Calling all pirates and buccaneers! If you visit the Cayman Islands during the month of November, then you won’t want to miss its national festival, Pirates Week. Pirates ruled the waters of the Caribbean in the 15th and 16th centuries, and legend has it that the most terrifying pirates of the time, including the notorious Blackbeard, used the islands as a hiding spot for their treasures. For 11 days in November, you too can dress and talk like a pirate during the festivities of Pirates Week. The celebration features music, street dances, costume competitions, food and lots of pirates. There’s something for everyone in the family, from kids to adults, even a pirate parade for the four-legged members of the family.
The order of events is not set in stone, but the celebrations usually begin in full Caribbean fashion with a steel pan competition and spectacular fireworks over George Town harbor. Thousands of people gather to watch the magical display of lights and they stick around afterwards to party to the sounds of Caribbean bands. The following day, lively music, colorful floats and people in fun costumes flood Harbour Drive a few hours before sunset in a parade like no other in all of the Caribbean. And once again, when night falls, people eat and drink, and they dance to Caribbean rhythms late into the night.
According to local legends, Cayman Brac, especially its well-hidden caves, were the favorite hiding spot of the pirates, and it’s said that even today there are hidden treasures within the limestone walls. The majority of events take place on Cayman Brac, the largest of the three islands. And it’s precisely here in George Town harbor where the swashbucklers come to life during the first Saturday of the festivities, in what is perhaps the most entertaining part of the events, the mock pirate invasion. The scurvy crew of two old-timey vessels lay siege to the town and capture the governor in a scene that is sure to make you feel like you’re an extra in a Hollywood production.
In addition to all the pirate activities, the islands also celebrate Heritage Days to commemorate their history and traditions. Starting on the first Monday of Pirates Week, women dress in traditional Caymanian frocks and prepare typical dishes and display traditional arts and crafts. The country’s largest celebration continues with more than 30 events that include a competition to elect the queen of the festival, costume competitions, a 5K run and swim, and other sporting events like golf tournaments and an underwater treasure hunt.
If your dates are flexible, plan your vacation so that it coincides with the big event. More than 30,000 people plan to visit the Cayman Islands during November so they can be a part of this unique event. Be sure to make your reservations ahead of time as the festival becomes increasingly popular, year after year. Don’t forget to pack your pirate attire, including eye patch, and get ready to have a swashbuckling good time.
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