Local flavors sear the smells and colors of a destination into my memory in a way not even photos always can. When it comes to traveling, food is an integral part of my experience.

On my recent Caribbean cruise with Princess Cruises, a part of me was sad knowing the most time I would have in any port of call was 6-8 hours. Personally, as I hope you know from reading my blog, I love to spend days (and sometimes weeks!) in a place, traveling deeply – if not living – there. Six to eight hours is naturally not enough for me as a traveler, but I tried to make the most of it!

Many of my meals ‘in port’ were provided on the tours I took, but I tried hard to find more local flavors when I could. Here are the five of the snacks/treats I enjoyed throughout my Caribbean stops that I’m still craving now – and which I’ll probably travel back for!

Plantain Chips

It’s possible that my love of tortilla chips as the ultimate food delivery system is now in contention. Plantain chips were a delicious substitute I had never tried before our port stop in Cartagena, Colombia.

Fresh ceviche served with plantain chips.
Fresh ceviche served with plantain chips… yum!

Served with a fresh, citrus ceviche, the sweetish, thick cut slices were a perfect scooping tool. I also munched on them after finishing the ceviche and found them appropriately crunchy, not-too-salty, and almost healthy enough to consider the perfect snack. Vendors on the street sold small bags (admittedly way overpriced), but this is the one snack I might actually try to make at home.

Cacao Beans

Cacao fruit and nibs
Yes, it looks weird. Sometimes, the weirdest food is the most delicious!

In Costa Rica, our guide Celimo gave us a real treat I wouldn’t have thought to even try. On our way back from the sloth sanctuary, he pulled a Cacao fruit out of his bag. After teaching us about the tree and fruit, he cracked it open right there on the bus and allowed us to smell the fruit around the cacao nibs. I was the first to grab a cacao nib from the fruit and suck on its delicious, tangy flesh.

Holding tho cacao fruit and the sweet seed treat.
Holding tho cacao fruit and the sweet seed treat.

He then brought out another snack – cacao beans coated in caramel and sugar. These crunchy, sweet, bitter snacks were delicious. They had the texture of caramel popcorn but the subtle bitterness of rich, dark chocolate.

Related: Cacao in Costa Rica – A Colorful Flavor and History

Shave Ice

To be honest, I couldn’t tell you the last time I had shave ice; I remember having some when I was 4 or 5 years old and disliking the sharp, sugary flavors.

I had read in advance that shave ice was one of the delicious treats you could buy from street vendors in Cartagena, though I also saw vendors in the Casca Viejo, Panama City. Both days were swelteringly hot – perfect for a quick, cheap treat with local syrups drizzled over freshly shaved ice in a cup. Common syrup flavors included naranja (orange), limon (lemon/lime), cola, and what I think was either papaya or peach.

Coconut Water

After my first sip of coconut water straight from the coconut, I was ruined forever. No box of Vita Coco is gonna do it for me now!

Fresh coconut water
Fresh coconut water, in the Jamaican jungle!

First of all, can we comment on how that coconut is HUGE? I had to cradle it with one arm to get the perfect Instagram shot you all love. But, that means it was full of about a gallon of coconut water (not a scientific ratio, just my best guess!). It was delicious, fresh, and perfect for rehydrating as I enjoyed a leisurely ride down the Martha Brae in Jamaica.

Rum Punch

Yeah, I know the title says ‘treats,’ but like coconut water, some of the drinks I had in the Caribbean were instantly crave-inducing.

Rum Punch in the Jamaican jungle.
Rum Punch in the Jamaican jungle.

In both Aruba and Jamaica, I had the chance to try drinks that were variants of rum punch, and both were delicious. Red fruit juice, light rum, and a hot day are the perfect recipe for this thirst-quenching drink. Each part of the Caribbean mixes it differently; it’s the kind of cocktail you can drink wherever you go and never get tired of!

It’s hard to pick a favorite country to go back to when each had its own delicious flavors. I’m still dreaming about Jamaica and Costa Rica though…

Have you ever tried these treats? Which is your favorite?

[info]I spent 10 days aboard the Coral Princess on their Panama Canal cruise itinerary. You can see more on the Princess Cruises website, and book your trip here. This post was created in partnership with Princess Cruises.[/info][success]If you enjoyed this story, check out others about my cruise:

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