A chocoholic’s guide to the Caribbean


By Sarah Sekula, Published on usatoday.com

Not many things trump an island getaway. Here’s one that does: a chocolate-filled island getaway. And the Caribbean islands have much to offer when it comes to the beloved cacao bean. Here, you’ll come across a storied history, chocolate factories and dedicated chocolatiers. In other words, it’s not hard to find your sweet spot.

Hotel Chocolat, St. Lucia

If you’ve watched The Bachelor recently, you might recognize this boutique hotel nestled among the cocoa groves on St. Lucia. And chances are, upon entering the on-site restaurant, Boucan, you’ll be in a decadent daze. Here, you can chow down on cacao-inspired cuisine like cacao ravioli; citrus salad with white-chocolate dressing; and chocolate soup topped with banana, caramel and toasted almond. Even the mahogany floors in the rooms will make you think of chocolate. You won’t be in your room for long, though. Try the tree-to-bar experience where guests select ripe cocoa pods from the trees and create their own chocolate bars. Plan a visit for September when the island-wide chocolate story is told through Chocolate Heritage Month. hotelchocolat.com/uk/boucan

Cocobel Chocolates, Trinidad

The owner of this shop, Isabel Brash, says she often feels like Alice in Wonderland. For her, chocolate-making is an endless world of wonder and enchantment. And it’s not only an interest, it’s an obsession, or a jumbie as Trinidadians would say. You’ll likely agree once you see her artisanal concoctions. With beans from her brother’s Rancho Quemado Estate, Brash transforms cocoa beans into chocolate and creates striking flavors like mango pepper and dark chocolate with guava cheese and vanilla-infused white chocolate. It’s all done in the chocolate kitchen at her house, which she designed and built (she’s also a trained architect). This might explain why her creations are so intricate and utterly perfect. cocobelchocolate.com

Chocolate Festival of Belize, Belize

There’s more to Toledo than dramatic waterfalls, Mayan temples and world-class fishing spots. It also has a longstanding cocoa-producing history, and it all culminates in May during the Chocolate Festival. Here you can sip specially brewed chocolate stout while listening to steel-pan music, get to know the chocolate producers themselves and sample chocolates flavored with organic orange peel and baalam nut. Also for sale are powdered cacao, baking chocolate, homemade cocoa-butter lip balm and cocoa-butter soaps. And don’t forget to sample the dark chocolate mixed with bacon bits. chocolatefestivalofbelize.com

Ah Cacao Real Chocolate, Cancun

This chocolate cafe is named after the legendary Mayan leader, Ah Cacao. Much like him, the chocolate here rules. Sit a spell for a cup of Mayan hot chili chocolate, spicy chocolate ice cream, chocolate mousse, killer brownies, milkshakes, chocolate-infused mochas or the hot cocoa, which consists of cinnamon, orange zest, chile pasilla, nutmeg and vanilla. For an extra kick, order the espresso, which includes a hefty chunk of dark chocolate. The heavenly aromas and the prime people-watching will have you lingering for hours. They even share some of their mouth-watering recipes. Just ask. www.ahcacao.com/en

Agapey Chocolate Factory, Barbados

Add a bit of Willy Wonka-style magic to your vacation with a visit to this factory. Not only will you score an interactive guided tour, but you’ll also stuff your face with dark chocolate, sample Barbadian Plantation Reserve cane sugar, get schooled on the origins of chocolate and check out the bean-to-bar process. According to the factory, only about 50 companies in the world are bean-to-bar producers, and Agapey is one of them. agapey.com