By Tad Richards
There’s some major music within sailing distance this summer, with reggae in Jamaica and a cornucopia in St. Kitts, Aruba, Curaçao and elsewhere. And so much more! We’ve got running, eating, drinking, bodily and spiritual wellness — truly an across-the-board Caribbean experience. Start marking your calendars!
June 2-3: Caribbean Sun Splash, Willemstad, Curaçao
The two-day festival offers Afrobeats, Amapiano, Dancehall, Ritmo Kombina, Reggae, Kawina and Urban, as well as “lots of delicious foods, bringing all kinds of different cultures together.”
Headliners include R&B superstar Ashanti, whose hits run the gamut from “Foolish” to “Unfoolish,” and whose credits include multi-platinum, movie success, and playing Dorothy in a Broadway revival of The Wiz. One of Ashanti’s first recording sessions was as a featured guest on the hit song “Always on Time” by Ja Rule, a giant of hip-hop then and now, and another star of this year’s Sun Splash. Nigerian singer-songwriter-rapper Rema, who rode the hit song “Dumebi” to international stardom, is the third headliner, and beyond them, a bevy of first-rate talent. Sun Splash also promotes a festival of Caribbean Music in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, but since they take place on the same weekend you probably won’t make both of them.
For more information or to buy tickets go to www.sunsplashevents.nl.
June 3-4, KLM Aruba Marathon, Oranjestad, Aruba
If you’re thinking about running 42.2km through beautiful island scenery, you could register at klmarubamarathon.com/en/runners/Register; a marathon also always draws crowds of spectators. And afterwards, you could take a nice stroll along the beach.
June 8, Hopkins Mangu Festival, Hopkins, Belize
“In the village of Hopkins, the soil is rich in nutrients and allows for local farmers to grow a variety of different mangos,” says the event web page, so what better spot for a mango festival? The event also includes arts and crafts booths, live music, and a dashiki competition.
The website, belizing.com/Hopkins-Mangu-Mango-Fest, is a little dated, but provides useful information.
June 9-12: 43er Festival del Jíbaro Comerieño, Comerío, Puerto Rico
This festival that honors the field workers and laborers of the island features arts, crafts, food booths and music of this island which has produced so many musical greats.
June 12-17, Bonaire Rum Week
This celebration of the Caribbean’s signature beverage is back for its second year, with nine different events scheduled around the island, including a wedding of food and drink on the 17th, with Taste of Bonaire.
June 19-25, Bonaire Yoga and Wellness Week
No one can party all the time, and if you’re ready for a little spiritual and physical replenishment, this could be the place to do it. Bonaire offers a chance to “balance the mind, body and soul,” with a choice of yoga and wellness programs.
June 22, International Choral Festival Costa Rica for Peace
This is really a change of pace—and could be an uplifting one. The International Choral Festival Costa Rica for Peace, say its organizers, “is a celebration of music, nature, culture and peace. It is an opportunity for choral singers from all over the world to share their passion and talent with local communities and audiences.”
June 22-24: St. Kitts Music Festival
“A rich variety of musical styles that is unique to the festival.”
See our writeup at caribbeancompass.com/sounds
June 22-25, Love Fest Costa Rica 2023
Held in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Limón Province. Performers still TBA, but the organizers also tout “our sunset Meet and Greet, the Tour de ‘Love Fest’ bike ride to Panama border, the Manzanillo bike ride ‘Booze Cruise,’ the Black Expats Costa Rica Business Expo/Meetup.”
June 23-25, Ocho Rios Jazz Festival, Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Delfayo Marsalis, Jamaica Big band, Seretse & Friends, ISOP – Instrumental Sounds of Praise, more to be announced.
June 24, Kallaloo Festival, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas
Maybe not something you’d plan a special trip to St. Thomas for, but worth checking out if you’re there. This tribute to a traditional Caribbean dish is “a family-oriented event, music, entertainment—a kaleidoscope of festivities, a taste of culture from many chefs from around the Caribbean celebrating the origin of kallaloo.”
June 25-26, Coffee & Chocolate Expo, Puerto Rico Convention Center, San Juan
Coffee and chocolate — who could ask for more? But there is more. With over 185 exhibitors you will be able to taste and also purchase different coffees, chocolates, teas, pastries, cookies, candies among other complementary items.
June 27 – July 3, CayMAS Carnival, Grand Cayman
A week-long celebration including soca on the beach, food, flowers, the official Caymas parade, and more — the organizers promise “a complete Carnival weekend, with all the facets of Carnival.”
June 27-July 4, Fiesta del Fuego, Santiago de Cuba
Performances, exhibitions, workshops and street activities throughout Santiago de Cuba. “Visitors can immerse themselves in the street parades and traditional congas.”
June 30, Aruba Summer Music Festival
Performers TBA. Check arubasmf.com for updates.
June 30 – July 9, Festival de las Flores de Aibonito, Puerto Rico
Food, live music, activities for the kids…but the main attractions of this 9-day festival are the flowers and other plants — rows and rows of booths selling all kinds of plants — orchids, fruit trees, vegetable plants, heliconias, gingers, hibiscus, just to name a few, in a traditional event that has been going on for over half a century. www.discoverpuertorico.com/info/festival-de-las-flores
July 1 International Reggae Day 2023, Jamaica
The organizers of “24 hours of celebration for reggae culture” suggest that you “celebrate International Reggae Day in your own way, by organizing your own event in homage to the impact that Reggae music has.” You could do that, or you could come to Kingston to celebrate where reggae was born, and where it still lives. www.ireggaeday.com
July 4, Fourth of July in Aruba
If you’re homesick for the USA on its Independence Day, but not so homesick that you actually want to give up cruising the Caribbean, Aruba offers good old-fashioned 4th of July festivities, complete with fireworks.
July 8, Festival Arcano: Luna, magia y tabú, Ponce, Puerto Rico
This festival of moon, magic and taboo looks to be the NSFW event of the season, with “a journey to know your erotic body in the body mapping workshop” conducted by Vanessa, among other magic and taboo offerings.
July 10, Piña Colada Day
If you’re going to sail to Jamaica for International Reggae Day, why not add a sporty, upwind leg to your voyage and swing by Puerto Rico to help them celebrate the national beverage? nationaltoday.com/national-pina-colada-day
July 10, Mi Habana Baila Festival, Havana
July 10, Mango Melee & Tropical Fruit Festival, St. Croix
Two mango festivals this summer? We must be in the tropics. Well, who can resist tropical fruits? And this festival features chefs and cooks from around the Virgin Islands vying in the “Mango Dis, Mango Dat” competition.
July 12-19, St. Lucia Carnival
St. Lucia presents itself as a monthlong carnival, but that much fun can wear a body out, and there are other Caribbean events you might be considering dropping by during the month. The main event is this mid-month week, featuring, its organizers write “a massive celebration filled with elaborate costumes, intoxicating rhythms, parades, pure Caribbean energy, and more…the main event is the street parade.”
July 16, Reggae Sumfest, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Reggae Sumfest is a huge Reggae explosion from the heart of this worldwide phenomenon. It begins with a beach party, and continues with concerts each night of the festival, featuring some of reggae’s most explosive superstars. Here are some of the highlights:
- “Brown Skin,” “Youth Dem Cold” and “Grooving My Girl” are just a few of the hits by Richie Spice. He’ll appear July 16, along with
- Morgan Heritage, two-time Grammy winners and sons of the late reggae legend Denroy Morgan
- Controversial dancehall performer Tommy Lee Sparta, whose dark themes in songs like “Some Bwoy” and “Psycho” thrill many and disturb some, on July 21
- And a stellar lineup concluding the fest on July 22, including Grammy-winning “Queen of Dancehall” Marion Hall, the first female deejay to be certified as triple-platinum
- Freddie McGregor, a reggae giant since he was seven-year-old “Little Freddie,” honored by a Marcus Garvey Lifetime Achievement Award from the Institute of Caribbean Studies
- And two of McGregor’s sons, Stephen “Di Genius” McGregor, Grammy-winning producer and songwriter for Drake, Shakira, John Legend and others, now a dynamic performer in his own right; and silken-voiced Chino, with “an undeniable mystique that drives female fans wild.”
July 16, Cabarete Kite Fest, Dominican Republic
A festival on the water, featuring world-class kiteboarders. Cabarete is on the north coast of the Dominican Republic, and the event should last most of the week, but dates are not firm yet.
July 7 – 15, Belize Culinary and Culture Tour
More for tourists than cruisers, but still, Belize goes all out over this week with “an immersive trip to welcome you to this incredibly diverse and beautiful country! Spend eight nights and nine days exploring the beauty of Belize and one-of-a-kind activities that celebrate the local food and culture on this small group tour.”
July 28 – August 1, Dream Weekend, Negri, Jamaica
Forbes Magazine recently listed Dream Weekend as one of the top festivals in Jamaica, stating “Jamaica is the perfect destination to enjoy a festival and Dream Weekend provides an experience of non-stop partying in the tourist destination of the 7-mile beach in Negril.” The entertainment is worth staying awake for: Shenseea, Valiant, Stalk Ashley, and Skeng.
July 29-30, AnimeCom Fest 2023, Kingston, Jamaica
If you (or your kids) are into anime, here’s “a fantastic two-day multi-genre convention and entertainment festival celebrating arts, pop culture and cultural diversity.”
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