Creatures of Caribbean Folklore

From the downright creepy to the super sneaky.

Part of getting to know a new place is diving into its culture, history, and stories, so the local folklore is a great start! Legends are influenced by a nation’s landscape—like how trolls came from the rocky coastlines of Scandinavia—and the Caribbean is no different.

So, what kind of legendary creatures came from the beautiful beaches and tropical forests of Caribbean islands? Some that you wouldn’t want to run into, and others you’d love to see!

Goats beware!

Chupacabra: Puerto Rico and Mexico

Perhaps the most famous of Caribbean folklore, the chupacabra’s appearance is debated, but one thing is agreed upon: it’s a vampire for livestock. It’s been blamed for mysterious deaths of sheep, and especially goats, and is sometimes said to look like a scaly dog with long spines on its back.

The legend originated with farmers in Puerto Rico, but has spread throughout Mexico and the American Southwest.  

La Ciguapa: Dominican Republic

One of the most common Dominican legends, “la ciguapa” is said to be a beautiful, terrifying creature that looks like a woman with long dark hair that roams mountains and forests, like the Cotubanamá National Park not far from La Ramona.

Only coming out at night, la ciguapa sometimes sneaks into villages to steal food, an unlucky sign, but she’s better known for luring away wandering men who are never seen again! Not spooky enough? Her feet face backwards, making it harder to track her down or see her coming!

Some creatures you’d be lucky to find!

Mami Wata and Papa Bois: St. Lucia

Not all the legendary creatures of the Caribbean are bad news; seeing Mami Wata would actually be lucky! Legend has it, this mermaid-like creature is the guardian of rivers and water, and she grooms herself with a golden comb. But she also grabs travelers and takes them underwater. Not to worry—she returns them unharmed, richer, and better looking!

It’s said that Papa Bois can transform into a buck as he roams the woods.

Her counterpart, Papa Bois, is popular in St. Lucia. He’s the protector of forests, so may be connected with the Castries Waterworks Forest Reserve (which can be explored by zipline!). He appears as a strong old man with a beard of leaves and sometimes deer horns. It’s said you’ll be fine if you run into him (except hunters)—just be polite and don’t stare at his hooves!

Anansi stories are some of the world’s best known folklore.

Anansi the spider: Jamaica

Anansi stories are widely popular and came to Jamaica with the Ashanti people of West Africa. This trickster spider gets up to mischief and his stories have been told for generations to teach children lessons.

Sometimes he’s the underdog, using his wits to outsmart larger, greedy foes—usually the tiger—and these tales end on a hopeful note. Sometimes Anansi is greedy and the stories end with a warning; like when he lost his hair trying to hide baked beans from his neighbors under his hat.

The vodou diety Baron Samedi presides over souls.

Baron Samedi: Haiti and New Orleans

Haitian Vodou has some fascinating folklore and Baron Samedi is a well-known and powerful spirit also popular in Louisiana voodoo. As the spirit of the dead, it’s believed nobody can pass on without his greeting, so he’s also seen as a healer who can refuse a sick person’s soul.

Baron Samedi is said to resemble a skeleton sporting a frayed top hat and suit with dark glasses, and he’s always drinking rum, smoking cigars, and telling dirty jokes. It’s no wonder this outrageous vodou figure gained popularity in TV, video games, and movies, like the James Bond film Live and Let Die.