We travel to understand places. And so often the best way to understand a place is through food. Indeed, meals are such an integral part of travel, and that’s particularly true in the Caribbean, home to some of the most diverse food on the planet. And while great meals come in all shapes and sizes, in all settings and environs, there are three constants that make a meal great: food, service and ambience. The best restaurants achieve all three all the time. For this, the third annual edition of the 50 Best Caribbean restaurants, we offer you the restaurants that have the best combination of food, service and ambience, from toes-in-the-sand beach shacks to fine-dining restaurants. This is your guide to tasting the Caribbean.
Screaming Eagle, Aruba
Chef Erwin Husken hasn’t just created the signature eatery in Aruba — he’s developed what is the best restaurant in the Caribbean in 2015. This is a cutting-edge, chic restaurant where the food just keeps getting more creative.
Le Pressoir, St Martin
Set in an old building on Grand Case Boulevard, this is Chef Franck Mear’s homage to Brittany in the heart of the French Caribbean. Whether it’s magret de canard or, when available, the delicious slipper lobster, this is an exquisite, homey restaurant.
Yantar, Puerto Rico
Chef Xiomara Marquez may not be the most famous chef in Puerto Rico, but maybe she should be. This restaurant in San Juan’s Condado neighborhood offers spectacular food with an emphasis on Spanish culinary tradition.
La Cave a Vins, Martinique
This tiny restaurant-cum-wine shop on a side street in Fort de France has the best food in Martinique, combining Metropole French cuisine with Caribbean inspiration — including a foie gras-with-banana dish that is among the best plates in the region.
Le Soleil, St Martin
One of the flagship restaurants in the Caribbean’s culinary capital, the town of Grand Case, St Martin, Le Soleil achieves a rare feat: serving incredibly good French-Caribbean cuisine (with an Alsatian twist) but making you feel as if you’re eating in someone’s beachfront terrace.
La Savane, Guadeloupe
The seaside town of Deshaies (best known as the filming location of the BBC series Death in Paradise) has quietly become one of the region’s top culinary hubs. And the best of the best is La Savane, a marvelous eatery with an African decor.
At Sea, Bonaire
The restaurant that almost single-handedly propelled Bonaire into a culinary destination remains superb, with Kim van Dijk and Rick van den Broek continuing to offer diners a high-end but playful experience with an emphasis on seafood.
Flying Fish Modern Seafood, Bahamas
This Grand Bahama knockout is the brainchild of Bahamian Chef Tim Tibbitts, a waterfront eatery that has taken molecular gastronomy to a traditional Caribbean seafood restaurant. The results are magnificent.
Boucan By Hotel Chocolat, St Lucia
It’s one of the best tests of a restaurant. Whether there is a point in the meal, a single bite, that makes you go “wow.” Here, that’s just about every bite. This is a culinary tour de fource with a single unifying concept — the cacao bean.
De Cuisine, Anguilla
Set in an unassuming retail plaza in Anguilla is something rather special, thanks to husband-and-wife team Joash Proctor and Denise Carr. Right now, this is the best restaurant in Anguilla, thanks to Carr’s meticulously prepared, warm, vibrant food.
It begins with a champagne cocktail in the lounge, and ends with a fine rum or brandy. But in between is one of the great experiences in the Caribbean, with French-Bahamian food and some of the best service you’ll find anywhere (Caribbean or otherwise). A bucket-list dining experience.
Sheer Rocks, Antigua
Set on a cliff below the Cocobay resort, this is Antigua’s must-visit restaurant. Exquisitely prepared seafood combine with Antigua’s most beautiful setting. The best bet is to come here at sunset, when you’ll be torn between looking at the sky and tasting your food.
This relatively new Nassau eatery has a great atmosphere in a location on the outskirts of the city. The menu covers food from around the world without forgetting its Bahamian roots.
The Restaurant at Round Hill, Jamaica
The lead eatery at Jamaica’s most enchanting hotel takes traditional Jamaican dishes and ingredients and lifts them to a different stratum. The mento music doesn’t hurt, either.
If you’re going to pick one restaurant on a little island that has more than 100, you can’t go wrong here. Chef Carrie Bogar has created a beautiful, festive restaurant in an old plantation-style house that serves always-imaginative cuisine.
Coyaba, Turks and Caicos
The island of Providenciales is known largely for two things: Grace Bay Beach and excellent food. And at the top of the pack is Coyaba, whose food is wonderfully diverse, with everything from “jerk wellington freebird chicken supreme” to classic foie gras with a truffle crouton.
Le Tastevin, St Martin
Like many of its counterparts in Grand Case, this is a fusion of French and Caribbean flavors in a beachfront setting. What sets it apart is the truly warm service, beautiful plating and some over-the-moon desserts like pistachio mousse.
Sugar Mill, Jamaica
This is the restaurant at Jamaica’s tony Half Moon resort, built on the foundations of the 17th-century Running Gut Estate. In the shadow of the mill, you find Chef Christopher Golding’s “contemporary Caribbean” fare — and a sensational wine list.
Blue by Eric Ripert, Grand Cayman
The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman’s Blue By Eric Ripert is one of the most famous restaurants in the region — for two reasons. The culinary mind of Eric Ripert, and, well, very, very good food that marries France and the Caribbean, from “tuna-foie gras” to butter-poached Caribbean lobster.
Ortanique Camana Bay, Grand Cayman
The Grand Cayman outpost of Chef Cindy Hutson’s popular Coral Gables, Fla. eatery, this focuses on Hutson’s “Cuisine of the Sun,” or a focus on Caribbean flavors and produce with an exceptionally creative expression. And what is probably the Caribbean’s best ceviche.
La Palapa by Eden Roc, Dominican Republic
The Eden Roc at Cap Cana is a culinary destination in its own right, but the property’s La Palapa eatery takes top marks for its exquisite service, perfectly prepared seafood and what is one of the region’s most beautiful restaurant settings on Playa Caleton.
Jellyfish, Dominican Republic
It takes a few minutes’ drive down a dirt road to find this Jellyfish-shaped restaurant and lounge on the beach, but it’s worth the effort. This is a memorable, always-lively restaurant with the freshest, tastiest seafood in all of Hispaniola.
On the Rocks, St Barth
This is where to eat in St Barth, the flagship dining concept at the Eden Rock St Barths boutique hotel. It doesn’t hurt that the chef behind this contemporary European eatery is Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
Queen’s Garden Resort Restaurant, Saba
Hidden in a little hotel on a very small island is the Queen’s Gardens Resort, a charming boutique hotel that’s home to an even better restaurant. The eponymous eatery does everything well, particularly Saban lobster, and it also enjoys the best mountain view this side of the Pitons.
Jose Enrique, Puerto Rico
It’s an unassuming location in the gritty San Juan neighborhood of Santurce. But Chef Jose Enrique’s eponymous eatery is an important stop on any Caribbean culinary pilgrimage.
The Beach Club Restaurant, British Virgin Islands
It’s not a surprise that you’d find terrific seafood on a private island in the British Virgin Islands. What’s surprising is just how terrific it is — served right on the beach at the Cooper Island Beach Club.
Budatai, Puerto Rico
Chef Roberto Treviño is at the forefront of San Juan’s culinary renaissance, and the Asian-fusion Budatai is his masterwork. This is a stylish, chic eatery on the second floor of a small Condado building with masterful Asian cuisine with some Puerto Rican flavors thrown in, too.
Le Ti’ Coin Creole, St Martin
It’s in the outskirts of Grand Case, but it’s worth the extra steps. Carl Phillips’ Le Ti Coin Creole is a celebration of Creole cooking — Phillips takes traditional dishes from accras to colombo and gives them a haute-cuisine spin.
Le Tropicana, St Martin
Marigot’s Marina Royale is home to large yachts and, well, a lot of good restaurants along its boardwalk. But Le Tropicana is special, with superb French-Caribbean cuisine right on the water.
The Restaurant at Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, British Virgin Islands
This is the Virgin Gorda outpost of the famous Sardinian Yacht Club Costa Smeralda. Bring your boat here and dine on Mediterranean cuisine with stunning views of the North Sound.
Le Petibonum, Martinique
This beach bar in Martinique’s beach town of Le Carbet has some of the region’s most creative food — thanks to the culinary genius of Chef Guy Ferdinand, who is always experimenting with new and inventive ways to marry flavors and tastes.
At the forefront of Aruba’s new food movement is Wilhelmina, set in an old hardware store and serving jaw-dropping, marvelously plated cuisine from around the world.
La Petite Auberge Des Iles, St Martin
Set at the far corner of Marigot’s Marina Royale, this is a lovely, family-run creole eatery with some of the best fish in all of the Caribbean. This isn’t just classic creole food — it’s a Caribbean classic.
You could have an empty plate and subsist just on the views at the Four Seasons Nevis’ signature eatery. But the food lives up to the surroundings, with a playful take on traditional West Indian specialties. (It’s also home to one of the Caribbean’s best rum bars, 101 Rums).
Au Bon Vivre, Guadeloupe
This charming restaurant on the main road on the tiny island of Terre de Haut in Guadeloupe is worth the trip alone, serving delicious French-Caribbean cuisine in a historic old bulding steps from the sea.
Le Bredas, Martinique
Jean-Charles Bredas is Martinique’s most famous chef, and this is his workshop. It doesn’t hurt that it’s set in the rainforest on an enchanting hillside — almost as enchanting as the foie gras-banana millefeuille.
Lobster Alive, Barbados
The ultra-fresh lobster here is caught by the restaurant’s divers in the Grenadines and flown alive back to Barbados. But there’s more than just magnificent lobster — there is also live jazz. That leads to a simple, wonderful formula: lobster-jazz-beach. And it works every time.
Zam Zam, Dominica
There is a moment at sunset at this small beachfront Mexican eatery near Roseau, Dominica when you realize there is nowhere you’d rather be. Except here, it’s a moment you can find every night of the week.
Le Kano, Martinique
We’ve written before that Le Kano in Trois Ilets has the best accras, or codfish fritters, in the Caribbean – but they take that quality to every dish, from coconut conch to poisson a la Tahitienne, all served in an energetic, lounge setting right on the beach.
Chef Khalid Mohammed’s Chaud restaurant has been reborn, and that means the return of Trinidad and Tobago’s best restaurant, the leading fine-dining eatery in a twin-island nation known for unmatched flavors.
The Cliff at Cap, St Lucia
Like any great chef, Craig Jones is always tinkering, always imagining new expressions. But what doesn’t change is the quality of the food and the atmosphere at Cap Maison’s Cliff at Cap restaurant, serving inspired “French West Indian” fare.
Rhodes at Calabash Grenada, Grenada
Grenada’s signature restaurant is located at the Calabash Hotel and is the island’s best example of international-Grenadian fusion cuisine, from pumpkin and coconut risotto to a shrimp and callaloo tartlet.
Hotel Le Toiny Restaurant, St Barth
On an island where seeing and being seen is everything, this is the restaurant to do it. While it’s famous for its Sunday brunch (the island’s best), the newly renamed Hotel Le Toiny Restaurant (formerly Le Gaiac) is a French Caribbean delight, with fresh, wonderful cuisine.
The Cliff, Barbados
This is the leading restaurant in Barbados — a Bajan icon. Chef Paul Owens continues to serve up inspired fusion cuisine from around the world, with an emphasis on fresh seafood.
This is a place to be, and a place to meet, at lunch or dinner in Barbados, with simply fantastic food, serving everything from parmesan-crusted barracuda to cajun mahi mahi.
Le Poisson Rouge, Guadeloupe
This eclectic, funky, remarkable restaurant at the Tendacayou eco-lodge is hidden in the leafy hills above Deshaies, Guadeloupe. But the climb is worth it — this is a rare place in the Caribbean, with the sound of coqui frogs and twilight and absolutely astonishing French Caribbean food. Simply put, this is an engaging place.
Baoase Culinary Beach Restaurant, Curaçao
You can’t beat the setting here in all of Curaçao, an exotic, tropical, lagoon environment. And the food is outstanding, too, though your best bet is the restaurant’s five-course Baoase Tasting Menu.
Santaella, Puerto Rico
This San Juan eatery is set in a former hardware store and has quickly become one of the capital’s hottest spots, thanks to the culinary genius of Chef Jose Santaella.
El Faro Grill, Mexico
The Grand Residences Riviera Cancun has brought a new level of luxury to the Mexican Caribbean — but it’s also brought a new level of cuisine under the guidance of French-born Chef Yann Cozic.
Luca, Grand Cayman
Inside the Caribbean Club boutique hotel is Luca, a wonderfully-designed space with classic, faithful Italian cuisine with a Caymanian twist. You can’t miss the house-made pastas (especially the lobster ravioli).