A trip to the Caribbean may have you conjuring up picture-perfect images of azure waters, white sandy beaches and swaying palm trees, but let’s not forget the eclectic culinary scene. Enjoy our curated guide to the best culinary destinations where the world’s top chefs are redefining Caribbean cuisine with fresh seafood, soulful stews, and innovative modern takes on traditional signature dishes.
Puerto Rico, the birthplace of the Piña Colada, is perfect for a spur of the moment beach getaway. It’s the most accessible Caribbean destination for American travelers with plenty of short direct flight options and no passport necessary. Beyond long beach days, the arrival of globally trained chefs has invigorated the local food scene while honoring the heart and soul of its flavor. Think plantain mashed in mofongo or sauteed into tostones, out of this world lechón and pork belly carpaccio.
Must-Try Food: Arroz con Gandules, the official food of the island which gets its distinct flavor from sofrito, a typical Spanish, Latin American tomato base made from sauteed onions, red peppers, garlic, and fresh herbs.
Can’t Miss Restaurant: La Copa Llena, Rincon
Curacao, a Dutch island in the Southern Caribbean makes up the “C” of the ABC islands. The food here is a little different from traditional Caribbean fare thanks to Dutch, European, and African influences. Dishes like Karko, thinly sliced conch in garlic butter, and Bitterballen, a deep-fried Dutch meatball, are popular along with the islands’ signature dessert, Cashew Cake infused with Curacao liqueur.
Must-Try Food: Kabritu, a hearty flavorsome slow-cooked goat stew.
Can’t Miss Restaurant: Blessing, Willemstad
Grenada is known as Spice Island because lemongrass, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, nutmeg, and a delectable assortment of spices are grown here and form the heart of the islands’ signature stews and seafood dishes. The restaurant scene is a little more rustic here, but eating fresh fish and coconut curries from modest beach huts only adds to the charm.
Must-Try Food: Oil Down, a fragrant spiced crab, coconut milk, sweet potato stew typically cooked in a big pot over a charcoal grill.
Can’t Miss Restaurant: BB’S Crabshack, St. George
Jamaica might be famed for its beaches, mountains, and jerk chicken, but there are many other culinary sensations ready to expand your palette — especially if you like things hot. The go-to is the Jamaican patty, a turmeric spiced meat and vegetable pastry (the Caribbean answer to South America’s empanada). Many of the island’s delectable dishes are created with Scotch bonnets, a blend of West African red peppers that put the heat into Jamaican fare.
Must-Try Food: Escovitch fish, a whole fish fried until golden brown, topped with spicy scotch bonnet peppers, carrots, and vinegar sauce.
Can’t Miss Restaurant: Sugar Mill Restaurant, Montego Bay
According to foodies, St. Barts is the best culinary destination in the Caribbean and they may not be wrong. The culinary scene in St Barts is unique because very little is actually grown on the island so many of the ingredients are flown in from Europe. With Michelin star chefs now serving up world-class French-inspired dining experiences, it’s easy to see why the glamorous continue to flock to this 8 square mile French island paradise. Culinary aficionados should visit in early November when the gastronomic St Barths Gourmet Festival is on.
Must-Try Food: Octopus carpaccio. Enough said.
Can’t Miss Restaurant: Tamarin
Anguilla might only be 26 miles long, but it happens to be home to many of the Caribbean’s most beautiful beaches. If it’s possible to nominate a seafood hotspot in the islands, Anguilla is it. The landscape makes it hard for crops and larger livestock to thrive, so locals look to the ocean for culinary inspiration. In Anguilla, you won’t find a bottle of hot sauce on every table as the local way is to let the natural flavors of the dishes speak for themselves. If you grow tired of the endless seafood assortment, order the Johnny Cakes, yummy cornmeal based flatbread.
Must-Try Food: Grilled Spiny Lobster in lemon butter.
Can’t Miss Restaurant: Pimms
The British influence can be felt in Barbados perhaps more than any other Caribbean island. Dressing for dinner, afternoon teas, and even cricket are deeply entrenched parts of the culture but in a laid back distinctly Caribbean way. On the menu, you’ll find simply seasoned seafood dishes (not unlike Anguilla fare) and sweet lovers will rejoice knowing the signature Caribbean desert, Black Cake, hails from Barbados. To be honest, it blows traditional rum cake out of the water.
Must-Try Food: Flying Fish, steamed or fried in Bajan seasoning.
Can’t Miss Restaurant: Champers, Bridgetown