The Caribbean is an umbrella term for a number of islands and archipelagos in the Caribbean Sea, which borders North America, Central America, and South America. There are more than seven thousand different landmasses in the Caribbean, ranging from tiny islets and reefs to island nations such as Cuba and Haiti. Broadly speaking, the Caribbean is divided into the Greater Antilles, the Lesser Antilles, the Lucayan Archipelago, and the Bahamas. On the whole, these different island groups cover a grand total of more than one million square miles of land, and host upwards of thirty six million permanent inhabitants. The Caribbean is home to a diverse range of nations and cultures, ranging from relatively unexplored hamlets on seldom visited coral reefs to world class resorts and tourist attractions. The Caribbean takes its name from one of the earliest cultures to inhabit this part of the world, the Carib Indian Tribe, whose culture still exists in the region today. The Caribbean boasts some of the best weather in the world, including nearly year round sunshine and temperatures that are almost always in the seventies or eighties. This climate has made many parts of the Caribbean internationally known tourist destinations.
The geographic make up of the Caribbean varies widely depending on the specific island chain or archipelago. Some of the islands in the Caribbean Sea have massive, majestic mountain ranges and striking valleys, while others barely rise twenty feet above sea level. The Caribbean is home to an impressive range of different flora, fauna, and marine life. In addition to a considerable percentage of the world’s coral reefs, the Caribbean has hundreds of different species of fish and aquatic plants that make the area a renowned destination for snorkeling and diving. For eco tourists, the Caribbean has more than eleven thousand known species of fungi, as well as a number of endangered species such as the Cuban Crocodile and giant shrews. The Caribbean has faced a number of unique challenges over the course of its post-colonial history, including economic development. A number of regional organizations have been created with the express intent of furthering growth and promoting equity throughout the area, and a number of more developed nations such as the United States and European Union members have also influenced the region’s development.
The different nations of the Caribbean have a wide variety of ethnic heritages and culinary traditions, ranging from flying fish in the Barbados and mountain chicken in Dominica to fried pork in Haiti and roasted breadfruit in Saint Vincent. In addition to local flavors, visitors to the Caribbean can enjoy world class accommodations and restaurants in many of the region’s western style resort facilities. These hotels and condominiums offer a getaway to tourists from Europe and the Americas who are looking for everything from theme parks and spas to restaurants and shopping. Of course, one of the foremost attractions of the Caribbean is the plethora of white sandy beaches dotting the ocean. Nearly every island and islet in the Caribbean Sea has one or more strips of picturesque beach, as well as sparkling offshore waters ideal for swimming, boating, and fishing.