Food is a gateway to a country’s heritage and culture. It’s why I make an effort to eat local as I traverse the Caribbean region. I want to taste all the delicious local cuisine and also learn about the history of the dishes and ingredients as it provides insight into the people and their country. Surprisingly, local food options at many of the major hotels in the Caribbean can be limited, so it’s essential to get out and explore eating at local restaurants; also consider attending one of the many Caribbean food festivals popping up all across the region. Attending one of these Caribbean food festivals supports local entrepreneurs and helps to increase Caribbean food security.
Food Festivals & Caribbean Food Security
The Caribbean region is abundant with festivals, and many islands have at a minimum two or three each year. Most of the festivals have been developed as part of the tourism product to promote the destination and fill hotel rooms. Long established music festivals like St Kitts Music Festival and carnivals like Antigua Carnival dominate the calendar, but Caribbean food festivals are increasingly popular.
The increasing popularity of Caribbean food festivals taps into a global trend. In recent years, there has been an explosion of food tour companies, food and beverage focused events, and food and beverage experience-focused marketing efforts. This increase is backed up by research from the World Food Travel Association, which indicates that “80% of leisure travelers had been motivated to visit a particular destination because of a culinary activity or attraction.” This is excellent news for the Caribbean region as local food tours, and food festivals engage the food sector and create revenue opportunities for a range of businesses, including hotels, restaurants, street vendors, caterers, farmers, fishers, chefs, etc. Their full engagement not only helps to develop food businesses that will prosper but also improve Caribbean food security. As with increasing demand for local food, more will be grown in the Caribbean region, and new food products will be created, resulting in less need for imported products.
Currently, due to lack of investment in agriculture and fishery, the Caribbean region imports over US$5billion in food, and this figure is expected to increase to US$8-10 billion within the next year or two. In fact, for some Caribbean islands, over 80% of the food consumed by locals and tourists is imported. These figures from the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization are less than ideal, and so there is a severe need to increase food production. That requires working with farmers, transforming the food supply chain, and educated consumers – locals and tourists about what’s on offer! Caribbean food festivals play an essential role in this process as they help to create awareness, thereby increasing demand and opportunities for local food producers. With that in mind, below are some of the best Caribbean food festivals to consider adding to your bucket list.
15 Caribbean Food Festivals
In total, there are over forty Caribbean food festivals held each year. Some are very established, and others are up and coming. Some of the food festivals are focused on the general cuisine of a country, and others are themed around a specific Caribbean fruit, vegetable, or meat. Whatever the theme, if you are a foodie and want to enjoy tasty meals prepared by some of the best cooks and chefs working in the Caribbean region, then consider one of these fifteen Caribbean food festivals.
2020 Dates: January 15 – 20
Location: The Ritz-Carlton, Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands | Website
Where to Stay: Sunshine Suites Resort, Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort, The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman
Launched in 2008, the Cayman Cookout is held at The Ritz-Carlton on the Cayman Islands. It brings together leading chefs, wine and spirits experts from across the globe to showcase their talents. Hosted by celebrity chef Eric Ripert in partnership with Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, events at the Cayman Cookout include various tastings and fine dining experiences, brunches, local food tours, and unique epicurean experiences.
A dish from the Cayman Cookout 2020. Photo Credit: © Rebecca Davidson Photography.
Saborea Puerto Rico
2020 Dates: April 2 – 5
Location: Balneario de Carolina, Puerto Rico | Website
Where to Stay: San Juan Water & Beach Club Hotel, Hampton Inn & Suites San Juan, InterContinental San Juan
Aimed at food connoisseurs, Saborea Puerto Rico is positioning the island as the culinary capital of the Caribbean. Held annually for over a decade, visitors to Saborea Puerto Rico have the opportunity to attend many tastings and cooking demonstrations at some fo Puerto Rico’s best restaurants. Along with the numerous tastings and learning about the culinary heritage of Puerto Rico, visitors can also attend several energetic musical and cultural performances.
St. Croix Food & Wine Experience
2020 Dates: April 2 – 5
Location: Various locations in St Croix, US Virgin Islands | Website
Where to Stay: Hotel Caravelle, The Palms at Pelican Cove, The Buccaneer Hotel
The St Croix Food & Wine Experience is a week-long culinary extravaganza focused on showcasing local, regional, and national flavors. The five signature events include Bond @ Balter, Cork & Fork Dinner, Sunset BBQ, Wine in the Warehouse, and Gourmet Vintner Dinner.
2020 Dates: April 3 – 4
Location: Landhuis Chobolobo, Willemstad, Curaçao | Website
Where to Stay: Avila Beach Hotel, Renaissance Curacao Resort & Casino, Kontiki Beach Resort
Held over two days at the home Genuine Curaçao Liqueur, Curaçao Culinair features prominent chefs from local restaurants and resorts as they showcase their signature dishes and creative new plates. Foodies attending Curaçao Culinair have the opportunity to sample tapas-sized portions and enjoy a wide menu of cocktails and wines.
Festival Del Mar Anguilla
2020 Dates: April 11 – 12
Location: Island Harbour, Anguilla | Website
Where to Stay: Allamanda Beach Resort, Shoal Bay Villas, The Manoah Boutique Hotel
Held in the beautiful fishing village of Island Harbour in Anguilla, the Festival Del Mar is a celebration of all things related to the sea. Events for this two-day festival with live string band music, includes culinary (seafood) competitions, deep-sea fishing competitions, crab races, swimming races, and boat races. Along with these experiences, visitors have the opportunity to learn about Anguilla’s seafaring heritage and cultural traditions. Festival Del Mar Anguilla is part of Extraordinary Eats, a month-long celebration of Anguillian food, culture, and the culinary arts.
Grenada Chocolate Festival
2020 Dates: May 1 – 6
Location: True Blue Bay Boutique Resort, St George’s, Grenada | Website
Where to Stay: True Blue Bay Boutique Resort, Mount Cinnamon, Coyaba Beach Resort
Grenada is known as the spice island of the Caribbean, but its also increasing being known for its rich chocolate offerings and deep cocoa farming roots. This is on display at the annual Grenada Chocolate Festival, which is dedicated to all things sweet, savory, and chocolate. Popular events for attendees include tours of cocoa farms across the island, numerous chocolate tastings, chocolate cooking classes, chocolate yoga meditation and wellness, etc.
Belize Cashew Festival & Agriculture Show
2020 Dates: May 9 – 10
Location: Crooked Tree Village, Belize District, Belize | Website
Where to Stay: Becks Bed & Breakfast, Crooked Tree Lodge, Belize Boutique Resort & Spa
The Belize Cashew Festival & Agriculture Show is a two-day event showcasing the fruit from cashew trees. At this two-day event, artisans, chefs, and local cashew farmers come together to display a wide range of cashew products. Along with the fresh fruit, there are also various cashew-inspired dishes and wines to sample. Visitors to the Belize Cashew Festival & Agriculture Show can also watch a wide range of cashew cooking demonstrations and competitions.
Bahamas Pineapple Festival
2020 Dates: June 4 – 6
Location: Homecoming Site, Queen’s Highway, Gregory Town, Central Eleuthera, Bahamas, | Website
Where to Stay: Unique Village Resort, Pineapple Fields North Palmetto Point, The Cove Eleuthera
Held annually since 1988, The Bahamas Pineapple Festival is a celebration of the tradition of pineapple farming in Eleuthera. It honors the pineapple farmers for their outstanding contributions to the community. Visitors to The Bahamas Pineapple Festival can sample a range of pineapple dishes and participate in a variety of events, including pineapple eating contest, pineapple cooking contest, old-time pineapple crazy sports, and plaiting of the pineapple pole.
Nevis Mango & Food Festival
2020 Dates: July 2 – 5
Location: various locations around Nevis | Website
Where to Stay: Four Seasons Resort Nevis, Nisbet Plantation Beach Club, Montpelier Plantation & Beach
The Nevis Mango & Food Festival is a celebration of the forty-four mango varieties that are grown on the island. During the four-day food festival, visitors can attend many events, including a Nevis Village Food Tour and Nevisian Chefs Mango Feast. There are also tastings and dinners with international celebrity chefs and Nevisian chefs. Every course of every meal they cook or demonstrate includes Nevis mangoes.
Tobago Blue Food Festival
2020 Dates: October 18
Location: Bloody Bay Recreational Grounds, Tobago | Website
Where to Stay: Naturalist Beach Resort, Castara Retreats, Blue Waters Inn
The Tobago Blue Food Festival has been held annually for the past two decades, and the focus is dasheen. The blue root dasheen is a vegetable, and during the festival, it is prepared for eating in appetizers, entrees, desserts, and liqueurs. Along with sampling the range of dasheen dishes, attendees can also watch various cooking demonstrations and competitions while being entertainment by popular local performers.
Jamaica Food & Drink Festival
2020 Dates: October 20 – 28
Location: various locations around Kingston, Jamaica | Website
Where to Stay: The Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, Courtleigh Hotel and Suites, AC Hotel Kingston
Held over four days in Jamaica’s capital city of Kingston, the Jamaica Food & Drink Festival brings together some of Jamaica’s best chefs, culinary masters, and wine and spirit experts. The seven signature events for the Jamaica Food & Drink Festival include Pork Palooza, D’vine, Chopstix, Crisp, Picante, Brunch, and Street Market. All of these are focused on offering up tasty spirits and delicious cuisine from over 60+ chefs.
Barbados Food & Rum Festival
2020 Dates: October 22 – 25
Location: various locations around Barbados | Website
Where to Stay: Hilton Barbados Resort, Radisson Aquatica Resort Barbados, Sugar Bay Barbados
Barbados Food & Rum Festival launched in 2009 is a four-day event designed to allow attendees to sample some of the best culinary experiences on the island. Hosted by restaurants and celebrity chefs, signature events include the opening festival, signature rum event, dine around at local restaurants, plus an afternoon rum and canapes at a polo match.
Kreol Food & Rhum
2020 Dates: October – TBD
Location: various locations around Martinique | Website
Where to Stay: French Coco, Hôtel Le Manguier, Le Cap Est Lagoon Resort & Spa
Kreol Food & Rhum is a week-long food festival in Martinique which showcases creole cuisine and local products. Visitors to this relatively new Caribbean food festival can attend tastings and cooking demonstrations with chefs from Martinique along with other islands in the Caribbean, Canada, and mainland France.
BVI Food Fete
2020 Dates: November 1 – 30
Location: various locations around Kingston, Jamaica | Website
Where to Stay: Scrub Island Resort Spa and Marina, Wyndham Tortola BVI Lambert Beach Resort, Cooper Island Beach Club, Anegada Reef Hotel
The BVI Food Fete is held in November which is Food Month in the British Virgin Islands and provides the opportunity to island-hop visiting Scrub Island, Tortola, Cooper Island, Jost Van Dyke, Virgin Gorda, and Anegada. Signature events for the BVI Food Fete launched in 2014 include the British Virgin Islands Gourmet Soirée, Taste of Tortola, Cooper Island Rum Fest, Jost Pork & More Fest, Taste of Virgin Gorda and the Anegada Lobster Festival.
Caribbean Food & Wine Festival
2020 Dates: November – TBD
Location: Turks & Caicos | Website
Where to Stay: La Vista Azul Resort, Grace Bay Club, The Palms Turks & Caicos
Held since 2013, the Caribbean Food & Wine Festival is the signature culinary event in the Turks & Caicos. Visitors can attend a range of food and wine tastings along with a five-course gourmet meal during this multi-day festival at different award-winning restaurants on Providenciales. Also, in November, the island of Providenciales hosts the Turks & Caicos Conch Festival. Conch plays an integral role in the local cuisine, and visitors get to sample a range of best conch dishes during this Caribbean food festival.
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