Irresistible beaches, breathtaking landscapes and vibrant cultures draw more than 30 million visitors to the Caribbean islands every year.
From luxury getaways to cruises, affordable adventure trips and festivals, each destination offers travelers its own unique culture and appeal.
You can choose to visit an all-inclusive resort, or cruise among the islands on an Eastern or Western Caribbean island itinerary.
Islands of the Eastern Caribbean include the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, St. Maarten and Puerto Rico. You can enjoy shopping in popular ports such as St. Thomas or explore Spanish history in Old San Juan.
The Western Caribbean consists of islands due south of Florida, such as Grand Cayman
and Jamaica; destinations on Mexico’s Caribbean coast on or near the Yucatan Peninsula, such as Costa Maya, Cozumel and Progreso and Central American destinations on the Caribbean, such as Belize and Honduras.
Western routes are known for history and nature, while Eastern routes are popular beach-hopping destinations.
Where to go
Here are some of the most popular Caribbean islands, which you might want to put on your future warm weather travel list.
• Cozumel is known for its white sand beaches, colorful marine life and Mayan ruins. You can save money by flying into Cancun, Mexico and taking a ferry to Cozumel from nearby Playa del Carmen.
• Jamaica is your destination if you are an eco-adventurer. Enjoy swimming in waterfalls and zip lining through the rainforest.
• Puerto Rico provides a perfect backdrop for rainforest, sandy beaches and vibrant colonial streets. Local currency is the U.S. dollar, and you don’t need to a passport to go there.
• Dominican Republic is among the most affordable Caribbean islands to visit for all-inclusive deals. The most popular resort area is Punta Cana. Activities include snorkeling, zip lining and off-road ATV jungle tours.
• Bahamas is a strand of tropical islands adjacent to the Caribbean and only an hour-long flight from Miami, Florida. It’s one of Kayak’s trending beach destinations for 2019.
• Martinique boasts lushly forested mountains, sweeping sand beaches and colorful villages, as well as a variety of landscapes with a taste of French flair.
• St. Croix is the largest but sometimes overlooked of the U.S. Virgin Islands, quietly offering a variety of attractions, from historic sites to hiking and snorkeling. There’s no need to worry about currency exchange fees or passports.
• Aruba’s main attraction is a ribbon of beaches lined with world-class resorts and malls of familiar restaurants and bars.
• Cayman Islands’ main island is Grand Cayman, reminiscent of South Florida. It offers resorts of all kinds, famous for diving, snorkeling and swimming with schools of stingray.
How to get there
Many flights from Detroit Metro Airport fly non-stop to many Caribbean island destinations. Plan to spend $300 to $400 on up for a round-trip flight, which will take about four hours on up.
You can also choose a Caribbean cruise itinerary from just about any cruise line. Carnival Cruise Line will offer about the most affordable seven-day cruise, at about $700 per person, while the Disney Cruise Line will cost close to $1,700 to $2,500 per person, depending on the time of year you travel.
Foods you’ll enjoy
Native specialties meld many of the influences of the Caribbean islands. As soon as the islands were “discovered” by Christopher Columbus in 1492, French, English, Dutch, Spanish, Swedes and even Danes Galleons sailed forth to get a taste of the tropics. There, they changed the culinary landscape, mixing their own recipes from home with local ingredients.
Here are a few dishes you might find at specific island destinations:
• Salt fish and green figs (St. Lucia)
• Accras — cod fritters (Martinique)
• Mofongo (Puerto Rico)
• Roast pork (Cuba)
• Jerk chicken (Jamaica)
• Flying fish and macaroni pie (Barbados)
• Conch chowder (Grand Cayman)
• Shark and bake (Trinidad)
Rum is the spirit of choice in the Caribbean, including the Pina Colada, the Dark ‘n Stormy, classic Margarita and a trio of rum cocktails from Cuba: the Daiquiri, Mojito and Cuba Libre.
Interesting facts about the Caribbean
The Caribbean region is southeast of the Gulf of Mexico and the North American mainland. It measures about 1,000 miles from north to south and 2.500 miles from east to west. The Caribbean region includes about 700 islands, islets, reefs and cays in and surrounding the Caribbean Sea.
Only about 2 percent of the Caribbean region is inhabited, so when most people speak of the Caribbean, they are referring to about 32 countries.
More than 42.5 million people live in 30-plus main islands. Cuba has 11.4 million, Haiti has 10.8 million, the Dominican Republic has 10.6 million, Jamaica has 2.8 million and Trinidad and Tobago boast 1.3 million.
The majority of the people in the Caribbean region are descendants of the 5 million West African slaves who were brought to the area as unpaid laborers as Europeans built profitable tobacco and later, sugar plantations.
The majority of the 42.5 million people who live in the Caribbean speak English, as much of the region was colonized by the British. English, Spanish, French and Dutch are official languages of many of the islands.
Tourism is one of the leading industries in the Caribbean region.
Sources: Forbes.com, USA Today,
The Lonely Planet