Food and Cuisines of the Caribbean

Caribbean food reflects the region's diverse cultures

Photo credit: © Tim Sackton

Food in the Caribbean

The dining options of the Caribbean are indicative of the area's diverse cultures. In fact, the Caribbean's food mirrors the personality of the region itself.


From the savory spices of Latin cuisines to the stylish French fare...

The differences between the islands can mean a big change in ambiance and price range. While some islands are more likely to offer roadside stands, like the jerk shacks Jamaica is known for, others are better known for their finer fare. Particularly the French (St. Barts, St. Martin, Martinique, etc.) and some British islands (British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Anguilla, etc.) are known for their posh atmospheres. You can expect to wear a collared shirt and slacks to a lavish restaurant, with the best restaurants being strictly black-tie affairs. Reservations may not be necessary at the finest spots on more laid-back islands during the off-season, but it is always best to call in advance if you are unsure.

Of course, the type of restaurant you're dining at can also make a difference in the cost of a meal. While some places offer meals as low as about $2(USD), others offer entrees that run as high as $50(USD). The Dominican Republic has some of the lowest meal prices, with an average meal being no more costly than $10(USD). On the other hand, Aruba is known for its fine dining, and offers meals generally starting at about $35(USD) for gourmet cuisine.

One of the most interesting aspects of Caribbean dining is the ability to try it all. Sample a bite at a small mom-and-pop for lunch, then dress to the nines for a night out. The next night you can try dining at a different resort, and the following night you might try something truly local. From the savory spices of Latin cuisines to the stylish French fare, you're sure to find something unique every night.

Regional Culinary Styles

A blend of ethnic influences, Caribbean food is a rich reminder of where today's Caribbean people came from: the cuisine of the islands brings together indigenous tastes of the native Arawak and Carib Indians, European colonial influences, and African flavors introduced by slaves.

Seafood is a natural specialty of the islands, but the Caribbean's rich soil bears many treats as well. The end result is an enticing Creole mix that is one of the most widespread cultural exports of the Caribbean. Indeed, the innovative cuisine of the West Indies is enjoyed all over the world.

Some words of caution: many Caribbean foodstuffs are enhanced with local chilies and other exotic ingredients, which your palate may or may not be accustomed to. If you overindulge, the best way to "put out the fire" is simple bread and butter or a glass of milk.


When it comes to the Caribbean, rum may as well be synonymous with the word "drink." Whether straight up, on the rocks, or mixed into a fruity beverage, rum is the top choice for island drinkers. Rum punch is one of the most popular mixed drinks, consisting of rum, lime juice, honey, nutmeg, and ice. Some islands add extra flavors to the punch, like Turks and Caicos, where pineapple juice, orange juice, and grenadine are among the ingredients. The Bahama Mama is the Bahamas favorite rum based beverage, and Jamaicans enjoy Jamaican Coffee, which is coffee, coffee liqueur, and rum.

Non-alcoholic choices include fresh fruit juices, smoothies, virgin mixed drinks, sodas, coffees, and teas. Water is not potable in each island, so make sure you check with your hotel before drinking tap water. In the event that water is not safe to drink, stock up on bottled water to keep you hydrated during long days on the beach, or exploration outings.

For those simply searching for familiar flavors, many islands offer fast food and pizza, among other international styles. From Chinese to Italian, if you can name it, you can find it in the Caribbean.


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