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The Caribbean is one of the most popular tourist areas in the world. Year after year, millions flock to the small, picturesque islands of the Caribbean. World-renowned for their laid-back, affable ways, travel to the Caribbean is for those who want to make a point of taking it easy. Mile after mile of bleach-white sand leads to the ethereal blue waters that make the region famous. The ubiquitous presence of fruity rum drinks doesn't hurt, either. Return visitors are common here, and there's no mystery why. Besides, Caribbean travel offers so many different kinds of culture and history that one trip is not enough to see it all. Many go to Jamaica, but no further. Others choose the Cayman Islands. But every island has such a fiercely unique identity that is hard to see just one - the experiences you have on Aruba, are going to be far different than if you visit Guadeloupe.
There are three main regions of the Caribbean. The first are the Greater Antilles, home to Cuba, Jamaica and Puerto Rico, amongst others. Caribbean Island vacations that include these countries (with the notable exception of Cuba) often find a strong American influence. Whether that is a selling point or not is for the individual to judge.
The Lesser Antilles are comparatively small in size, but the sheer amount of islands make it the bulk of the Caribbean arc. Here, the most popular destinations for travel to the Caribbean are the Virgin Islands, Antigua and St. Martin. The final group, the Windward and Southern Islands are the most diverse group for Caribbean travel - you can stay on relatively untouched islands such as St. Lucia or Dominica (where the Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed) that remain natural wonders in the face of Caribbean over-development, or you can stay somewhere that has the soft touch of familiarity, such as the always popular Aruba.
A large percentage of tourists come to the islands having purchased Caribbean vacation packages. And while these are easily the best and comfortable, allowing you to take in the luxury of the coral reefs and palm trees, there are many different types of ways to enjoy the islands. The most ambitious, if not popular, approach to Caribbean travel is to get an airpass granting unlimited travel for a selected period of time (usually a month). This way you are free to see a number of islands on one trip. Tired of St. Lucia? Hop a 20 minute plane ride over to Barbados. Or try to get to Trinidad for carnival. Stay a few days on Martinique, and see what Paris would look like if it were located on a sun-kissed beach and it was 80 degrees everyday. Or fly to the British Virgin Islands and escape onto deserted coves where you won't see another human for days.
Long the home of bitter battles and famous pirates, Caribbean island vacations are surprisingly complex when it comes to rich history and cultural milestones. See the remainder of the Carib Indian lands (for whom the islands are named) or the cave-drawing and ancient landmarks of the peaceful Arawaks for a real look into the past. For years England, Spain, France, Denmark and the Netherlands fought for control of the Caribbean - often resulting in a fascinating combination of cultures on a single island, a rich mixture that only became more mysterious with the addition of the many African tribal traditions that came across the Atlantic as a result of the slave trade.
Travel to the Caribbean doesn't come without a price, however. Those looking for discount Caribbean island vacations have their work cut out for them. But that doesn't mean it's impossible, and if you can avoid the overpriced resorts and restaurants catering primarily to tourists, your dollar can be stretched a lot farther than many would have you believe.