Whether you go exploring coral reefs and shipwrecks off the coast of Barbuda, visit Jamaica's Blue Lagoon or visit the 17th Century city of Ponce in Puerto Rico you are guaranteed a memorable time in the Caribbean. The Caribbean islands include some of the world's most breathtaking beaches and some of the world's greatest diving and snorkelling territory. Almost all the islands of the Caribbean are a tropical paradise offering unforgettable natural sights of fertile mountains, valleys and seashores. While many of the islands are extremely popular tourist destinations and include exclusive and expensive resorts there are also plenty of affordable destinations available. Each Caribbean island also has its own unique culture and heritage, often displayed in its glorious European influenced architecture.
The Caribbean is a region of the Americas consisting of the Caribbean Sea, its islands, and the surrounding coasts located south east of North America, east of Central America, and to the north and west of South America. The area comprises more than 7,000 islands, islets and reefs. The West Indies consists of the Antilles, divided into the larger Greater Antilles which bound the sea on the north and the Lesser Antilles to the south and east.
The name Caribbean is named after the Caribs, one of the dominant Amerindian groups in the region at the time of European arrival in the late 15th Century. The name the West Indies refers to the Christopher Columbus idea that he had landed in the Indies, ie south east Asia, when he had actually reached the Americas.
The Caribbean Islands have a distinctive history influenced heavily by colonialism and slavery and the mass production of items such as sugar, cocoa and tobacco. The British ruled West Indies eventually were united by the United Kingdom into a West Indies Federation. These now independent countries, such as Jamaica, which were once part of the federation still have a unified cricket team which also includes South American Guyana, another former British colony.
Flights to the Caribbean are plentiful from the US and Europe. Puerto Rico is one of the best connected islands with direct flights available from major European cities and South and North America and to other major Caribbean destinations. Of course, the Caribbean is a favourite destination for cruise ships with the Bahamas, Barbados and Jamaica among the more popular ports in the region. Inter island ferries are numerous too.
English is spoken widely throughout the Caribbean except Martinique and Guadeloupe where French is dominant. Creole and hundreds of local patois dialects are also spoken.
Delicious seafood is abundant in the Caribbean, often served highly spiced with rice, beans, yams, breadfruit or plantain. Traditional Caribbean cooking incorporates French, Spanish, African, Creole, Indian and British culinary styles. The mouth watering range of tropical fruits include banana, pawpaw, pineapple, coconut, sweetsops and papaya. Rum and beer are typical drinks. Spicy jerk is a typical tasty West Indian dish using marinated and slow cooked chicken, pork or fish.
The Caribbean is the best region in the world for diving with popular destinations including Bonaire, Grand Cayman, Caicos and St. Croix. Sailors fall in love with the Grenadines and the British Virgin Islands. Snorkelers recommend Antigua and St John. Aruba and Curacao are popular windsurfing destinations.
Antigua and sister island Barbuda have a beach for every day of the year. Antigua's population is 65,000 and with Barbuda home to just 1,300 people, it's never hard to escape the crowds.
The most eastern Caribbean Island Barbados was known as Little England and the British colonial influence can still be seen in the popularity of cricket and high teas as well as its beautiful architecture. A very popular island for families with superb facilities and attractions.
Famed for its friendly welcoming atmosphere and reputedly a population of over 70 nationalities. Curacao includes the fascinating town of Willemstad, a World Heritage site. Excellent snorkelling and diving sites.
Lush, mountainous island, part of the Leeward Islands. Often referred to as the Emerald Island of the Caribbean, due both to its resemblance to coastal Ireland and to the Irish descent of many of its early European settlers.
Pear-shaped island in the western Caribbean, between Martinique and St Vincent known for its scenic beauty, and especially for the twin peaks of the Pitons in the southwest. The sea has coral reefs for divers and snorkelers.
Jamaica is the home of reggae music and some stunning lively towns and natural attractions. Montego Bay and the world famous Blue Lagoon are just some of the stunning attractions. Excellent snorkelling and sailing.
Previously known as Saint Christopher, St Kitts, along with sister island Nevis, forms the nation of Saint Kitts and Nevis. St Kitts is home to Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Hotels and accommodation range from ultra expensive luxury to mid price basic but one thing is universal wherever you stay you will always be near the ocean. A choice of lively resorts to secluded hideaways are available. Check Review Centre reviews for some tips on other hot resorts and accommodation in places like the Bahamas.
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