As I type, I am suffering from what is known as the ‘carnival flu‘. For me it’s a combination of actually being sick due to so many weather changes AND having carnival tabanca. I enjoyed five days in St. Maarten and now I’m here to talk about why.
For those of you that don’t know, St. Maarten shares two sides, the French side and the Dutch side. While the island is only 37 km, millions visit each year to enjoy the beautiful beaches and partake in other recreational activities.
I was fortunate enough to be invited by the tourism board to experience St.Maarten’s 50th Carnival Jubliee. Carnival occurs on the Dutch side of the island in April/May of each year. This is one of the few locations I have been to for carnival, where I also had a true vacation because I was able to relax. If this is your speed, visit St. Maarten!
All carnival related events take place in the Carnival Village – a large staged venue that hosts concerts, with food and drink vendors surrounding the stage. It reminded me of the authentic carnival experience I had with my family as a child, where we would attend carnival events and I could buy cotton candy as my parents conversed with their friends.
There is no breakfast fete, no all inclusive, no cooler fetes to occupy your time. There was one private pool party held at Loterie Farm and even that was not carnival related. Apparently, the carnival committee limits the amount of event permits they issue, which cuts down significantly on the amount of “fetes” that are organized. So if you want to hear some soca, outside of hosting yourself at home, you would have to visit Carnival Village.
We arrived on Saturday afternoon, AFTER the one of the biggest j’ouvert events which I was told was amazing. That evening, we attended Flag Fest, with performances by Kes The Band, Triple Kay and others. Tickets started at $30usd and capped off at $50usd, which is extremely affordable.
Kes put on an amazing performance as usual, and even gave us his own spin on some other popular songs.
St.Maarten Carnival is for the carnival purist. The revelers that ONLY want to be amongst others in costume, showing off beautiful designs and reveling. Most of the bands were relatively small, I don’t think I saw more than 200 masqueraders per band, which is extremely intimate in comparison to some larger carnivals. It makes for a very unique experience.
There are two days of mas in St.Maarten. Day One, revelers are very serious about showing off their costumes because they are being judged for the theme and presentation of the costume. On Day one, you will see most of the bands stay in their sections and dance through the city streets.
Day two in St. Maarten is a FREE DAY! Any masquerader from any band can pump with each band AND if you could not afford a costume this year, you could wear a costume from the previous year.
On day two, registered masqueraders wear their full costume or parts of their costume again and this is when they let loose and have more fun. Unfortunately, we had significant production challenges so I did not receive my costume until Day Two. I made the most of Day One by “having Monday wear” and just enjoyed the road.
Getting Ready Details
- MUA: Tenille Clarke
- Carnivalista Stockings & Thigh Pouch: 10% off Discount Code: GLOBAL
The road experience was unique, while soca songs from St. Maarten and Trinidad were played, St. Lucian and Dominican soca dominated. Also, staff on the road were extremely helpful. I only went to the bar once since runners were there to ensure our cups were never empty. Appetizers were also readily available, we had mac and cheese puffs, sandwiches, chicken wings, fish bites and more to snack on throughout the day.
Notable DJs on the road were DJ. Siwoo from St. Maarten and DJ. Duchess from Trinidad. Patrick the Hypeman was also on the mic keeping masqueraders pumped.
Unlike other carnivals I have attended where an extraction team is necessary, this isn’t needed in St. Maarten. Spectators truly come to witness and enjoy from the sidelines and do not even attempt to storm the band. I love how they respected the masqueraders. There were also several children’s bands on the road, so if you ever wanted to bring your children with you on a carnival trip, St.Maarten’s carnival is family oriented.
As I mentioned above, we got a lot of beach time in while on the island. We were able to do an island tour; we had fresh seafood, visited beautiful beaches and checked out recreational spots like the Parotte Bird Ville Sanctuary.
In addition to the Parotte Ville Bird Sanctuary and checking out the french side of the island, we visited Karakter Beach Bar, which during the daytime offers a unique beach experience with comfortable lounge chairs and dining. This beach bar definitely gave me South Beach meets the islands vibes; or if you’re familiar with Nikki Beach in Barbados, a similar environment. There was Caribbean dance and pop music playing in the background. [No soca though]. We spent all day drinking prosecco, laughing and eating.
What I will miss the most about St. Maarten is the lobster dishes and the interesting cocktail concoctions they have. While there, we were introduced to “weed punch”, “cock juice” and a drink called “take people man”, which I still have no clue what’s in them but I know they will put you on your back.
Do you think you would you enjoy a purist carnival? Let me know in the comments below
Yours in Mas,