This island is so small that it only has one road, aptly called “The Road”, and with barely 1,800 residents, Saba’s population only reaches 2,000 when classes are in session at SABA University School of Medicine. Of note, it is often listed as one of the 10 best scuba diving locations in the world.
Christopher Columbus named the island after the day on which he first spotted it (Dominica means Sunday in Latin). Since then, however, it has been nicknamed the “nature island of the Caribbean”, due to its unspoiled beauty. Although in the past the volcanic and mountainous nature of the island discouraged tourism to some extent, modern docking facilities in the capital have led to an increase in tourists coming from cruise ships.
Home to what St. Lucians claim is the world’s only drive-through volcano, the island is mountainous even by Caribbean standards. Although most tourists coming to island stay near their cruise ships in Castries, the capital, it is well worth it to go do some exploring.
Composed of over 3,000 islands the Bahamas has one of the higher GDP’s in the America’s (behind the United States, Canada, and several other islands) and it is supported almost entirely by the cruise industry.
Occupying one of only two Caribbean islands that are shared by more than one country, the Dominican Republic is the second largest Caribbean nation after Cuba with around 10 million people. Combining a vibrant culture with diverse geography, ecotourism has been on the rise in recent years.
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Being the third most populous english speaking country in the America’s after the United States and Canada, Jamaica has left its mark on the world with its record breaking athletes and influential music culture. In spite of a high crime rate, the islands popularity has led to tourism still being a significant part of the economy.
As one of the eastern most islands in the Caribbean, Barbados is located outside of the typical hurricane strike zone and only gets hit on average once every 26 years. Although tourism is a huge part of its economy, Barbados has the third largest stock exchange in the Caribbean and its finance sector is well developed.
As one of the smallest islands in the world that is divided by two nations, St. Martin is half French – half Dutch. English, however, remains the lingua franca of the region. The Dutch side is known for its festive night life and casinos while the French side is notorious for its beaches and shopping.
This popular tax haven (it has no form of direct taxation) is a British overseas territory lying just east of Puerto Rico. It is widely known for its cuisine and jazz festivals with many hotels requiring reservations months in advance. They say the only thing that could ruin your stay here would be a hurricane. Plan your trips accordingly.
Antigua and Barbuda
One of several twin island nations on our list, Antigua and Barbuda has been nicknamed the “land of 365 beaches” for obvious reasons. Tourism accounts for over half of its GDP with banking and finance composing a good portion of the rest.
British Virgin Islands
Known as a popular destination for sailing enthusiasts, the British Virgin Islands are (who would have guessed) a British overseas territory. Although in the past there have been some problems with drug traffickers using the islands as a gateway into the United States, it is still an amazing place to visit, especially the Baths of Virgin Gorda.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
This volcanic chain of islands has an economy that depends solely on one crop – bananas. With an unemployment rate hovering around 20% the government is trying to establish tourism as a more dominant industry by building more infrastructure which would include an international airport. The efforts seem to be working, especially with the recent filming of Pirates of the Caribbean on the islands.
As an unincorporated territory of the United States there has always been some debate concerning the future of Puerto Rico. With politics aside, however, it has one of the strongest economies in the Caribbean and a fairly large tourism industry based primarily around cruises.
Often considered one of the largest offshore financial centers in the world, the Cayman Islands has more registered businesses than people and it should be no surprise that it has one of the highest standards of living on Earth. It also has numerous tourist attractions including several shipwrecks and the popular Seven Mile Beach.
U.S. Virgin Islands
With a combined land area roughly the size of Washington D.C., the US Virgin Islands are small. They have very popular beaches, however, and are often the destination of choice for cruise ships. Here’s a small piece of trivia for you – each island has its own nickname given to it by the locals. St. Croix is “Twin City”, St. Thomas is “Rock City”, and St. John is “Love City”.
A volcanic island fully encircle by shallow reefs, the language, culture, and cuisine of St. Barts is almost exclusively French. It has an extremely high standard of living that stems from its high-end tourism industry supported by luxury hotels and villas and has often been referred to as a “playground for the rich”.
This transcontinental island (its considered part of South America and the West Indies) lies just off the coast of Venezuela. It is widely known for its diving, especially the characteristic drop-off of the sea floor known as the “blue edge” only several hundred feet from shore. Soon though, it may really set itself apart as a tourist hotspot when XCOR Aerospace and Space Experience Curacao start launching people into space.
Guadeloupe is an overseas territory of France, well known for its accomplishments in sports and literature. Although tourism (80% of which comes from France) is the main industry, there is a significant agricultural aspect to its economy. This unfortunately leads to some serious setbacks during hurricane season.
Trinidad and Tobago
When it comes to Caribbean islands, Trinidad and Tobago is very unique. Its economy consists primarily of industry and there is a lot of cultural diversity owing to its long history of conquest. In fact, a good amount of its population can trace its roots back to India when the English brought people over to work as indentured servants. Other ethnic groups on the island come from Africa, Europe, and South America.
St. Kitts and Nevis
As the smallest sovereign state in the America’s, St. Kitts and Nevis was one of the first to be settled by Europeans and has thus adopted the title of “Mother Colony of the West Indies”. Interestingly enough it is not hard to acquire citizenship of this small country and as long as you are willing to make an investment into an approved piece of real estate it will be willingly bestowed upon you.
A part of the Netherlands, Bonaire is very small and only has two official towns. The island, however, is a nature lovers paradise and the economy is almost exclusively centered around diving and snorkeling. License plates on Bonaire even read Diver’s Paradise in English.
Turks and Caicos
These former pirate hideouts and British Territories are a favorite getaway for tourists, particularly Canadians. In fact, there was even a debate at one point as to whether Canada should annex the islands.
As part of France, Martinique is also a part of the European Union. The island consists of several volcanos, one of which is currently active and as a result the geography is very mountainous. Although there is a significant amount of tourism to the island it has a varied economy that revolves around agriculture and services as well.
Known as the “Island of Spice” due to its production of nutmeg and mace, Grenada has been known to dodge the annual Caribbean hurricanes due to its extremely southern location. It is a land of diversity, with beautiful beaches along the coasts and a mountainous interior laced with picturesque waterfalls.
Lying outside of the Caribbean hurricane belt, Aruba makes for an excellent tourist destination. It is much flatter than most of its island counterparts and due to it geographical location managed to evade many of the effects of the slave trade. Because it is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the primary language on the island is Dutch.