Last updated: 04:30 PM ET, Fri February 26 2016

3 Exotic Caribbean Festivals to Experience in 2016

Features & Advice | Brian Major | February 26, 2016

3 Exotic Caribbean Festivals to Experience in 2016

PHOTO: Boat racing, Anguilla’s national pastime, will be featured at Festival Del Mar in March. (Photo by Brian Major)

The Caribbean is rich not only with sun and fun, but outstanding cuisine, culture and traditional pastimes. All are available to visitors throughout the year in the form of numerous festivals celebrating music, food and athletic and cultural events.

This year, three exotic Caribbean destinations are featuring exciting, distinctive celebrations tied closely to local cuisine, culture and customs.  

Anguilla’s Festival Del Mar

In addition to traditional Christian celebrations, Easter weekend in Anguilla will offer one of the Caribbean’s premier food festivals. In a region known for outstanding seafood, Festival Del Mar, scheduled for March 26 and 27, will feature traditional cooking and culinary competitions dedicated to Anguillan fish and shellfish pulled fresh from the sea.

READ MORE: Late-Night Ferry To Link Anguilla With Sint Maarten

Attendees will find gourmet fare crafted from local lobster, crab, crayfish and octopus (“sea cat”). The menu will also feature several varieties of fried and grilled fish. Events will take place at Island Harbour, a small fishing village on Anguilla’s eastern tip. The picturesque harbor looks much as it did in the early 1900s, with colorful boats bobbing in the blue waters, and a small fishing pier extending out from the shore.

Sponsored by the Anguilla Tourist Board and the country’s Ministry of Youth and Culture, Festival Del Mar will offer deep sea fishing competitions, swimming races, volley ball exhibitions and crab races.

Two days of live music and boat racing, the island’s national pastime, will highlight the activities. Visitors are invited to wear swimsuits in case they desire to take a dip in the sea. Tented areas for lounging in the sun and domino games will be provided.

Turks & Caicos’ Race for the Conch

One of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean will provide the setting for a signature Turks & Caicos competition and cultural celebration.

The annual "Race for the Conch" open-water swimming competition on Providenciales’ Grace Bay Beach will take place on July 2. Open to all competitive and recreational swimmers, the three main events consist of a half-mile, one mile and 2.4-mile race along Grace Bay Beach. Several world-class swimmers are scheduled to attend, and race funds will support local reef protection and children’s charities.

The events also include a 100-meter children’s “Race for the Conch” for swimmers 12 years and younger. Admission is free and parents can sign kids up on the day of the contest. The race hotel is the Riyal West Indies Resort, which is offering a 25 percent discount on studio rooms during the event. Race organizers have also issued a list of recommended hotels.  

British Virgin Islands Food Fete

This fall the British Virgin Islands will again host what has become a signature event for the destination: BVI Food Fete, a month-long culinary event celebrating the territory’s cuisine and culture. Scheduled to take place November 12-27, the Food Fete, sponsored by the British Virgin Islands Tourist Board (BVITB) will present culinary competitions, demonstrations, exhibits, events and opportunities across the archipelago.

BVI Food Fete “offers a blend of events curated for epicureans, tastemakers and novice culinary explorers,” said Sharon Flax-Mars, the British Virgin Islands’ director of tourism. “Through our numerous festivities we aim to introduce our guests to our culinary tourism product in a platform that blends discovery and adventure.”

READ MORE: The Turks & Caicos’ Tourism Flourishes Through Adversity

While the complete event program is still being determined and will be announced later this year, the festival is again expected to include “A Taste of Tortola,” held last year at renovated Queen Elizabeth II Park on Tortola, the largest of the British Virgin Islands.  The event features cuisine from top British Virgin Island restaurateurs, chefs and drink creations from leading mixologists as entertainers provide music and dancing along the water’s edge.

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