10 things you may not know about the Caribbean
1. How big the Caribbean region is
The Caribbean region stretches 2,816 km (1,750 miles) from Barbados in the east to the Mexican coast in the west, and 1,770 km (1,100 miles) from the Bahamas in the north, to Panama in the south. The entire region is approximately 2,590,000 square km (a million square miles). This means that, during hurricane season, while one area of the Caribbean may be drastically affected by a hurricane or tropical storm, the rest of the region comes off unscathed.
2. How many islands there are in the Caribbean
If you only visited one Caribbean island nation a year, it would take you 28 years! And, if you visited one Caribbean Island a day, it would take you over 19 years! (Yes, there are 28 separate island nations and over 7,000 islands in the Caribbean.)
3. The types of accommodations that are available
Accommodations in the Caribbean aren’t limited to only luxury and all-inclusive resorts, or budget hotels. You’ll also find historic properties, guest houses, condominiums, city hotels, villas, B&B’s, boutique hotels to choose from. For those who wish to enjoy the wildlife responsibly and leave as low an environmental impact as possible, you’ll also find eco-lodges for you to stay sustainably.
3. The types of accommodations that are available
Accommodations in the Caribbean aren’t limited to only luxury and all-inclusive resorts, or budget hotels. You’ll also find historic properties, guest houses, condominiums, city hotels, villas, B&B’s, boutique hotels to choose from, as well as eco-lodges for those who wish to stay sustainably.
4. Which countries influenced Caribbean culture
Four European counties have influenced Caribbean culture: France, Spain, Britain and Netherlands. But did you know other cultures have also had an impact? You’ll also find African, Native Indian, and Jewish cultures on the islands. You’ll see distinct cultural differences in the style of buildings, architecture, language (and even the side of the road they drive), as well as more subtle differences in the people themselves and their way of life that make each Caribbean island nation unique. Even the cuisine has been influenced by various cultures, so you’ll discover unique culinary tastes and experiences between Caribbean islands. See below for the list of islands influenced by the Brits, French, Dutch and Spanish.
5. Who the Caribbean’s first inhabitants were
Indigenous Indians inhabited the Caribbean islands long before Columbus reached their shores in the fifteenth century. The most prevalent were the Taino, Arawak, Guanahatabey and Carib Indians, from which the region’s name is derived. Due to slavery and disease there is not much evidence of these indigenous cultures today, but artifacts can still be found if you know where to look.
6. That there are 23 UNESCO World Heritage sites
That’s right – there are 23 UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Caribbean region. Sixteen are cultural while nine are natural. You can find them on 14 islands. The following island nations or territories all have one UNESCO site: Antigua, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Curaçao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia. Suriname has two. One Caribbean country has nine UNESCO sites, two natural and seven cultural. Can you guess which?
7. Where you can find 365 beaches, 365 dive sites and 365 restaurants
Did you know… In Antigua & Barbuda there is a beach for every day of the year? That’s right, there are 365 beaches to choose from. The Cayman Islands are famous for their dive sites, but did you know there are 365 to choose from? That’s right, if you love to dive, there’s a unique dive site for each day of the year. If your tastes are leaning more towards Caribbean cuisine, then you should visit St. Maarten and St. Martin where they have a combined 365 restaurants. And, not to be outdone with 365 offerings, just off the coast of Panama, there is an archipelago of 365 islands. The San Blas Islands, which are mostly undisturbed by tourism, is Panama’s best kept secret!
8. A capital city in the Caribbean is actually a ghost town
In 1995, the capital city of the small Caribbean island of Montserrat was wiped out by a major volcanic eruption. Lasting 18 weeks, the Soufriere Hills volcano erupted from July 18 until mid-November, creating a new dome and destroying the city. Fortunately, the city was evacuated in August before the city was buried in ash. Now an exclusion zone, a visit to the eerie ash-covered ghost town requires a special permit. Do you know the name of the city?
9. How many music styles there are in the Caribbean
There are over 200 music types or styles in the Caribbean. Including some variations in genre as well as a few variations in Spanish and French, I counted 208. Some you may have heard of, such as reggae, steel pan, calypso, salsa, merengue, soca, mento and bomba. But have you heard of Abwe, Jing-Ping or Dembow?
10. Which Caribbean island is Josephine Pagerie’ birthplace
The first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte and former Empress of France, Josephine Pagerie, was born in the Caribbean in 1763. Also known as Joséphine de Beauharnais (her former married name), her birth place has been disputed as being Saint Lucia, where she lived as a child. However, according to most sources (including the official Fondation Napoléon website) it is another Caribbean island. Do you know her official birthplace?
European influence in the Caribbean
While some islands in the Caribbean and and countries with coasts that border the Caribbean may be influenced by more than one country in Europe, the following is a list of the main influences.
- British influence: Jamaica, Barbados, Saint Lucia, Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Turks & Caicos, Antigua & Barbuda, Montserrat, St Kitts & Nevis, Anguilla, Trinidad & Tobago, Grenada, Belize, Guyana
- French influence: St Martin, Martinique, Haiti, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Barthélemy & Carriacou.
- Dutch influence: Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, St Maarten, Saba
- Spanish influence: Dominican Republic, Puerto Rica and the Spanish Virgin Islands, Costa Rica, Cuba, Maya Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras.
- All of the above: USVI
BONUS: Did you know?
There are 4 volcanoes with the same name (or almost the same name) on four different Caribbean islands.
One of them is the world’s only drive-in volcano.
Can you name the volcanoes and the islands they are on?
Hint: one wiped out an entire capital city!
Did you get them right?
- If your answer for #6 was Cuba, then you guessed right.
- Did you answer Plymouth to #8? If you did, then you’d be right too
- And if you answered Les Trois-Îlets in Martinique for #10, you were also correct.
- BONUS: La Soufrière Volcano (St Vincent’s), La Soufrière Volcano (Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe) & Soufrière Hills Volcano (Montserrat). All are active.