So, you’re on the hunt for the best party destinations in the Caribbean? Look no further. This guide has you covered. It hops from the white-sand beaches of the Mexican mainland all the way to the paradise coves of Cuba and the Lesser Antilles to offer up some of the most enticing hedonism getaways the region has to offer.
We have to say, it’s been hard whittling the selection down to just seven choices. This palm-fringed, sunbaked corner of the tropics has to be one of the most off-the-hook parts of the planet. It’s replete with rum-soaked colonial cities that brim with chichi cocktail joints and sleepless spring breaker haunts alike. There’s something for every sort of partier.
Talking of spring break, you’re likely to find that virtually all of the best party destinations in the Caribbean mentioned on this list get busier when the US college break is in full swing. However, there are other places that party all year round, no matter whether the students are in town or not.
No list of the best party destinations in the Caribbean could possibly be complete without a mention of Cancun. Sat at the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula on the balmy shores of mainland Mexico, this town has become synonymous with no-holes-barred spring breaker partying in recent decades and now reigns as the most famous hedonism hotspot for US travelers going south of the border (sorry, Cabo!).
Yep, there are some seriously wild nights in Cancun when colleges go on hiatus between February and March. Thousands – and we really do mean thousands – of revelers jet down to Cancun to glug tequilas and join the pool parties and boozes cruises that abound. The bigger clubs draw in some pretty iconic DJs during the height of the party season, too, so expect some epic EDM and house gigs to match the hype.
What’s more, the parties in Cancun don’t end just because spring break is over. Not a chance. There’s a whole segment of the Cancun Hotel Zone (the main tourist part of the resort) that pumps with life 365 days of the year. It’s known as Punta Cancun and it hosts the most infamous venues – think places like Mandala and Coco Bongo (both Cancun rites of passage!).
It might be an unincorporated city of the USA, but the epic capital of Puerto Rico swings to the salsa and jazz vibes of the Caribbean. It certainly looks the part, what with that UNESCO-tagged old center that’s capped by a Spanish-styled fort with flurries of the Gothic and the Baroque. But you’re not here for the heritage architecture, right?
You’re here to party. Let’s just say this: You will not be disappointed. San Juan’s bar scene runs the gamut from rum-spilling speakeasies to laser-lit disco bars that rumble on until sunup. The appropriately named district of Old San Juan is the center of it all. Go there to drink in paint-peeling pubs that ooze colonial charms. Or there’s Condado, a chic area with rooftop drinking terraces overlooking the beaches and the Caribbean Sea.
We also think it’s worth mentioning that San Juan is just the beginning of what’s on offer in lovely Puerto Rico. You can get chilled nightlife scenes in more laid-back bars by cruising down to Rincon or Aguadilla, where the vibes level out a little and the spring breakers are replaced by long-haired surfers fresh off the waves.
Havana is one of the best party destinations in the Caribbean for those after something a little more culturally infused and refined than your usual spring break blowout. Once a stomping ground for the Rat Pack and American gangsters (not seen The Godfather Part II?), the city oozes charm from each of its chipped-stucco pores.
We’d recommend starting with a taste of one of the Cuban rum cocktails courtesy of the ramshackle bars of Old Havana. Some of the very best include Mixxo Havana (an uber-vibrant spot with a local following and live music) and La Bodeguita Del Medio (just wait until you sample the mojitos there – they are an art form).
Later, there’s nothing for it but the Havana jazz bars. You’ll hear the samba twisting and turning in the tropical air from the sidewalks before you duck into these venues. Inside, there are usually dancing troupes plumed in thick wafts of cigar smoke and an endless supply of rum punches. The best places to shindig the evenings away are usually east of the busy Paseo de Marti and west of the old port.
Santo Domingo is one of the few proper metropolises in the Caribbean and one of the oldest cities in the region to boot. It was founded by the brother of one Christopher Columbus (heard of him?) way back in 1495, which means it’s had well over five centuries to get its nightlife scene in order. And it doesn’t disappoint.
There are really three areas where the Santa Domingo nightlife is worth writing home about. You’ve got the long and bustling Avenida Venezuela, the more off beat and upscale neighborhood of Piantini, and then the hub of it all, the Zona Colonial. The latter is where we’d recommend focusing, as it is 100% walkable from end to end and has the majority of the top-rated bars and clubs.
Talking of the best clubs, you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for names like Onno’s, a bumping dance bar with a good food menu, and VIP Room, arguably the glitziest club of the lot – think chandeliers of diamond glass and big stages for the dancers. For something a little different, there are also the north-coast towns of Puerto Plata and Cabarete, where it’s a more salt-washed surfer vibe.
Mhmm…the whole island of Aruba has established itself as something of an R&R hotspot for those in search of a more hedonistic taste of the Caribbean. Alright, so it’s not quite the no-holes-barred partying of Cancun of San Juan, but there are loads of really great bars and venues all over the island, along with lively resort hotels that offer things like swim-up pool bars and all-inclusive service (and, yes, all-inclusive usually means the drinks come gratis!).
More than that, Aruba is a casino destination extraordinaire, with excellent gaming halls where you can hit the poker tables and try your luck at the blackjack, so long as you’re at least 18 years of age. You’ll find places to enjoy all up and down the main Route 1 that links the south and north tips of the island, but the area around Palm Beach is probably the best for nightlife overall.
The other great thing to bear in mind about Aruba is that it’s nice and far away from the central Atlantic hurricane belt. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t get storms, but the big fall and late-summer cyclones that can batter some of the other party spots on this list are nowhere near as common.
Ah, Barbados – just a mention of the name is usually enough to conjure images of luxury vacationing. Long an isle for jet setters and millionaires, this one comes up trumps for those on the hunt for the most refined and upscale nightlife in the Caribbean. Just take a glimpse at the likes of the Barbados Yacht Club to see what we mean.
But there’s also another side to this sun-kissed island of white-sand beaches and glorious aquamarine bays. There’s a side that thrums to the sound of steel drums and boogies to Bajan jazz. You’ll find that with the fish fries in Holetown and the ramshackle rum drinkeries of Speightstown and Mullins.
The summer month of August is particularly festive in Barbados. That’s when the Grand Kadooment rolls through town. It’s a major festival that marks the end of the harvest, also known as Crop Over. Today, it brings a whopping 15,000 dancers and singers, musicians and partiers, to the island for a couple of nights of masked balls and parades.
Jamaica might have a rep for being one of the more laid-back isles in the region but let us tell you that the nightlife scene can go from one to 60 faster than Usain Bolt. Okay, maybe not quite that fast but suffice to say that things can get wild on this reggae-bumping island. There’s local nightlife down in the gritty capital of Kingston, but things are even headier on the north coast.
Montego Bay is the gateway to all that. It has the biggest airport and comes flanked by long beaches of beautiful white sand, where sprawling luxury hotel resorts but right up the sea with infinity pools and gorgeous sunset bars.
Mo’Bay, as it’s known to the regular returnees, has fantastic bars like Margaritaville and the Blue Beat Ultra Lounge. You could also venture out to nearby Negril to hit the clifftop pub of Rick’s Café, where daring patrons hop off the rocks straight into the Caribbean. We also love the so-called Floyd’s Pelican Bar further south, which is built on the water from rickety palm sticks. It looks like something out of Castaway and can only be reached by boat.
The best party destinations in the Caribbean – our verdict
This list offers just a taster of the best party destinations in the Caribbean. There are stacks and stacks more places where you could find yourself dancing samba and sipping rum punches after the sun has set on the paradise beaches. However, from Cancun’s epic spring breaker venues to the groovy jazz bars of Havana, our list includes a range of options for all sorts of different reveler. Enjoy!