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Bild: Romolo Tavani / shutterstock

Longing destination Caribbean

For many people, the Caribbean is the longing destination par excellence. White sandy beaches, sprawling palm trees, pure sun and an attitude to life dominated by freedom, good humour and music characterise our picture. Whether you’re traveling to the Caribbean individually, traveling there as part of a cruise or booking an all-inclusive vacation, relaxation is guaranteed. Because as soon as you get off the plane, you have arrived in another world and the attitude to life of the Latinos is so contagious that it captivates everyone.

A brief overview

Caribbean, St. Lucia
The port of St. Lucia, Image: Erika Bisbocci / shutterstock

The Caribbean refers to the islands in the tropical part of the western Atlantic. All islands are located north of the equator. Overall, the Caribbean stretches from Florida in the north to Venezuela in the south. The entire Caribbean has an area of 2,754,000 square kilometers and a population of almost 40 million people.

The Caribbean is divided into the Western Caribbean, the Southern Caribbean, the islands in the open Atlantic North, the islands in the open Atlantic South, the Greater Antilles, the Lesser Antilles.

The Lesser Antilles , on the other hand, are divided into the “Leeward Islands” and the “Leeward Islands”. The Greater Antilles include the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica or Cuba. Leeward Islands include Aruba, Bonaire , and Curacao (ABC Islands). And the Leeward Islands include St. Lucia, Barbados, Guadeloupe, St. Marteen, Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada.

The most popular holiday islands are the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, Trinidad & Tobago, St. Marteen and Cuba. Cuba is the largest of the Caribbean islands in terms of area.

The best time to travel to the Caribbean

Caribbean, Barbados
Rest and relaxation in Barbados, Image: Svitlana Minazova / shutterstock

Since the Caribbean stretches over several thousand kilometers, there are different recommendations for different islands when it comes to travel time. In principle, it is best in our European winter in the Caribbean. And that’s a perfect exchange: escape the cold and snow and enjoy the sun and Caribbean flair. But here is an overview of the recommendations for travel time:

  • Cuba: The best time to travel to Cuba is from November to April. This leaves the rainy season and hurricane season behind and has pleasant temperatures and more pleasant humidity in the dry season. Nevertheless, due to its location, it is always relatively humid and warm in Cuba and the humidity rarely drops below 80 percent.
  • The Bahamas: A trip to the Bahamas is best from December to May. During the day it has a pleasant 25 to 29 degrees Celsius and it is dry. Due to the warm Gulf Stream, the water temperatures are very very pleasant.
  • Grenada: For Grenada , the recommendation for travel time is similar, but the best time there starts in January, but also extends into May.
  • Cruises: At the same time, the recommendation for a cruise in the Caribbean also falls. However, this is of course still somewhat dependent on the specific goal.
  • Trinidad and Tobago: Trinidad and Tobago in the north of the Caribbean off the coast of Venezuela is usually outside the hurricane zone, but should only be visited between January and May due to the rainy season.
  • St.Marteen: For St. Marteen (Leeward Islands), the recommended travel time is from January to April.
  • ABC Islands: A destination for the whole year are the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao). There it has eight to nine hours of sunshine per day all year round. And even if there is a short rain shower, it doesn’t dampen the holiday joy.

Of course, you can also travel to the Caribbean outside the recommended travel times, but the weather is much wetter in the rainy season and the sky is cloudy rather than bright blue. If you are planning to travel to the Caribbean during hurricane season, please pay special attention to the regional warnings so that your holiday enjoyment is not dampened.

Things to do in the Caribbean

If you travel to the Caribbean, you have many opportunities to do something. If you want, you can just let your mind wander and do nothing: relax on the beach all day, enjoy delicious cocktails in a beach bar in the afternoon and just enjoy life. But even those who want to be active can experience a lot.

Sport and exercise

Carbioc, Sea
Image: Larwin / shutterstock

If you like water sports, you can go swimming and diving in many places. The Caribbean is home to many interesting spots for snorkeling and diving. And Belize has the second largest barrier reef in the world. Or you can try windsurfing or kitesurfing and feel the power of wind and water. Plus, you can make the catch of a lifetime deep sea fishing or take off flyboarding. And there are also sports opportunities away from the water. Because some of the islands, for example Puerto Rico, are mountainous and invite you to hike. The volcanoes can be explored on an extensive hike – for example on the island of Dominica.

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Cities and culture

If you are interested in culture, you can go on a discovery tour in ancient Mayan sites in countries such as Belize, Mexico or Guatemala and immerse yourself in times long past. And Cuba also offers a lot of activities and wonderful photo opportunities for those interested in culture. Many Caribbean cities are characterized by the style of the colonial era and impress with magnificent restored buildings and mighty colorful cathedrals from this time. In many cities there are also colorful markets where you can stock up on fresh fruit. Or you can stock up on souvenirs and take a little piece of the Caribbean home with you.

Flora and fauna

And if you are interested in foreign flora and fauna, the Caribbean is the right place for you. Because there are many animals and plants to marvel at in numerous national parks that do not exist in Europe. The Dominican Republic alone has over 100 national parks and invites you to dive into the Caribbean jungle.

The Caribbean food

The food in the Caribbean is diverse and colorful. Due to the location, fish and seafood are always part of the menu. Stews or ragouts are typical of Caribbean cuisine and often include chicken or pork. Due to its tropical location, there are also a variety of fruits and vegetables that end up on the plate in the Caribbean. People in the Caribbean like it hot and spicy and cultivate a large number of different types of chili. In the Caribbean, there are usually rice, plantains, sweet potatoes or cassava as side dishes. Okra and beans are also typical of Caribbean cuisine.

In addition to the chilies mentioned above, the typical spices include allspice, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger. The dishes are often accompanied by a spicy sauce, the sofrito. It usually consists of tomatoes or peppers, olive oil, herbs, pepper and annatto. A popular ingredient in Caribbean dishes is also coconut milk.

And of course, rum is also ubiquitous and is often mixed into cocktails such as Cuba Libre, Daiquiri, Piña Colada or Mojito. Beer drinkers also get their money’s worth in the Caribbean and can choose from many local beer specialties.

Food & Drink of the Caribbean

The Caribbean treats travelers to a delicious variety of food and drink. Here are some culinary highlights:

  • Rum: The Caribbean is famous for its rum. Try the different varieties, from mild to strong.
  • Jerk Chicken: A spicy grilled chicken specialty from Jamaica.
  • Ackee and saltfish: A national dish from Jamaica, consisting of ackee fruit and salted cod.
  • Conch: A sea delicacy that is made into conch salad or fried food on many islands.
  • Roti: A stuffed dough speciality that is particularly popular in Trinidad and Tobago.
  • Coconut: Enjoy fresh coconuts served on many islands, or try coconut curry dishes.
  • Fish and seafood: Since the Caribbean is surrounded by water, there is an abundance of fresh fish and seafood in the regional cuisine.

 

Six official languages and exciting religions

In addition to many unofficial languages of the local population, there are six official languages in the Caribbean. Spanish is the most widely spoken language and the official language of Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. The other languages are English, French, Dutch, Haitian and Papiamento. Papiamento is a creole language spoken on the ABC Islands. When it comes to religions, there are also very different faiths among the more than 40 million inhabitants of the Caribbean.

The majority of this is attributable to Christianity. And other well-known religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism or Judaism are also represented. But what is really exciting are the rather unusual and sometimes spiritual beliefs. Voodoo is one of the best known. The syncretic religion often exists parallel to Christianity or is practiced additionally. In addition to a lot of witchcraft and sorcery, voodoo also stands for the healing power of plants. Especially in Cuba, many people live out the Santería faith. This is a faith imported by African slaves and mixed with Catholic veneration of saints. This rather unknown religion is opposed by the well-known religion of the Rastafarian movement. It was created in the 1930s in the course of the Black Power movement in Kingston, Jamaica. It owes its fame to the famous representative Bob Marley, who sang against racism and slavery. Characteristic external feature are the dreadlocks. They serve as a symbol of pride in the homeland of Africa.

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Exotic plants and rare animals

The landscape and underwater world of the Caribbean are just as diverse as the inhabitants. If you are on holiday here and are looking for a change from the white sandy beach and palm trees in between, you will find all kinds of alternatives. Beautiful rainforests entice with lush greenery. Impressive waterfalls, fascinating mountain landscapes and extinct volcanoes satisfy the thirst for adventure. Cuba’s mountain forests are home to many different species of orchids. Sap-rich plants such as frangipani trees, mangroves and ball cacti enrich the natural landscape of the Lesser Antilles and on the ABC Islands, the bizarre Divi-Divi trees sometimes grow directly on the beach. Culinary highlights are provided, for example, by the guava tree, the mango tree, the olive tree or the avocado tree.

In numerous botanical gardens, there is a colourful floral picture of heliconias, bromeliads, flamboyant and many other types of flowers. With over 14000 plants, this diversity of Caribbean flora is not surprising. In the Caribbean wildlife, birds are strongly represented with more than 700 species. The parrot species Blue-headed and Imperial Amazon are only found in Dominica. The latter even has the status of national bird and is threatened with extinction. Wedge-tailed plovers are especially found on St. Martin and Aruba is associated with the flamingo. But it is not only special bird species that fascinate animal lovers. Caribbean manatees are among the rarest animal species in the world. The Caribbean manatees are protected. An encounter with iguanas, crocodiles, bats, the famous Bahamas pigs or sea turtles is also possible.

The history and colorful culture of the Caribbean

The first settlement of the Caribbean took place in 3500 BC. They were Indians from Venezuela. The friendly Arawak Indians were added as a second people. This was followed by the warlike Indians of the Cariben tribe, who ultimately gave the popular holiday region its name. Columbus discovered some Caribbean islands between 1492 and 1504. Further settlement took place through oppression and slavery. In the 16th century, the colonial era began with the arrival of the English. The French and Dutch conquered some of the colonies a short time later and with the arrival of the Africans in 1794, slavery was banned. However, Napoleon reintroduced it in 1802 before Victor Schoelcher banned it again in 1848 and thus the first independence movements began. Workers from China and India were now hired to work on the sugar cane and tobacco plantations.

Their colonial past is still strongly evident in today’s Caribbean. The story is of course less beautiful, especially because of slavery. Nevertheless, this difficult time has also contributed to the fact that today the diverse and cheerful culture makes the region so unique. Each Caribbean island has its own cultural mix. A very important part of Caribbean culture is music. While the Afro-Caribbean music style calypso is mainly found in Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica is the cradle of reggae. An important cultural event is the Carnival of Limón. The entire Limónensa community participates in this festival of music, dance and masquerades of the most diverse kinds. Many tourists also do not miss this annual spectacle in the week around 12 October. The typical Caribbean cuisine also reflects the multicultural diversity. Through the colonial period, Indian cuisine mixed with European influences. Later, Indian components were added and typical foods of African cuisine such as plantains, cassava or sweet potatoes are also used.

Useful information for the Caribbean trip

The best time to travel for a Caribbean vacation is from mid-November to April. Then it is the dry season. From June to the beginning of November, there is a risk of hurricanes. However, not all Caribbean islands are in the hurricane belt. The Caribbean is a true paradise for divers. A particularly beautiful diving spot is the Marine Park on Bonaire, which is part of a nature reserve. The US dollar is recognized as a means of payment almost everywhere. In some cases, it is also possible to pay in euros. Of course, the credit card can also be used as a means of payment. As a rule, all major airlines fly to the Caribbean. Depending on the destination, several stopovers may be necessary before a real dream vacation awaits.

The languages of the Caribbean

A variety of languages are spoken in the Caribbean, but the most common are English, Spanish, French, and Dutch. Due to historical colonization, these languages are widely spoken. In addition, there are many pidgin and creole languages based on African, European, and indigenous languages. However, on most tourist islands, you will be able to get by with English without any problems.