Six Can't-Miss Caribbean Music Festivals

The Caribbean is a melting pot of musical styles, and it seems like there's a music festival going on somewhere in the islands just about any time of the year. Here are a half-dozen of the best -- the musical celebrations you'll want to plan a vacation around.

  • 01 of 06
    Julie Mourillon at the 2008 World Creole Music Festival
    Julie Mourillon at the 2008 World Creole Music Festival. © The Lime/CC by 2.0

    For a traditional Caribbean music experience, look no further than the Dominica World Creole Music Festival. Started in 1997, this historic festival features three days of all types of Caribbean music, including zouk, reggae, calypso, soca, and more. The festival traditionally takes place in late-October or early-November, and is one of the biggest generators of tourism to Dominica

    Learn more about traditional Caribbean music

  • 02 of 06
    R Kelly performing at the 2013 St. Lucia Jazz Festival. © Bill Mortley for the St. Lucia Tourist Board

    The St. Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival is one of the oldest music festivals in the Caribbean, and is held annually in May. Started in 1992, it features jazz artists from all around the world and is played in venues all across the island of St. Lucia. The festival, which includes both musical events and art showcases, is 15 days long and includes both local and international entertainers and artists. It is considered one of the premier cultural events in the Caribbean.

  • 03 of 06
    Dancehall artist Mavado at Reggae Sumfest 2008
    Dancehall artist Mavado at Reggae Sumfest 2008. © Cycler/CC by 3.0

    Held in the birthplace of reggae, this four-night music event that takes place every July is one of the biggest crowd-drawers in the Caribbean. Tens of thousands of fans show up to tune up with musical performances by both local artists and international headliners. Musical genres include reggae, ska, dub, and dancehall, among others, and past headliners have included LL Cool J, Mary J. Blige, Sean Paul, Rihanna, and Nicki Minaj. For a whirlwind reggae party that you’ll never forget, Reggae Sumfest is where you want to be.

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    UB40 lead singer Ali Campbell. © St. Kitts Music Festival

    Started in 1997, the St. Kitts Music Fest is a three-day-long outdoor event held annually in the month of June on the island of St. Kitts. The festival features musical performances by local and international artists, performing in a variety of musical genres including soca, jazz, R&B, gospel, and reggae. Past international headliners include Machel Montano, Tessanne Chin, Kelly Rowland, and Beenie Man.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06
    Soul Beach Music Festival
    Soul Beach Music Festival. Photo courtesy of the Aruba Tourism Authority

    A five-day and five-night long celebration, the Soul Beach Music Festival in Oranjestad, Aruba has had tourists tapping their toes since 2000. The festival takes place on Memorial Day weekend and features both indoor and outdoor events, merging tropical rhythm and blues music with American soul.

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    saxaphone
    Photo by Elisabeth D'Orcy/CC by SA 2.0

    For popular, world-class artists and dance-inducing Caribbean music with an international flair, the North Sea Jazz Fest in Curacao is the place to be. Taking place in late August or early-September each year, this two-day festival features performances in soul, jazz, hip-hop, R&B, and more. In the past, this festival has drawn international stars including Bruno Mars, Juan Luis Guerra, and Dianne Reeves. In 2015, U.S. pop and R&B star Usher will be headlining, alongside dozens of other Caribbean superstars and international artists.