Last Updated on February 9, 2023
Get away. All the way. Get away to Mas Dominik.
Get away to color and music and nightlife and energy and laughter and sunshine and beaches and mountains and waterfalls. Get away to Dominica (pronounced Dom-in-EEK-a)–February average high temperature: 86 degrees.
Located on the far eastern edge of the Caribbean, 1400 miles east and south of Miami set amongst a chain of small island nations including St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, and Martinique, tiny Dominica, not to be confused with the Dominican Republic, packs a wallop for travelers within its 30-mile length and 15-mile width. Highlighting the country’s cultural calendar and returning for the first time since the pandemic, Mas Dominik–Dominica’s Carnival–will be held February 20 and 21, 2023.
Showcasing the island’s African and French traditional roots through music, art and dance, the celebration begins in the early hours of Jouvé–opening–morning and culminates with a burial ritual on Ash Wednesday, enticing visitors’ imagination through the most original carnival in the Caribbean.
Jouvé is the pre-dawn street celebrations to mark the start of Carnival. This traditional element of Dominica’s Carnival celebrations includes various la po kabwit (drumming) groups and people dressed in groups or individual costumes parading in the streets to the sounds of the drumming.
Carnival festivals originated in Roman Catholic countries as sprees of merriment on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday preceding Lent’s 40-days of austerity. Carnival celebrations around the globe now mix religious and cultural tradition with a good excuse for a riotous party.
Dominica’s Carnival is riotous indeed, a fantasy of movement, music and merriment showcasing traditional elements of the country’s carnival celebrations. These include sensay costumes–fantastical full-body costumes originating in Ghana–Lapo Kabwit (goat skin) drumming, ban mouve (a costumed group which parades following a specific pattern), black devils (people dressed all in black and carrying a whip made out of rope which makes a whistling cracking sound when twirled in the air) and stilt walkers.
Dominica’s Carnival season officially began on January 14 with a near daily schedule of events leading up to Mas Dominik. Calypso shows, junior calypso and Bouyon monarch music competitions, Bouyon being a distinct style of music developed in Dominica in the late 80s, pageants, parades, village carnivals and SunRise, a concert party beginning at 11 PM and continuing all the way through… sunrise.
SunRise is the ultimate Carnival VIP experience organized by Discover Dominica Authority with goodwill ambassador and Bouyon artist Asa Bantan as the headliner of the event. This year’s SunRise will take place on February 17 and will feature established and up and coming soca and Bouyon artistes and DJs from Dominica and regionally. The SunRise VIP experience entails two tiers of service: VIP guests will receive a meal and drinks in an elevated lounge and the regular guests will be provided various branded swag such as caps, shades and more.
Dominica festivals return
Mas Dominik is one of three signature festivals held annually on the island along with Jazz ‘N Creole (April 30, 2023) and the World Creole Music Festival (October 28 through 30, 2023). Dominica, however, is best known as a destination for exploring the outdoors and is referred to as the Nature Island for its mountains, rainforest, rivers, lakes and waterfalls. Travelers here trade in winter grays for tropical greens and chase away their seasonal blues for the aquatic variety. Snorkeling, scuba diving, whale watching and hikes to a boiling lake bring visitors from around the world.
Guests from the U.S. will feel right at home as English is the country’s official language; U.S. dollars are accepted by almost every business (along with British Pounds, Euros and credit cards) and visas are not required for entry from America–just a valid passport and government-issued identification like a driver’s license. Dominica is one hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time, so in February, when it’s 9:00 AM in New York, it’s 10:00 AM in Dominica.
One quirky detail to note, Dominica’s electrical services use 220/240 volts. American cell phones, laptops, appliances and electronics require transformers for voltage conversion.
A new nonstop direct flight from the States via American Airlines through Miami makes getting to Dominica easier than ever before. Numerous regional connections from across the Caribbean served by a variety of airlines are also available.
If your idea of a good time is a euphoric party, now is the time for Dominica.
Where to stay in Dominica
Dominica is small and hotel accommodations can be precious, particularly during popular festivals. Plan in advance. Use the map below to get started.artbeachDominicafestivalIndigenous culturemusicnature