Subtitle: No, they are not all the same. I promise.
How about a little geography lesson?
Not everyone will be into this, but I think some will find it interesting.
First, let’s do a little myth busting!
MYTH: All of the Caribbean islands are the same. It doesn’t matter where I go, just find me an island!
BZZZZZ. Insert Annoying Game Show Buzzer Here. I’m sorry, my friend… that is incorrect!
The Caribbean is a rich, diverse landscape. Each island has its own people, resources, political boundaries, history, culture, food … the list goes on. My favorite part of travel agent school was learning the geography and amazing unique qualities of each island. It helps that Geography was one of my favorite subjects in school. Because of this, I tend to focus on the Caribbean quite a bit… it is one of my favorite places and I hope it will be come one of yours too.
Are you ready to get started? Here’s a map:
As you can see, the Caribbean is divided into several zones:
Greater Antilles: Cuba, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Turks & Caicos, Puerto Rico and the island of Hispanola (which is divided into the nations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic)
Leeward Islands: This is a big one. The Leeward Islands include all of Virgin Islands, plus several more. The Puerto Rican Virgin Islands are included here (Vieques and Culebra). The U.S. Virgin Islands include St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix and Water Island. The British Virgin Islands include Jost Van Dyke, Tortola, Virgin Gorda, and Anegada. Finally, we have Anguilla, Saint Martin/Sint Maarten, Saint Barthelemy (you probably call it St. Bart’s), Saba, Sint Eustatius, Saint Kitts, Nevis, Barbuda, Antigua, Redonda, Montserrat, Guadeloupe and Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic!)
That brings us to the Windward Islands! That list incudes Martinique, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada (not to be confused with Grenada, Spain. Wouldn’t this be a mess?)
Note: There is some debate about where Dominica falls. I included it under the Leewards, but some think it could fall in the Windward list. What is history without debate??
And FINALLY, we have the Leeward Antilles. This includes the islands of Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire (commonly called the ABC islands). Tourists commonly visit these islands because they are below the hurricane belt and therefore “ hurricane proof”.
Wow. Feeling confused? As a travel agent, I had to learn the geography, but also the distinct personality of each island. Those 38 islands are rich in the history of those who settled there, including influences from the British Commonwealth, the Netherlands, France and Africa.
Over time, I plan to spotlight each of these areas and talk about the rich differences between them.
For example, did you know that St. Martin/Sint Maarten is actually one island divided in half, each half governed by a different country? Did you know that it’s also the culinary capital of the Caribbean?
Do you know where the world’s largest conch farm is?
Do you know which of these islands accepts US currency and which do not?
Do you know where Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed? (come on, I know that’s what you want to know).
Did you notice that Bermuda and the Bahamas were NOT included? That's right - they aren't in the Caribbean!
We’ll be covering each island in depth over the coming months. In the meantime, let’s talk about YOUR next trip. If you could visit any of these islands, where would you go?
Hi, I'm Ashley
Ashley (@ashleysmorris) is a freelance writer, virtual assistant and owner of Alpaca Your Bags Travel.
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