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Ten Top Caribbean Music Festivals You Can Reach By Sea

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There’s nothing better than listening to music with the sights and sounds of the surf in the background. The Caribbean is famous for its many music festivals, from those that feature high-profile productions with well-known names to regional rock stars. Many venues are right on the beach! Here’s a sampling of sweet-sounding events where you can dance on the sand.

1.   Eleuthera All That Jazz Festival

Six events take place over five days each March, in a variety of locations on this island in the central Bahamas. The festival opens on a Wednesday at the LeoRose Sunset Bar & Grill on James Cistern Beach and closes on Sunday with the Lunchtime Concert at On the Rocks, held at a private home overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and miles of pink sand beach. “Audiences are never more than 200 at a time, so there is plenty of opportunity to meet and chat with the musicians, who come from all over the world,” says organizer Patricia Leigh-Woods. Several events are within the Governor’s Harbour area where yachtsmen can anchor and drive in by dinghy. The Festival benefits the historic Haynes Library. eleutheraallthatjazz.com 

2.   Reggae Sum Fest

Set for July 16-22 in Montego Bay, Jamaica, this year’s fest will feature for the first time an all-Jamaican line-up of performers. Talk about getting to the roots of reggae! The show kicks-off with its perennial favorite Sumfest Beach Party at the Aquasol Theme Park, on the Walter Fletcher Beach Complex. reggaesumfest.com

3.   Water Island Music Festival

Drop anchor off Honeymoon Bay or dinghy into Honeymoon Beach, Water Island, right off St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands and head up to the house on the point. Here each January, some of the best classically trained musicians in the world play piano, violin, other instruments and sing to pieces written by the masters such as Bach, Beethoven and Mozart. Since only 75 people can sit in the host family’s living room for each night’s performance, it’s important to make reservations early. Concerts are free but donations appreciated to help musicians pay for travel. www.water-island-music.com

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Water Island Music Festival. Photo: Courtesy of Alex Randall, V.
Water Island Music Festival. Photo: Courtesy of Alex Randall, V.

4.   Foxy’s Music Fest

World famous Foxy’s Beach Bar on the British Virgin Island of Jost Van Dyke, the same folks that put on an out-of-this-world New Year’s Eve party, is the venue for this concert each March. The event features ‘Foxy’s Funky Friends’, an eclectic mix of local and international artists. Special guests this year included vocalist Mark Rivers and saxophonist Kebbi Williams, both members of the Grammy-award winning Blues band, Tedeschi Trucks Band. Talented local youth bands also participate.

5.   The Nevis Blues Festival

Blues, soul, funk and rock right on beautiful Oualie Bay beach is the big draw to this intimate music fest held each April, where a limited capacity of only 1,000 concertgoers means everyone gets a clear view of the stage – located only 100ft from the water. “Sail into Oualie Bay, drop anchor and come ashore. Use the Oualie Beach Hotel jetty or pull your inflatable up on the beach. That’s it, you’re at the festival! Gates open at 7.30pm. The music is top class, performed by artists from the USA and UK and there’s great food: Caribbean, BBQ, Thai and Asian,” explains producer Richard Pavitt. www.nevisbluesfestival.com/contact.html


Nevis Blues Festival
Nevis Blues Festival

6.   Bequia Mount Gay Music Fest

The sounds of blues, jazz, rock and more fill the air each January, when this St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ island hosts musicians from the Caribbean and beyond. This year, one highlight was the world-famous Mustique Blues Festival held as one night of the Bequia Fest.  The event features Dana Gillespie and the London Blues Band.  A perennial favorite is the Jazz’N’Blues Jam by the beach at the Bequia Beach Hotel. www.bequiatourism.com/bequiamusicfest

7.   Pure Grenada Music Festival

Third World, one of the all-time reggae greats, headlines this year’s festival, set for May 5-7, along with international performers such as Tarrus Riley and Queen Ifrica. “The festival aims to promote Grenada as a musical contender internationally by bringing in artistes who are not only popular, but also have a passion for live, untainted music and can deliver exceptional performances,” says festival coordinator Arlene Friday. The Festival Village is located on the green adjacent to Port Louis Marina. www.grenadamusicfestival.com


English singer, songwriter and actress Joscelyn Eve Stoker, better known as Joss Stone, performs at the Pure Grenada Music Festival. Photo: Alexandra Quinn
English singer, songwriter and actress Joscelyn Eve Stoker, better known as Joss Stone, performs at the Pure Grenada Music Festival. Photo: Alexandra Quinn

8.   The Tobago Jazz Experience

The sea and beach surrounded Pigeon Point Heritage Park is just one of the venues for this weeklong musical happening that takes place each April. Local and international performers offer ‘much more than music’ as the event’s tagline says by incorporating history and culture into this experience. tobagojazzexperience.com 

9.   Curaçao Blue Seas Festival

The historic Pietermaai district in Willemstad, now known as the ‘SoHo’ of Curaçao due to its trendy neighborhoods located right on the water, is host to this annual festival to be held next in May 2018. The emphasis is on a resurgence in blues. Nearly a dozen international artists perform in two concerts. “Anyone can partake in the festival; there is no entrance fee,” invites organizer Jacqueline van Zuijlen. curacaoblueseasfestival.com


Mr Sipp – Curaçao Blue Seas Festival
Mr Sipp – Curaçao Blue Seas Festival

10.   Aruba Soul Beach Music Festival

Big names like Usher, Mary J Blige, Faith Evans and Cedric the Entertainer will perform at this annual Memorial Day Weekend fest, set for May 24-29 at the Harbor Arena in Oranjestad. Beach parties, multinational foods, comedy performance and a first-ever Soul Beach Fitness Challenge – organized workouts by famous fitness gurus – round out the fun. www.soulbeach.net

Aruba Soul Beach Music Festival
Aruba Soul Beach Music Festival

 Have you been to any of these?  We’d love to hear from you in the COMMENTS below.

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Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

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