The Caribbean is commonly known as one of the best places in the world to go diving, snorkelling and relaxing at one of its many beaches. It’s also a popular stop-off for cruises. Of course, there’s more to the Caribbean than just beaches, beaches and more beaches – head a little further inland and you’ll discover interesting historical cities and mountainous areas with great trekking opportunities. Lots of people come here on package trips but for the independent traveller who likes to explore more, countries like Cuba and the Dominican Republic are big enough to spend weeks travelling around.
If you would like to travel between the islands, one of the great ways to travel around the Caribbean is by ferry or boat. For more information please read the article about Caribbean ferries. Some islands can not be reached by ferry though, but there are quite a few airlines like LIAT which serve many islands in the Caribbean region.
The Caribbean is the area which includes the Caribbean Sea, which is located to the southeast of the Gulf of Mexico, and to the north of South America. Many of the 7,000 or more islands form a huge arch around the Caribbean Sea, making it a natural borderline. North of the this line, the Bahamas are also regarded as part of the Caribbean. In the north of the Caribbean you can find the bigger islands, like Cuba, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico. A string of smaller islands runs from Puerto Rico to the mainland of Venezuela. Many of the countries surrounding the Caribbean Sea also have islands in front of their coast. At the center of the sea, you will find only a couple of remote islands, sometimes nothing more than rocks.
The Caribbean can be divided into two subregions, the Bahamas and the Antilles.
The Antilles form the greater part of the West Indies. The Antilles are subdivided into the:
Greater Antilles (Cuba, Hispanionala, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Cayman Islands)
The Lesser Antilles are again subdivided into:
Leeward Islands: US Virgin Islands (St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix, Water Island), British Virgin Islands (Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, Jost Van Dyke), Anguilla, Saint Martin/Sint Maarten, Saint-Barthélemy, Saba, Sint Eustatius, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Redonda, Montserrat and Guadeloupe.
Windward Islands: Barbados, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Leeward Antilles: Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao and a handful of Venezuelan archipelagos like Los Roques (Isla Margarita is not included!).
Anguilla The Valley
Antigua and Barbuda Saint John’s
British Virgin Islands Road Town
Cayman Islands George Town
Dominican Republic Santo Domingo
Grenada Saint George’s
Montserrat Plymouth (official), Brades (interim)
Netherlands Antilles (until 10-10-2010) Willemstad
Puerto Rico San Juan
Saba The Bottom
Saint Barthélemy Gustavia
Saint Kitts and Nevis Basseterre
Saint Lucia Castries
Saint Martin Marigot
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Kingstown
Sint Eustatius Oranjestad
Sint Maarten Philipsburg
Trinidad and Tobago Port of Spain
Turks and Caicos Islands Cockburn Town
United States Virgin Islands Charlotte Amalie
Sights and Activities
Although compared to most other regions/continents in the world there are almost no real big cities, several are worth a visit of their own, most notably Havana. Others are mentioned because of the fact that they (can) act as a gateway to the Caribbean, more than other places.
Montego Bay, Jamaica
Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Montserrat is not your typical Caribbean destination, but more so for the adventurous types who would like to experience something different. During an eruption of the Soufriere Volcano in 1995 and another one in 1997 almost half of the island was destroyed, including the capital Plymouth.
Trinidad is one of the best preserved historical cities in Cuba.
With beautiful warm water and generally fantastic visibility, Caribbean Scuba Diving and Snorkelling is an experience you don’t want to miss.
Getting There and Around
There are just a few options to get to the Caribbean by ferry, mostly options from either Venezuela or from Florida. By far the best way is to fly in from places in the USA, Canada, Central America, South America or Europe.
Most of the cruises leave from Miami and take around seven to ten days, though there is a large variety of other US ports one can take a cruise from. This popular zone is divided into three areas. First there is the Western Caribbean including Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula, South Florida and the Keys, Jamaica and Grand Cayman. The islands of the Eastern Caribbean compromise Puerto Rico, Leeward and the Virgin islands. And finally there are the islands in the Southern Caribbean which covers Martinique, Saint Lucia, Dominica and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines also passing by Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba and Curacao. It’s more a relaxed way of getting around if you like spending some time on the islands as well as having everything arranged for you, including transport and full board. You can also travel around yourself on some of the Caribbean Ferries.