(For complete event calendar see T&T Island - Event Calendar)
Harvest Festivals (Monthly): One Sunday each month, one or more villages have vibrant celebrations. Days begin with church services, followed by preparing and feasting on delicious local dishes. T&T Island - Tobago Heritage Festivals
Tobago Carnival (February): Trinidad’s carnival is known as being the biggest street party on earth, while Tobago hosts a lower key version.
Tobago Carnival Regatta (February): Four days of yacht racing alongside parties, games and other events.
Mount Pleasant Goat Racing (Easter Monday): A fun event to watch, which the participants and many spectators take very seriously.
Tobago Jazz Experience (late April): A festival which takes place over the course of eight days and celebrates jazz along with the traditional music of Tobago, Trinidad and other Caribbean islands.
Culinary Festival (May/June): Dishes and signature cocktails from around the world, especially those native to Tobago. The island’s best chefs, cooks, and bartenders demonstrate their skills in culinary and mixology contests.
Dragon Boat Festival (Mid June): Senior and junior teams from both islands compete for dragon-boating supremacy. As with most events on the island, count on good food and music.
Charlotteville Fisherman’s Festival (late June): A celebration of the patron saint of fishermen, starting with a BBQ followed by a street party.
Great Fete Weekend (late July/early August): An annual beach party held in locations including Pigeon Point beach, with performances from local DJs as well as Soca and Dancehall stars from across the Caribbean.
Tobago Heritage Festival (July/August): A cultural event which is dedicated to preserving the island’s cultural traditions, including music, dance, storytelling and food.
Carib Great Race (August/September): A speedboat race from Trinidad and Tobago, followed by a large beach party.
Blue Food Festival (October): Dasheen (sweet potato, cassava, yam and other root plants) are used to prepare bread, cookies and sweets, ice-cream, and even lasagne! A culinary competition and cultural shows are also highlights of the festival.
(For complete event calendar see T&T Island - Event Calendar)
One Sunday each month, one or more villages in Tobago host a Harvest Festival. Once an annual thanksgiving for the year’s harvest, in many ways these vibrant celebrations are the core of community life. Days begin with church services, followed by preparing and feasting on delicious local dishes.
The Tobago Carnival pre-season kicks off early, before Christmas, with a launch featuring a street parade in Scarborough of traditional mas characters (including speech bands — a cast of costumed characters who speechify in rhyme).
A player of contemporary "bikini beads and feathers" mas in Tobago Carnival. Photo courtesy the THA.
The first party is the Soca Spree, typically with Machel Montano as the headline act, followed by events like the Tobago House of Assembly’s Inter-department Queen and Calypso Show; and the Roxborough Afro-Queen & Windward Calypso Show. If nothing else, once you’re in town long enough, make sure to visit the panyards of Tobago’s top steelbands, like Dixieland, Redemption Sound Setters, and Katzenjammers.
Come J’ouvert (very early Carnival Monday morning) in Scarborough, mud mas is the focal point. The mud is said to be therapeutic for the skin, as no doubt is taking a refreshing dip in the ocean after to cool and wash off! Later in the day and on Tuesday, “ole mas” and costumed bands take over the streets of Scarborough and Roxborough.
The “festival of wind” is held at Pigeon Point near to Carnival (typically February), featuring four sailing categories: Optimists and Bum Boat sailing, dynamic Windsurf, and Kite-Surfing classes. Peak sailing time is the dry season (December–May), with stronger and more consistent winds. T&T Sailing Association: 634-4519
Each Easter, Buccoo hosts the Family Day and Goat & Crab Races. The animals hurtle down a special 110m (160ft) track to the finish line, hustled on by barefoot “jockeys” who sprint behind their charges, holding the colourfully attired goats on long ropes, and the crabs on short strings. The showdown happens each Easter Monday and Tuesday at Mt Pleasant, as well as Buccoo (the main location). There’s a repeat later in the year at the Heritage Festival. Alpines, Toggenburgs and Saanens are the types of goats raced each year. To prepare for the events, they are given special diets (oats, vitamins, pigeon peas for iron) and months of training; stamina is built by taking the goats swimming.
Goat races are a feature at the Easter Family Day event at Buccoo. Photo by Piotr Andrews
Each April, jazz is everywhere in Tobago: on the beach, in bars and lounges, in parks, all around. Speyside, Signal Hill, Scarborough, Castara, and Pigeon Point are key venues, some of which host free events. Showcasing some of the best in local and regional jazz, soca and world music talents, alongside pop, R&B, hip-hop, soca, and soul stars from around the world, the Tobago Jazz Experience is normally held during the last week of April. Previous stagings have attracted headliners like John Legend, Jill Scott, Jennifer Hudson, Kool & the Gang, Angie Stone, Janelle Monae, Chaka Khan, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Mary J Blige, Sting, Diana Ross, Erykah Badu, India.Arie, George Benson, Heather Headley, Lauryn Hill, and Maxwell.
Each May/June at the Pigeon Point Heritage Park, this free event offers up dishes and signature cocktails from around the world, especially those native to Tobago. The island’s best chefs, cooks, and bartenders demonstrate their skills in culinary and mixology contests. You are invited to sample all!
Each year on a weekend in mid-June at Pigeon Point, senior and junior teams from both islands compete for dragon-boating supremacy. As with most events on the island, count on good food and music.
Fisherman’s festivals take place in the coastal villages during the year, with the most significant on St Peter’s Day (29 June); he’s the patron saint of fishermen. Like the harvest festivals, they begin with church services in the morning and end with eating, drinking, and partying into the night. The biggest celebration takes place at Charlotteville’s Man-o’-War Bay, with smaller festivities taking place up and down the coast. Visitors are always welcome!
This annual party fest, once tied to Great Race (see below), takes place in late July/early August. Five straight nights of partying until dawn at Pigeon Point and other locations, with DJs, sound systems and live entertainment. Be mindful of turtles and turtle nests as your party, as southwest beaches are turtle nesting ones!
This festival (July until 1 August) is a glimpse into the past — to experience the old cultural traditions and rituals that make this island what it is. Running from mid-July to Emancipation Day (1 August), this is one of the biggest events on Tobago’s calendar. Founded in 1987, its mandate is the preservation and celebration of Tobago’s folk traditions and culture. Each year there is a new theme.
The festival takes you from village to village each evening, with communities showcasing dance, drama, music, and culinary traditions. Events take place across the island in villages such as Plymouth and Moriah — storytelling, ancestral walks, long-time games, harvest traditions, historical re-enactments (like the ol’ time wedding, ‘washing the dead bed’, and ‘dancing the cocoa’). Help the fishermen ‘pull seine’ on the beach, and you may be rewarded with some fresh catch. There’s also pirogue racing, beach football and seafood breakfast on offer.
Signature presentations include:
Drag yuh bow, Mista Fiddla!
The characteristic “brush step” danced during the Moriah Ole Time Wedding procession at Tobago Heritage Festival. Photo: CaféMoka Gallery
First held in 1969, each August this speed-boat race of about 185km (115 miles) starts at the Port of Spain waterfront early in the morning and ends in Scarborough, Tobago two to three hours later. Naturally, a rollicking beach party ensues — and is yet another excuse for Trinidadians to flock to Tobago.
Speedboats pass Scarborough in the Carib Great Race. Photographer: Martin Kellner
Dasheen and other root crops take centre stage each October, as the villages of Bloody Bay, L’Anse Fourmi, and Parlatuvier on the northeast coast pay homage to the versatility and utility of “blue food”. What is blue food? Some varieties of dasheen can turn blue or indigo when cooked, hence the term — which now is used to describe all root crops, including sweet potato, cassava, and yam. During this Blue Food Festival, all of the dasheen plant is used to prepare a range of items — bread, cookies and sweets, ice-cream, and even lasagna! A culinary competition and cultural shows are also highlights of the festival.