🇬🇩 Carriacou Carnival

This Caribbean Carnival has a unique twist that you won’t find at any other Caribbean Carnival in the world – a Shakespeare Mas!


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    When is the Carnival of Carriacou 2023?

    Carriacou Carnival is a pre-Lenten carnival celebration that is always held in the lead up to Lent which is a Catholic tradition that sees 40 days of fasting and abstinence before Easter. The Carriacou Carnival always finishes on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of Lent.

    What are the dates for the 2023 Carriacou Carnival? The Carriacou Carnival is scheduled to be held on Monday February 20 until Tuesday February 21, 2023.  

    Where is the Carriacou Carnival?

    carriacou carnival crazy

    Carriacou is a Caribbean Island that is part of the Grenadine Islands and dependent on Grenada. Sitting in the south-eastern Caribbean Sea, it sits north east of Grenada and to the north coast of South America. It is the largest and most populated Grenadine Island.

    Carnival celebrations take place all over the island but most of the main events take place in Hillsborough, near the ferry dock.

    What is the Carriacou carnival?

    carriacou carnival party

    Carriacou carnival also known as Kayak-Mas is a pre-Lenten carnival that is the last chance to have fun and give in to all your temptations, before the onset of Lent. While not as big or popular as some of the other Caribbean Carnivals, it is one of great cultural importance.

    The Carriacou carnival is one of the most authentic carnivals in the world. It will surpass your expectations as this little Island carnival is filled with fantasy and creativity, inspired by the work of Shakespeare. There is no other carnival in the world where you will witness the reenactment of William Shakespeare’s plays.

    How do they celebrate carnival in Carriacou?

    carriacou carnival tradition

    Carriacou may be a small island, but don’t let that fool you because they still host one of the most all-consuming carnival celebrations in the Caribbean. Carriacou Carnival has its own unique identity that shows off the island’s culture and heritage.

    Weeks before carnival has even begun, pre-carnival celebrations begin to kick off all around the island. The pre-carnival celebrations see a Carnival Queen being crowned, as well as the Calypso and Soca bands competing for the best band.

    Carriacou Carnival hosts a typical Caribbean style carnival, with Mas Parades, fetes, lots of soca and calypso, humorous social commentary, carnival royalty competitions, colorful costumes and of course lots of drinking, eating and partying.

    As it gets closer to Shrovetide, a Carnival Village is set up in Hillsborough, to be a central hub for all the carnival action.

    The carnival kicks off with J’Ouvert which is a pre-dawn celebration that occurs before sunrise. It’s fun and spontaneous and everyone throws mud and paint at each other, drinks a lot, and dances away to the soca music. All these celebrating dents the Islands rum supply.

    Some of the biggest highlights of Carriacou Carnival are the Mas Parade, Last Lap Parade and the Shakespeare Mas Parade, which sets this carnival apart from all others. Also, the Carnival Royalty competitions, calypso competitions and some of the band battles.

    Carnival in Carriacou is a pretty laid-back affair and it was hard to nail down what was happening, where events were occurring and at what time.  Before we arrived, the schedule kept changing, major changes – like events being moved between days.

    J’ouvert/Jab Jab

    carriacou carnival jouvert

    J’ouvert is French for ‘day break’, this is a morning parade that occurs before sunrise. Revelers march through the town, in a not-so-orderly fashion, starting at 5:00am. Revelers chaotically dance to soca, drink rum and throw paint at each other.

    Carnival characters called the Jab Jabbers, as part of their deal with the devil, smear oil, mud and paint over the revelers. Everyone is laughing and having fun and everyone gets covered in oil. The party lasts until about midday.

    Trucks with big sound systems attached, drive through the town, blasting music and everyone dances alongside them. The trucks eventually converge in the town center and everyone continues to party.

    Shakespeare Mas or Pierrot

    What might surprise people the most about Carriacou Carnival is that on Shrove Tuesday they host one of the most unlikely parades. Participants in this show dress in costumes from Shakespeare’s era and recite lines from Shakespeare’s work. When one of them makes a mistake, they get hit over the head with a stick.

    The participants battle each other over who can remember the most lines. Whoever ends up being the winner becomes the King of Carnival for that year. This tradition dates back to colonial times, when slaves were forced to perform for their owners, and were hit when they recited an error. This tradition showcases the cruelties of the past. Today no one gets hurt as the participants wear padding under headwear to stay safe.


    carriacou carnival parade

    What is carnival without parades? Carriacou Carnival puts on a number of Mas parades. Think costumed paradors, huge speakers mounted to the back of trucks blasting out the calypso and soca tunes, dancing in the street day and night, good food, lots of rum and everyone having a good time.

    There is Fancy Mas, where women parade in fancy, bright colored, feathered and sequined carnival costumes. Lots of dancing to soca, some awesome costumes, and a night of wild partying. 

    One of the biggest parades takes place on Shrove Monday, in the evening called Monday Night Mas. This parade is illuminated, creating a fun party atmosphere. Everyone wears glow in the dark sticks. Booming speakers, with DJ’s whipping the crowds into a frenzy.

    On Shrove Tuesday of course there is the Shakespeare Mas, which is followed by the Last Lap Parade. The parades feature fun costumes, simple floats, musicians.

    What to eat at Carriacou Carnival?

    Carnival is the time of year you get to indulge in good food without feeling guilty. Canboulay is the first event in this carnival. It sees local families and friends get together and cook a huge feast. It takes place on Shrove Sunday, usually around midnight, and it’s just a fun way to kick off the carnival celebrations.

    What is the history of Carriacou Carnival?

    The origins of Carriacou Carnival began back when the early European settlers introduced carnival to the Caribbean Islands back in the 17th century. The original carnival celebrations were private masquerade balls, inside private residences, that were held before the onset of Lent.

    The slaves held their own celebrations instead and would dress up in traditional African outfits and dance to African drum music. When slavery was abolished, the freed people were allowed to celebrate carnival. Over the years, carnival evolved and began to embrace more Caribbean culture with some minor European traditions.

    How to get to Carriacou?

    To get to Carriacou, you have to first make your way to Grenada. From the main island you can fly to Carriacou’s Lauriston Airport.  Or you can take a ferry from St. Georges. There are direct flights to Grenada from the US and UK.

    Where to stay in Carriacou?

    Carriacou is a small island so if you are going for Carnival then please book your accommodation as soon as possible! There are some small hotels on the island, but they book out quickly.

    Carriacou has a population of around 7,000. During carnival the population swells to double that, with around 15,000 people coming for carnival. Not enough for hotel rooms. Many Grenadians don’t even bother to look for rooms and just sleep on the beach.

    Check out Booking.com for some accommodation deals for Carriacou here.

    Book your Hotel and Flight for the Carriacou Carnival


    Is Carriacou Carnival safe?

    The crime rate is low, so tourists can feel safe while visiting Carriacou, but thefts of bags and other personal items are often very common, so they must be kept safe and out of sight.

    Tourists are recommended to keep their identity documents, such as passports, in the facilities of the place where they are staying, as they will not be necessary on a day-to-day basis.

    What to do and see at the Carriacou carnival?

    carriacou carnival beach

    One of the main attractions of Carriacou are its beaches, as they have such an intense blue that it surprises anyone, below we will tell you a little about some of them:

    • Paradise Beach: A narrow row of white sand surrounds Paradise Beach, a wonderful place to relax and forget the exhaustion of everyday life. This beach is ideal to visit with children, as it has little depth, which allows you to spend the hours you want in the water.
    • Sandy Island: Surrounded by bushes and coconut trees and in front of Paradise Beach, is Sandy Island, the best beach in Carriacou to enjoy the sunset while listening to the waves of the sea. This beach can only be accessed by boat, which you must hire and establish the return time, as it does not have a space to spend the night.
    • Anse la Roche: If you are looking for a lonely beach, where you can relax just listening to the waves of the sea and the singing of the birds, you should visit Anse la Roche, which is far from the other beaches. It is an ideal space to practice snorkeling or just enjoy the view that can be seen in its surroundings, in addition to the majestic flora that it has.
    • High North Peak: 290 meters make up the High North Peak hill where you can go hiking after a wonderful day at the beach. This small mountain has a dry forest, so it is recommended to do the tour accompanied by hydration and in company.
    • Petit Carenage Beach: The ideal place to enjoy sea turtles is Petit Carenage Beach, as it is one of the main nesting points for this peculiar animal. Amazing!

    Carriacou Tours on Viator

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