The West Indies refers to a collection of islands in the Caribbean. These islands have nothing to do with India – they were named the West Indies because when Christopher Columbus arrived on the island of Hispanola (where the Dominican Republic and Haiti are), he thought that he was in India. Hispanola is just one of the many islands in the West Indies, and the Dominican Republic and Haiti are only two countries out of many.
Hispanola is part of a more extensive collection of islands within the West Indies, known as the Greater Antilles. The Greater Antilles also includes Cuba, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. Cuba and Jamaica are both countries – they have their own flags, governments, economies, cultures, et cetera. Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, so it is not a country. Beach-loving tourists love visiting the country of Jamaica and the territory of Puerto Rico, along with the Dominican Republic and Haiti, because these islands are famous for their beautiful beaches and blue waters. Fewer people visit Cuba, as it is a communist country and is therefore much more restrictive. However, more people are visiting Cuba now than even just a few years ago.
The Lesser Antilles is another collection of islands within the West Indies. In the Lesser Antilles are two smaller groups: the Leeward Islands and the Windward Islands. The Leeward Islands include Barbuda, Antigua, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saba, St. Martin, and Anguilla. The Windward Islands include Martinique (which belongs to France, Grenada, St. Vincent, and the Grenadines, Dominica, and St. Lucia. All of these island countries are popular tourist destinations because of their beautiful beaches, crystal blue water, tropical forests, and other natural features.
Other countries in the West Indies include Bermuda and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. You may have heard of the Bermuda Triangle – one of its three points is Bermuda. Suriname and Guyana are countries on the mainland of South America rather than islands; some people consider them also to be countries in the West Indies.
The Virgin Islands are also part of the West Indies, and as Puerto Rico, they are a territory of the United States. Since Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are part of the United States, if you are American, you do not even have to leave the country to visit the West Indies.