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Jamaica's lovely beaches aren't the only draw during the festival-laden winter. Credit: rappensuncle.

By Jennifer Olvera

Let’s face it: Jamaica is a spirited place any time of year. But winter and early spring usher in a host of lively events, making the Greater Antilles island a riotously colorful –not to mention balmy — place to be. And, given the full season is not in full swing, it’s a pocketbook-friendly time to book a cheap Caribbean vacation.

One of the best times to visit is during Bacchanal, an annual, Caribbean-style carnival. The fun kicks off on Feb.10, lasting until mid-April. The event includes everything from from steel band ensembles to soca acts, and it all culminates in the legendary Soca Monarch Competition.

Separate all that, there are plenty of engaging options – even for the active traveler. Among the activities to consider is the Jamaica Fat Tyre Festival. Beginning Feb. 19, the seven-day mountain biking excursion traverses island trails though scenic landscapes. Over the years, it has attracted cyclers such as Kyle Ebbett Cam McCaul and Kathy Strand.

Then again, those who want to simply relax should consider the boisterous but laidback All Island Carnival, which features  veterans Oscar B and Jomo. It begins in Kingston at UDC Car Park on Jan.29, and culminates in Portmore with soca performance-filled party. Throughout the Jamaica carnival season a whole, added roster of events also take place.

Spend any spare time hitting the powder beaches, teeing off at picturesque golf courses or visiting heritage sights and soaring estates. Or, take a plantation tour, grab some jerk chicken from a roadside vendor or book a scenic walk through the woodlands, shaded by pimento trees. Odds are, there will be at least a few bucks to burn since Jamaica hotels remain relatively affordable this time of year.

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Jennifer Olvera is a Chicago-based author, editor and food enthusiast, who travels often – usually in search of her next great meal.

Tagged: Caribbean

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