Trinidad is home to the earliest Caribbean carnival. The famed party has historic roots.
In 2017 you can party, spa in Carnival style.

By Renée S. Gordon

Trinidad and Tobago were spotted by Christopher Columbus in 1498 and 31 years later a small military force led by Antonio Sedeno put ashore on the southern coast of Trinidad, the island Columbus named Holy Trinity. In the 1700s King Charles III of Spain encouraged further colonization; the population swelled during the 18th Century. The British, under General Sir Ralph Abercromby, seized control and in 1802 Trinidad officially became a crown colony.

Slavery was established in the 1770s when plantation owners brought with them enslaved workers from other islands. These slaves were largely Catholic; it was not until the 1780s that slaves were brought directly from Africa. In 1834, the year of emancipation, there were approximately 18,000 slaves on the island.


The blending of the island’s diverse ethnic groups created a culture that is utterly unique and best experienced each year during Carnival season. Carnival means “farewell to meat” and the tradition is derived from the fact that hundreds of years ago it was customary for Catholics to abstain from meat during the 40 days of Lent. Gradually a festival grew up around the period just before Lent began, complete with costumes, parades and copious amounts of food and drink. Carnival celebrations are said to have originated in Italy and migrated to other European Catholic countries. Eventually they made their way to the Americas, brought by conquerors and colonists.

getpartTrinidad is home to the earliest Caribbean carnival. It dates from the 1780s when it became traditional for both blacks and whites to celebrate the season. Post-emancipation blacks celebrated their freedom with dances and festivals that led to the banning of drumming and masquerading, both mainstays of current carnivals. Even a futile attempt was made to ban the steelpan drum. (An interesting note: Steelpan drums, believed to have originated in Trinidad, are first mentioned as having been played in a Trinidad and Tobago Carnival.)

Visitors from around the world go to Trinidad to watch and participate in the festivities that take place on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The parade of the bands is complete with costumed revelers and a series of stock characters including colorful devils and royalty. It is possible for visitors to arrange to play in a band and the fee for a costume can range from $300 to $1,200 U.S. dollars.

Trinidad’s carnival has kept much that is traditional but as it has grown to become more polished and regulated and, some believe, with a little more decorum. A number of festival-related activities are held leading up to the pre-Lenten Monday and Tuesday including dance and costume competitions. The island’s signature event, the 2017 Carnival, will be held February 27-28. @21plusTravel Tip: if you plan to attend you should make reservations as early as possible!!!


The Carnival’s mas (masquerade) bands always select a theme and this year the Hyatt Regency Trinidad in Port of Spain has followed suit with the 9,000 square-foot Spa Esencia’s unveiling of their Carnival-inspired spa treatments. These culturally-linked treatments offer revelers the opportunity to relax and reinvigorate in an environment that both extends and enhances the carnival experience.
The highlight of Carnival Monday, J’ouvert, is the traditional Mud Mas, a ritualistic dance in which participants daub themselves with mud, paint and oil and parade from the wee hours of the morning until just after dawn. Historically J’ouvert was the period of time in which all people, including the lower classes, mixed and mingled using the pre-dawn darkness and their appearance as equalizing factors. Spa Esencia’s signature mineralizing Mud Mas Body Wrap pays homage to those traditions as well as soothing and detoxifying employing natural seaweeds, vegetal coral and alpha hydroxyl.

Hyatt Regency Trinidad - spa receptionHyatt Regency Trinidad - spa suite


The Dimanche Gras Massage is also based on and named after a carnival tradition. Each Sunday before Carnival begins a Calypso Monarch and the King and Queen of the bands are selected. Meticulous attention is given to the design and creation of their elaborate costumes. The attention to detail given to the Carnival royalty is translated in the Dimanche Gras Massage as an individualized treatment that is tailored to incorporate a triad of massages, aromatherapy and personal consultation.

Hyatt Regency Trinidad - spa pool

Hyatt Regency Trinidad is located on the Port of Spain International Waterfront. There are 428 rooms to choose from, all providing easy access to Carnival activities.

“People dancing all in the street. See the rhythm all in their feet. Life is good wild and sweet. Let the music play on.” – Lionel Ritchie

If Carnival in Trinidad is not on your must-travel list, it should be and now is the time to make reservations for 2017.

More Information…

Trinidad & Tabago: The True Caribbean

– Photo Credits: Carnival images, Trinidad & Tobago Tourism Development; Company spa images, Hyatt Regency Trinidad

Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.

Renee GordonRenée S. Gordon has written a weekly travel column for the Philadelphia Sun for the past 14 years and has published travel articles in numerous publications. Her columns focus on cultural, historic and heritage tourism and she specializes in sites and attractions related to African American and African Diaspora history. Renée serves as a consultant for educational trips and history-related tourist destinations. She considers herself a “missionary journalist” and as such she continues to promote heritage and sustainable tourism. She has been honored with several awards including the 2013 Recipient of African Diaspora World Tourism and Flame Keeper in Media Award for Travel Writing.

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