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The Caribbean is arguably the most scenically diverse tropical region in the world. It consists of over 7,000 islands, islets and cays in addition to mainland states which share culture and history.
Landscape: From flat to mountainous/volcanic, savannah to rainforest
Climate: Sunshine year-round with ‘dry’ (roughly the first half of the year) and ‘wet’ seasons. The hurricane season is in the wet season but not all islands are in the hurricane belt.
Waters: Experience the shallow waters of Bahamian or Belizean Cays to the deepest point in the Atlantic Ocean, the Puerto Rico Trench.
Biodiversity: The Caribbean is home to an extraordinary diversity of flora and fauna and varieties of ecosystems including coral reefs.
People: Of indigenous, African, European, Indian and Chinese origin (among others), with the majority of Caribbean people having some mixed ancestry
Languages: A variety languages are spoken in the territories with Spanish, French, English, Dutch, Haitian creole and Papiamento among official languages.
Religions: Beliefs include the world’s major religions such as Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism and with origins uniquely related to Caribbean history such as Rastafarianism, Santería and Voodoo among others.
Architecture: The built environment includes indigenous, European, African and south and east Asian influences from humble dwellings to modern villas.
The Bahamas officially the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, is a country consisting of more than 3,000 islands, cays and islets in the Atlantic Ocean, north of Cuba and Hispaniola (the Dominican Republic and Haiti), northwest of the Turks and Caicos Islands, southeast of the U.S. state of Florida and east of the Florida Keys. Its capital is Nassau on the island of New Providence. The Bahamas territory encompasses 180,000 square miles of ocean space.
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The Turks and Caicos Islands are a British Overseas Territory consisting of the larger Caicos Islands and smaller Turks Islands, two groups of tropical islands in the Lucayan Archipelago, part of the larger Antilles island grouping. They are known primarily for tourism and as an offshore financial centre.
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Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, as well as the Isla de la Juventud and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country’s capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city. Cuba is home to over 11 million people and is the most populous island nation in the Caribbean, as well as the largest by area. However, the population density is lower than in most Caribbean countries. Its people, culture, and customs draw from diverse sources, such as the aboriginal Taíno and Ciboney peoples, the period of Spanish colonialism, the introduction of African slaves and its proximity to the United States.
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Haiti occupies the western, smaller portion of the island of Hispaniola, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. Ayiti (land of high mountains) was the indigenous Taíno or Amerindian name for the island. The country’s highest point is Pic la Selle, at 2,680 metres (8,793 ft). The total area of Haiti is 27,750 square kilometres (10,714 sq mi) and its capital is Port-au-Prince. Haitian Creole and French are the official languages.
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The Dominican Republic is a nation on the island of Hispaniola. The western third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands, along with Saint Martin, that are shared by two countries. Both by area and population, the Dominican Republic is the second largest Caribbean nation (after Cuba), with 48,442 square kilometres (18,704 sq mi) and an estimated 10 million people.
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Jamaica is the fifth-largest island country in the Caribbean The indigenous people, the Taíno, called it Xaymaca in Arawakan meaning the “Land of Wood and Water” or the “Land of Springs”. The island, 10,990 square kilometres (4,240 sq mi) in area, lies about 145 kilometres (90 mi) south of Cuba, and 191 kilometres (119 mi) west of Hispaniola. With 2.8 million people, it is the third most populous Anglophone country in the Americas, after the United States and Canada.
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The Cayman Islands comprise the three islands of Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman, located south of Cuba and northwest of Jamaica. The territory is a major world offshore financial centre.
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Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic. Puerto Rico (Spanish for “rich port”) comprises an archipelago that includes the main island of Puerto Rico and a number of smaller islands, the largest of which are Vieques, Culebra, and Mona. Official languages of the island are Spanish and English, with Spanish being the primary language.
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The Virgin Islands of the United States are a group of islands in the Caribbean that are an insular area of the United States. The USVI consist of the main islands of Saint Croix, Saint John, and Saint Thomas, along with the much smaller but historically distinct Water Island, and many other surrounding minor islands. The total land area of the territory is 133.73 square miles (346.4 km2). The territory’s capital is Charlotte Amalie on the island of Saint Thomas.
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The British Virgin Islands is a British overseas territory located in the Caribbean to the east of Puerto Rico. The official name of the Territory is still simply the “Virgin Islands”, but the prefix “British” is often used to distinguish it from the neighbouring American territory. The BVI consist of the main islands of Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Jost Van Dyke, along with over fifty other smaller islands and cays. About 15 of the islands are inhabited. The capital, Road Town, is situated on Tortola, the largest island, which is approximately 20 km (12 mi) long and 5 km (3 mi) wide. The islands have a population of about 27,800, of whom approximately 23,000 live on Tortola.
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Anguilla is a British overseas territory in the Caribbean. It is one of the most northerly of the Leeward Islands in the Lesser Antilles, lying east of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and directly north of Saint Martin. The territory consists of the main island of Anguilla itself, approximately 16 miles (26 km) long by 3 miles (5 km) wide at its widest point, together with a number of much smaller islands and cays with no permanent population. The island’s capital is The Valley. The total land area of the territory is 35 square miles (90 km2), with a population of approximately 13,500 (2006 estimate).
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Antigua and Barbuda, Spanish for “ancient” and “bearded” is a twin-island nation lying between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It consists of two major inhabited islands, Antigua and Barbuda, and a number of smaller islands (including Great Bird, Green, Guinea, Long, Maiden and York Islands and further south, the island of Redonda). The permanent population numbers approximately 81,800 (at the 2011 Census) and the capital and largest port and city is St. John’s, on Antigua. Its governance, language, and culture have all been strongly influenced by the British Empire.
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Saint Martin is an overseas collectivity of France located in the Caribbean, encompassing the northern parts of Saint Martin island and neighbouring islets. The southern part of the island, Sint Maarten, is one of the four constituent countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
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Saba is a Caribbean island and the smallest special municipality of the Netherlands. It consists largely of the potentially active volcano Mount Scenery (870 m), the highest point within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The island has a land area of 13 km² (5 sq. miles). At the 2001 Netherlands Antilles census, the population was 1,824 inhabitants.
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Sint Eustatius, also known affectionately to the locals as Statia lies southeast of the Virgin Islands and immediately to the northwest of Saint Kitts and Nevis and to the southeast of Saba. The island has an area of 21 km² (8.1 sq. miles). In the 2001 census, the population was recorded as 3,543 inhabitants.
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Saint Barthélemy is an overseas collectivity of France, often abbreviated to Saint-Barth in French, or St. Barts or St. Barth’s in English. The island lies about 35 km (21.75 mi) southeast of Sint Maarten/Saint Martin, and north of St. Kitts. It is a volcanic island fully encircled by shallow reefs, has an area of 22.1 km² (8.5 mi²) and a population of 8,902 (Jan. 2009 census). Its capital is Gustavia, which also contains the main harbour to the island.
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Saint Kitts and Nevis is a federal two-island state in the West Indies. It is the smallest sovereign state in the Americas, in both area and population. The capital city and headquarters of government for the federated state is Basseterre on the larger island of Saint Kitts. The smaller island of Nevis lies about 2 miles (3 km) southeast of Saint Kitts, across a shallow channel called “The Narrows”.
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Montserrat is a British Overseas Territory. The island measures approximately 16 km (9.9 mi) long and 11 km (6.8 mi) wide, with approximately 40 kilometres (25 mi) of coastline. Montserrat is nicknamed The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean both for its resemblance to coastal Ireland and for the Irish ancestry of some of its inhabitants. On July 18, 1995, the previously dormant Soufrière Hills volcano became active. Eruptions destroyed Montserrat’s Georgian era capital city of Plymouth and two-thirds of the island’s population was forced to flee. The volcanic activity continues to the present.
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Guadeloupe is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department. Guadeloupe is an integral part of France, as are the other overseas departments. Besides Guadeloupe island, the smaller islands of Marie-Galante, La Désirade, and the Îles des Saintes are included in Guadeloupe. As part of France, Guadeloupe is part of the European Union and the Eurozone; hence, as for all Eurozone countries, its currency is the euro. Its official language is French, although many of its inhabitants also speak Antillean Creole (“Kwéyòl”).
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Dominica (officially the Commonwealth of Dominica) lies south-southeast of Guadeloupe and northwest of Martinique. Its size is 750 square kilometres (290 sq mi) and the highest point in the country is Morne Diablotins, which has an elevation of 1,447 metres (4,747 ft). Dominica had a population of 71,293 at the 2011 Census. The capital is Roseau which is located on the leeward side of the island. Dominica has been nicknamed the “Nature Isle of the Caribbean” for its unspoiled natural beauty. It is the youngest island in the Lesser Antilles, still being formed by geothermal-volcanic activity, as evidenced by the world’s second-largest hot spring, Boiling Lake. The island features lush mountainous rainforests, home of many rare plant, animal, and bird species.
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Martinique, like Guadeloupe is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department. To the northwest lies Dominica, to the south St Lucia, and to the southeast Barbados. As with the other overseas departments, Martinique is one of the twenty-seven regions of France (being an overseas region) and an integral part of the French Republic. As part of France, Martinique is part of the European Union, and its currency is the Euro. Its official language is French, although many of its inhabitants also speak Antillean Creole (“Kwéyòl”).
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Saint Lucia is located north/northeast of the island of Saint Vincent, northwest of Barbados and south of Martinique. It covers a land area of 617 km2 (238.23 sq mi) and has a population of 174,000 (2010). Its capital is Castries. The French, the island’s first European colonizers, and the British fought 14 times over it and rule of the island changed frequently (it was seven times each ruled by the French and British). In 1814, the British took definitive control of the island. Because it switched so often between British and French control, Saint Lucia was also known as the “Helen of the West Indies”.
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This 389 km2 (150 sq mi) territory consists of the main island of Saint Vincent and the northern two-thirds of the Grenadines, which are a chain of smaller islands stretching south from Saint Vincent Island to Grenada. The main island of Saint Vincent measures 18 km (11 mi) long, 11 km (6.8 mi) in width and 344 km2 (133 sq mi) in area. Its capital and main port is Kingstown. The island now known as Saint Vincent was originally named Hairoun (“The Land of the Blessed”) by the native Caribs.
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Grenada is an island country and Commonwealth realm consisting of the island of Grenada and six smaller islands at the southern end of the Grenadines in the southeastern Caribbean Sea. Grenada is located northwest of Trinidad and Tobago, northeast of Venezuela. Grenada is also known as the “Island of Spice” because of the production of nutmeg and mace crops of which Grenada is one of the world’s largest exporters. Its size is 344 square kilometres (133 sq mi), with an estimated population of 110,000. Its capital is St. George’s.
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Barbados is our home base and the hub of the eastern Caribbean.
We feature the island on its own page here.
Trinidad and Tobago lies just off the coast of northeastern Venezuela and south of Grenada. The country covers an area 5,128 square kilometres (1,980 sq mi) and consists of two main islands, Trinidad and Tobago, and numerous smaller landforms. Trinidad is the larger and more populous of the main islands, comprising about 94% of the total area and 96% of the total population of the country. Unlike most of the English-speaking Caribbean, the country’s economy is primarily industrial, with an emphasis on petroleum and petrochemicals. Trinidad and Tobago is known for its Carnival and is the birthplace of steelpan, calypso, soca, chutney and limbo.
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Aruba is a 33-kilometer-long (20 mi) island located 27 km (17 mi) north of the coast of Venezuela. Unlike much of the Caribbean region, Aruba has a dry climate and an arid, cactus-strewn landscape. It has a land area of 179 square kilometres (69.1 sq mi) and is densely populated with a total of 101,484 inhabitants at the 2010 Census. Its capital is Oranjestad. Along with the Netherlands, Curaçao and Sint Maarten, Aruba is one of the four constituent countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The citizens of all share a single nationality: Dutch.
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Bonaire, with the uninhabited islet of Klein Bonaire nestled in its western crescent, forms a special municipality (officially public body) of the Netherlands. Bonaire’s capital is Kralendijk.
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Curaçao, together with Aruba and Bonaire forms a group referred to as the ABC islands. Its capital is Willemstad.
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Guyana (formerly “British Guiana”) is a state on the northern coast of South America. Culturally Guyana is part of the Anglophone Caribbean. As a member state of the Commonwealth of Nations, it is the only South American nation whose official language is English. Guyana is bordered by Suriname to the east, by Brazil to the south and southwest, by Venezuela to the west; and by the Atlantic Ocean to the north. Guyana is 215,000 square kilometres (83,000 sq mi) in size with a population of approximately 770,000.
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Suriname (formerly “Dutch Guiana”) is bordered by Guyana to the west and French Guiana to the east. At just under 165,000 km2 (64,000 sq mi), Suriname is the smallest sovereign state in South America. Suriname has a population of approximately 560,000, most of whom live on the country’s north coast, where the capital Paramaribo is located.
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French Guiana (officially “Guyane”) is an overseas region of France. It has borders with two nations: Brazil to the east and south, and Suriname to the west. Its 83,534 km2 (32,253 sq mi) area has a very low population density of less than 3 km2 (1.2 sq mi), with half of its 236,250 people in 2011 living in the metropolitan area of Cayenne, its capital.
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Belize is located on the north eastern coast of Central America. It is the only country in the area where English is the official language, although Kriol and Spanish are more commonly spoken. Belize is bordered to the north by Mexico, to the south and west by Guatemala and to the east by the Caribbean Sea. Its mainland is about 290 km (180 mi) long and 110 km (68 mi) wide.
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