Barbados' Crop Over – not to be confused with Carnival, which is tied to Lent – honors the end of sugar cane season. This explosion of revelry features beautiful, vibrant costumes, bass-heavy sound systems that keep the crowds dancing, live music concerts, and, of course, all the things make Barbados such a great travel destination: clear, calm ocean, tasty cuisine and plenty of sunshine. 

Parties and celebrations begin as early as May, kicking off with the ceremonial presentation of the last sugar cane from the previous season. The finale, Grand Kadooment, is held on the first Monday in August.

The Kadooment is a big affair filled with fun and merriment that dates back to the 1780s. Though it's a uniquely Bajan celebration, it brings revelers from all over the world to dance and sing through neighborhoods in colorful (sometimes barely there) costumes.

Truthfully, this annual celebration is a test of your physical limits – whether the party starts before the sun rises or you fete long enough to see it, stamina is key when it’s time to wuk yuh waist. With some good planning and preparation, though, you'll have the time of your life.

If you’ve ever considered being part of Barbados’ biggest party, here’s our first-timer’s guide to Crop Over.  

People wearing Crop Over outfits follow a large sound system, with foam flying in the air
Feathers, foam, and towering sound systems make Crop Over Barbados' biggest party © Courtesy of Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI)

How do I pick a Crop Over costume and band?

From selecting accommodations to deciding what parties to attend, a lot of planning goes into attending Crop Over. But your biggest (and most exciting!) decision is what band to play in. 

Kadooment is divided into bands – think large teams donning different color schemes and costume styles. The goal is to tell a beautiful visual story through throngs of people showcasing their garments in a gradient of stunning hues. 

Band launch season, which typically takes place in May, unveils the year’s themes, colors and costumes. For those not in the country, every band posts their costumes on their respective websites. But you’ll have to move quickly, as popular bands like Zulu International, Baje International and the Aura Experience (Rihanna’s brother’s band) sell out fast. Costume prices range from $USD250 to $1500 based on the style and add-ons like wings.     

How many days should I spend in Barbados for Crop Over?

You want to give yourself a little time to acclimate to time differences – and the heat – before Grand Kadooment, so arrive a few days early; the biggest, most popular parties take place the week before the finale, too, so you'll be there in time to warm up your party endurance for the big day.

An early arrival will also give you time to problem solve should any unexpected obstacles pop up, like your costume not fitting – you can find a seamstress. But if you’re looking to keep costs down, arrive the Friday before Kadooment.     

A woman stands smiling in a sparkly lime green Crop Over costume
Crop Over is a thrilling combination of culture and revelry © Alicia Johnson / Lonely Planet

What things should I do during Crop Over?

The easiest and truest answer is: party. As Bajans say, the key is pacing yourself, as there can be as many as four large fetes in a single day. Pick the one (or two) that pique your interest so you don't run out of gas before Kadooment.

Party prices range from approximately USD$50 to $150 (typically for an all-inclusive experience that provides drinks). There will always be a DJ, but the bigger parties will feature live performances from popular Bajan or soca artists. 

The most popular parties include: Rise Barbados, Cool Runnings (a catamaran party), Lifted Beach, Mimosa Breakfast Party (starts at 6:30am), Foreday Morning Fete (starts at 2am), the Prime Minister’s Fete, Lost in Paradise and Vibe Land and Soca 4.0. 

A personal fave was the Foreday party, a high-octane event that takes place on the circuit track at Bushy Park in the southeastern part of St. Philip parish. This isn’t a party for being cute and dressing up – things are going to get messy, in the best way.

Attendees arrive in the pitch black of the early morning wearing a T-shirt, shorts and scarves to cover their hair, to find large trucks carrying beverages, paint and sound systems playing the biggest soca tunes. From there, the assignment is simple: party until the sun rises. When it’s all over, you'll be drenched in sweat, paint, water and foam. Quick tip, coat your body in baby oil to keep the paint from sticking to your skin.  

There are other things to do besides party. Horse racing season is in full swing and the Barbados Derby typically lines up with Crop Over. The event takes place at Garrison Savannah and is packed with visitors and locals alike. There are boxes or open-air bleachers (covered from the hot sun) and of course, fancy dresses.   

Another great way to enjoy Bajan culture while also getting in that last-minute sweat session is taking a soca-focused exercise class. Most gyms around the island offer classes during Crop Over and welcome walk-ins, but make sure to call ahead first. I recommend Simon Gill and co-instructors Alisa Ince and Jianna Fagon, who lead a Wuk Up Workshop at Powerhouse Studio in Wildey in the Parrish of St. Michael.  The hour-long session is fast-paced but the dance moves are simple enough and the music is always a vibe. 

Is it easy to get in and around during Crop Over?

Yes and no. Taxis make the world go during Crop Over, but the only way to ensure you’ll be dropped off and, more importantly, picked up is to schedule your taxis. 

Set something up with the driver who picks you up from the airport or use taxi recommendations via your hotel; having someone you can contact before an event officially ends is key. Make sure both parties are clear on fees and expectations so there are no surprises.

A line of women dance in a parade for Crop Over
The parade on Kadooment winds through the neighborhoods of Bridgetown © Courtesy of Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI)

Crop Over Tips 

Portable fans are an important accessory during Crop Over. Most of these parties are outside and though many take place well after the sun sets, the heat sticks around. A portable fan keeps you from completely melting away. 

If you’re want to go all out for Grand Kadooment, set up a professional makeup session. Contact an artist online or reach out to your hotel (long before you arrive) to see if they offer special services. Price ranges run the gamut from $35 to $250. Remember, Kadooment starts around 8am, so your session will likely be very early in the morning. 

When it comes to attire, always dress your best. Most parties will give you a vague dress code but put comfort above everything else. Unless you can jump and stand for hours in them, leave the heels at home.

If you’re prone to sweating, opt for clothes that are breathable, light and dry quickly. Pro tip: pick up a pair of skin-toned tights (fishnets are preferred) to go under your costume. You’re going to get some miles in, so a little extra protection won’t hurt.  

If you’re at an all-inclusive party, walk the grounds. Sometimes the best offerings, like a makeup touchup booth or additional food stalls, are tucked away from where the main crowd gathers.  

Bone up on soca music before you leave. It’s the only music you’ll hear at every party, so having a base knowledge of the most popular songs of that Crop Over season will make all the difference. 

My favorite thing about Grand Kadooment 

Despite the large number of international visitors who descend upon the small island, Crop Over is a Bajan celebration. The Grand Kadooment route goes through neighborhoods, and countless people celebrate in front of their homes, dancing, singing and enjoying the festivities alongside the parade. 

But it’s the smallest revelers that will catch your eye: little ones whose eyes get big as they see beautiful beings covered in sparkles and brightly-colored wings dance by them. It’s a tradition for band members to give pieces of their costumes to Bajan children on the road, and these gifts can be as large as your wings or as small as a headpiece. 

I saw a little girl watching the parade in her mother’s arms. I quickly made my way over, took off my wings and handed them to her (after getting permission from her mom), and though the wings were much larger than her, she held on tight. 

How much money do I need for Crop Over?

Truthfully, things are more expensive during Crop Over, but you can offset some of the cost by planning ahead; booking your accommodations or buying your airline ticket early will make all the difference. The longer you wait, the more expensive things get.

Though the Barbadian dollar is the currency, USD is widely accepted.
(In Bd$)  

  • Basic room for two $400+
  • Self-catering apartment (including Airbnb) $605 per night
  • Airline ticket $4000
  • Party tickets $100-$300 (all inclusive) 
  • Coffee $6
  • Sandwich $16
  • Dinner for two $90
  • Rum cocktail $20

Alicia Johnson traveled to Barbados with support from the Barbados Tourism Board. Lonely Planet contributors do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.

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