The Caribbean, which is located southeast of North America's mainland, north of South America, and east of Central America, encompasses more than 700 islands, islets and cays, and the Caribbean Sea. The Caribbean islands are made up of sovereign states, overseas dependencies, and overseas departments. The Caribbean was named after the people who inhabited the islands prior to European arrival - the Caribs. Once the Spanish arrived the population of the Caribs began to decrease. Today the islands in the Caribbean are owned by several countries including Britain (or the U.K), the United States, France, and the Netherlands.
The Caribbean islands are made up of island groups including Greater Antilles, Lesser Antilles, Leeward Antilles, and the Windward Islands.
Greater Antilles includes the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico.
Lesser Antilles includes the U.S. Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Martin, Saba, Sint Eustatius, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat, and Guadeloupe.
The Windward Islands include Dominica, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and Turks and Caicos.
The Leeward Antilles include Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire.
There are countries that border the Caribbean, including Panama, Belize, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and several others.
Approximately 2% of the islands in the Caribbean are inhabited by people.
Many of those living on the Caribbean Islands are the descendants of slaves brought over from Africa when the Europeans began to colonize the area.
Some of the common languages spoken in the Caribbean include English, French, Spanish, Dutch, Creole, and Papiamento.
The islands in the Caribbean are also sometimes referred to as the West Indies. Christopher Columbus thought he had reached the Indies (Asia) on his voyage to find another route there. Instead he had reached the Caribbean. The Caribbean was named the West Indies to account for Columbus' mistake.
The Caribbean Islands may have evolved after volcanoes erupted under the sea several billions of years ago, according to geologists.
The most populated islands in the Caribbean are Haiti and Dominican Republic, and Cuba.
More than 4.3 million tourists visit the Dominican Republic each year, making it the most popular with tourists. Approximately 3.7 million visit Puerto Rico each year, and 2.7 million visit Cuba each year.
The shortest runway (for airplanes) in the world is located on Saba, an island in the Caribbean.
Famous eco-tourism destinations in the Caribbean include Bird of Paradise Island, Balenbouche Estate in St. Lucia, and Trinidad's Asa Wright Nature reserve.
The Caribbean Islands have a diverse topography including coral reefs, mountains, tropical forests, low-lying plantations, valleys, waterfalls, and volcanoes.
Jamaica has more churches per square mile than can be found in any other country. It has 1,600 churches in total.
In the famous movie series Pirates of the Caribbean, parts of all films were filmed in the Caribbean.