The islands of the Caribbean Sea or West Indies are an extensive archipelago in the far west of the Atlantic Ocean, mostly strung between North and South America. They've long been known as a resort vacation destination for honeymooners and retirees and are a major area for cruise ships, but a small movement toward eco-tourism and backpacking has started to open up the Caribbean to more independent travel. With year-round good weather (with the occasional but sometimes serious exception of hurricane season in the late summer and early fall), promotional air fares from Europe and North America, and hundreds of islands to explore, the Caribbean offers something for almost everyone.
Countries and territories
Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, often grouped as the Greater Antilles, are by far the largest islands in the area and the most visited by travellers. The Caribbean also includes the Lucayan Archipelago to the north, which includes the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the Lesser Antilles, a group of much smaller islands to the east.
- Antigua and Barbuda
- British Virgin Islands
- Saint Martin
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Sint Eustatius
- U.S. Virgin Islands
Not in the Caribbean
These countries are not technically in the Caribbean, but are considered culturally part of it
- Port of Spain
- San Juan
- Santiago de Cuba
- Santo Domingo
- Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park
- Citadelle Henri Christophe and Palais Sans Souci
- Gran Parque Natural Topes de Collantes
- Jardines del Rey
- Maracas National Park
- Reserva de la Biosfera Sierra del Rosario
- La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site
The Caribbean islands were first inhabited by the Arawak Indians, then were invaded by a more aggressive tribe, the Caribs. Unfortunately, neither could appreciate their victory forever, although the Arawaks may have had a quiet reign of nearly two millennia. Then the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French, Danish, and British arrived, after which the Carib population steeply declined due to various factors. The islands have known many historic battles and more than a few pirate stories.
- Antigua and Barbuda (ANU) from London (LGW),Manchester (MAN) by British Airways, BMI, Virgin Atlantic and from Frankfurt (FRA) by Condor
- Barbados, Bridgetown (BGI) from London, Manchester by Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Caribbean Airlines and from Frankfurt by Condor
- Cuba from London (LGW) by Virgin Atlantic, Air Jamaica, from Madrid (MAD) by Iberia, from Paris (CDG) by Air France and from all three by Cubana
- Grenada, Maurice Bishop International (GND) from UK by Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Excel from Germany Condor
- Saint Lucia, Hewanorra (UVF) from London (LGW) by Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Caribbean Airlines and from Manchester (MAN) by Virgin Atlantic
- Martinique Fort-de-France (FDF) from Paris by Air France, Air Caribes
- Tobago (TAB), from London (LGW) by British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and from Frankfurt (FRA) by Condor
- Trinidad, Port-of-Spain (POS) from London by Caribbean Airlines
- Turks & Caicos Islands (PLS), from London (LHR) through Nassau, The Bahamas
- Curaçao (CUR) From the Netherlands (AMS) by KLM, Arke fly. From Germany (DUS) by Air berlin
From the United States to
- Curaçao (CUR), Bonaire (BON) from Miami (MIA) - by Insel Air
- Curaçao, (CUR) - by American Airlines
- Aruba, (AUA) - by Delta Airlines, American Airlines, JetBlue Airways, US Airways, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and SLM
- Air Caraibes: from Paris to Guadeloupe, Martinique
- Air France: from Paris to Guadeloupe, Martinique
- Air Jamaica: London to Jamaica and Cuba
- American Airlines: from Miami to; Antigua, Aruba, Barbados, Curaçao Dominican Republic, Grand Cayman, Grenada, Jamaica, Kingston, Montego Bay, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, St. Croix, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Trinidad
- British Airways: from London (LGW) to Antigua, Barbados, Cayman Islands, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Tobago and from Manchaster to Saint Lucia.
- Caribbean Airlines: from London to Barbados, Saint Lucia, London - Antigua, Belfast - Tobago (see BWIA Route map)
- Cayman Airways: from the Cayman Islands to multiple gateways in the US
- Condor: from Frankfurt (FRA), see Condor Route map
- Cubana: To Cuba from Madrid, Paris, London
- Iberia: from Madrid to Havana, San Juan de Puerto Rico and Santo Domingo.
- Insel Air Direct flights from Miami and Inter-Island travel. Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Haiti, Las Piedras, Miami, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, St. Maarten, Suriname, and Valencia.
- JetBlue to Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Saint Maarten, Puerto Rico, Aruba, Saint Lucia and Barbados mostly to New York and Boston and some also to Washington DC, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale.
- Virgin Atlantic: from London to Antigua, Barbados, Grenada, Havana, Jamaica, St Lucia, Tobago and from Manchester to Barbados and St Lucia
- WestJet: from Lester B. Pearson Toronto International Airport to Princess Juliana Airport.
Numerous companies offer cruises, charters, and boat tours in the Caribbean.
- LIAT has connections between most of the eastern Caribbean
- Caribbean Airlines , a Trinidad-based offers flights between islands and Canada, US, Europe and other airport in South America
- American Eagle is another notable air carrier between islands
- REDjet a Barbados-based airlines offers budget flights between Jamaica, Antigua, St. Lucia, Barbados, Trinidad, and Guyana. As of March 21, 2012, they are having financial difficulties and have suspended all flights.
Sail Caribbean Yachts offers all of the best Sailing Boats, Motor Boats, Catamarans and Gulets for exploring the Caribbean sea.
When the French colonizers gave names to places in the Caribbean, they apparently lacked imagination when it came to volcanoes. You can namely find a volcano named Soufrière ("sulfur place" in French) on Guadeloupe, Montserrat and St. Vincent and Grenadines. On Dominica, Haiti and St. Lucia it is the name of a town. Most of the Caribbean being geologically active, you probably won't have to travel far from these towns to see some...soufrière.
There are many things to see in the Caribbean, but the islands are famous for the "3 S's" Sun, Sea and Sand.
- Seven Miles Beach in the Cayman Islands;
- Arashi beach and Baby Beach in Aruba;
- Downtown Havana;
- Old city of San Juan, Puerto Rico;
- Dutch Colonial Houses of Curaçao (UNESCO heritage);
- Slave huts and Salt Plans of Bonaire;
- The shortest runway on earth on Saba Island;
- Nelson Dockyards and English Harbor in Antigua and Barbuda;
- The pitons in Saint Lucia;
- The Caribbean Indians (The last ones) territory in Dominica;
Two closely related sports that are popular in the Caribbean are baseball and cricket. Baseball is very popular in much of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, while cricket is the more popular sport in the English-speaking Caribbean.
Local cuisine is usually very well seasoned whether the outcome be savory, sweet or spicy. Don't be afraid to ask about what you're eating but be open minded when patronizing rural eateries where the cuisine is not tailored for international palates.