Drink, dance and get a bit crazy at these seven favorite island celebrations
Some say that just being in the Caribbean is a cause for celebration. True, but there are also times when crowds come together to escalate the revelry and dance like there’s no tomorrow. Here are seven of our favorite Caribbean parties. Mark your calendar.
New Year’s Eve at Foxy’s Bar on Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands
It’s the Caribbean’s biggest New Year’s Eve celebration. Jost Van Dyke is a ferry ride away from Tortola, St. Thomas or St. John—sorry, there’s no airport or helipad, and no large hotels. The rest of the year, the island is sleepy, but for what Foxy’s calls Old Year’s Night. The limited supply of villas and beachfront campsites start to book up the preceding summer, and the anchorages fill up days in advance. For many, the play is to stay up and greet the dawn, then catch a morning ferry out. As for the party itself, it’s an all-night rager, fueled by painkiller cocktails and live reggae.
Carnival on Trinidad
Locals start hand-sewing their feathered and beaded costumes a year in advance. The two-day event takes place on the Monday and Tuesday prior to Ash Wednesday and is preceded by days of elaborate pre-parties known as fetes. The energy is infectious thanks to nonstop soca music (think calypso, but faster). Anyone willing to flaunt their stuff can join the parade by signing up with a band and purchasing a costume, which can run from $250 on up. In a nod to the digital age, fete tickets, costume orders and band registration can even be made online.
Sunjam on Utila, Bay Islands, Honduras
It’s one night only of all-night dancing, light shows and electronica music, held the first weekend of August. Started in 1996 as a free party organized by former island resident and house DJ Alun Gordon, the festival now draws around 1,500 die-hard fans, who must first make their way to the Honduran island of Utila by plane or ferry. The party is actually on the satellite island of Water Cay (uninhabited and ideal for camping the rest of the year), and local fishermen provide transport. The crowd is mainly twenty-somethings and the vibe backpacker, but all are welcome.
St. Patrick’s Day on St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Seven flags have flown over St. Croix—none Irish—but that doesn’t mean the St. Patrick’s Day festivities in downtown Christiansted are anything short of epic. Most locals take the day off work; quite a few start the morning with Irish car bomb shooters. Pacing matters. The streets are shut for the parade that starts midday, followed by an outdoor after-party with live music sponsored by the Fort Christian Brew Pub.
St. Maarten Heineken Regatta
Four days, four nights and more than 200 boats from 32 countries. It adds up to the Caribbean’s largest regatta, held annually in early March since 1980. Bring your own boat, charter one or grab a slot on a pick-up crew. Otherwise, watch from a beach or spectator vessel. The finish line is just the beginning, as Apres Sail parties become warm- ups for nightly concerts that feature big-name artists and draw huge crowds to match. Past performers include Wyclef Jean, Shaggy and The Black Eyed Peas.
Junkanoo on Nassau, Bahamas
Junkanoo, a loud and lively street parade, happens throughout the Bahamas—and beyond in places like Key West, Florida—on Boxing Day (December 26) and again on New Year’s Day. The biggest celebration is on Nassau, where troops costumed in intricate crepe-paper creations compete for top honors as they move down Bay Street to the incessant rhythm of cowbells, goat-skinned goombay drums, whistles and brass. The action, known as a rush-out, gets started around 2 a.m. and continues on into midmorning. The crowd gets in on the action, and spectators soon become revelers.
Full Moon Parties at Bomba’s Shack on Tortola, British Virgin Islands
The mushroom tea isn’t as potent as it used to be, but that’s good—it’s easier to locate your dinghy come night’s end. The full moon parties at Bomba’s Shack, found on Cappoons Bay on Tortola, have a history dating back decades, explaining why sizable crowds appear every month for the live music. The place has a street-party feel thanks to a flow of revelers who spill from the beach and open-air bar to the grass on the other side of the dirt road where the stage stands. The average partygoer is mid-30s to 40s, and likely to come off a boat. These folks tend to party hard, and the rowdiness lasts well into the wee hours.