With some of the world’s most visually stunning beaches, exotic wildlife, and tasty tropical cuisine, the Caribbean is an ideal vacation locale, especially to counteract the icy effects of winter.
However, the Caribbean is more than just crystal clear waters and drinks with little umbrellas in them. With over 700 islands, islets, reefs, and cays, the region is jam-packed with unique cultures and festivals, each highlighting a different part of each country’s historical and artistic legacy. Here are some of our favorites:
Sailing Week, Antigua (April 1 – May 1, 2015)
The very first Antigua Sailing Week took place in 1968, when some hoteliers tried to extend the winter season by creating a race to get tourists to stay longer. The event, which ended with a Lord Nelson Costume Ball, was such a success it’s now held every year, starting on the last Sunday in April. Nowadays, over 100 yachts (ranging in size from 24 feet to over 100 feet) race around the south coast of Antigua, and it’s sight for anyone, boating enthusiast or not, to behold.
Jazz & Arts Fest, St. Lucia (April 30 – May 10, 2015)
“The Voice” finalist Tessanne Chin, the Commodores, and more will be entertaining the denizens of St. Lucia during this year’s Jazz & Arts Fest. Running from April 30 to May 10, 2015, the annual event will showcase over 50 entertainers as they perform against the historic Pigeon Island National Landmark, as well as colorful celebrations of dance, fashion and fine arts.
Reggae SumFest, Jamaica (July 12 – 18, 2015)
Held every year during the third week of July, SumFest in Montego Bay, Jamaica is the premier event for hearing indigenous reggae music. It was started in 1993 by a group of businessmen looking to resurrect the cancelled reggae fest Sunsplash, and has since expanded into an international music festival that schedules the likes of Usher, Ne-Yo, Mary J. Blige, Alicia Keys, Kanye West, and more.
Crop Over, Barbados (August 2 – 3, 2015)
Barbados was once the world’s largest producer of sugar. Though the country has since scaled back its sugar operations, the old trade has left a sweet legacy: Crop Over. The annual summer festival dates back to the 1780s, when farmers touted their latest sugar cane harvest. Nowaways, locals and tourists alike celebrate with good food, music, art exhibitions and general entertainment. The festival ends with the Grand Kadooment, a carnivalesque parade set to calypso music.
Pirates Week, Cayman Islands (November 12 – 22, 2015)
Halloween has nothing on Pirates Week, the Cayman Islands’ 11-day festivals of all things peg-leg and parrots. The Caymans’ main national festival, the event always starts with a steel pan competition and kick-off party, and also features the crowning of a festival Queen, a street dance and food festival, fireworks, parades, and of course, a (staged) pirate invasion.