January 20, 2015 | By Megan Cheung |
How do you transform a cold bleak winter into a bustling landscape of tropical delight? We recommend sashaying towards the pulsing Calypso beats and flamboyant dancers that await in these 6 Caribbean destinations. Primed for their best ever Carnival seasons, prepare to be rejuvenated by the grand street parties and passions of the everyday people. But hurry – the celebrations are heating up, so start practicing those savvy dance moves and check out these 6 Caribbean Carnivals before it’s too late.
Boasting one of the longest carnival seasons in the Caribbean, Curaçao knows how to keep the party going. The Dutch island officially jumpstarted its celebrations at the beginning of January and the good times will continue in the coming weeks. First up, local artists will compete during the five-day Tumba Festival (Jan. 26-30), an epic music battle where the winning Tumba (song) is crowned the 2015 Carnival anthem. February ushers in more fun and talent with a jam-packed parade schedule featuring extravagant costumes inspired by folklore, impressive floats and even specially trained horses. Be sure to catch the main daytime parade, “Gran Marcha,” on Feb. 15, and the night-time finale, “Marcha di Despedida,” on Feb. 17, the day before Lent. Locals ceremoniously mark the farewell by setting fire to a straw-filled King Momo, a traditional evil symbol that needs to be cleansed before the fasting period begins. Coupled with fireworks, this is one feast for the eyes that is not to be missed.
If you want the ultimate Carnival experience in the Dominican Republic, simply head to La Vega any Sunday this February. Centrally located between Puerto Plata in the north and Santo Domingo in the south, La Vega is a two-hour drive from either coast and home to the country’s most popular Carnival. See if you can spot the city’s famous characters, the “Diablos Cojuelos,” who flood the streets in bright costumes and elaborate devil masks. They may just catch you off guard with a playful whip of their "vejiga" (looks like a balloon) as you nibble on a frío frío (a snow cone).
Guadeloupe’s Carnival season started two weeks ago, but it’s full steam ahead until the last street party runs dry on Ash Wednesday (Feb. 18). While festivities can be found in every town, make your way to Pointe-à-Pitre and Basse-Terre for the biggest parades and celebrations. On the last day, expect the streets to be filled with black and white Carnival devils and be prepared for the crowd’s cries when King Carnival “Vaval” is cremated at night. Once he is laid to rest, let the late night dining and dancing begin!
Up for a challenge? Test your endurance in Martinique this February when revelry takes over Fort de France. The island’s Carnival is five intense days (Feb. 14-18) of lively street parades, zouk music and indulging joviality. From cross-dressing brides to elected Carnival Queens, there is something new to discover every day.
If you’re looking for a party that rivals the likes of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro or Mardi Gras in New Orleans, then look no further than Panama City. Taking place from Feb. 14 and culminating in an extraordinary parade on Feb.17, Panama City’s Carnival celebration is one of the largest in the world. Catch all the action at the “Cinta Costera,” the waterfront boulevard next to the city’s busy Avenida Balboa, and you won’t miss a beat…or stay dry for very long. Sure, in true Latin American style, there are live salsa and reggae bands, but there is also at least one tradition unique to this Carnival: the “mojaderas.” By bucket, water balloon or fire hose, be prepared to get soaked in a Caribbean dance party.
St. Martin/St Maarten
One island, two different Carnival affairs. The northern French part, St. Martin, is the first to host the festivities (Jan. 30-Feb. 18) and you can count on glittery costumes, loud drums and dancing processions to take over the streets in Marigot. Sint Maarten, the Dutch southern side, then welcomes partygoers mid-April (April 16-May 4) for its own brand of merrymaking, complete with international concerts and a Carnival Village that offers a wide selection of tasty local treats (Johnny cakes, anyone?). Don’t miss the Grand Carnival Parade on April 30, also known as King’s Day in the Netherlands.
Ready to sway your hips and move your feet? Don’t miss a beat! Learn more about these Caribbean destinations now.