World’s Best Islands for Food 2015
Islands are often characterized by long stretches of white sand, a well-placed palm tree shading a wicker lounge, and a tall cocktail glass full of frozen daiquiri or piña colada. But the world’s best islands are so much more dynamic, varied, and, yes, delicious than just blended coconut and rum concoctions.
In our annual World's Best Awards survey, we asked readers to rank their favorite island destinations not only by how attractive their coastlines were, but also by the quality of their restaurants and food. When asked to respond to their experience on an island, many voters went to great lengths to describe favorite restaurants and memorable meals.
“[I] loved the hog fish at Lazy Days Restaurant,” said WBA voter Marlene Tyndall of the casual oceanfront eatery, where Chef Lupe will also grill, fry, blacken, or broil your personal catch-of-the-day.
One reader spoke fondly of Hanalei, Kauai’s friendly restaurants and cafes, as well as the fresh breakfasts at Hale Ho’o Maha B&B on the island’s north shore.
As is true with any trip, whether to a landlocked urban city or a breezy, Mediterranean island, so much of a place’s culture and ethnic background can be experienced through the food—late night, wine-driven dinners in Sicily, or active mornings spent surfing in Hawaii and rebooting with fresh-pressed juices.
Whatever the pace of the trip, or the size of your appetite, the World’s Most Delicious Islands guarantee to impress even the most particular taste buds.
No. 20: Anguilla
“This is a foodie paradise and beach paradise rolled into one,” observed one voter in our WBA survey. The small British isle has a prolific food scene, including upscale restaurants such as Hibernia Restaurant—which doubles as an art gallery. For a trip that’s entirely food-focused, book a room at the CuisinArt resort for rum tastings, cooking classes, and four gourmet restaurants. Barbecue is especially popular (and well-executed) here. Try family-owned B&D’s BBQ in Long Bay, which serves a mean roast chicken, and Smokey’s at the Cove.
No. 19: Kauai, Hawaii
Voters reminisced about their meals on Kauai, which included fresh papaya picked each day from a tree on the property, as well as casual cafes such as Caffé Coco, serving purple sweet potato samosas with banana chutney or Kalaheo Café & Coffee Co—head over for a South Shore Breakfast (coffee, fruit, and eggs on rice).
No. 18: Crete, Greece
All the traditional trappings of Greek cuisine can be enjoyed on Crete—stuffed grape leaves, spanakopita—but the island boasts its own original recipes including dakos, a bread salad with tomatoes, feta, olives, and herbs, and bougatsa: a cream or cheese-filled dessert pastry topped with powdered sugar and cinnamon. These Mediterranean specialties are best paired with local wines, like the evanescent white Fantaxometocho, or Kotsifali.
No. 17: Golden Isles
“Food is phenomenal,” reported one WBA voter of Georgia’s glowing barrier islands. Seek out low country cookouts (the Cloister’s sunset supper with boiled peanuts corn on the cob, and fried chicken enjoyed at gingham-covered picnic tables) and a veal roast at The Lodge on Little St. Simmons Island, served with red potatoes and asparagus.
No. 16: Florida Keys
Bohemian and so laid-back you might think everyone was asleep, the Florida Keys have seen renewed interest from travelers in recent years—thanks in part to a homey, quirky dining scene that can’t be replicated anywhere else. Stop by Harriette’s Restaurant, on Hawk’s Cay, for breakfast (think housemade key lime muffins and conch benedicts) and Pierre’s in Islamorada for hearty food any hour of the day and an impressive list of island-style cocktails (grapefruit and citrus vodkas, grapefruit juice, and lemonade) and Cuban-style cigars. Meanwhile, Casa Marina has a newly-opened RUMba bar, boasting the most expensive collection of rum in Key West.
No. 15: Vancouver Island
Chefs on Vancouver Island work closely with local farmers and artisans. The practice is evident at Sean Brennan’s Brasserie L’Ecole, as well as Sooke Harbour House, where an organic garden produces more than 200 herbs, greens, and vegetables and stars in the daily menu. Dishes have included smoked tuna with a begonia emulsion, pickled radish, cucumber, and fairytale eggplant, or a wild lettuce and sunflower seed salad mixed with garden-grown lettuces, herbs, and flowers.
No. 14: Majorca
There’s so much more to Majorca than beaches. Catalan culture thrives here, and it’s especially evident in the food. At Castell Son Claret’s restaurant, Zaranda, Madridian chef Francisco Pérez Arellano crafts haute plates like stuffed rabbit loin with snails and spinach. In the capital city Palma, the restaurant Patron Lunares serves grilled octopus in chimichurri and rice with fish, potato, and saffron aioli.
No. 13: Malta
Restaurants and bars in Malta’s capital city, Valletta, have helped revived ancient, shuttered streets. Check out Palazzo Preca, a project from sisters Ramona and Roberta inside a 16th-century space, serving classic dishes such as Spigola in mido (filleted sea bass and leeks with wine and garlic) and vitella al limone: veal in lemon sauce.
No. 12: Mykonos
Travel + Leisure voters shared fond memories of meals in Mykonos. “[I] enjoyed sipping wine, eating a Greek salad, and staring at the windmills,” said one, while another recommended specific restaurants such as Sea Sati with its white tablecloths and Greek folk music, and Nammos, a posh restaurant and night club that serves fresh fish and local wines right on the beach.
No. 11: Bali
Head to the village Ubud for the best food on the island, thanks in large part to Australian expat Janet de Neefe, who opened the thatched roof café Casa Luna, Indus Restaurant (with its views of Tjampuhan River), a cooking school, and the Ubud Food Festival, which she launched in 2015. In addition to her own ventures (try banana leaf-steamed fish) Neefe recommends Ibu Oka’s suckling pig and fusion-style cuisine at Mozaic, a sleek lounge boasting menu items like rice husk-smoked duck breast and Indian Ocean prawns on pickled radish and ginger flower.
No. 10: Oahu, Hawaii
On Oahu, you can find all kinds of food, from Asian to Zambian cuisine, served in everything from seaside shanties to white-tablecloth bistros. Wherever you eat, make sure to get a dish that features pineapple; after all, the island is home to the Dole Pineapple Plantation. Shark’s Cove Grill may be a turquoise truck parked in a gravel lot, but you won’t regret double orders of teriyaki chicken sandwiches on taro buns, topped with grilled pineapple. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Nico’s at Pier 38, a waterfront joint helmed by Chef Nicholas Chaize that serves some of the best loco moco (rice topped with eggs, burger, and mushroom-onion gravy) on the island.
No. 9: Hilton Head, South Carolina
When the first resort opened on the island almost half a century ago, it created a destination inherently designed to coax visitors into a satiated state. Robert Sustar, a T+L subscriber, noted the abundance of restaurants. “There are so many awesome restaurants on the island, you cannot get to them all in one week.” Start off at Charlie’s L’Etoile Verte—arguably the best restaurant on Hilton Head, according to locals—and order blackened redfish, local cobia, and pan-roasted Bluffton oyster stew.
No. 8: Capri
The only thing more popular than a dip in Capri’s Blue Grotto? The island’s famous gelato. Flavor favorites include stracciatella, and summery almond with Capri lemon from Buonocore. Have it as a refreshing afternoon snack, or as dessert after diner at Ristorante Aurora (try the fig and ham-stuffed pizza) or Trattoria Il Solitario: a traditional restaurant with an ivy-covered terrace and flower garden.
No. 7: Harbour Island
An arm’s reach from the northeastern tip of Eleuthera is Harbour Island, a laid-back, Bahamian retreat known for crispy fried fish dinners served with peas-and-rice. Have cocktails at the colonial plantation-style Landing’s bar, and spicy conch chili with white beans at Sip Sip, a casual bistro boasting folk paintings by Amos Ferguson and endless views of the Atlantic.
No. 6: Maldives
Not only has the Maldives received accolades for delicious, fresh fare, but also for offering outrageous, over-the-top options. At the new Maalifushi by Como—a luxurious resort of overwater bungalows and balau wood villas—guests can indulge in a traditional Maldivian Bodu Beru seafood barbecue at Madi, or simple sushi and sashimi offerings at Tai. Meanwhile, Per Aquum Niyama’s underwater restaurant Subsix (which is submerged a cool 20 feet below sea level) serves sea bass with Jaffna prawns and swimmer crab with fennel and cous cous in a blue-toned space decorated with capiz shell ceiling arrangements and anemone-inspired chairs.
No. 5: Santorini
Join the locals at authentic restaurants like Roka for mezes (fried eggplant with tomato, apple and feta pie) at the end of a day best spent exploring cave dwellings and swimming along the coast of the ancient island. End the night at Selene, a spacious restaurant helmed by Evelyn and George Hatziyanuakis. Order the rooster pastitsada with Parmesan foam, caramelized onion and tomato confit, or the equally unorthodox lamb frumenty with Greek coffee-scented butter and lamb frumenty.
No. 4: Sicily
T+L subscriber Ellen Morse said even though Sicily is off the beaten path, the food is “well worth the extra effort.” Young chefs like Giuseppe Costa are cultivating a vibrant new culinary scene with an emphasis on seafood. At Costa’s Il Bavaglino, look for rice-stuffed cuttlefish served over lentils. In Siracusa, you can enjoy impressive views from Regina Lucia (ask for a seat outdoors on the Piazza Duoumo) while dining on smoked octopus with chickpeas and sipping complimentary Prosecco.
No. 3: Maui, Hawaii
Of all the islands in the Hawaiian archipelago, Maui won the most acclaim for its memorable restaurants and bars. “There are great chefs [all] around the island,” noted one T+L reader. Others who cast their vote recalled specific restaurants, like family-owned Mama’s Fish House, with its al fresco seating and rattan dining chairs. Here, fish is caught and served within 24 hours (opah caught on the Sea Moon vessel; ahi caught by Adam reeves off the north shore). Try the local catch grilled in a ti leaf with papaya and coconut rice, sautéed in curry and coconut milk, or steamed with Hana ginger.
No. 2: St. Bart’s
Like a tiny slice of the French Riviera floating in the Caribbean, St. Barts’ has a surprisingly upmarket dining scene. Locals and resort-goers alike celebrate special occasions over candle-lit dinners at Bartolomeo, a restaurant tucked in the tropical gardens of Le Guanahani resort. Standout items on the menu include King Crab risotto with lime, raspberries, and licorice, and a fried breaded egg with porcini, quinoa, spinach, and candied ricotta.
No. 1: Nantucket
“Nantucket has no comparison,” raved one WBA voter who gave the island high marks for its restaurants and food. While the small island, a stone’s throw from Cape Cod, has its share of polished restaurants (Topper’s at The Wauwinet, which serves oysters on the half shell harvested just a few hundred yards away; the bar at the Nantucket Yacht Club that serves a contemporary list of house-infused spirits and rums) the island is probably best known for its charm and small-town appeal: think pie-eating contests on Independence Day, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies from Something Natural, and a bluefish, bacon, coleslaw, and tomato sandwich from Straight Wharf Restaurant on house-made country bread.