The Caribbean is famous for its idyllic white-sand beaches. It’s true you won’t find anything like them anywhere else in the world. But the real beauty of the Caribbean lies within its people: friendly, hospitable spirits from all backgrounds, and the kind of people who just want to make sure you have a good time. The history here is far reaching, and the cultures are so diverse that you’ll find a little something for anybody. From diving off the shores of Tobago or listening to music in the streets of Cuba’s Havana, getting acquainted with Caribbean culture is never a chore.
Places to Visit in the Caribbean
- St. Vincent and the Grenadines
- Dominican Republic
- St. Kitts
Unique Things to See and Do
in the Caribbean
- Check out the craziest airport bar in St. Martin (yes, really)
- Go sailing from the US Virgin Islands
- See the colonial architecture in English Harbor, Antigua
- Go surfing in the Barbados
- Walk the streets of Havana, Cuba
- Spend time in the region’s most African country, Haiti
- Indulge in luxury in St. Lucia
- Swim the stunning waters of Turks and Caicos
Where to begin? It’s impossible to lump all of the Caribbean into one culture – its history is too diverse. Haiti is distinctly African, while Aruba has Dutch origins. Then there are French, Spanish, English, and other influences. It’s what makes the Caribbean so wonderful! Early European colonialism, native tribes, and the African slave trade shaped all the islands in one way or another. You’ll find the locals fiercely proud of their heritage – who wouldn’t, living in such a beautiful place?
Barbados, for example, is known as “Little England.” Its culture is very much westernized, much like Aruba (but Aruba is the more laidback of the two). On the other hand, islands like Jamaica have clung to their pre-colonial heritage, and their culture is a vibrant one known around the world. Come hang out in Jamaica for a week and you’ll fall in love with the Creole language, the food (Jamaican jerk chicken!), and perhaps even a friendly Rastafarian or two.
Each Caribbean island differs in poverty and standard of living as well. Remember, beyond those glossy resorts and fancy swimming pools are large local populations with little money. You’ll see it as soon as you get beyond the hotel and resort scene. Dominican Republic is mostly undeveloped, except for its capital Santo Domingo (home to more than two million people). But the landscape is beautiful: white powdery sand beaches among a mountainous countryside.
The Spanish mostly influenced Puerto Rico, although it’s now become very westernized and is one of the most modern islands in the Caribbean. Meanwhile, Guadeloupe is still very much French. Most of the customs, culture, and language here is French. Throughout the thousands of Caribbean islands that make up the region, each one is a little different from the last. You’ll just have to explore the Caribbean yourself to find out.
Getting Around the Caribbean
The most popular way to see the Caribbean is through an organized resort vacation, usually including an all-inclusive packaged deal. This includes airfare and transportation to and from your accommodations. It’s not the only way to do it, of course, but it does tend to be the easiest and safest. The Caribbean islands are extremely popular for vacationers, so regular flights do occur. You can also hire local guides once you’re there to explore beyond the hotel confines.
Once you’re in the islands, you can travel between them by sailboat, yacht, ferry, or airplane. You can do a lot of island hopping by public ferry.
Did you know…?
There are more than a whopping 5000 islands in the Caribbean, and many of them are uninhabited.
Did you ALSO know…?
Jamaica holds the Guinness World Record for having the most churches in one square mile than anywhere else in the world. The grand total? 1,600. In a single mile.
Best Time of Year to Travel to the Caribbean
Tourism starts booming in the Caribbean during the winter months, mostly for North Americans who want to escape the cold winter. This lasts until about late April. Temperatures are always fabulous during this time, although vacation packages can be a little more expensive. Shoulder season (late spring and fall) is also an excellent time to visit, although temperatures tend to be a little cooler.
June is the rainiest month of the year in the Caribbean, but July and August can be quite nice and very hot. Keep in mind that hurricane season is from the beginning of June to the end of November, so keep an ear to the ground for warnings.
Ready to plan your visit to Caribbean? Check out these popular guides and trips.