Though all seniors have heard of the Caribbean, many of us aren’t overly familiar with this region, made up of thousands of islands over 1 million square miles. And for those looking to plan a vacation here, whether to celebrate retirement, relax on the beach, or explore the waters, it’s a good idea to understand the area better before you book your trip.
The Caribbean is not only made up of different islands but cultures too. There are 17 territories and 13 sovereign states found in the Caribbean and more than seven languages. But don’t worry, since the Caribbean relies heavily on tourism English is spoken on most of the islands throughout the region.
And when choosing the right Caribbean destination, there are several factors to consider, such as what type of vacation you are looking for, outdoor adventure, spas and luxury, diving and fishing, or a combination. Plus, because there are a variety of islands to choose from, you can also select if you are looking for a touristy destination or one that is more submerged in local culture.
Below, we have started to break things down to help you get started on planning your ultimate Caribbean vacation.
What is the Caribbean?
- Why the Caribbean’s so Popular
Why the Caribbean’s so Popular
The Caribbean is a favored vacation destination for many seniors, but have you ever wondered why that is? Well, the answer is simple, the Caribbean has something for everyone, and that’s no exaggeration. For seniors who are looking to:
- Relax in Luxury – Almost every island has a few luxury and all-inclusive resorts where you can soak up the pampered life with fine dining, pools, and spas.
- Go Hiking – Seniors can hike through the rainforests in Saba, take two weeks and hike the 115-mile Waitukubuli National Trail in Dominica, or head to Saint Vincent to hike to beautiful waterfalls when not relaxing on white sandy beaches.
- Go Diving – Whether you like to snorkel or scuba dive, the clear waters of the Caribbean offer some of the most spectacular underwater views. Some of the top islands for underwater adventures include Trunk Bay in St. John with a snorkel trail reaching 673 feet long, Bonaire, which has won numerous awards for being the best place for snorkeling, and the Bahamas is perfect for those looking to dive with the sharks.
- Go Golfing – There are hundreds of all-inclusive golf resorts found throughout the many islands in the Caribbean. Some of the top resorts include Club Med, located in Punta Cana, Moon Palace Jamaica in Saint Ann, and The House by Elegant Hotels in St. James, which is also adults only.
- Go Fishing – Seniors who love fishing must visit Turks and Caicos, where they can find snapper, tuna, grouper, and more. However, Turks and Caicos isn’t the only place in the Caribbean to find fish. Grenada is known for its excellent sport fishing and Wind Jammer Landing, All Inclusive Resort in St Lucia, offers deep sea fishing.
But, of course, the weather and white sand beaches are likely the number one reason seniors come to visit the Caribbean Islands.
The winter weather in the Caribbean is a major draw, particularly for seniors living in colder climates. Between the months of December to May is the best time to visit the Caribbean since this is considered their dry season and temperatures are in the low 80s.
Though seniors vacation in the Caribbean year round, June through November is considered hurricane season, so you will have a greater chance of encountering less than favorable weather during this time of year. But if you don’t mind the possibility of rain, the cheapest months to travel to the Caribbean are May and June.
But November and December are also less expensive months and have a better chance for drier weather. Going late in the year is also a time when there are fewer tourists, so if you are looking for things to be a bit on the quieter side, that’s a wonderful time to visit.
The Caribbean refers to a group of islands, or archipelago, in the Caribbean Sea. There are 25 territories and independent countries in the Caribbean Sea. Of the various countries affiliated with the islands, with four associated with France, two are territories of the US, and five are considered British territories.
The islands are not grouped due to affiliation but instead are broken into three primary groups of islands based on geographic location.
- Lucayan Archipelago – Located southeast of the Florida coast
- Popular islands within this region include – The Bahamas, Turks, and Caicos Islands
- Greater Antilles – Located just south of Lucayan Archipelago in the northern section of the Caribbean
- Popular islands within this region include – Cayman Islands, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica
- Lesser Antilles – Located on the far southeast of the Caribbean Sea and is made up of two smaller subgroups of islands
- Northern Leeward Islands – Virgin Islands (both US and British), Barbuda, and Antigua
- Southern Windward Islands – Dominica and St. Vincent
And if you were wondering which of the many islands in the Caribbean is the largest, the answer is Cuba, located in the Greater Antilles region. And not only the largest and most populated of the Caribbean Islands, but it is also the most popular.
Because the many islands in the Caribbean aren’t all affiliated with the same country, there are a variety of languages spoken in the Caribbean region. The most common languages found through the Caribbean Islands are English, Dutch, French, Spanish, Papiamento, Haitian Creole, and Antillean Creole.
However, in addition to these primary languages, there are several other languages and dialects found throughout the many islands. Several of the dialects include variations of Creole. Creole is a hybrid language emerging from colonies located along the coasts of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. Some of the more common creole languages include Jamaican Creole, English Creole, and Dutch Creole.
The culture in the Caribbean varies from island to island; however, they all have one thing in common, they are all a melting pot due to colonization, combining European culture with that of the native island.
In addition to having a blend of cultures, there are few other commonalities found throughout the island, such as:
- Vibrant, colorful festivals with loud music and energetic dancing are commonly found on all Caribbean islands. Festivals, parades, and carnivals are a significant part of Caribbean cultures, and you can find hundreds of them throughout the year.
- Unique architecture is found on all of the islands; though it differs from island to island, the historical buildings and styles are found on all of the islands.
- Folklore is strong in the Caribbean and has come from its African roots. Though each island has its own tales, the one thing they all have in common is the lore is based on terrifying monsters like The Heartman, who terrorizes children, soucouyant a creature that is half-witch and half vampire, and La Diablesse, who is found in multiple Caribbean countries luring victims into the forest where they often lost forever.
- Diverse religious beliefs are found throughout the region. Though many natives were converted during colonization to Catholicism, other religions remain strong here too. Some of the other faiths seen in the Caribbean include:
- Hinduism was brought by Indian immigrants
- Santeria, an African religion often found in Cuba
- Rastafari in Jamaica, a combination of Christianity, mysticism, and African politics