As one of the first regions in the world to start welcoming international tourists back after containing the coronavirus, the Caribbean is no longer off limits to most travelers. But just because some countries have reopened their borders doesn’t mean we’re all ready to hop on the first plane. You can still recreate the best parts of a Caribbean vacation at home with these recipes, playlists, and other local activities from some of our favorite islands.
10 a.m. Bake some spiced rum mango bread with candied ginger
With hundreds of varieties of mangoes on the island, St. Lucia’s Jade Mountain Resort typically hosts a Mango Madness Festival each summer with a series of dinners and organic mango harvesting tours. This year, however, it’s going virtual. Together with special guest chef Nina Compton, who grew up in St. Lucia, the resort’s James Beard Award–winning chef Allen Susser and executive sous chef Elijah Jules will be live-streaming mango cooking classes, mixology lessons, and more to the resort’s Facebook page and YouTube on July 8 starting at 4 p.m.
“Growing up in St. Lucia, mangoes were always the indication of blissful summer days,” Compton says. “Mango is a staple in so many local dishes on the island.”
While you’ll have to wait for her recipes, you can get a headstart on the mango madness by baking this spicy mango bread for breakfast from the Jade Mountain Gastronomy cookbook right now. (While you eat, we recommending tuning into Jade Mountain’s live stream of St. Lucia’s Pitons to complete the experience.)
(Makes 16 slices)
Based on recipe from Jade Mountain Gastronomy
- ½ cup butter
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 large egg, slightly beaten
- 1 ripe mango, diced
- 1 ripe mango, pureed
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 tablespoons Chairman’s Reserve Spiced Rum, or other spiced rum
- 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground star anise
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup walnuts, chopped
- 2 tablespoons diced candied ginger
- ½ cup raisins
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and coat a 9 x 5 x 3-inch nonstick loaf pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg, diced mango, mango puree, vanilla, lime juice, and rum. In a separate large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, star anise, and nutmeg. Add the mango mixture to the flour mixture, stirring until the dry ingredients are just incorporated. Stir in the walnuts, candied ginger, and raisins.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes before serving.
11 a.m. Don your flowiest caftan
Buy Now: Trefle Designs Blondell Dress, $160, trefledesigns.com
Caftans may be ideal resort wear for beach and pool days, but they’re also perfect for being comfy indoors during the summer months. If you don’t already have a closet full of loose and airy dresses, purchase one from Trefle Designs, a swim- and resort-wear line based in the British Virgin Islands. In addition to dressing celebrities like Beyoncé and her daughter Blue Ivy, owner Kristin Frazer is also known for designing the BVI Olympic team’s outfit for the 2016 Rio opening ceremony.
11:30 a.m. Time to catch up on your reading
If you have a lounge chair outdoors, grab some sunscreen, a brimmed hat, and a big stack of summer reads. If not, set up shop in your sunniest corner inside. To truly transport yourself, choose a book about the Caribbean by a Caribbean author. Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place is a 96-page essay about colonialism’s effects on Antigua, the island where she grew up. If you’re feeling ambitious, dive into Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings. The Jamaican author’s 700+ page epic set around the 1976 assassination attempt on Bob Marley is not a typical beach read (the New Yorker described it as a “kaleidoscopic, coke-spiked ‘Our Mutual Friend’”). But it won the Man Booker Prize, so it’s definitely worth the effort.
2 p.m. Fry up some Caribbean Accras
You’ll find fish fritters—or Caribbean Accras—on menus throughout the islands. This particular recipe comes from the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe and is made with salted codfish, which you can order online from Fresh Direct or Fultonfishmarket.com. For pepper sauces and other condiments to go with your lunch, peruse the options at Callalo Box, a Caribbean online grocery store founded by two sisters from Trinidad and Tobago.
Your lunch soundtrack: Guadeloupe has a rich culture of music from traditional Gwoka call-and-response singing and drumming to the upbeat Zouk music made popular by the band Kassav’ in the 1980s. Set this Guadeloupe Islands Spotify playlist to shuffle to explore music from a variety of Guadeloupean musicians.
3:30 p.m. Learn how Caribbean chocolate is made
Cacao can only grow in tropical regions near the equator, making the Caribbean a prime spot for chocolate. While a large majority of the world’s cocoa comes from West Africa, the Caribbean is making a name for itself in the high-quality bean-to-bar chocolate industry with producers like the Grenada Chocolate Company and Pure Chocolate in Jamaica.
Now that Airbnb has moved many of its hosts’ Airbnb Experiences online, you can take part in a virtual class with a chocolate maker in Jamaica who will walk you through the entire process step by step. From seeing how the cacao pods grow on trees to extracting the beans and fermenting the cocoa to hand-tempering the chocolate into molds, you’ll gain an understanding and a deeper appreciation for the delicious, but labor-intensive treat.
Book Now: Chocolate Origins & Create With a Maker, from $10 per person, airbnb.com
5 p.m. Make a Painkiller (or two)
Invented at the British Virgin Islands’ iconic Soggy Dollar bar in the 1970s, the Painkiller is a quintessential tropical drink. While the Soggy Dollar’s owner Daphne Henderson has never revealed her recipe, the founder of Pusser’s Rum has matched the pineapple, orange, and coconut flavors of the original drink as closely as possible.
(Makes 1 cocktail)
Based on recipe from Pusser’s Rum
- 2 ounces Pusser’s Rum
- 4 ounces pineapple juice
- 1 ounce orange juice
- 1 ounce cream of coconut
- Sprinkle of grated nutmeg
Add rum, pineapple juice, orange juice, and cream of coconut to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into glass. Sprinkle with grated nutmeg and garnish with an orange slice.
Your happy hour soundtrack: Quito Rymer is one of BVI’s most well-known musicians. Listen to his first album Caribbean Run from 1987, which is a mix of reggae, blues, ska, and rock. Then click over to the Soggy Dollar’s live web cam to pretend you’re actually on the beach at Jost Van Dyke.
7 p.m. Try a Jamaican twist on a classic for dinner
In the video above, Suzanne and Michelle Rousseau, the sisters behind Provisions: The Roots of Caribbean Cooking and Jamaica’s Summerhouse restaurant, demonstrate how to make their creamy tomato and scotch bonnet soup with pepper grilled cheese with pepper jelly. It’s not just comforting and delicious, but also vegetarian and easy to make with things you have on hand in your pantry.
Your dinner soundtrack: While you’re eating, turn on this Every Little Thing Is Gonna Be Alright Spotify playlist with hits from Jimmy Cliff, Bob Marley, and more.
8 p.m. Join a (virtual) salsa dance party
Angelina, a local San Juan dance instructor, will teach you how to salsa through her Online Airbnb Experience so you’re ready to dance all night long during your next trip to Puerto Rico. The class starts off with a quick daiquiri making lesson (it’s BYO rum, sugar, and limes) to give you some liquid courage. Then you jump right into the basics of “Salsa de Calle,” or street salsa, a more casual style of dance.
Book Now: Puerto Rican Salsa Dance Party, from $15 per person, airbnb.com
10 p.m. Unwind with a DIY aloe spa treatment
Now that you’ve worked up a sweat, you’ll want to clean up and relax a little before climbing into bed. The Ritz-Carlton Aruba’s “Misterio di Aloe” scrub is easy to replicate at home. The main ingredient of this DIY spa treatment is aloe, which grows in abundance in Aruba, and you likely already have the other supplies in your pantry.
- 1 cup aloe gel
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup coconut oil (olive oil can also be used for substitute)
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 tablespoon lemon or orange zest
Mix the fresh aloe gel together with the sugar, coconut oil, and honey. Add the lemon or orange zest last. Then in the shower, gently massage the scrub blend into the skin for three to five minutes and rinse off with warm water to reveal smooth and glowing skin. Repeat this process twice a week.
Before you drift off to sleep, tune into Aruba’s 30 Minutes of Happiness, a calming video featuring dreamy aerial shots of the island’s coastline and the soothing sounds of water lapping against its white sand beaches. It’s almost like you’re there.
Products we write about are independently vetted and recommended by our editors. AFAR may earn a commission if you buy through our links, which helps support our independent publication.