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The Caribbean's 10 Best Art and Music Festivals in Summer 2014
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The Caribbean's 10 Best Art and Music Festivals in Summer 2014

Picture of Zoe McIntyre
Updated: 9 February 2017
With its sugar-white beaches, laid-back vibe and heady rum cocktails, the Caribbean provides the perfect setting for some raucous summer parties. Tear yourself away from the sun lounger and seek out one of these fantastic festivals taking place across the idyllic islands that put on show the best music, dance, and island culture that this part of the world has to offer.
Jamaica | © Tomach Devenishek/Flickr

Crop Over

Until 4 August

The roots of Crop Over Festival lie deep in Barbados’s colonial past, when 18th century plantation workers would celebrate the end of the sugarcane harvest. The tradition lapsed with the decline of the sugar industry but was revived in the 1970s, and today has become an extravagant five-week frenzy of hip-grinding calypso contests, blaring Soca music, visual art exhibitions, artisan markets and carnival parades in which the whole island takes part. Don’t miss the big opening gala marked by the ceremonial deliverance of the harvested canes by donkey and cart and the crowning of the champion cane cutters as King and Queen to preside over the following festivities.

Event takes place in various locations across Barbados

Crop Over Festival
Image courtesy of the Crop Over Festival
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St. Kitts Music Festival

26 – 28 June

First started in 1996, St. Kitts’ popular music festival is an exhilarating musical mishmash, incorporating everything from hip-hop beats to calypso rhythms and attracting many international performers to its main stage. Busta Rhymes, Wyclef Jean and Brian McKnight are just some of its past performers. Taking place in the island’s tiny capital of Basseterre, on the southwest coast of St. Kitts, the event attracts attendees from far and wide, who this year will have the chance to watch an eclectic medley of talent that includes Chronixx, Beenie Man, and Elvis Crespon among many others.

Warner Park Stadium, Basseterre, St. Kitts

Anguilla Summer Festival

2 July – 10 August

Idyllic Anguilla celebrates the 40th anniversary of its Summer Festival this year, during which the entire island is enveloped in raucous festival fever. Get up early if you want to witness the highlight of the festival, J’Ouvert Morning, when a vibrant street jam begins at 4.30am and involves music-booming floats, energetic drummers and festival-goers parading right from the central streets of The Valley, the island’s capital, to the long, curved beach at Sandy Ground. The daytime events that follow centre around the island’s national sport of boat racing, accompanied by BBQs on the beach, live music and pageantry. As the sun goes down, carnival antics dissolve into groovy Soca beats and dancing aplenty.

Event takes place in various locations across Anguilla

Reggae Sumfest

13 – 19 July

Reggae lovers shouldn’t miss Jamaica’s legendary Reggae Sumfest, celebrating the island’s most famous export. Tens of thousands of revellers gather at Montego Bay to enjoy international dancehall crooners taking to the stage for thrilling jamming sessions and soothing reggae rhythms, which create the perfect soundtrack to the summer. This year’s festival kicks off with a Friday beach party, when live DJ sets whip up an electric atmosphere, before more Rasta revelry continues with crowd-pulling International Nights, an all white themed party and headlining acts including Beenie Man, Chronixx and Jason Derulo.

Catherine Hall, Montego Bay, Jamaica

Reggae SumFest
Reggae Sumfest | © Google Images

Tobago Heritage Festival

17 July – 1 August

Located in the southern Caribbean, the island of Tobago spreads its annual Heritage Festival across two weeks in celebration of the island’s rich cultural nuances. During the event, local spirit comes alive in the island villages where, in traditional costume, Tobagonians relive age-old ways of life with storytelling, folk dance, African drumming and rich culinary offerings. Along with the concerts and street parades, festival-goers will find many other colourful activities to entertain them, from goat racing to dramatic re-enactments of scenes from the island’s slave-trade history.

Dutch Fort, Scarborough, Tobago

Fiesta de Santiago de Apóstol

25 July

Delve into Puerto Rico’s rich Hispanic and African heritage by heading to the coastal town of Loíza Aldea, east of the capital San Juan, where islanders honour their Patron Saint of Santiago de Apóstol each year in July. Along with religious ceremonies, street parades and open-air plena and bomba concerts (the island’s percussion-driven music traditions), the festival is best known for locals dressing up in brightly coloured vejigante masks and bat-like wings to resemble mythical creatures that interact with crowds and cause mischief during the events. The ornate masks are sold across the island during the festival for visitors to dress up in or take home as a unique keepsake.

Loíza Aldea, Puerto Rico

Antigua Carnival

26 July – 5 August

A riot of feather-clad costumes, bright body paint and trucks booming heavy calypso beats contribute to Antigua’s annual carnival gaining the reputation as one of the Caribbean’s most elaborate. Played out in the buzzing streets of Antigua’s coast-hugging capital St. John’s, the celebrations commence with j’ouvert when energetic steel-drum musicians, calypso and Soca singers and impromptu jamming bands entertain huge, ebullient crowds. During the ten days that follow, fierce music competitions, local food fairs, cultural shows and workshops offer a wonderful way for visitors to involve themselves with the local culture.

St. John’s, Antigua

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Tour des Yoles Rondes

27 July – 3 August

While many Caribbean islands host summertime regattas, the French island of Martinique offers a unique experience with its annual Tour des Yoles Rondes. Celebrating its 40th edition this year, the festival is a dedication to Martinique’s distinctive type of yawl, which islanders have used to sail the Caribbean’s limpid waters for hundreds of years. No ordinary regatta, it involves daring sailors balancing on poles while riding astride the yoles in an effort to gain the advantage over opponents. Every village-stage of the route welcomes sailors and spectators with invigorating music, dancing, food and a lot of local rum before the race finale and crowning of the overall winner on the last day.

Event takes place in various locations across Martinique

Tour des Yoles Rondes
Tour des Yoles Rondes | © HAF 932/WikiCommons

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Curacao North Sea Jazz Festival

29 – 30 August

Sultry jazz, soul and funk rhythms fuse with a laid-back tropical atmosphere during the annual North Sea Jazz Festival the takes place on the tiny Dutch-Caribbean island of Curacao, found just off the Venezuelan coast. Held at the island’s Piscadera Bay, this year’s bill includes Brit rocker Rod Stewart, Latin-America’s star band Maná and American jazz veteran Dianne Reeves. With its promise of high-octane performances and a notoriously boisterous crowd, prepare yourself for long partying stints that usually end up with late-night dining at the food trucks.

World Trade Centre, Piscadera Bay, Curacao

Curacao North Sea Jazz Festival
Image courtesy of Curacao North Sea Jazz Festival

Electric Festival

3 – 7 September

Aruba’s miles of pristine white-sand coastline provide an idyllic backdrop to the Caribbean’s newest and coolest event, the Electric Festival. Launched only last year, the inaugural edition succeeded in attracting around 15,000 attendees to witness its star-studded bill that included Chuckie, Erik Morillo and Nero. This year’s five-day party is expected to be even bigger and better, promising some of the hottest international djs on the electro and techno scene. With pumping sets taking place both day and night, the festival provides hardcore music lovers with the perfect way to end summer on a beat-busting high.

Event takes place in various locations across Aruba

Electric Festival
Electric Festival Aruba | © Erick Morillo/Flickr