Known for warm weather and beautiful beaches, Caribbean resorts aren’t usually thought of as true foodie destinations. Discerning travelers, however, are increasingly demanding good cuisine, and tropical resorts are happily answering their culinary prayers. From cooking classes to bespoke menus, these Caribbean hotels go beyond conch fritters and strawberry daiquiris, offering true tastes of their respective regions.
As one of only five Relais & Chateaux properties in the Caribbean, as much emphasis is placed on food and wine as is on sand and water at this all-suite resort. Each day’s menu is guided by the local fish caught that day, with offerings including Caribbean swordfish with pepper and heirloom tomatoes, and blackened barracuda with sweet potato mash and spiced carrot puree. Executive Chef Michael Harrison is a native of Barbados who cooked at some of the world’s most renowned restaurants before returning to his homeland to perfect the art of Bajan cooking. One of guests’ favorite culinary activities here is the market-to-table tour, beginning with a guided walk through produce and fish markets with Chef Harrison, and ending with a personal cooking demonstration and tasting.
Rates start at $530 and include daily breakfast and all service charges and taxes.
Food lovers find that this 5-star property is known as a resort of firsts for Anguilla: It houses the island’s first Japanese restaurant (Tokyo Bay), its first AAA four-diamond restaurant (Le Bistro at Santorini), and a half-acre hydroponic farm — the first of its kind, anywhere. The farm produces fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers for each of its restaurants, as well as their Venus Spa, and its offerings of fresh cherry tomatoes (their pride and joy) are presented to guests in their suite upon arrival. Farm tours and hands-on cooking classes are always available, as are chef’s tasting tables with Executive Chef Jasper Schneider, featuring wine pairings from their 3,600-bottle wine cellar.
Rates currently start at $475, although promotions are often available.
This all-inclusive resort has all the makings of a 5-star property – private plunge pools, extreme privacy, killer views – and none of the typical all-inclusive food stigma. Menus change daily and are custom-tailored to guests’ preferences. Great emphasis is placed on local ingredients (including those grown in the organic garden). And while poolside cooking demonstrations are a favorite among visiting foodies, a truly unique experience is cockle fishing at a nearby hidden mangrove. Standing mid-calf in the warm water, participants are shown by a local fisherman how to fish for them with their toes. Later, the hotel’s Executive Chef, Dezi Banhan (named Chef of the Year for Antigua in 2007/2008), demonstrates the preparation of “cockle water”, an Antiguan stew made with the sweet clams.
Rates start at $965 and include all meals, activities, and alcoholic beverages.
Located in Condado, the unofficial culinary hub of San Juan, this resort emphasizes excellent local cuisine on- and off-property. Within the hotel’s walls, there’s La Vista Latin Grill, showcasing traditional Puerto Rican/Latin cooking (spiced shredded beef empanadas, sancocho soup, etc.) in a casual setting, as well as four other onsite food and drink options. Outside of the hotel, guests can participate in a Flavors of San Juan tour arranged by the hotel, which includes cooking classes and food-focused cultural walking tours. Fifteen minutes away, there’s a taste of history in Old San Juan, with some truly local spots like El Jibarito, which serves the best mofongo in the area.
Rates start at $169 through the end of November, and at $175 in December through the high-season.
Forget nachos and Coronas. At this uber-romantic jungle resort in the Riviera Maya, it’s all about the true tastes of Mexico. While being serenaded by mariachi bands at El Restaurante, guests dine on lobster enchiladas and crispy duck tacos with salsa borracha, while El Sol Tapas & Restaurant offers the Mexican version of Spanish tapas, paired with Mexican wines. A true highlight, though, is Freddy’s Tequila and Ceviche Bar, where the largest collection of tequila in the area washes down incredibly fresh ceviche and sushi. Want to eat like the locals? Book a Mayan Encounter tour, complete with lunch prepared by local women.
Winter rates start around $404 and include daily breakfast; packages and advance-purchase rates are available.