Caribbean Carnival, like those in Rio and New Orleans (Mardi Gras), is traditionally a big blowout party leading up to the solemn season of Lent in the Christian calendar. However, while many Caribbean islands do celebrate Carnival in the days leading up to Ash Wednesday -- including Trinidad & Tobago, whose Carnival is world-famous -- others hold their Carnival celebrations at other times of the year.
Barbados, for example, calls its Carnival "Crop Over," a traditional harvest festival that takes place in August. St. Vincent's "Vincy Mas" is one of a number of Carnival celebrations held in the summer, bringing some excitement to what is otherwise a slow time of year in the Caribbean.
The good news for visitors is that if you're in the mood for a unique island experience, you can find a Carnival celebration almost any time of the year. In fact, some islands have Carnival events stretching over months, from the Feast of the Epiphany in January to Ash Wednesday, for example
Here are all of the Caribbean islands that celebrate Carnival and the months in which they do so (exact days can vary from year to year). Those listed as "Lent" celebrate Carnival in the traditional season, which can fall in February or March depending on the date of Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Also, for those travelers looking for some quick info on the types of the events they might see or participate in at carnival on particular islands, the events listed in the parenthesis are just examples of some of the celebrations you might see on any given island.
Check out our comprehensive list of carnival dates and locations below:
- Anguilla: August (Carnival and Boat-Racing)
- Antigua: August (Road March and Steel Drum)
- Aruba: Lent (Torch Light Parades and King and Queen Elections)
- Bahamas (Junkanoo): December-January ("Rush-Out" Parade)
- Barbados (Crop Over): August (Calypso Music)
- Bermuda (Bermuda Day/Junkanoo): May (Celebration of Bermudan Ancestry)
- Bonaire: Lent (The Burning of "King Momo")
- British Virgin Islands (Emancipation Festival): July-August (Food Fairs and Street Jamming)
- Cayman Islands (Batabano): April-May (Bar Hop and Soca Performances)
- Cuba: Lent (Comparsas street performances)
- Curacao: Lent (Tumba music)
- Dominica: Lent (Jump-up Street Parade)
- Dominican Republic: Lent (Elaborate Masks and Multi-town Celebrations)
- Grenada: August (Local Band Performances and Queen Show)
- Guadeloupe: Lent (Dance Marathons and Competitions)
- Haiti: Lent (Rural "Rara" Festival and Creole Celebrations)
- Jamaica (Bacchanal): April (Mas Camp and Bacchanal Fridays)
- Martinique: Lent (Burning of "Vaval," the Carnival King)
- Montserrat: December (Beauty Pageants and "Masqueraders" Dancers)
- Puerto Rico: January-February (Vejigantes Costumes and Parade Floats)
- Saba: July-August (Celebration of the "Old Caribbean")
- St. Barts: Lent ("Vide" Parade Day and Costume/Dance Competitions)
- St. Eustatius: April-May (Carnival Village and International Show)
- St. Kitts and Nevis (Sugar Mas): December-January (The "Sugar Cup" and Cocktail Party)
- St. Lucia: July (Boutique Carnival and Parade of the Bands)
- St. Martin/Maarten: St. Martin: Lent; St. Maarten: April (Balloon Parade and Light Parade)
- St. Vincent and the Grenadines (Vincy Mas): June-July (J'Ouvert, Miss Carnival, and Junior Pan Fest)
For more info on what Caribbean carnival is and where to celebrate it, check out our brief guide to Carnival in the Caribbean. If you've never been to Carnival in the Caribbean before, check out our guide to planning for a safe and fun experience -- veteran Carnival-goers know that preparing to "play mas" begins months, not weeks, ahead of time.
Can't make it to Carnival? No worries -- there's always some sort of party going on in the Caribbean: see our monthly event guide to find out what's going on when you are in the islands!