When is Carnival in St. Maarten?
The official dates for the 2023 St. Maarten Carnival dates have not been confirmed yet. The St. Maarten Carnival is officially the longest carnival or festival in the entire region with its celebrations spanning around 18 days.
Where is the St. Maarten Carnival?
St. Maarten/St. Martin is a tiny island located in the Caribbean. It is actually the smallest island in the world that is shared by two nations, France and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. This gives the island its unique European-influenced, Caribbean vibe.
The capital city is Philipsburg which is where most of the carnival activities will occur at the custom built carnival village called the St. Maarten Carnival Village which is the epicentre for everything that occurs during carnival.
What is Carnival in St. Maarten?
Carnival in St. Maarten is like mixing New Year’s revelry, costumed parades and lots of loud calypso, soca and steelpan band music together. While Trinidad Carnival’s is the largest and most popular in the region, St. Maarten Carnival has the longest carnival season and has been growing in popularity year after year.
St. Maarten Carnival is all about bringing together people from all different backgrounds and cultures. Carnival in St. Maarten is like a West Indies block party, where no matter your age, race or background everyone mixes together and has the time of their life.
Carnival in St. Maarten is the ultimate celebration of life. It spreads joy across the island and is all about showcasing and enjoying the local culture, food, music and pageantry. St. Maarten Carnival is the biggest event of the year and one of the island’s main largest attractions!
How do they celebrate carnival in St. Maarten?
For two months the locals unite and hit the streets dressed in costumes, singing, dancing, making music and enjoying life! St. Maarten Carnival is all about celebrating the local culture and heritage. It reflects the many influences and colorful identity of the island.
Every day the island host’s an exciting event to embrace and celebrate St. Maarten’s rich history and culture. Carnival is celebrated with parades, concerts, calypso competitions, steelpan bands, reggae bands, feathers, dancing, lots of feasting and drinking, partying, costumes, pageants and more.
St. Maarten’s Carnival Village is like nothing else in the Caribbean, or the world for that matter. It is the world’s first purposely-built carnival venue, the St. Maarten’s Carnival Village. The Carnival Village makes St. Maarten’s Carnival one of the most unique Caribbean Carnivals.
It is essentially a giant rectangular shaped enclosure that is sort of reminiscent of an old country fair but with an unmistakable Caribbean vibe. There are around 80 booths which transform into shops, bars and eateries. Selling toys, arts, craft, clothes, and of course local delicacies like Johnny cakes or BBQ meats.
The Carnival Village also features a permanent state-of-the-art concert stage where major local and international concerts put on shows. This year the three major international headliners will be Ashanti, Keyshia Cole and Ja Rule. They will be joined by local artists Kenyo Baly and Natisha Hanson.
What is the history of Carnival in St. Maarten?
The first ever St. Maarten Carnival took place in 1970’s on St. Maarten’s Day which is the 11th November. It initially started out as an initiative by the Oranje Committee to celebrate the island and to attract tourism.
Two committee members were sent to St. Thomas Carnival, with the intention of recreating a similar celebration in St. Maarten. The first carnival was funded by local businesses who donated to the festivities with bands, troupes, food, drinks and even free electricity all provided to the first celebration.
The French part of the island started to host their own St Maarten’s Day celebrations which stole a bit of the carnival’s thunder. So the celebrations were moved to the Queen’s birthday, April 30th, to host the Grand Carnival Parade. More celebrations and festivities started to take place around the parade, to keep the good times rolling and the carnival continued to grow.
St. Maarten Carnival is absolutely jam packed with everything a carnival-lover could possibly want. There will be three incredible and colorful masquerade parades, six massive concerts with major international stars and the biggest J’ouvert in the Caribbean!
St. Maarten Grand Carnival Parade & J’Ouvert
You have to have a lot of stamina if you were to bear through an entire 33 days of carnival celebrations. Most visitors will concentrate on attending the more important events. The two most popular events at this carnival are the Grand Carnival Parade and the break of dawn parade known as J’ouvert which begins at 4am in downtown Philipsburg.
The biggest event is the Grand Carnival Parade which always takes place on April 30th where thousands of spectators come out to see the incredible display of colorful costumes, floats, steelpan bands, dancers, singers, musicians, local cuisine and drinks. The parade winds its way from the Carnival Village through the downtown area.
Days after the parade, the carnival will close with the burning of King MouMou, a straw stuffed effigy who presided over the carnival celebrations. This marks the end of carnival and the island of St. Maarten then returns to its normal tranquil self until the next year’s carnival!
Where to stay in St. Maarten for Carnival?
St. Maarten’s Carnival is actually a great one to attend because its celebrations occur at the end of April which is right after the hotel rates in the region drop from around 30-50% from the winter season highs.
Not only are the hotels much cheaper during St. Maarten’s carnival, the weather is still picture postcard clear because its well before the rainy season starts. You have plenty of accommodation options from luxury resorts and hotels, guest houses, rentals, there is something to fit every budget.
Check out booking.com for some great accommodation deals here.
St. Maarten Carnival Tips
It’s good to note that carnival activities and events run on “Caribbean time” so things may start late and run overtime, and no one seems to mind much, so just take note and learn to go with the flow. Visitors don’t need to wear a costume, all you need is to turn up and be ready to have a good time!
The Grand Parade runs for around 3 hours and the sun can be quite strong so wear adequate sun protection. Many hotels actually supply large shade tents along key sections of the parade routes for their guests, so ask if your hotel does that.
How to get to and around St. Maarten?
There are two airports in St. Maarten the main one is St. Maarten’s Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) and the smaller one is L’Espérance Airport located on the French side of St. Martin. There is transport around the island but shuttle services that will take you around. You can also rent a car which makes it easier.