Here's my picks for the best authentic Caribbean-related gifts to brighten any holiday or occasion -- or just to bring home rather than that same old t-shirt or gift-shop shot glass!
© Sea Turtle Survival League
Want to make someone feel good at the holidays, and feel like you did something good yourself? Adopt an endangered sea turtle
on behalf of the person you love. The Caribbean Conservation & Sea Turtle Survival League, a Florida-based nonprofit group dedicated to saving turtles across the Caribbean, will give you an adoption certificate, a logo decal and sea-turtle magnet, Sea Turtle Conservation Guide, and a one-year subscription to its newsletter for a donation of $25 or more.
© Bob Curley
Angostura bitters -- a secret mix of herbs and spices used as a cocktail mixer and cure-all for a variety of ailments -- is made in Trinidad
by the House of Angostura
, which also produces local rums. Perhaps the most famous drink made with Angostura bitters is the Manhattan
, a mix of bitters, whiskey, and sweet vermouth. A small bottle of bitters fits neatly into your luggage, making it an ideal holiday gift from the islands.
© Robert Curley, 2007
The Caribelle Batik Factory on St. Kitts
, located in an old sugar plantation, is bursting with colorfully dyed fabrics and clothing, from sarongs to dresses to pillow covers and wall hangings. Prices are pretty reasonable, too, so you can bring home a unique gift without breaking the bank. If you can't make it out to the factory there's also a nice retail store in the Kittsian capital of Basseterre.
Androsia is a batik fabric and clothing manufacturer located on the island of Andros in the Bahamas. Androsia has a complete line of women's, men's, and children's batik clothing, resort wear, and cruise wear as well as accessories, home goods, batik fabric sold by the yard, and fabric fat quarters for quilting.
© Caribbean Tastes
Caribbean Tastes can put together a custom gift basket stuffed with Caribbean goods like rum, spices, fruit, and more. St. John Spice
can ship you some Virgin Island flavors straight from Cruz Bay, while the Caribbean Trading Company
spices up its gift baskets with habanero infused hot sauces, mustard, and other treasures from Puerto Rico
© St. Nicholas Abbey
Other than sunshine, the Caribbean's most famous export is rum, and this liquor distilled from molasses (a byproduct of sugar=cane cultivation) remains the most popular souvenir for Caribbean travelers
. Rhum shops are popular throughout the Caribbean, so when you give the gift of rum you truly are providing a taste of authentic Caribbean culture. You can often visit the distilleries where these strong spirits are made: When in Barbados
, pick up a bottle of Mount Gay Rum
, first produced in 1703, or the connoisseurs' choice, St. Nicholas Abbey Rum. If you are in Bermuda
, you'll need Gosling's to make a Dark n' Stormy. Puerto Rico
is home to Bacardi, known for its light rums. You can find local rums in just about every Caribbean island.
Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons
Made from the peels of the laraha fruit grown on Curacao
(a type of bitter orange), this liqueur is famous for giving color to drinks like the Blue Hawaiian and the blue margaritas you'll find at many bars. The blue variety is the most famous, but in fact the liquor is colorless when distilled, so you can buy Curacao that is green, red, clear, orange, or flavored with coffee, chocolate, or rum raisin.
© Dypresco Products
Guava cheese doesn't actually contain any cheese -- it's the quirky name for an authentic treat found in Caribbean islands like Trinidad
and made of fresh guava and cane sugar, plus flavorings like cinnamon or lime juice.
© Bob Curley
The Guavaberry shop in Philipsburg, St. Maarten
is one of the island's most popular tourist destinations and the best place to pick up a bottle of St. Maarten's folk liqueur, made from a rare and bitter local berry found in the island's interior. In addition to rum blended with guavaberries, the shop stocks guavaberry honey, hot sauces, and other products.
© Island Charms
Got a favorite Caribbean island you want to keep close to your heart? Island Charms produces original jewelry crafted in the shape of islands like Anguilla
, Grand Cayman
, St. Croix
, St. Martin
, and St. Thomas
, with more on the way. Made of sterling silver or 14k gold, the islands are adorned with Swarovski crystals denoting the location of capitals or major attractions. They can be worn as charms or necklaces.
© Pamela Jones
Singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett
is the personification of laid-back Caribbean cool, and his "Christmas Island" CD will warm up even the chilliest winter day. The 1996 release includes originals like "A Sailor's Christmas" and covers of standards like "I'll Be Home for Christmas."
A Guide to Jimmy Buffett's Caribbean