If you're like us, part of the attraction of an escape to the Caribbean is getting off the ship to explore local cultures. For food lovers in particular, the smells and tastes of the Caribbean are like nowhere else you've been.
So we've rounded up some of the best culinary experiences that a traveler can undertake in such places as St. Lucia, Barbados, San Juan, Guadeloupe and Anguilla, ranging from a $45 cooking class that's easily done on a day trip to a weeklong luxury package that can be combined with a cruise or enjoyed as a land vacation.
Here are our picks of 5 top Caribbean shore tours for food lovers.
Cooking classes & dining experiences
CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa on the charming Caribbean island of Anguilla (see our travel guide) offers guests a variety of culinary options (foodies rejoice!), from a Japanese Cooking Class ($68 per person) at Tokyo Bay, where guests can learn to roll their own sushi and create a Japanese entree and dessert, to a cooking class for even the tiniest little chefs — the Pizza & Cookie session ($45 per person).
“We are a destination within a destination,” says Stephane Zaharia, v.p. and general manager of CuisinArt. “Our guests never have to leave the property during their stay, as we provide everything a guest could want and/or need. As our name suggests, we exemplify the ‘art of cuisine’ and invite guests to embark on an epicurean immersion. Our executive chef, Jasper Schneider, and his team have combined their talents to create exceptional menus at each of our five restaurants.
“Our culinary program is inspired by flavors from all over the world. We are the first resort in the world to introduce a hydroponic farm and our global culinary experience incorporates local flavors and the freshest ingredients. Our epicurean journey extends beyond dining, affording guests the opportunity to partake in a variety of hands-on cooking classes, educational tours of our hydroponic farm and wine tastings in our wine cellar featuring 3,600 bottles of rare vintages.”
Cost: The Chef’s Table Dining Experience combines food and wine pairings in an 8-course meal ($195 per person), while the Secrets of the Chef cooking class, the resort’s most popular, gives guests a chance to work with the chef to create a meal they’ll enjoy after completion ($65 per person). Let’s not forget dessert — those with a sweet tooth can enjoy the Mind of a Pastry Chef class ($55 per person) where they’ll create two desserts to enjoy. Room rates start at $474 a night.
Culture & cuisine
The San Juan Marriott has partnered with Spoon Food Tours to offer guests a Taste of San Juan. The package includes the Old San Juan Walk & Taste Tour, a 2.5-hour tour that includes three food stops, and takes guests through the Spanish colonial city to learn about the history and architecture of the area (see our travel guide).
Spoon Food Tours teaches guests about Puerto Rico’s traditional cuisine and fusion of cultures, which includes Caribbean, Latin American, Taino Indian, North American, and European influences. Food lovers will stop at one of the best coffee shops on the island, Cafe Don Ruiz, and sample traditional classics such as mofongo, fried fritters, and pasteles stuffed with chicken, among other items. (The restaurants included on the tour change depending on the day of the week or guests’ dietary restrictions.)
“Our partnership with the epicurean guides of Spoon Food Tours allows for our guests to explore these other neighborhoods they would probably not find or go to on their own,” says San Juan Marriott’s general manager, Hans-Georg Roehrbein.
Guests of San Juan Marriott can also take the 3.5-hour San Juan Drive Around Tour and receive a 10% discount. On this tour, guests board the Spoon Van to explore the neighborhoods while visiting local foodie spots along the way. The package starts at $330 per night, including the culinary and history tour for two, oceanfront accommodations, and daily breakfast at La Vista Latin Grill.
Cost: For the tour alone, the cost is $75 per person plus taxes & ticketing fee; children ages 3-12, $59. Kids under 3 are free but don’t receive tastings. The tour is suitable for all ages and runs every month of the year.
Bait it & plate it
Guests get a hands-on culinary experience while at the Colony Club in Barbados with the hotel’s complimentary Bait to Plate excursion. This fishing tour takes up to four guests on a private boat with the hotel chef to find out what it takes to reel in that perfect catch. Guests will also learn about reef conservation and spot marine life while on the excursion.
“This tour is one of the most popular activities at our resort. It’s highly interactive, giving guests one-on-one time with our Bajan chef, and lets them experience something very local and authentic to our island,” says Gayle Talma, general manager at Colony Club. Later, the chef prepares the fillet to guests’ specifications for dinner.
Cost: Room rates start at $472 per night, and the culinary tour is free.
A 7-night culinary package
Foodies visiting the Guadeloupe Islands should sign up for the 7-night Culinary package, which includes flights, transfers, and ocean view accommodations at the Auberge de la Vieille Tour, as well as continental breakfast, activities and lunches around the island.
This food-focused itinerary takes guests through a gastronomical adventure their palates will enjoy with stops in Gosier, Marie-Galante, and Pointe-a-Pitre. Guests will experience an organic farm and table d’hotes; visit the Jardin de Buckingham in a traditional oxcart; meet a member of the Association des Cuisinieres, elderly women in Guadeloupean traditional clothing who are experts in French-Creole cuisine and with whom travelers will have the opportunity to cook alongside and share lunch; and visit the night market of Gosier.
Cost: The package starts at $3,435 per person based on two participants.
From the farm to your table
“Dining is always an important part of a travelers’ experience and we try to introduce guests to the many indigenous spices, vegetables and fruits that make Saint Lucia cuisine so unique, and that are grown on our own organic farm, Emerald Estates,” says Karolin Troubetzkoy, co-owner and executive manager of the resorts Jade Mountain and Anse Chastanet in St. Lucia (see our travel guide and photo gallery). “It becomes part of the experience; experimenting with new flavors and eating well.”
Guests staying at Jade Mountain can participate in a number of culinary experiences, from chocolate-making and cooking classes to wine tastings and a rum mixology class, as well as a variety of food festivals. Those who want to test their skills in the kitchen can sign up for the Tandoori Cooking Class, which takes place on the beach. Here, guests will be introduced to the local secrets on how to “spice up” St. Lucian and East-Indian fusion dishes such as chicken tandoori. Guests of both the Anse Chastanet and Jade Mountain can visit the hotel’s plantation with a chef to pick out their own ingredients and produce used to prepare a meal.
Jade Mountain also hosts various food festivals throughout the year, including the Mango Madness Festival each June; Jade Mountain’s Discover Chocolate in October, and Spices of the Caribbean in December. During these festivals, guests can participate in farm-to-table cooking classes, tours through the organic farms, and creative sessions to learn how to put flavors together, plus grilling on the beach.
Cost: Rates start at $35 per person for a tour of Emerald Estates to $250 for Mango Madness events. Room rates start at $1,050 per night per person (double occupancy) for Jade and $365 at Anse Chastanet.
Contact a travel expert
Interested in any of these tours? Contact a Cruiseable travel advocate at 1-877-322-3773 for travel arrangements, or email our travel agency team. Often a Cruiseable travel agent will be able to get you extra amenities and savings during your trip.
This information originally appeared at Recommend magazine.
In our series: Cruise Food & Drink
- 10 best cruise ship restaurants
- Beginner's guide to dining on a cruise
- All about specialty restaurants
- 5 favorite cruise ship bars
- 5 favorite cruise ship grills
- 5 best cruise ship bars for beer lovers
- 10 dining spots & attractions on Carnival Vista
- Curtis Stone on his new Princess Cruises restaurant (video)