The Ultimate Guide to Sugar Mas (St. Kitts & Nevis Carnival)

2023 Planning Editon


The History of St. Kitts & Nevis Carnival

St. Kitts & Nevis Carnival, also known as Sugar Mas, boasts a month-long carnival season filled with fetes, pageants, cultural events, j’ouvert and the Grand Parade. According to St. Kitts & Nevis National Archives, Sugar Mas was the result of a proposal in 1957. Community organizer Basil Henderson wanted to liven up the Christmas season in the two islands on a national level, and that came in the form of carnival and its surrounding events.

“Sugar Mas, the national carnival of St. Kitts, is a colorful and joyful celebration of the heritage and culture of the island, mixed with the spirit of Christmas,” Ellison ‘Tommy’ Thompson, the CEO of the St. Kitts Tourism Authority, tells The Radar. “The name Sugar Mas is derived from the island’s nickname, ‘Sugar City’, which stems from our history in sugar production up until 2005, when St. Kitts produced some of the best quality Muscovado sugar on the market.”

He continues, “Authentic to its core, Sugar Mas is really unmatched in terms of vibe and energy. Plus, it’s the only Caribbean carnival that incorporates Christmas festivities into the celebration given the timing. The National Carnival kicks it all off with a vibrant calypso show and the party keeps rolling from there with a series of fetes featuring waterworks, powder-filled revelry, live music, colorful costumes, moko jumbies, masqueraders and more. From calypso and soca monarch competitions, pageants, Panorama, J’ouvert (starting at daybreak), a New Year’s Day parade, Last Lap and more, Sugar Mas is really the perfect synergy between tradition and new school. For six weeks, the streets are alive with an incredible, electric feeling.”

Carnival Season & Parade Dates

This year’s Sugar Mas season runs from December 15, 2023 to January 2, 2024. The most important dates to know are:

  • Tuesday December 26, 2023 (J’ouvert)
  • January 1, 2024 (Grand Parade)
  • January 2, 2024 (Last Lap Parade)

Arrivals & Departures

Sugar Mas is typically held on the isle of St. Kitts in its capital Basseterrre. You’ll fly into the Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport (SKB) and land right in town.


Recommended places to stay are along Frigate Bay that has several resorts, villas and more available.

Our lodging recommendations include:

Local Currency

The currency used in St. Kitts & Nevis is the East Caribbean Dollar (XCD), though the US dollar is accepted. The currency rate is fixed at US$1 = XCD$2.68 and while most businesses accept international credit and debit cards, many only accept cash.

Getting Around

In St. Kitts & Nevis, H Busses are the main mode of public transportation, according to My St. Kitts Tourist Information. They are minibuses with green plates that begin with the letter ‘H’ and patrons pay in XCD. Alternatively, you can take a taxi (available in cars or vans) and one of the great things about this option is that all taxis are licensed tour guides. Taxis are identifiable by their yellow plates with either ‘T’ or ‘TA’ somewhere in the license plate number. Taxis charge in USD and do not accept credit or debit cards.

Active Bands

If you’re looking for a band to jump with, there are several to choose from. The active bands for Sugar Mas in 2023 include:

Can’t Miss Events

Cultural events include the National Pageants, Panorama, Calypso Monarch, j’ouvert, and the Junior Carnival Parade. Other hot ticket events include Top Off Brunch, Tidal: Anchored, Carnival Love Festival Weekend by Cane Juice Events and the Inception Fete: a 12 hour all-inclusive party and concert showcasing a mixture of Caribbean artists and local Kittitian artists. The full calendar of events can be found here.

The Road Experience

Almost a week after j’ouvert comes two days of celebration in the streets by way of the Grand Parade and Last Lap (which are typically held on the New Year’s Day holiday and the subsequent day after). Besides pretty mas, Kittitians and Nevisians hold true to their traditions rooted in folklore. Traditional mas characters are portrayed in the form of caricatures such as the Kittitian clowns, bulls and moko jumbies to mention a few. Kittitian clowns apparently are a portrayal of a court jester that was brought to the island by a French governor in the 17th century who kept the legacy of “keeping court”. A lot of these characters or portrayals are seen in numbers during the Grand Parades, especially the Kittitian clowns, who are played by both adults and children. 

The J’ouvert Experience

Typically j’ouvert is held on Boxing Day in the wee hours of the morning and goes on well into the afternoon. J’ouvert is not just a road march but a competition for the title as “Troupe of the Year.”

The active j’ouvert troupes for Sugar Mas in 2023 include:

The Soundtrack of Carnival

You should definitely expect to hear a lot of Kittitian music, which is also referred to as Wilders. The locals take pride in the live band, bouyon-style music made by Kittitian musicians like Small Axe Band, Dejour, Rucas H.E., Kollision Band, Imark, AkaiiUSweet and Nu Vybes Sugar Band.

Beyond Mas

St. Kitts & Nevis Carnival is absolute PACE, of course, but there is STILL ample time to go and see the island between carnival events. A must do is the Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park to grasp the history of St. Kitts. Take a ferry to visit the sister isle, Nevis, dine at Weekendz and try a rum concoction called the Killer Bee. Do a day pass at the beautiful ecoresort BelleMont Farm and you absolutely must check out the Timothy Hill with its postcard worthy views of St. Kitts and where the isle meets both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

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