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Island Imbibing

No holiday in the islands would be complete without a few trips to the local bar.  Here are our picks for the best nightlife in the Caribbean.  Cheers!

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The islands of the Caribbean are teeming with beautiful beaches and friendly people, but let’s face it, many of us plan our visits around which islands have the best bars.  Some of our favorite holidays have been spent lazing away the afternoons at thatch roofed beach bars, meeting new friends and drinking the local beer and rum.

You can learn a lot about people and their culture by where and what they drink, not to mention how much.  Each island seems to have a signature cocktail, a famous bar and some kind of magically infused rum.  So, whether you’re just looking to have an exciting night out drinking and socializing or you’re up for a bit of cultural research, here are our picks for the best nightlife in the Caribbean.

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  • The Dominican Republic: Locals of the Dominican Republic love to have a good time and tourists are welcome to join in on the fun.  Much of the action happens around the giant resorts that line the coasts of the DR.  The friendly town Santo Domingo has a number of good bars, many of them on or near the beach, not to mention Puerto Plata with its laid back late-into-the-evening vibe.  Over the last decade several full scale casinos have set up shop in the Dominican Republic and, whether you’re gambling or seeking a dance club, much of the late night revelry is headquartered here.

  • Jamaica: For many tourists, Jamaica’s nightlife revolves around mega-clubs like Rick’s Cafe and Margaritaville, but if you really want an experience, get off the beaten path in one of the island’s less popular beach towns.  They have a distinctly rural vibe and you’re destined to make a new friend or two.  The bars of these small towns are an experience all their own.  Time ‘n’ Place in Falmouth and Roof Club in Port Antonio are both tiny locals bars worth a visit.  Be careful though, what they call White Rum is usually what we know as Overproof (150 proof) and it will knock your flip flops off.  If you’re up for something different, check out Floyd’s Pelican Bar, a rustic little joint assembled out of drift over the water.  It’s usually packed with fun-loving tourists and a few rummed-up fisherman.

  • Barbados: Whether it’s chic drinking spots in The Gap, breezy beach bars or legendary rum shops, the bar scene in Barbados is world renowned.  The rum flows freely at each and ever place you’ll set foot in and drinking and dancing go on into the wee hours.  By day, you can check out one of the four well-known distilleries.  Most of them have guided tours and they always seem to conclude with a rum punch and a shot.  Get some rest before you arrive on the island because you’ll need plenty of energy to tackle the scene in Barbados.

  • Trinidad & Tobago: Everyone has heard of the famous Trinidad Carnival.  This pre-Lenten celebration lasts nearly a month and is one of the biggest parties on the planet.  What some travelers may not know is that partying and mingling are a way life for most Trinis and continues throughout the year, just in a much more relaxed sense.  After Carnival, the beaches on the northern coast of Trinidad and throughout Tobago fill up will recovering revelers.  Rum shops and beach bars are the norm and mass quantities of rum are consumed while relaxing the afternoon away.  The fun at these quaint beach bars starts early in the day and seems to end early in the night when crowds buy a bottle of rum and gather at each others homes.
  • Belize: The small tourist towns of San Pedro and Placencia have gained a strong reputation as party spots over the last decade.  The action here is definitely of the laid-back-beach-bar sort and it’s wonderful.  Many of the popular spots are built on docks out over the water making them as easily accessible by boat as by land.  Be sure to visit the world famous Palapa Bar for good cocktails, an unbeatable happy hour and a view like no other.  Locals and tourists drink, dance and hang out side by side and the party never ends before dawn.

  • Panama: Simply put, Panama is a beautiful country with friendly people who like to drink.  The capital, Panama City, has everything that you could want – upscale lounges, bars and private clubs, but we prefer the laid back nature of the coastal islands.  Bocas del Toro, on the Caribbean side of the country, is a outdoorsmans wonderland by day and a drinkers paradise by night.  The weird little local and backpacker bars of the Bocas Town are always buzzing with character.  For a real adventure, hire a boat captain and head out to some of the outer islands where a bar, bed & breakfast (BB’n'B) are never far away.  There always seems to be a rum punch and a hammock close by.
  • Curaçao: It’s been called the Amsterdam of the Caribbean and for good reason.  The beautiful island of Curacoa has wonderful architecture and sophisticated restaurants, but it also has a vibrant bar scene.  The small district of Salinja, with its endless array of watering holes all within walking distance of each, is a good starting point.  The scene here is relatively small and, like many islands, each bar has a designated night where it is the place to be.  If you’re looking for good drinks with a great view, head over to the beach bars at Mambo Beach.