A Caribbean vacation means idling the day away on white sand beaches, broken up only by an occasional dip in the warm turquoise water. Beach chairs, cabanas, tropical drinks, good books. Yes, the Caribbean has all of that in spades. But island life has a charm all its own, and not to be ignored is the local culture and cuisine.
In fact, there are some great music festivals held throughout the Caribbean, and if you time your beach vacation right, you can double the fun by adding some rhythm to your island getaway.
Here are some of the best festivals, with a variety of musical genres. Which one suits your tastes?
Dominica Creole World Music Festival
This festival, held since 1997, is three days of Caribbean music with an infusion of French pop, Haitian jazz, and indigenous music from Dominica, Guadeloupe, and Martinique. Musicians also come from the U.S. and Africa. The unique sound of cadence-lypso – the fusion of cadence rampa from Haiti and calypso from Trinidad and Tobago – can be heard throughout the island.
Eletheura All That Jazz Festival, Bahamas
A trip to the Caribbean in March is the perfect way to chase the winter blues away. And each March, this five-day festival is held on the Bahamian out-island of Eletheura. It runs from Wednesday to Sunday and takes place at various venues throughout the island. Audiences are rarely more than 200, so a front-row seat and a chance to meet and talk with the musicians – who come from all over the world – are usually possible. The festival is for a good cause as well; it benefits the Haynes Library, an historic landmark on the island.
Nevis Blues Festival
Nevis – the little brother of St. Kitts – hosts this funky, bluesy, soulful music festival right on Oualie Beach every April. Audiences are limited to about 1,000, so you can always get a good seat. Top artists from the U.K. and U.S. are common at the festival, and a wide variety of food – Caribbean, Nevisian Barbecue, Thai, and Asian – is sure to please any palate.
Reggae Sumfest, Jamaica
If you can’t resist the rhythm of reggae, then this festival is a can’t-miss event. The island’s national music is front and center on beautiful and picturesque Montego Bay. Five days of various events and parties lead up to two days of main events, featuring some of the biggest names in reggae. It’s a full week of festivities, and the party atmosphere is always palpable. The festival has been going strong for 25 years and shows no signs of slowing down.
St. Lucia Jazz Festival
Begun in 1992 as a way to extend the winter tourist season, this festival has attracted such artists as George Benson, Herbie Hancock, Branford Marsalis, Carlos Santana, and Amy Winehouse. In the past, the festival stretched for ten days and incorporated pop, R&B, and reggae into the lineup. Recently, the festival has been shortened and is more focused on bringing great jazz music to its attendees. The festival takes place at several venues throughout the island. It has grown into an internationally recognized jazz festival and an important event on the jazz calendar.