Caribbeanb Islands of Flavor

Let’s admit it: As much as we focus on the scenery, the excursions, the adventures and discoveries and amenities of a vacation’s destination, the most important variable is oftentimes the least-discussed—the cuisine. It’s understandable enough in nature: beautiful beaches and rainforest-covered mountains immediately captivate the imagination; a plate of food tends to require a growling stomach to elicit the same level of interest. But—do you think you’d be as excited to lounge idyllic in paradise if you only had instant oatmeal and microwave TV dinners? Bland has a way of seeping into other facets.

Luckily enough, great food and great escapes aren’t exclusive, especially in the Caribbean. These tropical waters hold breezy beaches, storied histories and cultures, but most importantly—island empires of flavor. For a starter course of islands well worth your consideration, here some of the best Caribbean islands for a food aficionado.


Saint Martin

The island of Saint Martin is a verifiable two-for-one for gastronomic cultures. To the north, you have the French Republic of Saint Martin—and its fine French dining at the foundation of the island’s food culture. To the south is Sint Maarten, part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Hopping back and forth between the border in the middle of the island allows you to mix and match the day’s meals however you’d like: Parisian pastries or crepes for breakfast, Johnny Cakes and barbeque everywhere on the island for lunch, conch and dumplings for dinner on the Dutch side. Pair any and all of the above with the island’s national libation—Guavaberry Liqueur. It’s as refreshingly decadent as it sounds.



“The Island of Spice” earns its nickname with authority. Nutmeg, ginger, bay leaf, clove, cinnamon, thyme, lemongrass and turmeric all grow like savory weeds—meaning it’s just as likely to find them in your meals. Pair this with a rich melting pot of cultures inspiring the island’s cuisine, and you can expect every menu to boast a mind-boggling variety of succulent curries and barbeque. Oil down, the island’s national dish (aptly named after how the coconut milk simmers down), is a medley of conch, crab, chicken, pigtail, dumplings, fruits and vegetables all bathed in coconut milk and spices within one pot—making it the number one meal you must try here.

Grenada nutmeg

Saint Lucia

Comprised of some combination of French, East Indian and British influences, St. Lucia has taken traditional global staples and given a punch of beach-party flair. It’s not unusual to find barbequed seafood straight off the boat, but the dish to really get excited about is green figs and salt fish. The “figs” in this instance are actually bananas, and they’re peeled and boiled in the saltwater before accompanying cod accompanied by sautéed onions, peppers—and of course, a mountain of herbs and spices. If sit-down dining is too tame, try to find a “jump up”—part street festival, part nightclub and a full evening of fun, the entire street is flooded with dancing and delectable food stalls. The perfect accompaniment to both is rum, which flows like a river.


Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands are composed of three separate landmasses:  Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. The influences on the food culture follow suit; sources for inspiration are British, Jamaican and Central American. Bouncing between the isles and influences makes for an abundance of rich meals and rich experiences. There are plenty of dishes to comprise the “must-try” list, and almost all of it is Cayman style—ceviche Cayman-style (fresh fish marinated in lime, orange juice and Scotch bonnet sauce), Cayman-style lobster (succulent lobster cooked with hot sauce and scotch bonnet peppers), and Cayman-style beef are all givens. The national dish is turtle stew, and though it’s far less prevalent than it once was, locals will still be quick to recommend it.

Jamaica Jerk Chicken


The name of the food game in Jamaica is jerk. Jerk chicken is a national institution, much the way key lime pie is to Florida or cheesesteaks are to Philadelphia. Jerk chicken is chicken, vigorously rubbed and marinated in an eclectic blend of hot spices, before being smoked over pimento wood. If heat isn’t what pleases your palate, there are plenty of other savory dishes to seek (ackee and saltfish, solomon gundy, bammy and Jamaican patties to name a few). But no matter what, start your mornings with the world-famous Blue Mountain coffee. Like the dishes and the views, the flavor is big and bold.

Ready to island-hop into these certified paradises of flavor?

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