Self-proclaimed as ‘The biggest and best Carnival in the North Eastern Caribbean‘, SXM Carnival is a three-week celebration of concerts, calypso competitions, steel pan, reggae bands, costumes, pageantry, and more in the center of the Carnival Village. The cultural event ends with two days of parades as Carnival troupes fill the streets of the capital, Phillipsburg jumping and dancing to a variety of music across the Caribbean region.
If you’re looking to visit The Friendly Island of the Caribbean, here’s a complete guide to planning a trip for SXM Carnival including where to stay, Carnival Troupes, and things to do during SXM Carnival.
About Sint Maarten Carnival Day
The island of Sint Maarten – Saint Martin is shared by the Kingdom of the Netherlands and France and every year celebrates two Carnivals. The first is on the French side in February/March before Lent and the second takes place on the Dutch side in April. Sint Maarten Carnival has become the island’s biggest event of the year as it showcases the culture, delicious food, music, and creativity of the people of Sint Maarten.
St. Maarten’s first celebration of carnival was held in 1969 on November 11th for St. Maarten’s Day as an initiative by the Oranje Committee to celebrate various holidays on the island. This was modeled after the popular carnival that took place in St. Thomas, USVI.
When the French side of the island started to host its own St. Martin Day, committee members chose to move SXM Carnival to the end April which is a public holiday closer to the Queen’s birthday on April 30th and after St. Thomas Carnival.
This event expanded to the multi-day festival as we know it today. While Trinidad Carnival, the “The Mother of Carnivals” is the largest Caribbean Carnival in the region, St. Maarten Carnival has the longest carnival season.
When is St Maarten Carnival 2023
St. Maarten’s Carnival season will run from April 14 until May 3, 2023, with pre-Carnival events beginning on March 17, 2023. The Carnival Grand Parade is scheduled for Monday, May 1, and Second-day Parade on Tuesday, May 2.
Traveling to Sint Maarten
If you’re flying to Sint Maarten, the airport code for Princess Juliana International Airport is SXM. As a major hub, several airlines from the US, Latin America, Europe, and the Caribbean fly directly to Sint Maarten. Visitors from the neighboring islands of St. Barthélemy (St. Barts), Saba, St. Eustatius, and St. Kitts can travel by ferry from the Dutch side or Anguilla from the French side.
Where to Stay in St Maarten
The island of St. Maarten has quickly become one of my favorites and there are a variety of hotels, resorts, bed and breakfasts, and guest houses for every budget. Traveling to SXM for Carnival is great because it takes place during what is considered shoulder season in the Caribbean region and hotel rates are 30-50% less than rates during the high winter season. The weather is also pretty mild with some chances of rain in between.
The best areas to stay are in the capital Phillipsburg where the Carnival Village is located and Simpson Bay which hosts a lot of nightlife. My recommendations for Simpson Bay are Simpson Bay Resort and Marina or Hilton Vacation Club Royal Palm St. Maarten.
@msjoannae #stmaarten #sxmcarnivalweekend #resortreview #travelvlog #roomtour #travel #caribbeantiktok #blacktravelblogger #blacktravel #joannaetravels #simpsonbay #tiktoktravel #bdaytrip ♬ love nwantinti (ah ah ah) – CKay
St Maarten Carnival 2023 Schedule
A unique thing about SXM Carnival is everything is centered around the Carnival Village on Pond Island. The Carnival Village is one of the first purposely built carnival venues in the Caribbean region and has 80 vendor shops to sell clothing, arts and crafts, food, and drinks. All these shops face the main stage where local and international artists perform.
The St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) has released the official carnival schedule for SXM Carnival 2023. Some events featured are a Causeway Jump-Up, Opening Jump-Up, Children’s Parade, J’ouvert Morning Jump-Up, Grand Parade, and a Second Day Parade followed by Jamrade and a Closing Jump-Up. Here is the SXM Carnival 2023 schedule:
- Friday, March 17 – Carnival 2023 Kick-Off Event (RTC Event)
- Saturday, March 18 – Causeway Jump-Up
- Sunday, March 19 – Jr. Calypso Competition
- Friday, March 24 – Senior Calypso Eliminations
- Saturday, March 25 – Carnival Corner Fete Is Fete Vol. 2 Beach Edition (RTC Event)
- Friday, March 31 – Sik Entertainment Rt Bash
- Saturday, April 1 – Da Big Bad XP’s Backyard Session II (RTC Event)
- Friday, April 14 – Opening of Carnival Village / Jump Up
- Saturday, April 15 – Junior Carnival Parade
- Sunday, April 16 – Family Fun Day / Cook-Up/ Cock Up
- Monday, April 17 – Culture Night & Pan Explosion
- Tuesday, April 18 – Free Village Chill Night
- Wednesday, April 19 – The Groove
- Thursday, April 20 – Road March & Band Clash Competition
- Friday, April 21 – R&B/Hip Hop International Concert
- Saturday, April 22 – Caribbean Flag Fest
- Sunday, April 23 – Bacchanal Sunday
- Monday, April 24 – Youth Extravaganza
- Tuesday, April 25 – Creole Fete
- Wednesday, April 26 – Nagico Senior Calypso Finals
- Thursday, April 27 – (4 AM) J’ouvert Morning Jump Up
- Thursday, April 27 – (8 PM) Noche Latina
- Friday, April 28 – II Brothers Entertainment Concert (One Love Reggae Concert)
- Saturday, April 29 – Night Of The Hit Makers 10th Anniversary
- Sunday, April 30 – King & Queen Of The Band Competition
- Monday, May 1 – Grand Carnival Parade
- Tuesday, May 2 – Second Day Parade / Jamrade
- Wednesday, May 3 – Closing Carnival / Burning of King Momo
SXM Carnival Troupes
To participate in the Grand Parade, you would need to be part of a Carnival Troupe or band. Most Carnival troupes have band launches 4-6 months before the carnival and potential masqueraders can view and purchase their costumes online.
For SXM Carnival, Carnival band troupes are independent organizations and do not fall under the Carnival foundation. Most have Facebook or Instagram pages and when their band launches, the St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation shares it on their Facebook and Instagram pages. Here is a list of some bands to choose from:
Things to do in SXM
Outside of the Carnival, there are lots of things to do in St. Maarten. This year I planned a group trip to St. Maarten – St. Martin for my birthday and we did a combination of beach time, adventure tours, and carnival-centered activities and had a great time. Here are some places to visit in SXM that you can include before or after the carnival:
- Zip lining on The Flying Dutchman – the steepest zip line in the world
- ATV Tour around the entire island
- Watch the takeoff and landing of planes from Maho Beach
- Catamaran Day Sail
- Day Trip to Pinel Island
- Enjoy live entertainment at Nowhere Special or The Red Piano
Here are some more Carnival planning guides and reviews:
- Ritual, Revelry, Release: Tobago Carnival 2022 Review
- Best Hairstyles for Playing Mas
- Carnival Prep: Tips for Getting Ready for Carnival