It's party time! The most spectacular Caribbean festivals and carnivals

As Spicemas returns to Grenada, we look at the most vibrant annual celebrations that take place across the West Indies, full of colour, music, and rooted in important history...

3 mins

Crop Over Festival, Barbados

Incredible costumes are worn at Crop Over (Shutterstock)

Incredible costumes are worn at Crop Over (Shutterstock)

One of the most well-known carnival atmospheres can be found at Barbados' Crop Over. Thousands of travellers flock to this popular Caribbean destination to experience its six-week-long summer extravaganza. 

Pondering over the name? The celebrations were first introduced at the end of harvest season when the sugar cane had been successfully cut. Origins of the event dates all the way back to the 1780s, making it more than 200 years old.

Visitors come to experience authentic Barbadian culture, especially during the Grand Kadooment  the colourful parade which takes place on the first Monday in August and features stunning costumes made from sequins and feathers, Masquerade bands, music trucks and usually more than 15,000 party-goers.


Read next Where to stay in Barbados

St Lucia Carnival, St Lucia

Parades on the streets at St Lucia Carnival (Shutterstock)

Parades on the streets at St Lucia Carnival (Shutterstock)

The first St Lucia Carnival was recorded in 1947 after WWII ended, when a small group of people banging on glass bottles and wearing ragged clothes paraded the Castries. 

Now, the July festival is a celebration of both freedom and religion, with the opening street party being a spectacle not to be missed.

Visitors are encouraged to join the festivities full of extravagant headwear, dancing, and the sound of drums, calypso, soca, reggae and banjos. A carnival queen is also selected to take the crown every year.

Reggae Sumfest, Jamaica

Reggae music is on UNESCO's Cultural Heritage list (Shutterstock)

Reggae music is on UNESCO's Cultural Heritage list (Shutterstock)

Moving away from the Carnival atmosphere, this music festival has reggae at its heart. Of course, we are in Jamaica.

Reggae Sumfest is an event which pays homage to the incredible genre that originated in the Caribbean’s third biggest country. UNESCO has even added reggae music to their Cultural Heritage list, and recognises the festival as one of the best places to celebrate the indigenous music.

Previous performers – who have had chart-topping hits inspired by reggae – include Rihanna and Beyoncé.

The event usually takes place mid-July in Montego Bay.

Read next Connecting with Bob Marley's legacy in Jamaica

Spicemas, Grenada

Local women dressed up for Spicemas celebrations (Photononstop/Alamy Stock Photo)

Local women dressed up for Spicemas celebrations (Photononstop/Alamy Stock Photo)

The tri-island state of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique bursts into life with its Spicemas festival every August. The name Spicemas comes from the island's reputation for its spice production  it's even known as 'The Isle of Spice'.

Here you can expect a colourful carnival atmosphere, with vibrant parades, steel pan music, traditional carnival costume and delicious local food.

Beyond the first impressions of just being 'one big party', the festival is rooted in its ancient heritage with influences from Africa, Britain, France and the Caribbean. The celebrations bind communities with their shared and often sombre past.

On Carnival Monday, revellers cover themselves in everything from paint, mud, oil and even chocolate and make their way through the streets. Known as the Jab-Jab festival, this is a tribute to emancipation, and a celebration of freedom in Grenadian culture.

Antigua Carnival, Antigua

Expect steelpan bands at Antigua Carnival (Shutterstock)

Expect steelpan bands at Antigua Carnival (Shutterstock)

When slavery was abolished in Antigua in 1834, people began dancing in the streets, and this soon became a yearly tradition. The annual gathering continued up until 1954 when finally, it was declared an official celebration – Antigua Carnival. Like many carnivals across the Caribbean, the festival became a commemoration of emancipation.

Visitors are welcome to take part in the lively street parties, beauty pageants, cultural shows and colourful parades, in what is often called the ‘best carnival in the Caribbean’.

The event reaches its spectacular climax during J'ouvert, held on the first Monday in August.

Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, Trinidad and Tobago

Locals wearing flamboyant costumes parade the streets in Trinidad and Tobago (Shuttestock)

Locals wearing flamboyant costumes parade the streets in Trinidad and Tobago (Shuttestock)

Make way for the Caribbean's number one festival. Trinidad and Tobago is the trend-setter for most carnivals today, traditionally held on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.

It may be only two-days long, but the atmosphere of this street party is like nowhere else. 

Its roots trace back to the 18th century when African slaves were not allowed to attend carnival-like celebrations around lent. So instead, they rebelled with their own celebration called 'canboulay', which developed into the carnival we know today. 

Expect fantastic steel pan drums, colourful dress, calypso music and a lot more. 

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