Caribbean Datebook (January/February 2016)

Your guide to Caribbean events in January and February, from a jazz festival in Haiti to Carnival celebrations in Trinidad and Tobago

  • Amskad /
  • Photo by Josué Azor
  • Photo by Tim Wright
  • Photo courtesy Holetown Festival Barbados
  • Photo by Marcin Sylwia Ciesielski /
  • Photo courtesy St Kitts Carnival Committee
  • Fotos593 /
  • Photo by Jesus Gil/Demotix Images
  • Photo by Avprophoto /

Don’t miss . . .

Bacchanal time

Across the Caribbean, February brings annual Carnival celebrations combining music, dancing, and masquerades ranging from the ritual and traditional — like this mud-covered revelry in Kourou, French Guiana — to cutting-edge design, all in thrall to the Merry Monarch.


If you’re in . . .

. . . Haiti: Festival International de Jazz de Port-au-Prince

23 to 30 January

It’s so easy to form a partial picture of Haiti based on what you’ve heard in the news. The devastating earthquake of 2010, the cholera outbreak thereafter, and more recent tensions as a result of presidential elections have dominated the media landscape, but there’s so much more to this island state, the first nation to claim its independence from colonial masters back in 1804.

The Festival International de Jazz de Port-au-Prince is one such hidden treasure — even more so as it celebrates its tenth anniversary this January. The eight-day festival is organised by the Haiti Jazz Foundation, with a programme of more than thirty concerts by bands from fifteen countries at ten different sites around the city — with over twenty thousand audience members expected.

Headliners include American Kenny Garrett, the Haitian All-Stars, Canadian Oliver Jones, Haitian Emeline Michel, and Cuban Omar Sossa. You can also join workshops hosted by local and foreign artistes, as well as a short conference at which musicians Godwin Louis and Pauline Jean will talk about Haiti’s contribution to “America’s premiere indigenous art form, jazz.”


. . . Grenada: Grenada Sailing Week

28 January to 2 February

A major selling point of a Caribbean vacation is the thought of all that sun, sea, and sand. And what better place to experience all three than at the annual Grenada Sailing Week, a popular fixture on the regional regatta calendar, devoted to keel boat racing. With six classes to choose from — Racing, Racer/Cruiser I, Racer/Cruiser II, Cruising, J24, and Classic — the organisers aim to have fifty boats participating in this year’s competition, exceeding the thirty-nine entries from twelve countries last year.

All races depart from the Secret Harbour Marina in Mt Hartman Bay, the Prickly Bay Marina, and the Grenada Yacht Club in St George’s — with the latter the location for the Skippers’ Briefing and Welcome Party on Thursday. Friday and Saturday will see keen racing, with a “Lay Day” on Sunday, followed by more racing on Monday and Tuesday. Of course, in true Caribbean fashion, every day will have a party, although more activities can be expected on Lay Day, and it will end in grand style with the final regatta party on Tuesday.

You have until 28 January to register, whether with your own boat or under a charter arrangement.

Anchors aweigh!


. . . Barbados: Holetown Festival

14 to 21 February

In February 1627, the first English settlers landed on the west coast of Barbados, at the site that would soon be known as Holetown, changing the course of history in the island. Since 1977, a festival has been held to commemorate the event, along with other aspects of Barbados’s heritage and culture.

It was first conceived as a two-day festival, but became so popular that it was expanded to its current form. Over eight days, you can relive Barbados’s history through its presentation of art, food, music, craft, and fashion. But first up is a visit to the Holetown Monument, which kicks off the festivities.

You can also sign up for tours, exhibitions, lectures, concerts, a police tattoo and night march, a street fair, and a vintage car parade, with the Queen of the Festival Pageant bringing the curtain down on the celebrations. If you’re looking for a comprehensive insight into Barbadian culture and or to learn its history, this week in February could be your best bet.

Event previews by Mirissa De Four



Jump into January

Accompong Maroon Festival
Accompong Town, Jamaica

The “capital” of the Maroon territory of Jamaica’s Cockpit Country is the venue for this celebration of Maroon history and heritage via music, dancing, food, art, and more
6 January


St Kitts Carnival
Venues around St Kitts

What a way to ring in the new year . . . St Kitts’s traditional Christmas celebrations have morphed over the decades into a full-scale Carnival celebration, with the season building up through December until the grand finale on 1 January
1 to 2 January


Rebel Salute
Richmond Estate, St Ann Bay, Jamaica

It began as a birthday celebration for reggae icon Tony Rebel, and over the past two decades has evolved into one of Jamaica’s best music festivals, with a focus on conscious performers and a strictly ital menu
15 to 16 January


Mount Gay Round Barbados Race
Around Barbados

2016 marks the impressive eightieth anniversary of this sailing event. The centrepiece is a sailing race around the island of Barbados, but don’t overlook five classes of race events on the south and west coasts, and a Barbados-to-Antigua ocean race as well
16 to 24 January


Hay Cartagena
Venues around Cartagena, Colombia

The gorgeous historic architecture of Colombia’s famed Caribbean city is the backdrop for this annual literary festival bringing together writers from Latin America and the rest of the world
28 to 31 January


Fever for February

Carnival weekend
Across the Caribbean

It may be hard for Trinis to believe, but they aren’t the only ones celebrating Carnival on 8 and 9 February. From Haiti to Carriacou, Guadeloupe to French Guiana, hundreds of thousands take to the streets during this season of music and masquerade, climaxing on Carnival Tuesday, or Mardi Gras
5 to 9 February


The Burial of the Sardine
Towns and villages in Venezuela

Elsewhere in the Caribbean, Christians mark the start of Lent with church services and ashes. In Venezuela, this traditional festival derived from Carnival in Spain sees revellers dressed in parody funeral garments parading the effigy of a fish through the streets
10 February


Maricao Coffee Harvest Festival
Maricao, Puerto Rico

The end of the annual coffee harvest in Puerto Rico’s highlands is a great excuse for a party, with music, crafts — and ample opportunity for tasting the best Puerto Rican coffee, brewed in every form and incorporated into desserts and other delicacies
12 to 14 February


Venues around Guyana

Republic Day celebrations are usually Guyana’s answer to Carnival — but this year revellers will have to exercise their patience, as the main street parade is postponed until May, to coincide with celebrations of the fiftieth anniversary of Independence
23 February


Venues around Cayman

From music to film, fashion to food, the Cayman Islands National Festival of the Arts is a rich showcase of the best and most creative talent of the island cluster south of Cuba
25 to 27 February

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