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A Gastro-Tourist's Guide To 6 Can’t Miss Caribbean Islands

We're hungry just thinking about these amazing island favorites.

Foodie travelers have high expectations when it comes to satisfying their hunger. Their menu must-haves? Cuisines that are authentically delicious, fresh and representative of their destination’s local culture. And for those traveling the Caribbean islands, there’s no shortage of flavorful foods to experience, from exotic produce to the islands’ bounty of freshly caught fish.

That’s why we’ve partnered with global cruise line Royal Caribbean to round up the best can’t-miss cuisines on six popular island-hopping destinations. Whether it’s spicy, savory or sweet that floats your boat, prepare to whet your appetite.

1. St. Kitts
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Breadfruit, mangoes, papayas, plantains and yams, oh my! With its volcanic soil and lush coastlines, St. Kitts is a produce lover’s paradise. The island’s rich cultural history lends itself to a mingling of many tantalizing dishes, with flavors and spices stemming from West Indian, Creole, English, Indian and French cuisines.Foodies can use Bassaterre as their base, where most of the island’s restaurants are located. Seafood is an obvious choice—and you can’t go wrong with fresh caught rock lobsters or curried conch fritters—but for the most authentic St. Kitt’s dish, visitors will want to try the local favorite: goat water stew. Blending tender goat meat, breadfruit, green papaya and dumplings in a broth seasoned with cloves and thyme, this is a hearty island favorite traditionally served on Saturdays. If you’ve still got room for dessert, grab a conkie, which takes the popular Caribbean dessert tamale and blends it with St. Kitts flavors of grated sweet potato, pumpkin and coconut, all wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed to perfection.
2. Antigua
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Eat breakfast like an Antiguan with a meal of fresh salt fish, chop-up and fungee. The island staple of dried and cured white fish is accompanied by chopped okra, pumpkin and spinach served alongside fungee, a mild cornmeal side dish that tempers the salty fish nicely. And for a healthy break from all those rum cocktails, try a fresh juice or shake made with sea moss or sorrel. The seaweed—dried, boiled then blended—is often mixed with soy milk and cinnamon for a less sweet horchata, while sorrel comes from the hibiscus flower and offers a tangier flavor profile. Ducana dumplings are another local favorite, served as both a side to salt fish or as a small meal on its own. The dumplings are made of ground sweet potato and boiled in banana leaves for a surprisingly dense and sweet flavor profile.
3. Barbados
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With a cultural mix of British and West African influences, Bajan cuisine is known for its interesting flavor combinations and bounty of fresh produce including okra, cassava and breadfruit. Barbados takes its nickname, “the land of the flying fish,” from the prevalence of flying fish that inhabit its surrounding waters and leap up to four feet with the help of fins that look like wings. The Bajan national dish incorporates this winged wonder by stewing it with cou cou, a creamy porridge-like base made of okra and cornmeal. Or try a flying fish cutter for a flavorful, beach friendly sandwich served on savory Bajan salt bread.Gourmands who’ve had their fill of fish should try the pudding and souse. Traditionally served on Saturdays for lunch, this dish consists of a pickled pork souse and a sweet potato pudding. Best of all, you can find this dish everywhere, from upscale restaurants to roadside food trucks, each with their own level of spiciness.
4. Aruba
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More than 90 nationalities make their home on Aruba, and the local food reflects this diversity, fusing African, Spanish, French, Dutch and Chinese cuisines for colorful dishes bursting with flavor. Visitors can't miss Aruba's national snack of pastechi. These half moon shaped pastries are stuffed with savory ingredients like chicken, beef or cheese and topped with a spicy sauce. Available all over the island, no two pastechi are exactly the same, so be sure to sample a few! Seafood lovers will enjoy keri keri, a popular shark stew seasoned with garlic, curry powder and onion. And you’ll never be far from a stellar plate of calamari, coconut shrimp, or a bowl of spicy conch stew.
5. St. Lucia
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From its lush banana valleys to the verdant twin peaks of the Pitons, St. Lucia screams unspoiled Caribbean scenery. And the island’s rich cultural history has served as a melting pot for many different cultures, making Lucian cuisine just as spectacular. Think Creole, Caribbean, and Indian flavor profiles. The national dish of green figs and salt fish is a hearty lunch option made of unripened bananas and freshly caught flaked salt fish in a garlic and pepper base. For a mouthwatering dinner, go with the bouyon: a popular stew that has a little of everything thrown in, from yams, coconut, mixed meat and dumplings to cloves, ginger and hot pepper sauce. Friday nights are all about the fish fry on St. Lucia. Islanders and travelers come together to kick off the weekend with street parties featuring a laid-back vibe and top notch street fare. The best fish fry happens weekly in Anse La Raye, where makeshift bars line the beach and BBQs blaze with the smell of coal-steamed snapper, buttery lobster and pepper pot stew. And be sure to take some chocolate home from St. Lucia: the island has been producing world class cocoa since the 1700s.
6. Curacao
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Dubbed Amsterdam’s sunnier sister, Curacao is known for its distinctive Dutch culture with a dose of Indonesian flavors thrown in to kick it up a notch. Red snapper comprises the island’s national dish, and is usually fried up and served alongside plantains and funchi (cornmeal mash). Gastro tourists are in for a treat at the floating market in Willemstad, where fresh fruit and produce, spices and all kinds of island favorites—like a hot plate of funchi fries or meat tamales called ayakas—can be purchased from local vendors. The market is as much a feast for the eyes as it is for your stomach!

Royal Caribbean knows that experiencing a great trip to the Caribbean is all about indulging in a full sensory experience. From a wide variety of cuisines offered on ship to a smorgasbord of delectable dining destinations all over the Caribbean, learn more about planning your next unforgettable culinary adventure by visiting Royal Caribbean today.