Do: The Junkanoo Expo, 242-356-2731, on Nassau’s waterfront is a little slice of Carnival behind glass: a museum devoted to the history of the festival.
The Trinidad Carnival, the largest and most elaborate of all Caribbean carnivals, might as well be an Olympic sport: How many sleepless, liquor-fueled nights can you withstand? How many miles of dance can your thighs endure? How gleefully immodest can you allow your costumed self to be? Oh, but it’s worth it; the concerts, the steel pan performances and the parties are sumptuous. Most famous among them are the cricketer Brian Lara’s event, held on the majestic grounds of his house in Port of Spain, where tickets hover around $200 and are generally sold out before you can say “wicket.” You’ll see classic Carnival characters everywhere — the Pierrot Grenade performs rhymed political speeches; jab jabs (from French patois for “devil”) come in red or blue; the Dame Lorraine costume caricatures 18th-century aristocrats. The best part? You can forever boast that you did it.
Stay: The gleaming Hyatt Regency Trinidad (trinidad.hyatt.com, 868-623-2222) is Carnival central. Anything you need, whether it is a post-parade masseuse, a costume tailor or hangover eats, you can find it there. Rooms from $429. For this season, however, the Hyatt is already sold out for Carnival weekend, so check http://gotrinidadandtobago.com/ for other alternatives.
Do: Join a mas band. Tribe is the most popular one, but you might have to sell your first born to get in. Information: carnivaltribe.com.
This island’s Carnival is so small, intimate and traditional, you’ll wonder what century you’re in. That’s the beauty of it. Dominica, a pristine, untouristy eco-heaven, prides itself on staying true to Carnival’s roots. At Mas Dominik, as it is known in Creole, women clad in beads and bikinis are outnumbered by sensays, whose name and origin come from the Twi-speaking people of West Africa. With their costumes made from paper and cloth scraps, sensays look like papier-mache bigfoots, dancing to a Zouk-like music known as bouyon. Afterward, scrub off the paint in one of the island’s many natural hot springs just a few minutes’ drive from downtown Roseau, the island’s capital. An added attraction: French islands (and those, like Dominica, that underwent long periods of French rule) devote Ash Wednesday (on Feb. 13) to an event known as Tewe Vaval, during which a giant straw mannequin representing the king of Carnival is burned in a ceremonial festival. It signifies the end of Carnival, cleanses the island of bad luck and lets revelers keep on jamming.
Stay: It doesn’t have the eco-luxury experience of the better-known properties on the island, but the historic Fort Young Hotel (fortyounghotel.com, 767-448-5000) is right in Roseau — and very Carnival-friendly. Rates start at $125.
Do: Get your rhythm right by brushing up on bouyon at numusiczone.com.
The name says it all: Easterval is an exhilarating union between Easter and Carnival on a petite Grenadine island, just off St. Vincent. Easterval was born some 40 years ago when Union Islanders living abroad, returning home for Easter, lent the place a Carnival-like feel, then elected to make it official. There are food fairs, a Miss Easterval competition, sports competitions and the usual soca- and reggae-fueled revelry. But what other Carnival can boast of an Easter bunny parade or — apt for the Grenadines, feted as a prime sailing destination — a two-day regatta?