You probably don’t need an excuse to plan a Caribbean vacation, but the chance to see your favorite musicians would definitely be an added bonus. From reggae to rock to jazz, these are the best music festivals in the Caribbean.
Reggae Sumfest – Jamaica
It makes sense that the island that created reggae would host a festival to celebrate it. Every July in Montego Bay, Jamaican reggae and dancehall stars such as Beenie Man and Tommy Lee Sparta join international artists (past headliners have included Rihanna and Usher) for Jamaica’s largest music festival, Reggae Sumfest. The weeklong celebration kicks off with a beach party and also features dance competitions, a sunset cruise and a white party.
St. Kitts Music Festival – St. Kitts
The St. Kitts Music Festival, held annually in June, consistently delivers with top performers that run the gamut from Chaka Khan to Kool & The Gang to Busta Rhymes to Michael Bolton. The music is only part of the fun of the event, and attendees can take part in a treasure hunt or an island-wide bar crawl. (And with 21 annual festivals under its belt, you won’t have to fear a Fyre Music Festival repeat.)
Cancun Jazz Festival – Mexico
The Cancun Jazz Festival isn’t for casual music fans — the four-day Labor Day Weekend festival is a full-blown, all-inclusive event. Ticket prices start at $1,600 per person and include accommodations at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya, all food and drinks (including alcohol), and access to events and parties. And don’t forget about the music — this year, the waterfront stage will be graced by George Benson, Brian McKnight, and Kenny G.
Soul Music Beach Festival – Aruba
Held annually over Memorial Day Weekend, Aruba’s Soul Music Beach Festival offers the chance to see some of the biggest stars in R&B and hip hop. (2017 headliners were Mary J. Blige, The Roots and Big Sean.) The festival has something for everyone, with guest DJs and stand-up comedians. There are also plenty of parties throughout the week, both on the beach and in the club.
Tobago Jazz Experience – Tobago
The Tobago Jazz Experience is an island-wide celebration of music that takes place in April. Local artists take the stage alongside headliners like Wyclef Jean, Shabba Ranks and Grace Jones at venues around the island. A film festival and fashion shows round out the fun, and visitors and locals can enjoy free concerts and events throughout the week.
Pure Grenada Music Festival – Grenada
The Pure Grenada Music Festival in May focuses on local music and culture, while following a commitment to “go green” and maintain the island’s natural beauty. Past performers have included Cody Chesnutt, Joss Stone, Third World and Tarrus Riley, playing on an oceanfront stage in St. George’s Harbour. Bonus: while you’re there, sample the local Grenadian cuisine like roti, curry goat and nutmeg ice cream, and wash it down with the island’s famous rum.
Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival – Aruba
If your tastes are a bit more smooth, opt for the Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival. Every September, the two-day event closes the summer season with a variety of jazz, funk and salsa artists — Maceo Parker and Ruben Blades headline 2017’s lineup.