20 Best Islands for Food (Slideshow)
January 13, 2014
We rank island getaways according to their culinary attractions
Jamaica is a melting pot of cultures from across the world —Dutch, French, Chinese, British, East Indian, West Africa, Portuguese, Chinese, and Spanish to name just a few — and the island's food reflects this history and heritage with its mixture of flavors. The magic of Jamaican cuisine comes from its ability to blends these and many other cultures and flavors together to make it's own unique cuisine. Spanish flavors include "escoveitch fish", a vinegar-type seafood dish that was brought to the island by Spanish Jews in 1500s, which has since evolved to become a local favorite. The English contributed foods like the "Jamaican pattie" to the cuisine and the sugar plantations they transformed brought with them Indian laborers with their array of spices that heavily influenced the flavors of Jamaican cooking. African influences led to the famous Jamaican "jerk chicken", a heavily-spiced dried meat that is full of flavor and incredibly popular.
Sample the local flavors at Scotchies in Montego Bay, that is praised for it's amazing jerk chicken — pork and fish, too — which is why it's such a local hotspot. Also try Sugar Mill Restaurant in Montego Bay (that serves an amazing smoked marlin), The Pelican Grill (that 's been open for more than 50 years and serves some of the best seafood on the island), and Norma's on the Terrace in Kingston where the island's leading restauranteur Norma Shirley serves up many Jamaican specialities like chowder with crabmeat, grilled smoked pork, shrimp, and conch.
19) Turks and Caicos
Today these islands are famous for their seafood, but to really understand the local cuisine you need to go back a century to look at what the islanders were eating — times were tough so the people relied on what the island could produce naturally, fruits and vegetables from the rich fertile soil, and fish. The local staple become "hominy" (a kind of local "grits" made from a local grain called Guinea Corn that was hand-milled)... a favorite local dish was peas and hominy, which later became peas and rice when the longer grain was brought to the island by traders from Haiti and Jamaica. Today there are several such staple dishes and each of the six inhabited islands has their own way of making them: steamed conch & grits, conch stew (with lots of gravy), pea soup and dumplings, okra soup, bread pudding, ginger bread and potato bread are local favorites that are made slightly differently on each island depending on the food grown, and the ingredients available.
To try some of these and other local specialities we recommend eating at Stella and Anacaona at the Grace Bay Club. The restaurant offers such dishes as the seared yellowfin tuna or South Caicos red snapper and also a low calorie and vegetarian menu. But wherever you eat that you keep a lookout for the conch or lobster tail.
Barbados cuisine has drawn influences from the traditions of Spain, Portugal, England, and West Africa with the latter providing the most
Since opening in December 2001, Daphne’s has served modern Italian dishes such as Spaghetti al’Argosta (spaghetti with lobster) and Zuppa Fredda di Pomodoro con Olio al Baslico (iced plum tomato soup with basil oil.) Their clientele list includes A-list stars such as Mariah Carey and Cindy Crawford.
17) Punta Cana
What is unique to this island is goat, chicken, and seafood. Their most popular national dish is called La Bandera, which also translates to Flag in English. It is a combination of rice, red beans, stewed meat, usually goat, salad, and fried plantains. At La Yola, you can wine and dine yourselves while getting a peek at the ocean. The glass floor is clear, so you can see everything from fish to other sea creatures swimming. Although the dress code and atmosphere may be casual at Noir Beach Lounge, the seafood experience you will have will make you believe you’re at a five star restaurant.
16) St. Barts
Although this island is part of France, it has both French and Creole cuisine. Everything from foie gras to stuffed crab is available, using only the freshest ingredients. One place we recommended is La Case de I’Isle at Hotel Saint-Barth Isle de France. The places serves “simple, light, and elegant French cuisine” with an ocean view. Some of their menu highlights items include a local lobster carpaccio, coconut, citrus fruits, & green zebra tomatoes and a local mahi-mahi poached in a Hibiscus and Rum broth, mini vegetables, & a citrus butter.
Some traditional dishes in Bali include Asian flavors in meals such as Nasi Goreng (fried rice), Sate Mie Goreng (fried noodles) with Ayam (chicken), Bebek Betutu (duck smoked in an oven with a coconut rice pudding and fruit.) Every meal usually comes with a red Balinese sauce. Sound good, don’t they? Restarant Ibu Oka Warung has a roast suckling pig, served with rice, fried intestine, spicy vegetables, and a secret red sauce that you just can’t get anywhere else.
You can never go wrong by going to the Sheer Rock. The restaurant’s philosophy is “fresh ingredients, local produce, and casual dining.” Menu items include the blackened wahoo, salt cured beef, crushed potatoes, and a spiced duck leg broth.
13) Bora Bora
Don’t expect to find lots of Caribbean food at this island. The cuisine here is a mix of Polynesian and French traditions. The 4 Seasons Resort, you can try some the seared scallops with eggplant confit, Tahitian Honey & Sheery vinegar or pan friend Duck Foie Gras with papapa chutney and almond panacotta.
12) Hamilton Island
The Long Pavillion Dining at Hotel Qualia best exemplifies the farm to table method through local seafood and organic meat. They serve dishes such as the ocean trout with champagne jelly, apple, asparagus, and passion fruit or the milk fed veal and lettuce. Chef Alastair Waddell has been recognized for his food in 2012, as the Long Pavilion was “Highly Commended in the Best Hotel Restaurant Category.” He says he “always uses local produce when possible and recognizes the importance of flavor, texture, and presentation.”
Traditional food in Fiji consists of local herbs, spices, seafood, and meat dishes. At The Cold Mill Cottage Café in Suva, they serve classically prepared traditional Indian cuisine with local fish and vegetable dishes. It’s casual, neighborhood friendly place served in cafeteria style.
Although it may be known as "the island of milk and honey," Crete also offers one of the healthiest diets. The island depends heavily on the use of olive oil, grains, legumes, and very little meat. But when you're there you have to try a dessert called Bougatsa. It's a warm custard pie topped with cinnamon and sugar. And head off to Alekos for a family style restaurant. They serve Cretan food such as snails and artichokes.
There’s no one cuisine when it comes to this island. Everything from local to international flavors is popular here. At the Nisbet Plantation Club, you can try their 3 different restaurants for some variety in your dishes. For breakfast, Coconuts, the “casual beach restaurant,” has a menu consisting of traditional breakfast dishes and some island favorites. For lunch, Sea Breeze has lobster sandwiches and Nisbet crips, fried breadfruit, Tania, plantains, and sweet potatoes. For dinner, The Great House has a menu that changes daily, depending on what is most fresh. All three of them have also been named on our 101 Best Hotel Restaurants.
At Da Paolino, lemons are the key ingredient to any dish they serve. There are literally hundreds of lemon trees planted, some even right next to your seating area! Menu items include a lemon linguine, fried squid prawns, and a cut of beet with rucola and Parmesan cheese.
7) Cayman Islands
It’s no surprise that this island landed in one of our top spots. It was also listed in our 101 best hotel restaurants. To get a taste of award winning Caribbean Food, Blue by Eric Ripert serves local seafood and 5 different tasting menus. Dishes such as the sautéed Dover sole with almonds, pistachios, and brown butter or poached halibut with black truffle and pot au feau.
At the Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, you can get a taste of what it’s like under water. 5 meters to be exact. Open for lunch and dinner, the restaurant is quite luxurious serving dishes such as a Maldivian lobster carpaccio, reef fish tartare, poached quail egg, and a passion fruit dressing and a Valhorna chocolate vantage, white chocolate praline, salty caramel sable, and mango sorbet. Make sure you read over some of their policies. Don’t plan on bringing your kids to dinner (they’re not allowed), dress accordingly, and most importantly, set a reservation!
The iconic Greek island often portrayed on postcards with its white clay houses, bright blue water, and breathtaking sunset views, is a popular tourist destination, especially the village Oia, and among honeymooners and people looking for some luxury and romance. To cater to its crowds of visitors, the island has also become the home of several top restaurants serving classic geek cuisine and of course – a stellar sunset view. Try Ambrosia is Oia for excellent locally sourced modern Greek dishes such as grilled mint-scented lamb cutlets, with a red grape and nutmeg aromatized potato puree. Or for a more casual place, try Aktaion. The restaurant is also traditional with moderately priced traditional dishes such as fried feta cheese bites buttered in beer, homemade mousakas freshly cooked in a clay pot, and a pannacotta masticha with rosse sweet.
Hawaii doesn’t have it’s own cuisine. Rather it’s a mix of various Asian and European flavors. For a mix of Asian and Peruvian flavors, go to Alan Wong’s Amasia. The restaurant is where the “East Meets West, meets Hawaii.” It’s been named “Best New Restaurant” by Hawaii Magazine in 2013 and “Best Innovative Menu” by Maui No Ka Oi Magazine. Some menu items include the Pork Adobo “Empanada” or “The Coconut,” a haupia sorbet, chocolate coconut shell, and fresh fruits. For a more traditional restaurant, Hali’imale General Store has been serving traditional Asian flavors for 25 years. Menu items include the Coconut Seafood Curry with fresh island fish, shrimp, day boat scallops, carrots, mushrooms, snap pears, steamed in coconut milk mixed with a housemade green curry paste and Jasmine rice or the sashimi pizza with a thin flour crust, sashimi ahi, edamamae hummus, toasted sesame seeds, red cabbage, and a soy-sesame aioli.
3) Ile de Porquerolles
Le Mas Du Langoustier is a hotel and restaurant is located right in the center of the entire island. It holds one of the most beautiful views in the entire world! Wherever you are, the breathtaking sight of the ocean and the smell of seawater never escape you. Enjoy the A La Carte service for lunch and dinner prepared by head chef Julien Le Goff, who has a background in French cuisine.
Originally a wine and oil shop, Locanda Cirpriani transformed into an inn and one of the few restaurants in the island of Torcello. The dishes are “Cipriani style” with quite a variety of fish, vegetables, homemade pasta and rice for the main course and sweet snacks, bavarois, cream cakes, meringues, sorbets, biscuits, and chocolates for dessert. When it’s warm enough, guests are welcome to sit on the terrace or the garden surrounded by the lovely array of flowers and plants. The inn is also quite a historical landmark. It is the place where Ernest Hemingway wrote ‘Across the River and Through the Trees.’
What’s special to this number one ranked island is their dependency of garlic and olive oil in their dishes. And whether you order the fish, chicken, or salad, everything is locally grown. For a traditional restaurant, Santi Taura has a weekly tasting menu with dishes that include 3 starters, fish, meat, dessert, and an optional cheese cart. For a seafood restaurant, Tristan Bistro serves dishes such as fillet of sole with sepia pasta and saffron sauce or ravioli stuffed with oxtail, corn, and red wine sauce.