Planning a vacation around an event in Jamaica is a great idea, but it can be a bit tricky. Although many festivals are held annually, situations like extreme weather and sales problems can often lead to rescheduling or a change in location.
- Accompong Maroon Festival: This festival takes place each year on Jan. 6, the birthday of Captain Cudjoe, the man who defeated the English army. The festival celebrates the Maroons, featuring traditional dancing and singing, a fantastic feast, the blowing of the Abeng horn, and playing of the Maroon war drums. The Accompong celebrates a fun and exciting aspect of the cultural and historical heritage of Jamaica.
- Fi Wi Sinting: In February Jamaica hosts a celebration of African culture and traditions.
- Misty Bliss: Another February cultural celebration, this is for the communities in the Blue and John Crow Mountaines National Park.
- Trelawny Yam Festival: A festival celebrating the cultural heritage of Albert Town in Trelawny, this event takes place in April and features a lot of great food.
- Jamaican Coffee Festival: Held each fall in Kingston to celebrate the rich, agricultural tradition of coffee in Jamaica, java lovers will find themselves on a caffeine high like no other at this festival. Farmers and merchants provide visitors with free samples of a wide array of coffees, hot beverages, and other related foods.
- Heritage Fest: Also held each fall, this is an annual festival in Kingston that celebrates and uses food, dance and music to explore the diversity of Jamaica's population. From Indian curry to Lebanese dancing to Chinese fortune telling, Heritage Fest pays homage to all of the diverse ethnicities found in Jamaica.
- Seville Emancipation Jubilee: This even is a celebration of Jamaica's African ancestors and features food, folk art, music, and more. It takes place in the Seville Heritage Park.
- Cultural Extravaganza: If the arts are involved, you'll find it all together at this celebration of Jamaican culture. Drama, culinary arts, music, dance, and crafts all have a place here.
Carnival is held all over the island...
- Carnival: One of the most renowned Caribbean festivals, Carnival, spreads across the entire island in one huge party, featuring popular musical entertainment as well as parades. Carnival is held all over the island in the week before Easter and is one of the island's most popular festivals.
- Jonkanoo: Called Junkanoo on other Caribbean islands, this is Jamaica's Christmas celebration. Party-goers dressed in masquerade parade through streets in celebration of their West African and slave heritage.
- Heineken Startime: This musical celebration takes place each winter in Kingston and promises to be the most significant musical event of the season. The concert features one of the strongest line-ups in each area of Jamaican music, from ska to rock steady to hip hop, and, of course, reggae.
- Africa Jamfest: African music is honored each year in Montego Bay during this Jamfest. Traditional African music, arts and crafts, clothing, and food are present during the Jamfest.
- Rebel Salute Music Festival: Also in Kingston, this festival has been held in January for the past 12 years. The festival highlights cultural roots music and focuses more on the folk tradition than other shows. No drugs, alcohol, or meat are allowed at the event. Don't expect any less of a crowd, though, as patrons of this event include locals as well as international guests who show up each year for this amazing concert.
- Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival: This amazing festival features a diverse range of musical genres but pulls all their influences toward the blues and jazz lover. From African to Cuban and reggae, this festival gives a great international flavor to the age-old tradition of jazz and blues.
- SKAZZ: Bringing jazz and ska music lovers together in one venue, this musical event also showcases local culture and food.
- Jazz Month: In Jamaica June is Jazz Month. Jazz fans have numerous options, from the Ocho Rio Jazz Festival to the Jamaica International Jazz Festival; Over 30 jazz events take place throughout the island.
- International Reggae Day: This is a blowout musical festival in Jamaica. Usually celebrated in July, this festival hosts not only musical talent shows, but a talent search, workshops and a lecture on the life of reggae icon, Bob Marley. This concert is broadcast live all over the world via satellite television and the Internet.
- Reggae Sumfest: Here we have a popular event that takes place the first week in August each year in Montego Bay. The best in reggae are brought together for a week of sonic celebration. Visitors can purchase tickets for just one night of partying or can spend a little more and get weekend passes, or even a pass for the whole week. Some tickets even include backstage passes. Without a doubt, Reggae Sumfest is a great way to enjoy a week of music.
- Stir It Up Film and Music Festival: In September, up-and-coming musicians and film makers gather with industry professionals. There are concerts, film screenings, and workshops during the days-long event.
- Caribbean Music Expo: More live music will rock the island during this expo at the end of September through the beginning of October. This event takes place in Ocho Rios, and features concerts on the beach and an industry trade show.
- Come Celebrate Jesus: A music festival with an international following that promotes gospel and spiritual music, this even includes local and international artists, cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, prizes, and giveaways.
- Jamaica Reggae Wine Festival: The first event in the region to combine a wine festival with a reggae music festival, this is a high-class event that draws crowds from around the world.
- Fishing: Jamaica is home to two of the largest fishing tournaments that run in September and October each year. The Falmouth Blue Marlin Tournament and Port Antonio International Fishing Tournament are popular, and the Port Antonio Tournament is one of the most prestigious in the Caribbean. The Montego Bay Yacht Club holds a fishing tournament in September, as well and in Treasure Beach you'll encounter the Hook N'Line Canoe Tournament.
- Sailing: Sailing events are plentiful throughout Jamaica, including the Pineapple Cup in Montego Bay each February, and the Montego Bay Race.
- Golfing: Golfing events are also popular in Jamaica. Some of the top LGPA golfers compete each May at the Mojo 6 Golf Tournament. August is when the celebrities come out to play for a good ause at the Ocean Style Celebrity Gof Weekend. In December, the Jamaica Invitational Pro-Am hosts PGA pros as well as amateurs who take on the courses at Montego Bay's Ritz-Carlton Golf and Spa Resort Rose Hall.
- Races: Jamaica's longest running road race takes place on the last Sunday of January. The High Mountain Coffee Road Race includes both a 5K and 10K race. You can also walk, jog, or run to the beat of reggae music during the Reggae Marathon and Half Marathon.
- Biking: The Jamaica Fat Tyre Festival, a biking event to promote local trails is in February, Jake's Off-Road Triathalon is in April.
- Other Sports: For a special treat, check out the Jamaica Cricket Festival. Teams from around the world meet in Jamaica to compete against one another in over 50 games at various venues throughout the island. Volleyball isn't left out in Jamaica. In March the island' hosts the Venus International Invitational Volleyball Tournament, which is open for men and women. Other unique events include the World Championship of Dominoes in June and Makka Pro Surf Contest in July. Come July, the International Taekwondo Federation World Cup is held at the Montego Bay Convention Center, bringing martial artists from around the world together to respectfully fight it out.
Other Events and Festivals
- All Jamaican Grill-Off: A top food centered celebration is the All Jamaican Grill-Off, at which teams of local grill masters compete to cook the best large piece of meet. The event takes place in June at Kingston's Hope Gardens.
- Portland Jerk Festival: Don't forget about this favored event in July, where visitors can sample Jamaican jerk and enjoy live music and carnival rides.
- Little Ochie Seafood Festival: If seafood is your favorite, you won't want to miss this festival in St. Elizabeth Perish each July. Live music plays during this event as attendees eat all the seafood they can handle.
- Calabach International Literary Festival: Book lovers unite each May in Treasure Beach. The event is typified by readings, workshops, and music.
- Caribbean Fashion Week: If clothing is your passion, check out this event, which brings top designers from around the world to Kingston's National Indoor Sports Centre in June for fashion shows featuring their latest designs.
- Reggae Film Festival: Movie lovers won't want to miss the showings at this event in Montego Bay. Independent films from around the world are screened, and guests can sit in on seminars and gala events. The Reggae Film Festival is typified by live reggae concerts before each screening.
- National Festival of the Arts: This runs through the summer, ending on Jamaican Independence Day. Aside from sales of arts and crafts, local competitions showcase the work of indigenous artists in dance, song, drama, speech, painting, sculpture, crafts, culinary arts, and photography, to name just a few. The wide variety of artistic media makes this festival a sure hit.
- Kingston on the Edge of Urban Arts Festival: Another great arts festival at which artists of all medias, including performance arts, share their skills with attendees. This festival is held in June.
- Kingston Restaurant Week: Some of the city's top restaurants offer discounts to guests in order to introduce their food to a broader audience.
- Ocho Rios Seafood Festival: The largest culinary and family event on the island, all forms of seafood can be sampled here. Plus there is live entertainment throughout the day.
- Jamaica Bridal Expo: Calling all brides and grooms! If you're getting married soon, this is a great way to learn about all of your options. Fashion, flowers, cakes, limousines, and make up can all be reviewed during this event.
- Oktoberfest: For over 30 years this event has been teaching locals and visitors everything they need to know about German spirits and food.
- Tastee Talent Contest: Get to know the local talent in December, where young hopefuls compete and big-name entertainers keep things interesting.
Whatever your interest, be it art, music, or just a great party atmosphere, one thing is certain: locals know how to turn events and culture into something spectacular and memorable--a special occasion with the distinct feel of Jamaica that you won't want to miss.