There's Always Something Fun Happening in the Caribbean
Lots of Caribbean travelers plan trips around festivals or other big events, but there are also fun things happening in most island destinations no matter when you travel. Going to the market is a weekly tradition that both locals and visitors can enjoy, for example, and most islands' social calendar also includes weekly street parties, sometimes called "jump-ups," that are a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture, food, music, and spirits.
Go to Market
Before the age of supermarkets, going to market each week was a tradition everywhere in the world. In the Caribbean, you'll still find huge open-air and covered markets where vendors gather to sell fresh fruits and vegetables, spices, handicrafts, and more. Some are open daily, but many operate on a once- or twice-weekly basis. On Grand Cayman, for example, Wednesday is market day on (where else?) Market Street in Camana Bay. The Marche d'Epice in Fort de France, Martinique, is open daily and features an amazing variety of spices, local liqueur, and folk medicines for sale.
Visiting a local market is about as authentic an experience as you'll get in the Caribbean, a memorable way to meet island residents and revel in the sights, sounds, and smells of local life. Check with your hotel concierge for the dates and times that the market in your destination is open.
Fishy Fun on Friday Nights
Every Friday night on Eleuthera in the Bahamas, there's a big fish fry in Governor's Harbour that attracts both locals and tourists alike. It's just one example of the kind of food, fun, and music festival that island residents turn out for each week in places like Barbados (the Oistins Fish Fry may be the most famous in the Caribbean), Grenada (Fish Fridays in Guoyave), and St. Lucia (in Anse la Reye and Gros Islet). In St. Kitts, the popular Friday night Lobster Fest at the Reggae Beach Bar starts with great food and inevitably continues with rum drinks in the sands of Cockleshell Bay.
A Street Party Might Just Be the Most Memorable Part of Your Vacation
Call them jump-ups, limes, fetes, or just good old street parties: the Caribbean has some of the best weekly bashes you'll find anywhere. Gros Islet in St. Lucia has a lively Friday night jump up, where adventurous visitors revel in hot dance music and cold beer. In Antigua, the sunset party on Shirley Heights is the place to be each Sunday night. On Tobago, "Sunday School" is the tongue-in-cheek name for the weekly dance party at Buccoo Beach, with steel pan music early and dancehall and soca into the wee hours.
On other islands, the weekly jump-up may be hosted by a specific hotel (like the Frangipani in Bequia on Thursday nights) or bar (like the Bath and Turtle on Virgin Gorda on Wednesdays). Ask around!
Howl at the Full Moon
OK, these are monthly -- when the moon is full, obviously -- not weekly, but you've still got maybe a one-in-four chance that your trip will coincide with one of these great, all-night parties if you're traveling to Tortola, where the Bomba Shack hosts the Caribbean's looniest party.
Trellis Bay also hosts a full-moon party (on Beef Island, near the airport), which is somewhat more sedate, though you can still get your freak on amid the raging bonfires and dancing moko jumbies. Free rum punch helps bring the crowds into Sunshine's Bar & Grill on Nevis for its monthly full-moon party, while the bush rum at Kali's in St. Martin (at Friar's Bay) does the same trick.
Say Bonbini and Channel the Carnival Spirit of Aruba
Bonbini means “Welcome!” in Aruba's native Papiamento, and this weekly music and dance festival is the perfect introduction to the warmth and hospitality of Aruba’s people. The BonBini Festival takes place in downtown Oranjestad every Tuesday at 6:30 pm in the outdoor courtyard of Fort Zoutman, Aruba’s oldest building.
The family-friendly Carubbian Festival takes place in San Nicolas -- Aruba's less visited industrial center -- every Thursday night from 6:00 p. m. to 10 p.m., and highlights the multicultural charms of Aruba’s “Sunrise City." The weekly event features Aruban and Caribbean food and local entertainers parading down a pedestrian mall filled with food and handicraft vendors.