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, 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.
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 millenia. 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.
The Caribbean islands are made up of island groups including Greater Antilles, Lesser Antilles, Leeward Antilles, and the Windward Islands.
The islands in the Caribbean are also sometimes referred to as the West Indies. Christopher Columbus thought he had reached the Indies (Asia) on his voyage to find another route there. Instead he had reached the Caribbean. The Caribbean was named the West Indies to account for Columbus' mistake.
Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and the Cayman Islands, often grouped as Greater Antilles, are by far the largest countries in the area and the most visited by travellers. In the north is the Lucayan Archipelago, which includes The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. The Caribbean also includes the Lesser Antilles, a group of much smaller islands to the east. Further to the west and south, there are various less frequently visited islands that belong to Central and South American countries.
Curaçao (CUR), Bonaire (BON) from Miami (MIA) - by Insel Air. If you fly Insel Air, give yourself at least 24 hours grace period between any connecting flights. Insel Air is notorious for their unreliability and poor customer service.
American Airlines: from Miami to; Antigua, Aruba, Barbados, Cap Haitien, Curaçao Dominican Republic, Grand Cayman, Grenada, Jamaica, Kingston, Montego Bay, Port-au-Prince, 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
Express des Iles offers transport between Dominica, Guadaloupe, Martinique, St. Lucia and other islands for about €67 one-way and €100 round-trip. Bear in mind that at some islands, if you are not a legal resident, proof of onward travel may be required. If you fail to provide it, you may get your entry refused by the immigration officer.
All of the Americas (with 16.3 killed per 100,000 population) suffer from homicide rates far above those in most of Asia (3.0), Europe (3.0) and Oceania (2.9) but some countries in the Caribbean feature in the highest murder rates in the world.
Those of a nervous disposition when confronted by these kind of statistics may want to start researching a holiday in Martinique(2.7) or Cuba(4.2) since it's rather uncomfortable to wear stab or bullet proof vests in these warm and humid climates of course, not to mention it make you look a bit of a prat...
WARNING: People in the Caribbean are either Rastafarian or Christian and consider homosexuality to be a sin. In many of these locations homosexuality is ILLEGAL with penalties of up to up to life in prison, vigilante executions, torture, beatings, and fines. In those who don't have same sex activity illegal, homophobia is still rampant with vigilante attacks and killings being common, police being complicit, turning a blind eye, or being unsympathetic and public accommodations rejecting you. LGBT ARE EMPHATICALLY ENCOURAGED TO STAY OUT OF THE CARIBBEAN.