel