Caribbean Food Tour: 5 Islands Not to Miss

by Michele Peterson

The Caribbean is well known for its dreamy beaches but if you’re looking for standout cuisine along with your fun in the sun, these five islands should be on your must-visit list. Each offers a fusion of fresh ingredients, authentic culture and inventiveness that creates a food scene as rewarding as its landscape.

Credit: Michele Peterson

Credit: Michele Peterson

Anguilla: Beach BBQ and Beyond

With its 33 white sand beaches, it’s no surprise that most meals on Anguilla come with a killer ocean view. Begin your culinary explorations on Rendezvous Bay, where you can sip a rum punch at the eclectic Dune Preserve beach bar and meet owner Bankie Banx, a reggae star who hosts artists ranging from hip-hop celeb Q-Tip to activist poet Nikki Giovanni.

Then, head next door to the CuisinArt Resort for upscale Caribbean-Mediterranean cuisine featuring greens sourced from the property’s own hydroponic garden. A highlight of the resort’s weekly Endless Lobster BBQ is a steamed red snapper that’s been marinated in its juices for 24 hours and then grilled.

For the ultimate beach castaway experience hop on a boat to Scilly Cay, a speck of an island where you can indulge in a platter of Anguilla lobster drenched in delicate curry butter and then dive into the turquoise waters to rinse off.

Credit: Michele Peterson

Credit: Michele Peterson

Aruba: Dutch Treats

Kroketten, Bitterballen and Vlammetjes might sound like items in the latest IKEA catalogue but they’re actually names of Dutch tapas — deep-fried snacks popular at neighbourhood bars in Holland. A world away from their stylish Spanish equivalent, these treats are more fast food than gastronomic marvels, but they’re fun and tasty — and a perfect introduction to Dutch culinary culture.

Stop by Café 080 on Aruba to try them. Named after an area code in Holland, this leafy watering hole in Aruba’s residential Noord neighbourhood doesn’t boast an ocean or sunset view but it does offer a nightly parade of tapas platters on its outdoor patio. Grab an ice cold Balashi beer, skewer a cube of Edam cheese with a toothpick and you’ll be ready to toast the Kuku Kunuku party bus as it zooms past.

Credit: Michele Peterson

Credit: Michele Peterson

Martinique: Exotic Haute Cuisine

The island fare on this overseas department of France is a blend of French haute cuisine and Creole traditions drawn from a mix of African, Indian and Caribbean influences. In between exploring the black volcanic sand beaches of the north and the sunny southern coast, you can nibble on addictive accras (codfish fritters with just the right amount of crunch) served with Ti’Punch, a traditional drink made with rhum agricole, lime and cane sugar.

Guy Ferdinand, one of the island’s most spirited chefs, presides over Le Petibonum, a French-Creole restaurant in the beach town of Le Carbet. Here, a plate of vanilla prawns or Ouassou (freshwater crayfish) comes paired with Veuve Clicquot champagne — giving new meaning to the concept of barefoot luxury.

Credit: Michele Peterson

Credit: Michele Peterson

Jamaica: One Love Island

Insiders know that the soul of Jamaican cuisine is its street food. Whether it’s fried fish at a seaside shack or jerk chicken from a roadside grill, Jamaica’s classic street food makes for some of the country’s most authentic meals. What most people don’t know is that there are other Jamaican dishes that also draw local fans: aphrodisiac foods.

Whether you’re on a honeymoon or just looking for some love, it’s worth scouting out dishes such as cow cod soup (a rich stew of bull penis, aged rum and banana peppers) and mannish water, a spicy goat head soup. Served on weekends, these dishes are revered in Jamaican folklore for their stimulating and arousing effects. Try Tensing Pen Resort in Negril where you can wash down your meal with a Front-End Lifter, a cocktail packed with Guinness stout, ground raw peanuts, Jamaican oats and white rum — ingredients reputed to increase vitality in all the right places.

St. Martin: French Flair

The Caribbean French-Dutch island of St. Martin (or St. Maarten) shares two different nations. Most people, including 1.6 million cruise ship visitors, head to the glossy Dutch side. But the more relaxed French territory, popular among a European clientele, is worth exploring for its boho-chic charm and fine cuisine. Dine on escargot and sip Moet-Chandon champagne at a waterfront bistro at Marina Royale. Then top off the meal with rhum à l’orange, a spirited (and usually complimentary) finish to evening meals in French St. Martin. Later you can dance in an impromptu Carnaval parade featuring Mas dancers and musicians in the narrow streets of Grand Case. The next day, recover from all the partying with a bowl of French creole conch soup served at roadside stands called lolos.