A visit to the Caribbean means letting go! Immerse yourself in the colourful streets and tropical landscape, amongst the local personalilties – Caribbean life is captivating.
The Caribbean people are a friendly bunch. Their history lies in countries across the globe and they embrace their African, Asian, Dutch, English, French and Spanish ancestry. The heritage and tropical island landscape clearly influence the lifestyle, attitudes and customs which incorporate music, dance and food through festival and carnival.
Did you know some of the Caribbean Islands have more public holidays than most? In the UK we have 7, In Barbados 10, In Antigua 11 and in Saint Lucia a whopping 13. This number of holidays is indicative of how much the West Indians love life.
Caribbeans are, as the French would say, a little ‘laissez faire!’ Islanders feel free to choose how things are done and more importantly, when they get done. This makes a visit to the islands a totally unique experience as ‘Island Time’ takes over and ‘no worries’ leads to friendly faces and relaxed attitudes that prove everything good in life is worth waiting for.
Unsurprisingly, Caribbean food is a fusion of flavours and tastes. Traditional dishes like Pepperpot Stew, from Antigua and Barbuda and Bajan Fishcakes have become national favourites. Other specialities include Jamaican Curried Goat, plantain chips and for the sweet tooth Nutmeg Ice-Cream, a total taste sensation, which you can buy straight from the ice-cream maker.
Given their love of life, food is an integral part of the island day and the fresher the produce the better. Local fruits, ripe for the picking and tasting, include starfruit, guava, mango and papaya, pineapple and of course bananas can be bought from local street vendors and markets. These perfectly succulent fruits are made into juices, smoothies and cocktails which are vibrant and delicious – take your pick.
Also grown on the islands are Cacao trees the magical source of chocolate. Visitors can visit and tour the Cacao fields and chocolate factories to experience how this endorphin inducing delicacy is made - we recommend St Lucia, Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago. For something a little different you could also sample Cocoa tea which is served in roadside carts and the finest restaurants – the tea is steeped in hot milk before being served with a spoonful of sugar. Coffee is also grown across the Caribbean with Jamaica’s Blue Mountain being the most renowned area to visit.
Not to be missed is Fish Friday. Friday evening across many venues is a festival of fish. Seafood is cooked on open fires on beaches, in gardens and in the streets. In Barbados, Oistins Fish Fry is famous. You can choose from an array of fish and have it grilled or fried depending on the vendor and it will be cooked right in front of your eyes and will be as fresh as can be. In true festival style there is music and craft market stalls and we recommend you accompany your food with a beer as a perfect pairing. In Grenada we can recommend the fishing village of Gouyave the fish cakes are fabulous and in Saint Lucia, Anse La Raye Fish Fry is alive with colourful boats bringing home their catch, impromptu street stalls serving a plethora of seafood delights and musicians providing the soundtrack of Caribbean life. Staying elsewhere you won’t be disappointed Fish Fridays or Frydays take place almost anywhere, just ask around.
The Caribbean is synonymous with Rum. There are seven types of rum: light, gold, dark, spiced, flavoured, overproof and premium and they are all a treasure to behold. Many of the islands make rum with the Authentic Caribbean Rum Marquee including Barbados, Antigua & Barbuda, Grenada, Saint Lucia and Jamaica.
A Rum Distillery tour shows how the best ingredients are transformed with expertise, time and blending into amazing rums, some tours allow you to create your own blend and others provide tastings – there is literally a rum tour for everyone and they are almost as popular as the drink itself. To quote Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean, “not all treasure is silver and gold, mate” he must have been talking about the rum.
At the Colony Club by Elegant Hotels, Barbados boast a Rum Vault which houses local specialities and rums from around the world. For rum aficionados there are private dining experiences with rum pairings that takes appreciation to another level.
For the novice rum drinker, a good place to start it the Rum Punch, rum mixed with fruit juice and lots of slices of fresh fruit. One of our favourite places to sip cocktails whilst the sun sets is Veronica’s at Blue Waters Resort, Antigua the aptly named Antigua Mama which is a blend of light rum, coconut rum, blue curaco and pineapple juice is delicious. If you fancy mixing your own cocktail then attend a lesson and blend your perfect combination.
Obviously if you are not a rum fan, other drinks are available including local ginger beers, home grown coffee and, as we mentioned earlier, the fresh fruit juices are wonderful.
Caribbean Music and Dance
With every celebration and holiday, you will find music and dance. Since originating in Jamaica in the 1960s, following the Ska era, Reggae has always been associated with the Caribbean but visitors will find so much more rhythm and beat as they travel.
Latin music is popular – think rumba, mambo and salsa. The beats are mesmeric and cause bodies to sway and feet to dance. At festivals, Steel Pan music will accompany the celebrations and Calypso is integral as it considered to be the official music of Carnival. The modern beats of Rapso and soca are often referred to as ‘party music' the islands definitely know how to party.
Music is the soundtrack to life it will find you as you explore the Caribbean from the shops, to the street corners, to the beach, to the bars from dawn until…dawn!
Caribbean Holiday Facts
Flight Time: 9hrs (average flight time from London)
Fly From: Airports across the United Kingdom
Caribbean Weather: From May to September expect temperatures between 27 - 32 degrees with June and September being hottest. From October to April temperatures range from 21 – 27 degrees. Island averages vary so for more specifics check each one individually.
Best Time to Travel: November to March. The temperatures are a little cooler but there is less rain than in the summer months and it is the perfect time to get away from the UK’s cold, wet and windy weather.
Time Difference: - 4/5 hrs depending on your island destination.
Language: English is widely spoken. There are a number of other languages given the islands’ history and locals speak Creole and Patois, a blend of languages that has evolved over time.
- “Wah Gwaan” – a casual greeting akin to What’s up?
- “Lickkle more” – goodbye or see you later
- “Inna di morrows” – see you tomorrow
- “Mi soon come” – I’ll be right back
- “Every tin criss” – everything is cool or fine
- “She one” – great, wonderful
Every Caribbean island is unique and very special, from Antigua and Barbuda in the east to Cuba and Jamaica in the west this is just a taste of what you can expect. Talk to our Caribbean experts who will guide you to your perfect island destination and hotel so you can immerse yourself in island life.