Nowhere else on earth embodies the term “party central” quite like the Caribbean. Reasons for this are largely rooted in the region’s raucous Carnival celebrations and their attendant fetes. At the same time though, you shouldn’t sleep on the Caribbean club scene. Nightlife options sizzle throughout the West Indies. Check out these spots for some of the best nightlife in the Caribbean.
In my experience, Haiti’s capital is easily among the top two or three destinations for the best nightlife in the Caribbean. This is especially true on Thursday nights.
The fun starts in the swanky lobby bar at the Marriott Port-au-Prince, a prime spot to see and be seen while enjoying a Barbancourt cinq étoiles with lime on ice.
Next up: La Reserve, a cool and smooth jazzy spot tucked away in a forested area of the upscale enclave of Petion-Ville. Dinner here comes with live jazz seasoned sweetly with undertones of reggae. Dancing is often part of the dessert.
More dancing awaits at Brasserie Quartier Latin. The house band here, Melao Latino, delivers seductive salsa direct from Cuba in a romantic outdoor patio setting that shimmers with flickering candles and festive white twinkle lights.
The last stop of the night brings the most fun and excitement. The Thursday night RAM Vodou Rock party at the Hotel Oloffson is one of the Caribbean’s legendary weekly parties. RAM (the band) is the brainchild of Richard A. Morse (R.A.M.). A Puerto Rico-born Haitian-American raised in Connecticut, Morse found his way to the land of his mother’s birth, Haiti, in the late 1980s. He assumed the lease on the Hotel Oloffson in 1987 and by 1990 RAM was born. RAM Vodou Rock parties have been going ever since.
RAM’s musical style was born out of Haiti’s mizik rasin movement, which also started in the late 1980s. The roots style combines traditional Vodou ceremonial music with rock and roll. This has parallels with Ray Charles’ revolutionary method of fusing gospel with rhythm and blues in the 1950s.
Just like Ray Charles, RAM’s music compels you to dance. Doing so in Hotel Oloffson’s nineteenth century gothic surroundings just adds to the spellbinding nature of what, for me, is one of the best nights out that you can have in our islands.
Enjoying the fullness of the Port-au-Prince nightlife experience is also easier than you might think. Agence Citadelle, one of the oldest and most revered tour operators in Haiti, offers a nightlife tour of Port-au-Prince that includes stops at La Reserve, Quartier Latin and Hotel Oloffson. Experienced guides and full security are always included, of course.
For bookings and more details, email [email protected].
St. Martin/St. Maarten
The party scene is popping on both sides of the border that separates French St. Martin from its Dutch sister state to the south. But the French side is where I’ve enjoyed most of my nightlife fun.
Friday nights are especially sweet for those who make their way to Stachey’s Hut. The informal bar and nightclub doubles as the home of its proprietor, Stachey, who originally hails from Dominica. That little tidbit offers the big reason I love Stachey’s: Bush Rum.
True to his Dominican roots, Stachey offers an array of homemade bush rum creations, each of them uniquely bombastic. He even uses herbs and spices imported directly from Dominica to season his blends, ensuring optimal authenticity.
On Fridays, live reggae bands keep the dance floor packed until the wee hours — truly a magical and uniquely West Indian clubbing experience beneath the stars.
On its surface, Martinique might not seem like the kind of destination with a hot, urban club scene. The island is lush and mountainous with sedate seaside fishing villages and even quieter mountain towns dotting its landscape. More than 200 miles of alluring coastline feature jaw-dropping beaches with sand ranging in hue from ebony to volcanic gray and even brilliant white.
In the middle of all this quintessential quaintness and natural beauty lies Fort-de-France, Martinique’s bustling capital city. There, amid the gritty streets, partygoers can double their pleasure at Garage Popular 1 and 2.
As its name suggests, Garage Popular is basically an old garage in the heart of Fort-de-France that’s been converted into a cozy little bar. Patrons spill out onto the sidewalk and into the street enjoying Biere Lorraine, an assortment of fine rhum Agricole options, cocktails and eats.
To experience the Garage Popular club scene, though, you need to head a few doors down to Garage Popular 2. The steamy dancefloor here attracts all manner of sexy locals and visitors alike. The soundtrack is a steady stream of international beats with a good dose of soca, dancehall and hip hop thrown in. Prepare to dance close and cozy in an atmosphere that’s all kinds of uninhibited.