Carnival in Jamaica is all about having a good time.
A trip to Jamaica just for carnival is a truly unique vacation experience for the entire family.
You’ll get caught up in the soca party atmosphere as you dance along in beautiful costumes through the streets of the city.
Although carnivals in Rio, Trinidad, and even Notting Hill in the UK have a strong reputation for a good time, carnival in Jamaica is a party like no other.
Over the eight weeks leading up to the big parade, weekly soca parties have people jumping into the wee hours to the latest hits as the anticipation builds.
First carnival in Jamaica
Michael Ammar, one of the original “Oakridge Boys” who first organized carnival in Jamaica in 1989, described the first year of carnival costume design as a group of carnival enthusiasts working with a store designer to bring their very rough ideas to life.
The group bought materials and did all the manufacturing of the costumes in the various bands themselves.
After that learning experience, the experts were brought over from Trinidad who left their mark on the pieces, showing Jamaicans the nuances of carnival costume design.
Take your "sexy" to carnival
“Sexy” is a big part of carnivals all around the world and this is no different in Jamaica. The costumes get skimpier each year as costume designers push the envelope of nudity, some leaving us to wonder “how’d she fit all that in there!”
Gen XS looks to be a game-changer in April 2023 as the newest carnival band in Jamaica.
Eight weeks of partying
Here, the weekly fetes of carnival counting down to the big day see hundreds of revelers coming out to learn the new songs for the season, see the new costumes, and watch their favorite soca artists perform.
These fetes usually give way to a week-long party beginning during the Easter weekend with Beach J'ouvert on the north coast, and the following Friday explodes with several J’ouverts (parties) under several different bands that see revelers covered in paint or chocolate, marching through the streets in the wee hours of the morning.
Saturday is another night of partying with various ‘fetes’ all over the city before the big day of “Pretty Mas” where costumed revelers are getting their make-up done and final touches on their costumes from as early as 5 am.
Make-up artists are booked out in advance so get in line!
The road march sees people ready and waiting by their truck as early as 8 am, all decked out in a beautiful array of colors while onlookers and those who prefer to party with the bands on the sidelines will begin to gather in crowds all along the route.
If you’re a little shy, not to worry, you can jump in a band in a branded t-shirt for a little less money and with a little less bravado!
The biggest names in soca music flock to Jamaica for the season and everyone sings along at the top of their lungs as they ‘chip’, ‘wine’, and drink their way through the streets of the city.
Plan your carnival trip a year in advance
Start planning now for next year to get a great carnival deal.
The season opens early in January with the first big party at Mas Camp and previews of the costumes for the season. Most go on sale online immediately and are soon sold out so plan ahead!
The biggest parties are in Kingston but there are smaller marches and the ‘soca sessions’ are always a good time and get you in the spirit, in more ways than one!
Quite a few of the parties these days are ‘cooler parties’, meaning you can party with everyone else and pick and choose how much you want to spend on your carnival experience.
The kiddie carnival also makes sure your kids get their own day of beautiful costumes and a road march of their own.
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