What's So Sexy About the Caribbean?

The Tropical Party: It's Always Carnival Somewhere
By Baz Dreisinger
Female dancers at Carnival
Carnival is the Caribbean's biggest party (Zach Stovall)

There are times I've wished Caribbean night life was a little more, well, un-sexy. This is usually when I'm sitting on a plane, bleary-eyed, returning from an island trip that delivered precious little R&R — because night after night, I couldn't tear myself away. One last dance to sweet calypso; one last Red Stripe-with-chit-chat at the local rum shop; one last dose of rootsy reggae served up with starry skies and balmy breezes. It's an elusive goal, slipping further from my grasp each year the night-life scene gets hotter: to return from a Caribbean trip well rested.

Wishful thinking it is, especially when that trip coincides with a music festival. When an entire island seems single-mindedly obsessed with music-filled madness, it's not easy to tune out and savor quiet time on the beach — and who'd want to? If there's any date sexier than an evening at the Turks & Caicos Music and Cultural Festival, I haven't found it. The pier in Provo where the festival is held is breezy and brightly lit by the stars overhead and the sleek yachts anchored in its harbor, chockablock with pretty people sipping champagne and grooving to rhythm and blues. Then there's the Cayman Jazz Festival, a three-night show big enough to attract stars like Anita Baker, small and cozy enough to make you feel like Jamaican pianist Monty Alexander is serenading you alone with jazz versions of Bob Marley tunes, accompanied by the rhythm of waves licking the shore. One heavenly aphrodisiac.

Aphrodisiacs, of course, are a French specialty, which is why St. Barts' night life is synonymous with "sexy." Beachfront beds at Nikki Beach invite couples to indulge in public displays of affection while white chaise lounges at the waterfront Yacht Club are best complemented with a bottle of expensive French wine.

Caribbean chic is sexy, indeed. But night life can be divinely earthy, too, and proof is in weekly street parties like those in St. Lucia's Gros Islet and Anse La Ray, both on Friday night. They deliver a surplus of sensory joys: Taste spicy stewed fish, fried bakes and grilled lobster; discover that sweat and salty sea air can smell sweet; listen to inexorable reggae and soca music blaring from oversized speakers on the road. Feel the dancing body of a partner who keeps you there well past your bedtime, wining and dancing and refusing to call it a night until the music dims, which it never seems to do.

Music and dance are sacred business in the Caribbean; Club Zen in Port of Spain, Trinidad, is a multilevel venue decked out in plush red velvet and ornate Buddha statues — a cross between a bordello and a temple. In a down-home island like Grenada, enter a neon-lit Club Karma that features a poolroom, several frigidly air-conditioned dance floors and music by artists and DJs from Jamaica to Trinidad. After a day in the rainforests of Tobago, cross the velvet rope into Club Shade, an outdoor venue where quality is measured in movement: Every party-going soul is on the thatch-roofed dance floor, proving that nothing works the waistline like Angostura rum and throbbing soca music.

Steamy places like these leave me no choice: I'll ignore the yawn and say, yet again, "I'll sleep on the plane."

Published: 12 Feb 2009 | Last Updated: 1 Apr 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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