A MUST-DO for anyone who loves St. John USVI and the Caribbean…

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Similar to many other Carnival celebrations around the world, the St. John Carnival draws on African and European customs including music, dancing and masquerades. In addition, the St. John Carnival celebrates freedom and emancipation, as many of the local West Indians have ancestry tracing back to the slaves that worked on the sugar plantations of St. John in the 1700s. The festival culminates on July 4th, making this an EPIC Fourth of July celebration as well.

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The Festival

The St. John Carnival takes place all throughout June and ends on July 4th each year. In the main town of Cruz Bay on St. John (United States Virgin Islands), there is a parking lot next to the US Customs dock. During Carnival, this parking lot becomes “Festival Village” and every night from late June through July 4th there is awesome live music, vendors selling local food and drinks, and people from all over the Virgin Islands (and beyond) having the time of their lives.

The real party gets started the last week of June and culminates on July 4th with an all-night party and dancing in the streets as the sun comes up, an extraordinary parade, and fireworks to cap it all off.

The all-night party is called J’ouvert (pronounced “Joo-vay”) and is said to celebrate the one day that slaves “had off” each year. Since this was their only day to have fun all year long, they started the party as early as possible to maximize their fun, and kept the party going all day long. It’s a pretty cool story and amazing that the tradition lives on to this day.

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How to Survive J’ouvert (and 24 Hours of Partying)

This is how Alisa and I executed the perfect J’ouvert/July 4th extravaganza:

  • July 3rd – Party during the day, then nap until midnight (this is important!)
  • July 4th 12:00am – Head to Festival Village with drinks in hand and get ready to party
  • 3:00am – Festival Village closes down. Hang out with friends until J’ouvert begins (at around 4:00am)
  • 4:00am – J’ouvert starts with a steel drum marching band followed by some partiers, and then grows into a mass of people being led by a semi-truck blasting music through the streets…a truly unique experience


  • 7:00am: The “music truck” stops and with the sun fully up and 8 hours of partying under your belt, head home for another much needed power nap
  • 1:00pm: Wake up, shower and blasted some music to get back in party mode. Fill your cooler and head into town to meet friends, grab a good viewing spot and watch the parade. The parade lasts for HOURS and fills the streets with music, dancers and an all-around great atmosphere

Experience the St. John Carnival USVI - Festival Parade

  • 7:00pm: You’ll probably be starting to fade at this point, so head to one of the awesome local bars or restaurants to fuel up!
  • 9:00pm: With full bellies, head down to the beach at Cruz Bay. Find a nice spot, watch some amazing fireworks, and pat yourself on the back for being the party animal that you are!

Experience the St. John Carnival USVI - Festival Fireworks

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Getting There

Book your flight to St. Thomas then cab it to the Red Hook Ferry Terminal. There you’ll catch the 20 minute ferry to St. John. The ferry dock is right where all of the Carnival action is, so book a room nearby (or find one on AirBnB.com). Check out THINGS TO DO IN ST. JOHN, USVI for more tips for your Caribbean/Carnival vacation.

Have you experienced the St. John Carnival or any other Carnival celebration? Share your experience and tips in the comments section below!