Last updated on November 22nd, 2022 at 08:15 pm
Discover the Caribbean Islands
The Caribbean islands are those islands that border or are surrounded by the Caribbean Sea organized by the political entity to which each island belongs.
There are thousands of islands that are part of the island countries of the broadly defined Caribbean region: Anguilla has 21; Antigua-and-Barbuda has 37; Aruba (4); Barbados (2, formerly 3 but Pelican Island is now absorbed into Barbados through land reclamation, 1956–1961); Belize (many); British Virgin Islands (43); Cayman Islands (12); Cuba (23); Dominica (7); Dominican Republic (2); Grenada (39); Guadeloupe (38); Haiti (12); Honduras (6); Jamaica (26); Martinique (50); Montserrat (4); Caribbean Netherlands (20); Puerto Rico (142); Saint Barthélemy (13); Saint Kitts-and-Nevis (20); Saint Lucia (17); Saint Martin (8); Saint Vincent-and-the-Grenadines (39); Trinidad-and-Tobago (21); and United States Virgin Islands (81).
Some continental countries also have islands in the Caribbean, including Colombia (which has 10 islands in the Caribbean Sea, known as San Andrés-and-Providencia), Mexico (4 islands), Nicaragua (4), Venezuela (15), Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama. The United States also claims several small Caribbean islands (including Alto Velo). (Wikipedia, 2015)
Caribbean cuisine is a melting pot! It is a fusion of African, Amerindian, European, East Indian, Arab and Chinese cuisine. These traditions were brought from many different countries when they came to the Caribbean. In addition, the population has created styles that are unique to the region. (Wikipedia, 2015)
Ingredients which are common in most islands’ dishes are rice, plantains, beans, cassava, cilantro (coriander), bell peppers, chickpeas, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, coconut, and any of various meats that are locally available like beef, poultry, pork or fish. A characteristic seasoning for the region is a green herb and oil based marinade, which imparts a flavor profile, which is quintessentially Caribbean in character. Ingredients may include garlic, onions, scotch bonnet peppers, celery, green onions, and herbs like cilantro, marjoram, rosemary, tarragon and thyme. This green seasoning is used for a variety of dishes like curries, stews and roasted meats. (Wikipedia, 2015)
Traditional dishes are so important to regional culture that, for example, the local version of Caribbean goat stew has been chosen as the official national dish of Montserrat and is also one of the signature dishes of St. Kitts and Nevis. Another popular dish in the Anglophone Caribbean is called “Cook-up”, or Pelau. Ackee and saltfish is another popular dish that is unique to Jamaica. Callaloo is a dish containing leafy vegetables and sometimes okra amongst others, widely distributed in the Caribbean, with a distinctively mixed African and indigenous character.
The variety of dessert dishes in the area also reflects the mixed origins of the recipes. In some areas, Black Cake, a derivative of English Christmas pudding may be served, especially on special occasions. (Wikipedia, 2015)
Why go: Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue – wedding bells immediately come to mind, but what about Anguilla? As rabid consumerism devours many Caribbean hot spots, this limestone bump in the sea has, thus far, maintained its charming clapboard shacks (something old) while weaving postmodern vacation properties (something new) into the mix. Prepare to discover a melting pot of cultures (something borrowed) set along mind-blowing beaches (something very, very blue).
Eel-shaped Anguilla is, however, no shoestring destination – authenticity comes at a premium here. Far from being St-Barth’s stunt-double, Anguilla actually flaunts its down-to-earth charms to the jet set subset that crave a vacation off the radar.
National Food(s): Pigeon Peas & Rice
Pigeon peas are what westerns refer to as “beans” and of course most people already know what rice is. As previously mentioned, rice and peas is a culinary favorite amongst island people.
In the case of Anguilla they have crowned it as their national dish, you can use fresh peas which would need to be soaked (overnight is best) or tinned peas, which are ready to use. The dish is spiced with the appropriate condiments and served with meat.
Antigua and Barbuda
Why go: On Antigua, life’s a beach. Its corrugated coasts cradle scores of perfect little strands lapped by beguiling blue water, while the sheltered bays have provided refuge for everyone from Admiral Nelson to pirates and yachters. If you can tear yourself away from that towel, you’ll discover that there’s a distinct English accent to this classic Caribbean island with its narrow roads, candy-colored villages and fine historic sights.
If life on Antigua is a beach, Barbuda is a beach: one smooth, pink-tinged strand hemming the reef-filled waters. Birds, especially the huffing and puffing frigates, greatly outnumber residents on this perfect Caribbean dream island.
National Food(s) – Fungee & Pepperpot
Cornmeal makes an appearance in many national dishes and in Antigua it is in Fungee. Prepared either as a breakfast meal or main entrée, Fungee is cornmeal with okra, cooked in salted water and boiled to a paste. Pepperpot is a combination of a variety of meats, especially salted beef, and pig tail, and includes crushed vegetables such as spinach, eggplant, okra, onions, spices & seasonings, boiled to a soupy finish.
Why go: Aruba has beautiful beaches, buzzy clubs and adventurous activities. Divers and boaters say this island is one of the best spots for offshore activities in the Caribbean. Plus, it’s a safe destination for families. Lodging can be expensive, so plan ahead.
Americans from the east coast fleeing winter make Aruba the most touristic island in the southern Caribbean.
And that’s not really surprising given that it has miles of the best beaches, plenty of package resorts and a compact and cute main town, Oranjestad, which is ideally suited for the two-hour strolls favored by day-tripping cruise-ship passengers. It’s all about sun, fun and spending money.
But venture away from the resorts and you’ll find that Aruba offers more. At the island’s extreme ends are rugged, windswept vistas and un-crowned beaches.
National Food(s) – Keshi Yena
This culinary dish consists of spicy shredded beef, chicken or goat. The meat is somewhat compressed (for a lack of a better word) with Edam cheese or Gouda and finally baked.
Why go: These well-liked islands cater to families, groups and even couples with their variety of beaches and water sports activities. Plus, travelers can easily find flight deals and discounted room rates for this Caribbean hot spot.
Scattered like dabs of silver and green paint on an artist’s palette, the Bahamas are ready-made for exploration. Just ask Christopher Columbus – he bumped against these limestone landscapes in 1492 and changed the course of history. But the adventure didn’t end with the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. From pirates and blockade dodgers to rum smugglers, wily go-getters have converged and caroused on the country’s 700 islands and 2400 cays for centuries.
So what’s in it for travelers? There’s sailing around the Abacos’ history-filled Loyalist Cays. Partying till dawn at Paradise Island’s over-the-top Atlantis resort. Diving the spooky blue holes of Andros. Kayaking the 365 Exuma Cays. Lounging on Eleuthera’s pink-sand beaches. Pondering pirates in Nassau. There’s a Bahamian island to match most every water-and-sand-based compulsion, each framed by a backdrop of gorgeous, mesmerizing blue.
So paint your own adventure – the palette awaits.
National Food(s) Crack Conch with Peas and Rice
Conch which is a shellfish, a favorite amongst the Bahamian community, so much so that conch is featured in the national dish. “Cracked Conch” refers to style of conch, cooked in batter. It is usually served as a main meal with peas and rice, macaroni, potato salad and plantain on the side.
Why go: ‘You go to heaven if you want – I’d rather stay here in Bermuda.’ So gushed Mark Twain in the 19th century, and Bermuda’s promise of sun and sea still lures vacationers to its shores. These days celebs like Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones call Bermuda home, and millionaire executives pop over for a little R&R. The island makes for a delightful getaway vacation. If you’re looking for peace and quiet, Bermuda has pampering resorts to soothe your soul. Romantics will find atmospheric inns with four-poster beds and candlelight dining. Or perhaps you want to really let loose. Jump on a motor scooter and let the wind whip through your hair. Go out on the town and dance the night away in the seaside capital, the City of Hamilton.
National Food(s): Fish chowder is considered a national dish, which is a staple food not only in restaurants and hotels but also in homes; the main ingredients are fish stock, fish, vegetables and bacon fat and served with spices, but a Bermudan specialty is to serve it with black rum and sherry peppers.
Why go: While you’ll certainly find the standard Caribbean staples — sandy beaches, verdant golf courses and palatial resorts — Barbados offers a distinctly unique flair. Here, you can sample bittersweet Mount Gay Rum, attend a horse race and dance to a calypso tune.
National Food(s): CouCou & Flying Fish
Cou cou or coo coo is made with cornmeal, flour and okra and is served with vegetables, ground provisions or rice. Flying Fish which is found in abundance around Barbados is added on the side either steamed or fried
Why go: With one foot planted in the Central American jungles and the other dipped in the Caribbean Sea, Belize combines the best of both worlds.
National Food(s): Rice and Beans with Fish Stew
Beans and rice are cooked together with various spices and coconut milk.
Why go: Bonaire is often lauded as a “diver’s paradise,” thanks to its clear blue waters packed with colorful sea creatures. Scuba divers and snorkelers can see all sorts of fish while beach dwellers can enjoy the island’s soft sands year-round.
Bonaire’s appeal is its amazing reef-lined coast. Entirely designated a national park, the beautiful waters lure divers from across the globe. But while no diving (or snorkeling) initiate will be disappointed, Bonaire also has world-class windsurfing. Although the beaches are mostly slivers of rocky sand, several take on a pink hue from ground coral washed ashore. Away from today’s activities are fascinating vestiges of the island’s grim legacy of slavery.
National Food(s): The cuisine of myriad ethnicities is represented. They include Dutch, Colombian, Chinese, Italian, Surinam, Indonesian, French, German and more. Delicious kuminda krioyo (local food) consisting of different types of stews, fresh fish, funchi, rice and more is also available. In addition to great foods, most restaurants offer full bars with wine offerings from all over the world. Homemade desserts are found in restaurants and different bakeries around Bonaire.
British Virgin Islands
Why go: “Posh” is the best word to describe the British Virgin Islands.
The British Virgin Islands (BVI) are territories of Her Majesty’s land, but aside from scattered offerings of fish and chips, there’s little that’s overtly British. Most travelers come to hoist a jib and dawdle among the 50-plus isles. With steady trade winds, calm currents, protected bays and pirate-ship bars, this is one of the world’s sailing hot spots.
National Food(s):Fish and Fungi
This national dish is shared with the fellow British Virgin islanders, although conch is widely embraced.
Why go: Yearning for sun, sand and eye-popping natural beauty? A trip to Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula – and its crowning resort developments in Cancún and the Riviera Maya – offers something for just about everyone.
National Food(s): Sopa de lima
This specialty soup of the Mayan-influenced Yucatan Peninsula is Mexico‘s version of chicken soup, comforting and filling. Made from chicken stock and limas agrias (a citrus fruit similar to lime but less acidic), it is packed with chunks of chicken, avocado, cilantro and crispy tortilla strips. It’s best on a cold night, or when you simply want to revert back to childhood. Find it at Restaurant Labna, Restaurante Los Mestizos and a handful of spots in Merida.
Why go: One of the most scenic spots in the Caribbean (and home to some of the world’s best beaches) the Cayman Islands offer premier diving sites.
What’s so surprising about the three Cayman Islands (population 56,800) at first is how un-British they are for a British territory – Grand Cayman seems straight from the US, with ubiquitous SUVs jostling for space at upscale malls and US dollars changing hands as if they were the national currency. Think of it as a much more orderly version of South Florida.
But get away from the crowded commercialism of Grand Cayman’s long western coastline and explore the low-key rest of the island. Or visit tiny Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, where crowds are measured in the dozens.
National Food(s): Turtle
The national dish of the Cayman Islands is no other than turtle. Turtles are a local delicacy for Caymanian people; they are cooked in a number of ways, stewed down with other ingredients, used in soup or braised as steak.
Why go: Timeworn but magnificent, dilapidated but dignified, fun yet maddeningly frustrating; Cuba is a country of indefinable magic.
Cuba is like a prince in a poor man’s coat; behind the sometimes shabby facades, gold dust lingers. It’s these rich dichotomies that make travel here the exciting, exhilarating roller-coaster ride it is. Trapped in a time warp and reeling from an economic embargo that has grated for more than half a century, this is a country where you can wave goodbye to Western certainties and expect the unexpected. If Cuba were a book, it would be James Joyce’s Ulysses; layered, hard to grasp, serially misunderstood, but – above all – a classic.
National Food(s): Ropa Vieja
Ropa Vija means “old clothes” in Spanish, Ropa Vieja is West African influenced with a Spanish twist. This dish is a mixture of shredded beef, cooked with a tomato base infused with herbs, served on a bed of yellow rice with black beans and fried plantain.
Why go: As one of the ABC islands (along with Aruba and Bonaire), Curacao sits outside the hurricane belt, meaning you’ll find pleasant weather year-round. That factor, along with the island’s notable coral reefs, makes Curacao a top spot for divers, snorkelers and other water sports enthusiasts.
Go-go Curaçao balances commerce with Unesco-recognized old Willemstad and an accessible beauty, thanks to hidden beaches along a lush coast. It’s a wild mix of urban madness, remote vistas and a lust for life.
It has a rich history dating back to the 16th century. Central Willemstad boasts fascinating old buildings and excellent museums. Remnants of plantations dot the countryside – some are now parks. The west coast has oodles of beautiful little beaches, good for diving, snorkeling or just lazing.
Curaçao has a surging economy beyond tourism, which means that Willemstad, apart from its historical core, has factories, many humdrum neighborhoods and at times bad traffic. Catering to visitors is not the primary aim here, but if you’re looking for a Caribbean island that is busy setting its own pace, Curaçao is for you.
National Food(s): The cuisine of Curaçao is a flavorful blend of Dutch and Indonesian, with hints of other international fare mixed in. Ayaka, (meat tamales wrapped in banana leaves); kabritu (stewed goat), and sult (pickled pigs ears and feet), are some of the island’s favorite dishes.
Why go: Much of volcanic Dominica is blanketed by untamed rainforest that’s a verdant backdrop to experiences such as an intense trek to a bubbling lake, soothing your muscles in hot sulfur springs, getting pummeled by a waterfall, snorkeling in a glass of ‘champagne’, swimming up a narrow gorge – the list goes on.
Dominica has been spared mass tourism, in large part because there are very few sandy beaches, no flashy resorts and no direct international flights.
National Food(s): Mountain Chicken
The nature isle, not to be mistaken for the Spanish speaking island Dominican Republic, this creole delicacy is locally known as crapaud (pronounced crappo).
Mountain chicken is frog legs, which is seasoned and fried until golden brown and served as a main entree with peas and rice or plain rice (white rice). In 2013, according to Inside Dominica, callaloo is the preferred choice of their national dish.
Why go: The DR is one of the Caribbean‘s most geographically diverse countries, with stunning mountain scenery, desert scrublands, evocative colonial architecture and beaches galore.
National Food(s): Sancocho
Pronounced San-co-cho, this soup contains vegetable or ground provisions such as yams, yucca, and potatoes with a variety of meats.
Why go: The bright colors of St. George’s harbor in Grenada offer a view well worth enjoying. But don’t stay in one spot for too long — Grenada has 45 beaches along its shores to choose from, including the popular 2-mile Grand Anse beach.
It’s not called the Spice Island for nothing, you really can smell the nutmeg in the air on Grenada. And it could be called the Fruit Island for the luscious bounty growing profusely in the green hills. Then again it could be called the Beach Island for the plethora of idyllic sandy strands. We could go on…
National Food(s) – Oil Down
This bit of island goodness is made with ground provisions, including breadfruit and served with pigtail, salt beef or your choice of meat.
Why go: Guadeloupe is a fascinating archipelago of islands, with each island offering travelers something different while retaining its rich Franco-Caribbean culture and identity. Guadeloupe’s two main islands look like the wings of a butterfly and are joined together by a mangrove swamp. Grande-Terre, the eastern of the two islands, has a string of beach towns that offer visitors marvelous stretches of sand to laze on and plenty of activities, while mountainous Basse-Terre, the western of the two, is home to the wonderful Guadeloupe National Park, which is crowned by the spectacular La Soufrière volcano.
South of the ‘mainland’ of Guadeloupe are a number of small islands that give a taste of Guadeloupe’s yesteryear.
National Food(s): Porc Colombo
Porc Columbo is essentially “pork curry” when translated into English. It is exactly that pork seasoned with a bunch of unique herbs and spices. The emphasis being “colombo” which is the French Caribbean’s own version of curry powder, where uncooked rice is added to the spice mixture, yielding a nutty texture.
Why go: Is Haiti about to make a travel comeback? In the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake this impoverished island nation focused squarely on recovery efforts after tens of thousands died and millions were displaced. Recently a sense of optimism has returned. Non-essential travel warnings from the US and UK governments have been lifted and visitor numbers are up. The Haitian government has been hard at work nurturing tourism developments on the south coast while improving accessibility in the north, where a shiny expanded international airport now stands. Damage from the earthquake may still be visible and its legacy endures but Haiti is on the road to recovery and, for intrepid travellers, it’s back on the map.
With a modicum of stability, Haiti could yet become the Caribbean’s alternative travel destination par excellence: it has palm-fringed beaches to rival any of its neighbors. But lazing on the sand with a rum punch isn’t really the point of Haiti (although you can do that, too). The richness of the country lies in its history and culture. The slave revolution left behind a wealth of historic sites, including the Citadelle la Ferrière – a fortress that easily holds its own against anything similar in the Americas. Haiti’s history has meant that it’s kept closer to its African roots than any other Caribbean nation, a legacy that’s ever present in its vibrant art and music scenes.
Haiti isn’t the easiest country to travel in. You frequently need to keep an ear out for the news, and it can be more expensive than you’d expect. However, once you’re there, travel is not only possible, but also incredibly rewarding. It’s an addictive country to visit: once in Haiti, there’s something about the people, the history, and even the air, that can get in your blood and draw you back time and again.
National Food(s): Griots with Rice & Beans
Griots are made by boiling and then frying cubes of pork. Served as a main entrée, it is complimented with rice and peas.
Why go: Jamaica has long been a jewel in the Caribbean tourism industry crown, but there’s far more to discover than just beaches and all-inclusive resorts.
Jamaica has long been a go-to destination for experiencing a lively Caribbean culture, not to mention (relatively) affordable airfare and hotel rates. The all-inclusive resorts appeal to honeymooners and families while activities like hiking the Blue Mountains draw adventure seekers.
National Food(s): Ackee & Saltfish
Ackee is a pear sized fruit, when prepared it resembles scrambled eggs. The salt fish is boiled to extract most of the saltiness, then fried up with green peppers, and onions. This dish is served mainly as a breakfast meal and with some breadfruit on the side, it can go a very long way.
Why go: Volcanic in origin, Martinique is a mountainous stunner crowned by the still-smoldering Mont Pelée, which wiped out Martinique’s former capital of St-Pierre in 1902.
Martinique offers a striking diversity of landscapes and atmospheres. While it suffers from uncontrolled urban sprawl in some places, particularly in and around the busy capital, Fort-de-France, life – and travel – becomes more sedate as one heads north or south through some of the island’s delicious scenery. The rainforested, mountainous northern part is the most spectacular, but the south has its fair share of natural wonders, including lovely bays and miles of luscious beaches.
It’s also a fantastic playground for outdoorsy types, with a host of activities readily available, both on land and at sea.
National Food(s): Grilled Snapper with Creole Sauce
Made with chiva, onions, parsley, tomatoes, peppers and other spices alongside grilled snapper this dish is a local favourite. It should also be noted, that some other locals believe that Marinated Codfish and Green Bananas is the favoured national dish.
Why go: Before its lower half became devastated by cataclysmic eruptions of the Soufrière Hills Volcano in 1995, Montserrat was a carefree little island paradise famous as the birthplace of the late Alphonsus Cassell, creator of the soca hit ‘Hot, Hot, Hot’, and as the home of Air Montserrat, the famous recording studio founded by Beatles producer Sir George Martin. Sting and Eric Clapton were among the stars who recorded here.
Life changed dramatically on 18 July 1995 when a series of ash falls, pyroclastic flows and mud flows buried the capital, Plymouth, and smaller settlements, farmland and forests. Around 11,000 residents were evacuated and resettled in the north or emigrated to Britain. Today, most tourists come for volcano-related day trips. Driving down the coast, you quickly get a feel for the island’s rich tropical life and take in jaw-dropping vistas of the destruction.
The volcano is always a wild card, but by and large, traveling to Montserrat is safe. The island is divided into a Daytime Entry Zone, an Exclusion Zone and a Safe Zone in the north where a new capital is slowly taking shape in Little Bay.
National Food(s): Montserrat – Goat Water
This thick stew made with fresh goat meat is served most often with rolls or white rice. A staple at family celebrations, national functions and in local shops, the rich stew with spices is a hearty meal.
St Kitts and Nevis
Why go: St. Kitts gets its approval in part from the soft sands and buzzing nightlife of Frigate Beach, plus its reputation for excellent festivals. When you want to get away from this popular spot, just hop on a quick ferry to the quieter island of Nevis.
Near-perfect packages – that’s how you might think of St Kitts and Nevis. The two-island nation combines beaches with beauteous mountains, activities to engage your body and rich history to engage your mind. The legacies of the sugar industry survive in pleasant plantation inns and the local culture is mellow, friendly and infused with a pulsing soca beat.
But if the pair offer much that’s similar, they differ in the details. St Kitts is the larger and feels that way, from bustling Basseterre and mighty Brimstone Hill Fortress to the party strip and resorts of Frigate Bay.
Nevis is a neater package, anchored by a single volcanic mountain buttressed by a handful of beaches and a tiny capital, Charlestown. Nature walks take you into the verdant upper reaches of the peak. History here centers on the big names of Horatio Nelson and Alexander Hamilton.
National Food(s): Stewed Fish, Plantain, Coconut Dumpling and Breadfruit. The national dish for St Kitts and Nevis is stewed salt fish, with coconut dumpling, spice infused plantains with seasoned breadfruit. This local blend of spices, poultry and starchy vegetables yields a divine flavour.
Why go: From clear turquoise seas to the coffee farms and cloud forests of Chiriquí, Panama can be as chilled out or as thrilling as you wish.
National Food(s): Panamanian Cuisine is a mix of African, Spanish, and Native American techniques, dishes, and ingredients, reflecting its diverse population. Since Panama is a land bridge between two continents, it has a large variety of tropical fruits,vegetables and herbs that are used in native cooking.
Typical Panamanian foods are mildly flavored, without the pungency of some of Panama’s Latin American and Caribbean neighbors. Common ingredients are maize, rice, wheat flour, plantains, yuca (cassava), beef, chicken, pork and seafood.
Why go: With endless sand, swashbuckling history and wildly diverse tropical terrain, locals fittingly call this sun-washed medley of Spanish and American influences the ‘Island of Enchantment.’
Unlike other places on this list, Puerto Rico offers ample activities away from hotel grounds, like hiking through El Yunque National Rainforest and touring Vieques’ bioluminescent Mosquito Bay. Plus, the island’s no-passport-necessary status makes it a great option for those craving convenience.
National Food(s): Arroz con Gandulez and Pernil. Flaky rice with pigeon peas and pork shoulder.
St Martin/St Marteen
Why go: You’ll find first-rate beaches and plenty of activity on St. Martin-St. Maarten, as well as an assortment of hotel options for all budgets. (Vacation home rentals are popular here, too.) This is a great island for eating; consider having lunch at one of the lolos located along the shore.
Sint Maarten is completely different from its French sibling, which is part of its charm and appeal. With its appropriately tourist-friendly nightlife, flashy shopping centers, tacky casinos, numerous condo units and sprawling resorts, it can sometimes feel overdeveloped and artificial, but you’ll also find a few gems in the form of picturesque beaches near Philipsburg, the bustling capital.
National Food(s): Conch & Dumplings
Come Carnival season on this Dutch Caribbean island and you will be able to get this hot and spicy dish all around the festival village. The conch is pounded and then pressure cooked with seasonings. The dumplings are prepared with flour, and with or without cornmeal. The thick sauce from the conch and dumplings is used as gravy.
Why go: This island’s got it all: sprawling chalk-colored beaches, towering mountains, upscale resorts and bargain bungalows. Start your day with a hike through the mighty Piton Mountains, soak up some midday sun along Reduit Beach and watch the sunset over the Caribbean Sea.
Noted for its oodles of small and luxurious resorts that drip color and flair, St Lucia is really two islands in one. Rodney Bay in the north offers modern comforts amid a beautiful bay. In the south, Soufrière is at the heart of a gorgeous region of old plantations, hidden beaches and the geologic wonder of the impossibly photogenic Pitons.
National Food(s): Green Fig & Saltfish
Green Figs also known as green bananas are boiled or stewed and served with saltfish. This is prepared most often as a breakfast meal.
St Vincent and The Grenadines
Why go: Comprising 32 islands, St. Vincent & The Grenadines has something to offer every traveler. Enjoy time on the biggest island of St. Vincent, but be sure to hop on a boat and sail between the many other remote land masses for diving, snorkeling and exploring opportunities.
Just the name St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) evokes visions of exotic, idyllic island life. Imagine an island chain in the heart of the Caribbean Sea, uncluttered by tourist exploitation; with white-sand beaches on deserted islands, sky-blue water gently lapping the shore and barely a soul around.
National Food(s): The breadfruit itself forms part of the country’s national dish of roasted breadfruit and fried jack fish.
Trinidad and Tobago
Why go: Trinidad and Tobago are an exercise in beautiful contradiction. In Trinidad, pristine mangrove swamps and rainforested hills sit side by side with smoke-belching oil refineries and ugly industrial estates. Tobago has everything you’d expect from a Caribbean island, with palm trees and white sand aplenty, yet it’s relatively unchanged by the tourist industry. Combined, this twin-island republic offers unparalleled bird-watching, first-class diving, luxuriant rainforests prime for hiking, waterfall swimming and cycling, and electric nightlife, with the fabulous Carnival easily the biggest and best of the region’s annual blowouts.
National Food(s): Crab & Calaloo
Calaloo is prepared in a blended style that almost resembles the Antiguan pepperpot. The dark green soupy concoction is well seasoned and is a staple of Trinis everywhere.
Turks and Caicos
Why go: Turks & Caicos offers some of the most stunning white beaches in the Caribbean, including Grace Bay. These islands make a wonderful retreat for those who seek maximum comfort in a tropical setting though hotel prices can be higher than on other islands.
The Turks and where? That’s the reaction most people have when you mention these tropical isles. Although small in size, they offer a range of experiences. Providenciales gets all the noise and has constant construction along its beautiful main beach. It’s an ever-more-popular destination for upscale vacationers looking for low-key fun in the sun.
But everywhere else in the Turks and Caicos (population 32,500) makes Providenciales look like Manhattan. On island after island, you’ll find very few people, endless blindingly white beaches and no end of good diving and snorkeling offshore. Even the nominal capital, cute little colonial Grand Turk, seems like a characterful backwater on any day cruise ships aren’t in port.
If you’re looking for your desert-island-paradise, you might find it in the Turks and Caicos.
National Food(s): A traditional Turks and Caicos meal comprises grits, which are made with dried Conch or peas, various local vegetables, and chicken or fish. Rum is an important drink and flavoring for cakes and even steaks. A rum-based punch is served during celebrations, and is a popular drink in the coastal bars and eateries.
US Virgin Islands
Why go: Spring is the time to enjoy the U.S. Virgin Islands, particularly in late April when the boisterous Carnival season in St. Thomas gets underway. You can still enjoy the unspoiled beauty of a St. John beach or historic trivia on a St. Croix plantation tour at any time of year.
Hmm, which island to choose for hammock-strewn beaches and conch fritters? Easy: anyone, though each differs in personality.
The US Virgin Islands (USVI) hold the lion’s share of population and development. St Thomas has more resorts and water sports than you can shake a beach towel at. St John cloaks two-thirds of its area in parkland and sublime shores, ripe for hiking and snorkeling. The largest Virgin, St Croix, pleases divers and drinkers with extraordinary scuba sites and rum factories.
The British Virgin Islands (BVI) closely resemble their US counterparts, though they’re quirkier and less developed. Main island Tortola is known for its full moon parties and sailing prowess. Billionaires and yachties swoon over Virgin Gorda and its magical rocks. And who can resist little Jost Van Dyke, the ‘barefoot island’ where Main St is a calypso-wafting beach?
National Food(s): Fungi (pronounced foon-gee) is a main staple of the traditional Virgin Islands diet. It consists of cornmeal that has been boiled and cooked to a thick consistency along with okra. Fungi is usually eaten with boiled fish or saltfish.
Callaloo (sometimes spelled kallaloo) is a soup made from callaloo bush/leaf, often substituted with spinach. It consists of various meats and okra, and is boiled to a thick stew consistency.
Because of inter-Caribbean migration, many foods from other Caribbean countries have been adopted into the Virgin Islands culinary culture. For example, a popular dish is roti, of Indo-Trinidadian origin, which consists of curried vegetables and meat wrapped in a paper-thin dough.