Caribbean countries are those located in the Caribbean Sea, a region of the Atlantic Ocean between North America and South America and east of Central America, in which many tropical island nations are positioned in close proximity. The Caribbean includes thirteen countries classified as sovereign states by the United Nations, as well as nearly two dozen non-sovereign territories.
Countries of the Caribbean Region:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Dominican Republic
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Saint Lucia
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
The Caribbean region includes more than 7,000 islands, islets, and keys in total. Although the majority of these are tiny and uninhabited, most Caribbean countries are nonetheless a collection of multiple islands (a scenario also common in Oceania). For instance, the Bahamas alone are made up of more than 700 islands and 2,400 islets and keys, of which 30-40 are inhabited. The islands of the Caribbean are typically sorted into three distinct groups: The Greater Antilles, the Lucayan Archipelago, and the Lesser Antilles.
Non-sovereign Nations of the Caribbean Region:
|Aruba||Martinique||San Andrés and Providencia|
|British Virgin Islands||Navassa Island||Sint Maarten|
|Cayman Islands||Puerto Rico||Turks and Caicos Islands|
|Curacao||Saba||U.S. Virgin Islands|
|Federal Dependencies of Venezuela|
Countries that border the Caribbean
In addition to the countries that are indisputably part of the Caribbean, several countries in Central and South America are located near and around the Caribbean. Portions of these Caribbean-adjacent countries, such as Cozumel in Mexico and Roatan in Honduras, are even considered part of the region by some sources.
Profiles of countries in the Caribbean
Located slightly south and east of the U.S. state of Florida and north of Cuba, the Bahamas is an archipelago comprising seven hundred individual islands and roughly 2,400 islets and keys, totaling 5,406 square miles of land. Roughly 30-40 of the country's islands and islets are inhabited, giving the country a population of more than 345,736 people.
As with much of the Caribbean, tourism is a major part of the Bahamian economy. Roughly half of all Bahamians are employed by the tourist trade, which is responsible for approximately 50% of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The islands of the Bahamas are particularly known for their beaches, which include miles of white (or pink) sand, and for their boutique hotels.
Most people in the Bahamas speak English, although an English-based creole known as "dialect" or "Bahamianese" and a French-based creole known simply as "creole" are also commonly spoken (the latter predominantly by Hatians). A smattering of additional languages appear as well, such as American Sign Language (ASL) and Mandarin Chinese, typically courtesy of immigrants.
The capital of the Bahamas is the city of Nassau, which is situated on New Providence Island. New Providence is the eleventh biggest island of the entire archipelago. The largest island of the Bahamas is Andros Island, whose area is larger than that of all the Bahamas' other islands combined.
Cuba is the largest Caribbean country based on physical size. Encompassing a grand total of 42,804 square miles of land, Cuba is home to roughly 11,204,351 people. The country's capital is Havana. Of the most common languages in Cuba, Spanish (the country's official language) is the most dominant, followed by English and Haitian Creole. Another prominent language is Lucumi, a language belonging to an ethnic population of Cuba.
Cuba's main exports are rolled tobacco products and sugar. Cuban cigars are known for their quality, but trade embargoes instituted in 1960 rendered them illegal in the United States. Although Cuba is ruled by an authoritarian communist regime with a poor record on human rights, tourism also comprises a significant portion of the country's GDP. Besides its beaches, Cuba is known for classic car tours of its colorful capital, Havana.
The third-largest country in the Caribbean in terms of total area, Jamaica is also quite mountainous. Although only an estimated 724 square miles of the country's 4,244 square miles of land area are arable land suitable for cultivation of crops, agriculture (sugar and bananas in particular) contributes significantly to the country's GNP. That said, financial services and tourism are the tentpoles of Jamaica's economy.
Tourism in Jamaica is centered around not only beautiful beaches and lush jungle tours, but also the Jamaican culture, which is characterized by delicious food, friendly people, and festive music.
The many languages of Jamaica include English as the predominant and most officially recognized language in the country. Jamaican Creole (or "Patois"), follows closely behind, as do Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, and Arawak, a lesser-known language native to an Amerindian tribe of Taino people.
Trinidad and Tobago
Located off the coast of the South American country of Venezuela, this two-island country consists of the smaller Tobago and its larger partner to the southwest, Trinidad. The surrounding waters include the Gulf de Pana, the Atlantic Ocean, and, of course, the Caribbean Sea.
Trinidad and Tobago is unique among Caribbean countries in that its major industries are neither tourism nor financial services, but oil and natural gas, reserves of which the tiny country has in abundance. As a result of its energy-based economy, Trinidad and Tobago enjoys one of the highest GDP per capita rankings in the Americas. Tourism is growing however, particularly in Tobago, and the country is working to expand that sector of its economy.
Although English is the official language of Trinidad and Tobago, English-based creole languages are more common. Many residents also speak Spanish, Chinese, Hindustani, Tamil, or one of several indigenous languages.
United States Virgin Islands
Technically an unincorporated territory rather than a sovereign country, the U.S. Virgin Islands are part of the larger Virgin Islands archipelago, which also includes the British Virgin Islands and the lesser known Spanish Virgin Islands, all of which lie in very close proximity to one another. The U.S. Virgin Islands are made up of more than 50 islands, islets, and keys, with the main four islands being Saint John, Saint Croix, Saint Thomas, and Water Island. By combining the land masses altogether, the US Virgin Islands account for roughly 133 square miles in total.
As implied by the territory's name, the main language spoken in the US Virgin Islands is English, followed by Virgin Island Creole, Spanish, Indo-European dialects, French Creole, French, and various Asian languages. Tourism is the territory's main industry, and it welcomes several million visitors per year, the majority of which arrive from the United States via cruise ships.