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A Guide to St Lucia Carnival – Live your best carnival life!
Viernes 17th July 2020
Wednesday 22nd July 2020
- 1 What is carnival in St. Lucia?
- 2 When is the St. Lucia Carnival?
- 3 Where is the St. Lucia Carnival?
- 4 How do they celebrate the St. Lucia Carnival?
- 5 What is the history of the St. Lucia Carnival?
- 6 St. Lucia Parade of the Bands
- 7 The 2020 St. Lucia Carnival Bands!
- 8 How to choose a Mas Band for St. Lucia Carnival?
- 9 St. Lucia Mas Band Costumes
- 10 St. Lucia Carnival Fetes
- 11 St. Lucia Pre-Opening Fest
- 12 St. Lucia Carnival J’ouvert
- 13 St. Lucia Carnival Music
- 14 St. Lucia Carnival Food
- 15 St. Lucia Carnival Tips!
- 16 How to get to St. Lucia
- 17 How to get around St Lucia
- 18 Where to stay in St. Lucia
- 19 What to do and see in St Lucia
What is carnival in St. Lucia?
Saint Lucia Carnival previously known as the Lucian Carnival is a lively and vibrant celebration of St Lucia’s rich culture and heritage! This celebration evolved from the islands unique mix of Catholic, Caribbean and African heritage. St. Lucia Carnival is when you can experience local culture and its loudest, brightest, rawest and purest!
It is the largest and most important cultural event in Saint Lucia with over 5000 costumed revellers taking part. As well as 30,000 spectators and a television audience of over 60,000. St. Lucia transforms into a massive party.
Saint Lucia Carnival is something to behold. The island is filled with the sound of drums, calypso, soca, reggae, banjos, feathers, glitter, beads, sequins and happy people dancing under the sun! Whether you join in the procession or just spectate from the sidelines you are guaranteed to have an amazing time!
The celebration was originally held before the start of Lent but was moved to summer so it wouldn’t compete with Trinidad & Tobago Carnival.
When is the St. Lucia Carnival?
What is technically considered the ‘real’ carnival is the two days when the Parade of the Bands, Road March competition and Panorama Steelpan Competition take place. This year what is considered the ‘real’ carnival will take place on the 17th – 22nd July, 2020. So if you want to be in St. Lucia for the ‘main carnival events’ then plan your holiday around those days.
But in the month and weeks leading up to carnival there are loads of carnival events, fetes and non-stop partying! The biggest festivities take place in the days prior to the parades.
Where is the St. Lucia Carnival?
Saint Lucia is a Caribbean Island located in the Eastern Caribbean Sea, in the West Indies. It is a sovereign island country on the boundary with the Atlantic Ocean.
St. Lucia Carnival generally takes place on the island’s capital Castries, and in its surroundings area like Gros Islet. Exact locations vary according to where different themed parties take place but Reduit Beach, Rodney Bay Marina and Pigeon Island, host a lot of the action.
How do they celebrate the St. Lucia Carnival?
Carnival in St. Lucia is a vibrant event that can be described as one monumental party! During and in the lead up to carnival there are parties happening everywhere. Events range from fish fries to jump ups, to rich cultural celebrations and vibrant music festivals. You get to learn all about local culture and heritage, all while having the absolute time of your life!
Carnival is celebrated with lively colourful parades, elaborate costumes, wild fetes, pageants, conga lines, non-stop dancing, mouth-watering street food, awesome entertainment, nightly costumes and free-flowing rum!
What is the history of the St. Lucia Carnival?
Like numerous other Caribbean Islands, St. Lucia Carnival was the result of the Afro-European influence in the region. The celebrations were traditionally held before Lent, which was meant to be a period of feasting and celebrating before the onset of Catholic Lent, a time of sacrifice.
In 1999 it was moved to summer to avoid competing with the much larger Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. St. Lucia’s carnival continues to get more popular with every passing year, attracting visitors from around the world!
St. Lucia Parade of the Bands
St. Lucia Carnival is a two-day costumed mas parade. 5000 costumed revellers will compete in the St Lucia Parades. It is a colorful, vibrant and energetic spectacle. The masquerades are dressed in the most colorful costumes that are adorned with feathers, jewels, headdresses and wings. The soca pumps loud and everyone dances the day away.
What is playing mas? If you are not familiar with celebrating Caribbean Carnival, you can either be a spectator and watch the parades, or you can join in! When you choose to join in it is called playing mas! The Bands compete against each other to win the title of best Mas Band.
If you want to play mas you have to join a masquerade band. If you want to have the ultimate Caribbean Carnival experience we suggest that you play mas! Carnival Monday is the day that you wear your carnival costume and on Carnival Tuesday you can wear whatever you like when marching!
The 2020 St. Lucia Carnival Bands!
- Just 4 Fun Carnival Band: They have launched their “XX” theme.
- Xuvo Carnival – They have launched their “Heaven on Earth” theme.
- Legends Carnival: They have launched their “Drama” theme.
- Asari Tribe: They have launched their “Utopia” theme.
- Fuzion Mas: They have launched their “Oyo” theme.
- Red Unlimited: They have launched their “Wild” theme.
- Island Tribe: They have launched their “Tribe” theme.
- Tribe of Twell: They have just launced their theme “The [UN]Known Universe”
How to choose a Mas Band for St. Lucia Carnival?
Well that’s a difficult decision because you have so many good options. Maybe you will select your band based on their costumes with some groups wearing very sexy costumes, and others being more conservative.
Obviously, money can be a big factor when choosing to play mas and honestly if you are on a tight budget then you probably won’t play mas. But then again it is the ultimate carnival experience.
Each Mas Bands are all inclusive and you will not just get your costumes but also food and drinks, bathrooms, security, medical services, and whatever else you may need for your carnival experience.
However, some bands have a better offering than others. For example Just4Fun Carnival offers two top tier levels – Eminence and Indulgence – which includes plantinum amenities like air-conditioned lounges, cold towels, premium drinks and expedied costume pick up. Some bands will also include a final fete that is included in their registration.
The more popular bands sell out early, so reserve as soon as you can. But honestly though it doesn’t matter which band you pick because you are bound to have the time of your life!
St. Lucia Mas Band Costumes
St. Lucia Carnival is a two-day costumed mas parade. On carnival Monday Revellers will wear their full costume. On Carnival Tuesday, that is when you wear whatever you like. You can wear parts of your Carnival Monday Costume or you can create something completely new like a decorated wire-bra or binged out monokini.The guys often wear the shorts from Carnival Monday and their own t-shirt of choice.
Carnival is all about costumes and the ones that you will see here are hands-down stunning. They are top-notch Caribbean Carnival Costumes with lots of feathers, bling and bright colours. They are elaborate creations that take months of preparation to create. After you’ve chosen your band you then need to select your costume.
Your options range from full frontline costumes to basic backline costumes. A basic backline costume will often just be a bikini, jewelled headpiece and a few other accessories. You can often upgrade by purchasing a feathered headpiece or backpack.
The full frontline costumes usually include a wire bra, giant headpiece, backpack, arm and leg pieces and all the accessories. The frontline costume wearer leads the mas band and are the more expensive and elaborate costumes.
The cost of your costume depends on the band you choose, the section of the band you select and any add-ons that you purchase. For the ladies, frontline costumes can cost in between $650-$900 USD and backline costumes range from $350-$600 USD. Male costumes usually cost around $300-$400 USD.
Yes the prices for costumes are expensive but depending on the band there are other things that are included with the cost of purchasing your costume. What’s included with your costume? including everything associated with the band including DJ’s, speakers, trucks, other masquerades. There is also top shelf alcohol which is unlimited, snacks and meals, mobile restrooms, medical aid and security.
While the majority of people play mas in costume, you can also join a band without it. Some carnival band’s have a t-shirt mas section. This means that they sell a package that gives you a branded t-shirt and wrist band. This is the least expensive option but you will also get the same unlimited access to food and amenities, just minus the feathery costume.
This is an excellent option for people who can’t imagine being half naked on the streets or don’t want to go broke to play mas.
St. Lucia Carnival Fetes
Every year, the list of fetes at St Lucia Carnival get better and better. For months prior to the official start of carnival there are lots of weekly fetes which countdown to the big carnival day. Fetes usually give way to the weeklong partying.
How to fete for Carnival? You have so many choices of fetes to choose from and how many you want to attend and how much you spend is totally your choice! We recommend mixing and matching so you can experience a few different types. Attend both a J’ouvert Fete, an all-inclusive fete, a cooler fete and a live performance one etc. Technically you could attend 3 fetes a day but it’s not recommended because you don’t want to burn out!
Fetes are going to be the highlight of your carnival experience. Luckily the fetes at St Lucia Carnival are much more affordable than the bigger Caribbean Carnivals. Some bands also have a final fete included with their registration, which means that masquerades can attend at no additional cost to them.
Tickets to fetes can range from around $US50 to $125 depending on which ones you attend. The popular parties sell out very quickly so if you want to attend the best ones you need to purchase your tickets quickly!
St. Lucia Pre-Opening Fest
In the lead up to the parades there are loads of carnival celebrations and festivities occurring. There are lots of evening concerts to enjoy but one of the most highly anticipated carnival pre-parties is a huge street party called “Color Me Red”. It is a public street party and everyone must wear red!
St. Lucia Carnival J’ouvert
The carnival action in St Lucia officially begins with J’ouvert which is the opening street party, that begins before dawn! Yes it actually does, in fact the word J’ouvert stems from the French word for day break.
It is a spontaneous celebration where carnival-goers get covered head to toe in mud, body paint, powder or foam. There is loads of fun, dancing and music in true St Lucian style!
Make sure that you wear clothes and shoes that you dont mind getting dirty! Because you will get covered in mud, oil and powder! It is inescapable and part of the fun!
St. Lucia Carnival Music
Music is the heart and soul of St Lucia Carnival! But the music that truly makes this carnival a one of a kind is something called “Dennery Segment.’’ This is a fast-paced, infectious style of music with aggressive drums and high-speed beats.
The lyrics are sung in kwéyòl, which is the language widely spoken in St. Lucia. While you may not understand it, there is no doubt that you will still feel the music’s energy with every pulsating rhythm. Local Artists will create awesome musical tracks just for carnival so before carnival create a playlist with all the current carnival songs to prepare you for Carnival!
St Lucia Carnival music is also varied and apart from this genre you will hear plenty of soca, calypso, steelpan, zouk, reggae, bouon, Afrobeats and soukous.
St. Lucia Carnival Food
You cannot leave St Lucia without experiencing all the islands delicious food! Plus it isn’t really carnival unless you indulge in all the delicious local foods! From green fig and saltfish, to hot oven bakes and fresh seafood, there is no shortage of yummy mouthwatering dishes to enjoy. If you want authentic St Lucian Food then head to The Coal Pot Restaurant and try their delicious St. Lucian Crab Back and pumpkin soup. A locals favorite spot is the Hardest Hard Restaurant & Bar where you will find dishes like fish creole, pigtail bouillon, grilled pork chops, goat pelau and of course a huge helping of rice and plantains.
The Gros Islet Street Party on Friday night has some of the most extensive displays of authentic local foods, from barbeque meat to freshly caught fish, lobster and conch. And we definitely recommend bar hopping with your crew during this epic street party to try some exoctic coctails and epic vibes.
St. Lucia Carnival Tips!
- Learn to wine! “Wining“is a local term that refers to a style of dance. This dance move is a rotational swaying of the hips. Have a look on YouTube if you are unfamiliar or want to learn how, because people will be wining all over carnival.
- Leave your valuables at home and just bring cash, but bring enough cash to pay for food and drinks throughout the day as you won’t be able to use cards anywhere.
- Stay Hydrated! Because it is hot and you will be dancing the day away under the Caribbean sun which can create a bad scenario when combined with alcohol consumption.
- Wear light clothing because the weather will often have heavy but short-lived downpours and you want to dry off quickly!
- Where good comfortable shoes! Because you will be on your feet all day!
- Arrive early to find a good spot along the parade route to watch the Parade of the Bands, as there will be big crowds.
- For the Carnival Pageant head to the area in front of the Castries craft market
How to get to St. Lucia
There are two airports in Saint Lucia. Hewanorra International Airport (UVF) is located in Vieux Fort, which is about 40 miles south of Castries, the capital city of St Lucia. George F.L. Charles Airport is a smaller inter-island airport that is located just outside Castries. To get a quote for a flight click here.
How to get around St Lucia
We recommend taking a taxi because driving on St. Lucia’s unmarked, bad roads is quite challenging! You can rent a car but it is for the most adventurous. Get a quote for a rental car here. To rent a bike or a scooter get a quote here.
Taxis drivers receive special training that allows them to also serve as guides so you can enjoy your taxi ride! Taxis are unmetered but the government has fixed tariffs for all standard trips, so ask how much before you ride and what currency they accept US or Eastern Caribbean Dollars.
To get to and from carnival events however we suggest arranging a private driver which will be your best option to get around. We suggest setting up your transportation with a taxi driver that you use for your airport transfer. Speak with them about your accommodation and the different events that you plan to attend. You can either agree on a price or set a price for the entire duration of your visit.
Where to stay in St. Lucia
St Lucia is known for having some of the best hotels and resorts in the Caribbean. So of course that means that a lot of the accommodation is quite expensive, but you do have accommodation catering for all budgets and levels of comfort!
St Lucia Carnival mainly takes place near the Rodney Bay/Gros Islet area of the island. Around 80% of the events taking place at Pigeon Pint.
Other great options include the Hideaway at Royalton, Royalton Resort and Spa, Starfish St Lucia or Windjammer which is a little further afield, but if you have a car or personal driver, can easily be done.
What to do and see in St Lucia
St Lucia is a little piece of paradise! It is blessed with incredible nature, geographic and cultural riches! The island has stunning dramatic scenery most recognised by the island’s twin Pitons – the seaside mountains. It also has a simmering volcano and lush rainforest. St Lucia is home to the most down to earth place, friendly and hospitable locals.
You must visit Rodney Bay which is a beautiful bay in the North. In the South visit Soufriere which is a gorgeous region of old plantations, hidden beaches, and the geographic wonder of the photogenic Pitons.
Or if you are lucky enough to have a longer vacation then check out Tour Radar which has lots of different itineraries. St Lucia is the unspoilt gem of the Caribbean! Tropical rainforest, white sandy beaches, beautiful volcanic rock, friendly locals and so much more, it’s easy to see why it is one of the world’s top destinations! Check out some Tours here.