At first blush, the idea of celebrating St. Patrick's Day in the Caribbean sounds as incongruous as, say, a tropical shirt in Dublin. But while you'll find nary a green beer in the islands, and you're more likely to find cassava that potatoes, the Caribbean does have a few hot spots of Irish heritage and culture.
In the 17th Century, Irish Catholic indentured servants were welcomed to the tiny volcanic island of Montserrat at a time when they were shunned in most other English-controlled islands of the Caribbean.
The Irish mixed freely with the African slaves brought to work the English sugar plantations, and a unique Afro-Irish culture developed.
Some say St. Patrick's Day is a bigger deal in the U.S. than it is in Ireland, but Montserrat may top them both: the St. Patrick's festivities here go on for a solid week. In fact, Montserrat is the only nation in the world other than Ireland that considers St. Patrick's Day a national holiday.
St. Patrick's Week in Montserrat includes parades featuring costumed revelers wearing green shamrocks, concerts with calypso, soca, and iron band music, church services and dinners, and a special March 17 commemoration of an attempted slave revolt in 1768. You'll find Guinness on tap in the bars, hints of Irish cookery in the national dish (a stew called 'goat water'), and lots of Irish surnames among the people.
Like Ireland, Montserrat has suffered many hardships in its history, including the devastation of Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and a series of volcanic eruptions.
The 1995 Soufriere Hills eruption left the island's original festival village, St. Patrick's, uninhabitable along with a good chunk of southern Montserrat. But the island's 4,000 tough residents have carried on their St. Patrick's Day festivities regardless, and welcome visitors to join in the fun.
The Spanish, Dutch, French, and English all possessed the island of St. Croix before it became part of the U.S. Virgin Islands, but never the Irish. But the island has embraced the patron saint of Ireland anyway, and the annual St. Patrick's Day parade in Christiansted is one of the most popular events of the year. The party starts midmorning with green-clad marchers, floats and music.
Grenada's St. Patrick's Parish honors its patron saint with a weeklong festival each year that includes food fairs, cultural events, and religious services.
Irish Bars and Other Options
March is a popular time for Caribbean travel, so resorts in the region will occasionally roll out the green carpet to lure visitors south on St. Patrick's Day week. The Martineau Bay Resort & Spa on Vieques Island in Puerto Rico, for example, hosts a St. Patrick's Day Weekend party with a beachfront celebration, green cocktails, and local stand-ins for Irish beer and cuisine.
In Turks and Caicos, Providenciales plays host to an annual St. Patrick's Day Pub Crawl that includes stops at the Tiki Hut, Sharkbite, Cactus Bar, and and ending, of course, Danny Buoy’s. The party's been going on for more than 20 years now.
Speaking of getting your Irish on, you don't have to visit during St. Patrick's Day to get a taste of the Emerald Isle in the Caribbean islands. The ubiquitous Irish pub also has claimed a stake in paradise, including:
- Flanagan's Irish Pub, Restaurant & Sports Bar, Hamilton, Bermuda: An Irish pub on a very British island, with two bars and video screens dedicated to Celtic football and the English Premier League.
- Shamrock's Pub, Rodney Bay, St. Lucia: This open-air bar and restaurant has live and DJ music, dancing, pool, and more.
- Danny Bouy's Irish Pub, Providenciales, Turks and Caicos: Great venue for live music and sports, including soccer, rugby, football, hockey and more.