Many people check into an all inclusive resort with no intention of leaving the property until it’s time to head for the airport to catch their return flight.
On the other hand, many people head for their best all inclusive resort vacation to enjoy one of the best parties on the planet.
Planning an all inclusive resort Caribbean vacation to coincide with one of the region’s many Carnivals provides a ton of added value. When Carnival is being celebrated at a Caribbean destination, the whole island hums with energy and good vibes.
During a Carnival week, a traveler can still enjoy the gorgeous beaches and tropical scenery — but if they choose, they can take the party levels up to maximum by immersing themselves in Carnival celebrations that are a feast for the senses.
The dates for Carnival shift slightly from year to year, since it’s keyed to the Lenten Season; Carnival is officially the Monday and Tuesday (called Fat Tuesday) preceding Ash Wednesday.
The Big Daddy of all Carnivals is the one in Trinidad, which really blows off the top of the roof. Instead of going head to head in competition with Trinidad, some islands have scheduled their Carnival celebrations at various times of the year. Some of these events can be saucy, while others strive to be more family-friendly.
Trinidad & Tobago
Trinidad rivals Rio and New Orleans’ Mardis Gras for high-octane Carnival merriment. One of the best things about Trinidad is the option for visitors to join in the fun, don costumes, and dance through the streets of the island’s capital, Port-of-Spain. It does take some advance planning, so travelers shouldn’t expect to touch down and immediately join a band — which can number in the thousands — and play mas. Similar, but lower key Carnival celebrations, are celebrated on Trinidad’s sister island, Tobago. When Carnival is done, it’s cool down time, and weary revelers kick back on Trinidad’s Maracas Beach and Tobago’s Pigeon Point Beach.
Puerto Rico celebrates a family-friendly Carnival in the historic city of Ponce, on the island’s south coast. The week-long festival culminates on Fat Tuesday. The biggest day is Sunday, when a Grand Parade of costumed dancers wends its way through the city. A highlight is the Vejiantes, colorfully dressed devils with horned paper mâché masks and bat wing sleeves. On Tuesday, there’s a mock funeral called Entierro de la Sardina, or the Burial of the Sardine.
The Dutch island of Aruba kicks off their Carnival in the days after New Year with a torch parade and continues the festivities up to Ash Wednesday. Throughout this period there are festive jump ups (parties), steel band music, and road marches winding their way through the streets of Oranjestad, the island’s capital. One of the highlights is the nighttime Lighting Parade, which features costumes illuminated with tiny lights.
For most of the year, laidback Dominica is a natural paradise of rainforests, mountains and waterfalls. During Carnival season, the island ramps up the festivities with street jump ups, calypso contests, and steel band concerts. The fun comes to a head with the crowning of the Carnival Queen.
Jamaica’s version of Carnival is called Bacchanal, which typically kicks off in February and keeps kicking until May. Tourists are welcome to join in, but these parties are powered by local energy. Most of the action takes place in Kingston, the island’s urban capital, and Montego Bay, the center of the island’s tourism on the north coast. Events include road marches, concerts, and costumed theme parties.
In St. Kitts, they play Sugar Mas, and schedule their Carnival in the Christmas season leading up to Jan. 2, with a festive Last Lap Jam. The St. Kitts Carnival is a blend of holiday good times and Afro-Caribbean traditions, with Masquerades, Mummies and Mock Jumbies on stilts. For the ultimate fun, consider joining one of the costumed Carnival troupes; three of the most popular are Red Devils, The Sky is the Limit, and Birds of a Feather.
Bonaire’s Carnival season follows the Lenten Calendar, and is a distinctly family-friendly affair, with such events as a children’s parade, and a kid’s festival. Things get dramatic with a crowning event, in which everyone parades down to the Kralendijk Stadium parking lot, where they burn an effigy of “King Momito” the Carnival King.
Saint Lucia wisely moved their Carnival to July, where they can reign supreme during the summer. Three weeks of festivities include steel band performances, soca concerts, a Carnival Queen Pageant, and a two-day parade of the bands in the islands capital city, Castries.
Carnival in the Dominican Republic has an impressive pedigree, dating back to the 16th century. Carnival is celebrated during the three day lead up to Ash Wednesday, and features some of the most frightening costumed dancers in the Caribbean, “El Diablo Cojuelo,” masked creatures adorned with mirrors, rattles and horns. While Carnival is celebrated throughout the country, Santo Domingo hosts the Grand National Carnival Parade, which marches along the capital city’s seaside promenade, or malecón.
In the Bahamas, they celebrate Junkanoo, a Carnival-like celebration that kicks off December 26 and carries on like a house on fire until New Year’s Day, with costumed street parades along Nassau’s streets. As visual as Junkanoo is, it’s the sounds that carry it over the top — a riotous clang and bong of cowbells, brass horns and goatskin drums.
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