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Festivals and celebrations in the tropics you won't want to miss

Across Canada, summer is known as festival season – from staying local at Osheaga or Veld to travelling to the U.S. for Lollapalooza, Coachella and more. However, in the tropics, you don’t need to wait for summer for music, dancing and entertainment – there are a variety of festivals taking place throughout the year! These exciting celebrations in destination take regular festivals back home to a whole new level with colourful costumes, vibrant cultural traditions and more.

Whether you’ve already booked your vacation or are looking for some inspiration to decide where to go, we rounded up some of our favourite unique festivals and celebrations down south which will take your festival experience to new heights

Woman recording performance on iPad at Reggae Sumfest
Reggae Sumfest in Montego Bay – July

Known as the birthplace of reggae legend Bob Marley, Jamaica offers vacationers laidback vibes all year long. The island celebrates its reggae heritage in the month of July during Reggae Sumfest, the largest music festival in the Caribbean featuring popular artists from across Jamaica and all around the world. The festival stretches out over the course of a week with themed parties, different performances and headliner concerts from reggae, R&B and dancehall artists. Past performers have included Stephen Marley (Bob Marley’s son), Barrington Levy, Kanye West and Nicki Minaj.

Where to stay: When you’re not taking in the rhythms of Reggae Sumfest, you can embrace the Home of All Right’s laidback atmosphere by the pool at Royalton Blue Waters in Montego Bay. You can also sample authentic Jamaican flavours at the resort’s beachside jerk hut serving up delicious jerk chicken – which pairs perfectly with a day spent lounging by the shore.

Group of people dressed up for Day of the Dead
Day of the Dead in Mexico – November

Mexico is a lively destination to visit year-round, from the vibrant nightlife of Cancun to the colourful streets of Puerto Vallarta and the unique desert landscapes of Los Cabos. At the end of October and beginning of November, the country celebrates the holiday known as Dia de los Muertos or the Day of the Dead. This multi-day holiday is a celebration in honour of the dead, where locals dress up in sugar skull makeup and costumes, host parades through the city streets and clean the graves of their loved ones. The day is a colourful celebration of Mexican heritage and culture, and a must-see if you’re visiting Mexico that time of year.

Where to stay: When you’re not enjoying the Day of the Dead festivities, you can stay on the picturesque shores of Playa Mujeres at Riu Dunamar. This top-rated family resort is an oceanfront paradise perfect for soaking up the warm Mexican sun, with exciting daily entertainment and access to the Splash Water World water park on site.

Family dancing with performer at Junkanoo
Junkanoo in the Bahamas – December

The Bahamas is known for its colourful culture, friendly people and breathtaking beaches scattered across over 700 pristine islands. The island truly comes to life from Boxing Day to New Year’s Day, when it celebrates Junkanoo, an annual street carnival extravaganza that has been taking place for over 500 years! Locals practice dazzling dance performances and prepare glamorous costumes months in advance, before they start their parade down the colourful city streets in the early hours of Boxing Day with live music and costume contests. The most famous Junkanoo parade takes place in Nassau, but there are parades around the other islands as well including Freeport/Grand Bahama.

Where to stay: The adults only Riu Palace Paradise Island is located in the heart of the action, just steps from legendary Atlantis and a short ride from downtown Nassau. When you’re not taking in the festivities, you can lounge by the newly-renovated resort’s infinity pool overlooking the Caribbean Sea or take a stroll along the sprawling stretch of white-sand beach.

Pair of masks in front of coconuts
Carnival in Tobago – February

The smaller of two islands that make up the nation of Trinidad and Tobago, the beautiful destination of Tobago is the perfect place for a unique tropical getaway. While the island is a great place to visit all year long, those looking to experience the vibrant Caribbean culture should visit during the annual Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. Taking place the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday in February, the Carnival is known for its colourful costumes, high-spirited parties and live music including calypso and Soca rhythms.

Where to stay: While the island of Trinidad is known for its bustling nightlife (and home of the Carnival festivities), the island of Tobago is known for its laidback vibes and untouched landscapes. When you’re not dancing in the streets at the lively Carnival, you can embrace the island’s relaxed lifestyle at Starfish Tobago Resort. Soak up the sun by the sprawling pool or grab a bite to eat from the beachside restaurant serving up delicious island cuisine and picturesque sunset views.

People dancing at Coco Bongo
Spring Break in Cancun – March

Cancun is known for its pristine beaches, beautiful golf courses, high-end shopping and world-class nightlife. While it’s not really a festival, we couldn’t resist adding this exciting destination to the list; one of the best times of year to experience Cancun’s vibrant nightlife and entertainment scene is during Spring Break in March, when famous DJs and performers flock to Cancun to perform at its famous nightclubs. You can visit some of the destination’s most famous venues like Coco Bongo, The City and Señor Frogs for the chance to listen to some of the world’s most famous DJs spin and experience Cancun’s famed Vegas-style entertainment.

Where to stay: You don’t have to venture far to experience Cancun’s famous nightlife at Melody Maker Cancun. This lifestyle resort hosts some of the most famous DJs and celebs year-round with past headliners including Steve Aoki, David Guetta, Paris Hilton and more. When you’re not dancing the night away, you can enjoy the rest of the resort’s A-lister-worthy amenities like 24-hour room service, a luxury beach club and more.

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