If you’re looking for another excuse to traverse the Caribbean this year, food festivals that celebrate everything from locally caught lobster to rare-aged rum to handmade chocolate may provide just that. Events that celebrate the best of Caribbean food and drink can be found in every corner of the region. Head to Barbados, St. Lucia, Grenada, the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands – among many others – for their creative takes on centuries of culinary tradition.

Lobster Fest

Every November, as Americans gather together around Thanksgiving turkeys, those who live in the Virgin Islands are celebrating their own national delicacy: lobster. And at the Anegada Lobster Fest, every conceivable variety of the crustacean is on the menu. Vendors serve up freshly caught Anegada spiny lobster in citrusy ceviche, pasta salad, lobster bisque or coated in butter and grilled in foil.

This year’s festival, which will run from November 30th to December 1st, marks the sixth annual iteration of the event. Visitors are encouraged to ride safari buses or taxis around the remote coral island, where they can purchase lobster “samplers,” platters and rum drinks from participating restaurants.

Rum, Rum and more Rum

To try more different types of rum than you thought imaginable, head to Cooper Island – also in the BVI – for its yearly celebration of everything rum. 

Cooper Island Beach Club, just a stone’s throw from Tortola, hosts an annual rum fest not to be missed. This year, the event kicks off on November 16th in front of the club’s rum bar. Vendors will showcase rums from their various distilleries, and attendees will also be able to sample BVI Gin, a small-batch spirit distilled and bottled in the BVI that’s been steadily gaining in popularity over the last two years. Samantha Baker, the beach club’s resort manager, added that the festival will feature “rum-inspired” dishes and a signature rum ice cream.

But even outside of its annual festival, the beach club cares a lot about rum. Its bar has a collection of over 280 rums, making it the largest selection in the Virgin Islands, according to the club’s website. There, rum connoisseurs can find a range of “house infusions,” rare-aged rums and classic cocktails made with rum from all over the world. 

Chocolate around the region

The Caribbean has long been a mecca, if not an underrated one, for chocolate enthusiasts. This year, at least three festivals specifically devoted to cacao products will be held around the region.

First up is the Barbados Chocolate, Pastry & Wine Festival, which kicks off on October 11th. The event – true to its name – includes everything from chocolate making demos to French macaron classes to mixology sessions.

The festival also sets itself apart with a “cupcake wars” competition. The contest is open to all “bakers and cakers,” professional or otherwise, according to the festival website. Organizers even promise a celebrity judging panel will award first, second and third prizes in professional and amateur categories.

Chocolate-centric festivities continue into December with the Discover Chocolate Festival in St. Lucia. The Jade Mountain Resort, which hosts the annual event from December 10th to 15th, takes their role seriously. “Chocolate is known as the food of the gods,” the resort tells festival-goers on its website while promising “a hands-on interactive experience in the world of cacao and chocolate.”

The festival starts with a “chocolate enthused” cocktail party, complete with chocolate-inspired canapés and cocktails. The resort also offers an “alchemy of chocolate” event, which pairs wine with handmade organic chocolate from Emerald Estate Chocolate, and a chocolate truffle workshop where visitors can take home what they make. To learn more about how the history of chocolate in St. Lucia, guests can walk through the Anse Mamin plantation, which was originally a sugar cane plantation until it was converted into producing a cocoa crop.

And if two chocolate festivals weren’t enough, Grenada boasts its own chocolate event in May 2020.

Organizers of the festival explain that Mott Green and Edmond Browne, “the godfathers of modern tree-to-bar chocolate,” founded the Grenada Chocolate Company in 2000. After hundreds of years of growing cocoa for export to Europe and North America, the company functioned as Grenada’s first own chocolate factory. Then, in 2014, the chocolate festival was born.

“The Grenada Chocolate Fest celebrates all things fair trade, tree-to-bar chocolate,” the festival website says. “Through its carefully curated schedule of events, [the fest] takes festival-goers around the stunning tropical island, into the cocoa fields and behind the scenes of sustainable-run, cottage-style chocolate factories and large-scale modern factories.”

Taste of Cayman

For a food festival that dates back 32 years, foodies should plan a trip to the Cayman Islands. Next April, Taste of Cayman Food & Drink Festival will showcase Cayman’s rich culinary heritage.

Though the event now draws visitors from around the Caribbean and United States, organizers note that the festival has a humble origin story. In its first year, a group of restaurants from the Cayman Islands Restaurant Association merely met in a field for a chilli cook-off.

Today, the event features over 45 restaurants, 5,000 attendees, multiple competitions and over 18,000 portions of food, according to organizers.