Grenada Carnival: What To Expect & Insider Tips From Locals


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Grenada is also called the Spice Isle because of all the amazing spices produced there. Catch a whiff of the nutmeg, cocoa, and cinnamon aromas drifting through the island as you attend Grenada’s Spicemas carnival event! Spicemas in Grenada, also known as August Mas, is lively, fun, and more than a little wild. The event, which is held in August, is perfect for those who want to experience the best of Grenadian culture, entertainment, and lifestyle. If you’re considering the best time to visit Grenada, this is it!

Located in the Caribbean Sea between the islands of Trinidad and Tobago and Saint Vincent, Grenada welcomes many visitors during its carnival season - and carnival in Grenada isn’t a one-day occasion either! The main event is a grand parade of costumes through the streets of St. George’s, but there are several Spicemas events held before and after the main parade.

If you’re adding Spicemas in Grenada to your calendar, you can look forward to a super energetic experience. We’ll help you plan the perfect carnival escape and explore the ins and outs of Spicemas!

Insider tip: Before you fly off to Grenada for carnival, there are some things you should get familiar with first. Find out what Grenada is known for so you can make the most of your time in the Isle of Spice!



What is Spicemas Grenada Carnival?

Spicemas-Carnival

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Carnival in the Caribbean is all about freedom of expression, creativity, and just letting loose. Spicemas is one of Grenada’s top cultural events and it's held on the second Monday and Tuesday of August (these are both public holidays in Grenada). Similar to the carnival celebrations on larger islands like Trinidad, Grenada’s carnival has pagan roots. The history of the festival goes back to ancient Egypt, but similar celebrations were adopted by many other societies before eventually filtering down to the Caribbean. Over time, carnival in Grenada, much like other Caribbean carnivals, took on a life of its own and became a unique expression of Grenadian culture.

There was once a time when Spicemas was held at the beginning of lent in March/April. However, this was changed so that the dates for Spicemas would not clash with those of similar celebrations on other Caribbean islands like Saint Lucia. Competition between festivals was a major factor that influenced the change of carnival dates across the region, including those of Spicemas.

Spicemas was first held in Grenada in 1877, almost 100 years after the first carnival event was held in Trinidad. Small islands like Grenada tended to be more conservative in the past, so this might have influenced how long it took for the carnival tradition to take shape on the island. Nevertheless, Spicemas in Grenada has really come into its own over the years, drawing visitors to Grenada’s shores for a spectacular experience that includes music, dancing, amazing costumes, parties, parades, and more!



How does Spicemas work?

Spicemas-Costume

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If you want to be part of Grenada’s Spicemas street party, you’ll first need to select a band and costume. Each band has its own theme and related costumes. Once you sign up with a particular band, you’ll be expected to party with that band throughout the celebration.

Registering for a Spicemas carnival band includes putting a down payment on your costume, which can be done online or in person. After your deposit is made for your carnival costume/package, you can choose to pay the balance upon receipt of the goods or pay the bulk of the price right away. Prices for costumes vary from about $400 to $1,000 USD, and packages usually include food and drinks that you’ll enjoy throughout the day.

At the Spicemas Parade of the Bands event, which is held on Carnival Monday and Tuesday, costumed revelers dance through the streets and trail behind music trucks that blare soca and calypso music. Steels bands are also a large part of these celebrations. There are even more official carnival events that take place during Spicemas (we’ll detail them later), and tons of unofficial parties, or fetes, that are held before and after the main event.



Carnival events

Carnival-events

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While lots of festivities happen in Grenada for Spicemas, there are a few main events that you simply cannot miss. These include the Dimanche Gras Night, which features live shows and a calypso competition, and another event known as King and Queen of the Bands. At the King and Queen of the Bands engagement, the various carnival bands present their biggest and best costumes to be judged. The winners are deemed to have demonstrated the greatest level of artistry, with a captivating and relevant theme.

Other major events for Spicemas Grenada include Carnival Monday’s J’ouvert (a party that keeps going until dawn), Carnival Monday (Monday Wear or Traditional Mas), Monday Night Mas, and Carnival Tuesday (Pretty Mas or Fancy Mas). Besides these main events, there are lots of other fetes that happen on this amazing island during its carnival season!



Dimanche Gras Night

Dimanche-Gras-Night

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Dimanche Gras is a big night on the Spice Isle and it unfolds on the second Sunday in August. On that night, the national Calypso competition is held, as well as the King and Queen of the Bands. After the King and Queen costume event, the King and Queen of Spicemas are announced ahead of the actual parade.

On Carnival Monday, each carnival band gets to show off its mega King and Queen costumes as part of the parade. These costumes are modeled by male and female revelers, and sometimes the costumes are so enormous that the models need help getting around. Dimanche Gras is a great opportunity to get a first look at these costumes, and the cost of this event can be around $45 USD.



Carnival Monday - J’Ouvert

J-Ouvert

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Most spirited carnival enthusiasts really don’t get much sleep during Spicemas, but who worries about tiredness in the heat of the celebration? J’ouvert is one event that you’ll definitely enjoy staying up for! This activity kicks off in the wee hours of the morning, about 4 am, on Carnival Monday and is one of the most exciting parts of the whole season.

J’ouvert involves things like water, talcum powder, and colorful paints being splattered across happy patrons dancing and gyrating in the streets. Locals and visitors alike parade in t-shirts, shorts, and whatever else they feel comfortable in through Grenada’s villages to the capital of St. George’s. The event also features DJs and live entertainment, Ole Mas characters (local actors) performing satirical comedy based on recent and historical island events, Jab Jab (masqueraders doused in oil and wearing horned helmets for a ‘devilish’ effect), and lots of dancing.

J’ouvert is a free event, and it serves as a precursor to the parade which takes place later that same day. Some specialty items like t-shirts and jab jab helmets will need to be purchased ahead of time, but you won’t need much to take part in this experience. If you plan to catch J’ouvert, you’ll definitely need to wake up super early on Carnival Monday, but it’ll all be worth it!

Expert tip: Do not wear anything to J’ouvert that you wouldn’t want to get stained. This event involves lots of paint and oil being thrown about and is generally pretty wild. Try staying at an all-inclusive resort in St. George’s if you want to get to J’ouvert on time!



Carnival Monday - Monday Wear

People-dancing

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The Carnival Monday parade gets underway soon after the J’ouvert crowd dissipates. This is a much-anticipated event for Grenadians and for people who’ve traveled to the island for the sake of carnival. Revelers are excited to don their costumes and show off.

You may see two different styles of dress on Carnival Monday in Grenada. Many people wear their Pretty Mas costumes but others choose to wear Monday Wear, which tends to be less extravagant. Monday Wear usually looks like glammed-up swimwear, which the carnival ladies show off beautifully by adding lots of accessories and artfully done makeup. Choosing Monday Wear keeps your fancy Pretty Mas costumes nice and clean for the second day of the carnival when the judging begins. Still, some people wear their Pretty Mas costumes on both days, and that is perfectly acceptable.

The atmosphere on Carnival Monday is much more casual as there is less emphasis on carnival judges and spectators are more concerned about having a good time. The Monday Wear event typically starts around midday but usually has fewer onlookers and a shorter parade than Tuesday’s carnival activities. Many revelers are busy catching up on their sleep!



Carnival Monday - Traditional Mas

Jab-Jab

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Traditional Mas costumes are quite distinct from regular Monday and Tuesday costumes. These costumes have a more cultural look and are usually worn by performers. There are six different masquerade themes associated with Traditional Mas: Short Knees, Vieux Corps, Wild Indians, Jab Jabs, Maypole Dancers, and Moko Jumbies. Each of these themes is attributed to a different parish in Grenada.

Traditional Mas pays tribute to the island’s culture and many view it as a way of keeping carnival traditions alive. Traditional Mas costumes range from comical to quite scary and are a reminder of how carnival was done by the earliest Spicemas participants. The Traditional Mas crowd also tends to join in for Pretty Mas.



Carnival Monday - Monday Night Mas

Monday-Night-Mas

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Carnival Monday night is the climax of Monday’s Spicemas celebrations in Grenada. Things pick up steadily throughout the day, and many people eagerly await the exciting nighttime party. Neon colors, glow sticks and flashing lights make the event super exciting as masqueraders enjoy partying in the streets of St. George’s when the sun goes down.

The atmosphere of Monday Night Mas is more lively than that of daytime activities, and it's an even bigger party than what would have ensued during the day. Lots of people wear white, which creates a glow effect when combined with neon glow sticks. Revelers dance behind trucks blaring Soca music, and the party goes on well into the night.



Carnival Tuesday (Pretty Mas or Fancy Mas)

Pretty-Mas

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Carnival Tuesday tends to be even more highly anticipated than Carnival Monday. This day is considered the “last lap” for carnival festivities and represents the biggest blowout. On carnival Tuesday, the various carnival bands take to the streets for one last time in the ultimate parade.

For this parade, which starts around 1 pm in Port Luis, you should expect to see lots of women dripping with beads, jewels, and feathers, in a haze of bright colors, some with wings and others with striking headpieces of all sizes and complexities. The men wear bright colors as well with simpler costumes that include shorts, smaller headpieces, and various leg and armbands. A full costume is a must for Tuesday’s event since this is when these spectacular pieces are judged.

The route to St. George’s remains the same on Tuesday, but this event usually has a gradual build-up as Mas bands make their way into the city. The bands parade through the streets primarily to Soca and Calypso genres, but sometimes other types of music like Dancehall, or even Pop or Hip Hop, filters through in a DJ mix. Carnival Tuesday, otherwise known as Pretty Mas or Fancy Mas marks the official end of Spicemas in Grenada but there are usually after-parties that revelers can get into for free as part of their carnival package.

For spectators, the best time to head out to watch the Parade of the Bands on Carnival Tuesday is around 4 pm when things should already be good and lively. The Parade of the Bands event can go on well into the evening.

Good to know: Carnival time is a great time to explore Grenada and the nearby islands. Add a day trip to Grenada’s two sister islands, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, if you want to experience three awesome Caribbean vacations in one!



Other fetes

Spicemas-Grenada

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There will be no short supply of parties, or fetes, during carnival season in Grenada. Throughout the week of Spicemas (and even sometimes beyond that), you’ll be able to enjoy the best Grenadian entertainment with carnival-themed parties, shows, boat parties, private events, and parties on spectacular beaches such as Grand Anse Beach.

Most of these parties are hosted by private individuals and companies, but they add to the overall product that is Spicemas. A major plus of going to Grenada Carnival, when compared to carnival in larger islands like Trinidad, is that the parties and costumes tend to cost less. Some of the more popular events during Grenada’s Spicemas include Biggest White (around $30 USD for entry) and Fleet, a catamaran cruise that costs around $160 USD per person. The higher-priced carnival fetes are usually all inclusive (food and drinks included).

Expert tip: Speaking of food and drinks … even outside of your all-inclusive resort in Grenada and the carnival parties, there are lots of dishes you should try while on the island. Here’s a list of food and drinks to try in Grenada.



Grenada Carnival: The only thing missing from this epic party is you!

There are so many wonderful activities to enjoy in Grenada. If costumes, parties, parades, live shows, and entertainment in the perfect island paradise sounds like your idea of a great vacation, Spicemas in Grenada might just be everything you’re looking for!

You’ll have a spectacular time grooving to calypso music on Dimanche Gras Night. Various groups will give you their best show as they vie for the national title. Before you can blink, it will be time for J’ouvert. Get as wild and crazy as you like, and discover the true freedom of Grenada carnival. Flaunt your costumes on Carnival Monday and Carnival Tuesday. The glitz and glamour of these events will be a memorable part of the experience. There is so much excitement to be had at Spicemas! It’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience.

If you are looking for a bit of relaxation, you can still find lots of it on the island, especially if you’re staying at one of the all-inclusive hotels in Grenada. Unwind at Sandals Grenada by grabbing a refreshing cocktail at the nearest swim-up bar and enjoying it on the warm sand of Pink Gin Beach. You won’t have to think about anything on your vacation, but how to get there and how long you want to stay. All the little details will be handled long before you arrive. With all your needs taken care of, there’s no reason you shouldn’t seize the opportunity to experience Spicemas in all its splendor!



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Kylie Morrow

About Kylie Morrow

Born on the tropical island that is Saint Lucia affords a never-ending source of inspiration. In the past 13 years, Kylie loved to work with various newspapers, magazines and blogs in the Caribbean.