When we think of the Caribbean, we think of white sand beaches, delicious tiki cocktails, and sunkissed locals with smiling faces. With so many of the most popular Caribbean countries speaking Spanish, you’d be forgiven for assuming that all of the locals speak it as well, but that isn’t always the case.
Many of the Caribbean countries speak English or Dutch as their first language. So, which islands in the Caribbean are Spanish? Today, we’re going to shine a light on the most beautiful Spanish-speaking countries in the Caribbean, and answer all of your questions about the Spanish Caribbean.
Top 10 Spanish Speaking Countries in the Caribbean
Without further adieu, here are the top 10 Spanish-speaking countries in the Caribbean.
#1 Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is perhaps the most famous of all Spanish-speaking Caribbean islands, for many good reasons. This picturesque enclave is the smallest of the Greater Antilles islands, just to the east of the Dominican Republic. Millions of travelers flock to this island each year to enjoy its beautiful beaches and laid-back culture.
Spanish is the official language of Puerto Rico, and many of the residents also speak English. Given the American influence on the island (Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory), you’ll also hear the locals speaking what is affectionately known as “Spanglish,” a mix of both English and Spanish.
Puerto Rico is arguably the easiest Caribbean island to enjoy. There are nearly 1,000 direct flights to the island each week from the U.S., and there are countless gorgeous resorts and villas for you to enjoy as you explore the island’s rich culture. Americans don’t need a passport when traveling to this Caribbean escape.
Puerto Rico is well known for its world-class rum, the famous Plaza Las Américas shopping center, which is the largest in the Caribbean, and its white-sand beaches. Flamenco Beach in Puerto Rico is a staple on the top 10 lists of the most picturesque beaches in the world. Beyond the shoreline, Puerto Rico offers amazing surfing, fishing, and diving opportunities.
#2 Islas de la Bahía (The Bay Islands)
Located just off the Caribbean coast of Honduras, the Bay Islands are home to some of the most picturesque water and ocean landscapes anywhere in the Caribbean. Islas de la Bahía is made up of three islands: Roatán, Guanaja, and Utila.
All three islands are major diving and snorkeling destinations. Utila is among the most popular and budget-friendly, while Roatán and Guanaja offer an even more beautiful coastline and sophisticated local culture. All three of the islands enjoy rich ocean life. The Bay Islands are home to the second-largest barrier reef in the world, and divers are treated to close encounters with coral, sea sponges, rays, turtles, and even whale sharks when exploring the waters.
Given its proximity to Honduras, The Bay Islands are mostly Spanish-speaking, although many locals speak English, as well. The winter months coincide with the rainy season on the Bay Islands, while March and August represent the hottest months in the region. The rest of the year, a cool breeze from the sea helps to temper the heat, making the Bay Islands especially comfortable.
#3 Bocas del Toro
Nestled against the shoreline of Panama, Bocas del Toro provides some of the best opportunities to enjoy the Caribbean as nature intended. Bocas del Toro is relatively undeveloped, with acres and acres of pristine tropical rainforest. These islands are also home to Panama’s most popular and picturesque beaches.
Like the Bay Islands, Bocas del Toro comprises three islands: Isla Carenero, Isla Bastimentos, and Isla Colon. Isla Colon is the most populous and developed of the three. Isla Bastimentos is the largest of the three while the tiny Isla Carenero is a hiking and kayaking paradise that’s home to some of the best seafood in the world.
Bocas del Toro is one of the least populated of the Caribbean islands, with roughly 13,000 inhabitants. Spanish is spoken almost exclusively here, thanks to its proximity to mainland Panama and a relative lack of foreign influence and tourist traffic.
#4 Corn Islands
Once a haven for smugglers and pirates, the Corn Islands are perhaps the best-kept secret in the Caribbean, and arguably the most gorgeous of all the Spanish-speaking Caribbean nations. These two islands are relatively untouched by modern standards, and travelers and locals alike enjoy a serene paradise that’s characterized by excellent weather and a warm sea breeze.
Located off the coast of Nicaragua, these little-known islands fly under the radar for most Caribbean travelers because they can be difficult to get to. The only way to get to the picturesque Little Corn Island is by a half-hour panga boat ride that can be bumpy, wet, and sometimes dangerous.
Those who brave the waves enjoy one of the most untouched and naturally gorgeous enclaves in the world. Accommodations are inexpensive, the food is delicious, and the people are warm and inviting. Corn Island natives primarily speak Spanish, although there are many English speakers on the island as well.
Cuba is the most populous Caribbean island, nestled in between the tip of Mexico and Haiti. Known as the Pearl of the Antilles, Cuba is characterized by gorgeous beaches, dense forests, and stunning mountain ranges. The island boasts thousands of miles of coastline with more than 600 beaches to explore and enjoy.
Cuba has a rich heritage and culture that’s reflected in the people of the island. The island is diverse, as multiple cultures, customs, and traditions all converge to create something unique and entirely Cuban. Cuba is known for its excellent coffee, refreshing cocktails, and delicious food.
Cuba is a popular destination for tourists and that popularity is continuing to grow. Cuba is home to excellent opportunities to hike, fish, enjoy nature, and relax. While it isn’t uncommon to occasionally hear English or other languages in Cuba, almost the entirety of the country speaks Spanish, which is Cuba’s national language.
#6 Federal Dependencies of Venezuela
A collection of little-known and hardly explored islands off the coast of Venezuela, there are over 600 tiny islands that make up the Federal Dependencies of Venezuela. Some are more remote than others, while some have year-round inhabitants.
These islands were recognized as part of Venezuela in the late 18th century, and most of the islands still fall under Venezuelan control. Spanish is the official language across virtually all of the islands, and virtually all the inhabitants of the islands speak Spanish.
Like many Caribbean islands, the Federal Dependencies of Venezuela represent a tremendous opportunity for leisure and enjoyment. But, nearly all of the islands lack the infrastructure or local economy to sustain a booming tourism economy. The population on the island is also quite small, with just over 2,000 full-time residents spread out across the region.
Some islands, like La Tortuga, have taken steps to increase tourism, so it may be a matter of time before more people can enjoy these gorgeous islands.
#7 Dominican Republic
The second most populous island in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic is home to more than eight million full-time residents and a robust economy of leisure and tourism. The Dominican Republic offers almost 1,000 miles of pristine coastline and over 250 miles of gorgeous beaches.
Beyond the beach, there are hundreds of hotels, resorts, and private villas for you to enjoy as you soak in all that this incredible island has to offer. The Dominican Republic is arguably the most diverse island in the Caribbean, with a unique culture resulting from centuries of influence from different countries both within the region and worldwide.
The Dominican Republic offers incredible cuisine and drinks, plenty of opportunities to shop for local and luxury goods, excellent excursions, and luxury accommodations that are among the most inviting and affordable in the Caribbean. The DR is also effortless to get to, with thousands of flights worldwide arriving and departing each week.
Nestled off the coast of Mexico, Cozumel is one of the most sought-after vacation destinations in the Caribbean. This gorgeous island is known for its picturesque coastline, incredible golf courses, and natural cenotes spread throughout the waters surrounding the island.
Spanish is the most popular language spoken in Cozumel, but as a thriving tourist center, English is nearly as common in the region, and even non-Spanish speakers have no problem communicating on the island.
While Cozumel offers beautiful white sand beaches and world-class dining, so much of the beauty of this island lies beyond the water’s edge. Abundant coral reefs provide excellent opportunities for diving and snorkeling, and the underground cenotes throughout the coast must be experienced to be believed.
Near Cozumel and just off the coast of Cancun, Mujeres is an inviting Caribbean retreat that’s home to a burgeoning tourism industry, a diverse array of locals, and some of the best of everything the Caribbean has to offer.
Mujeres is home to Playa Norte, one of the Caribbean’s most famous beaches, and Punta Sur, which offers tons of ways to interact with the abundant coral reef and diverse aquatic life. The island is also home to the innovative MUSA underwater museum, and Hacienda Mundaca, the historic home of famous pirate Fermin Mundaca.
Compared to Cancun, Mujeres is laid-back and easy-going, making it perfect for a relaxing vacation or a permanent vacation, depending on how much you fall in love with the island. The official language of the island is Spanish, but many of the locals and visitors speak fluent English, as well.
#10 Nueva Esparta
Nueva Esparta is located off the coast of Venezuela among the Federal Dependencies of Venezuela. Unlike the other islands, which are mainly federal territories of Venezuela, Nueva Esparta is a state.
The name of the island translates to “New Sparta,” which is a nod to the bravery and heroism displayed by the island’s inhabitants during the Venezuelan War of Independence. Far removed from its wartime beginnings, the island is a true gem of the Caribbean, and its beauty is unparalleled.
The national language of Nerva Esparta is Spanish, and that’s the predominant language of the island. You won’t hear much else spoken here, as tourism is not as prevalent as in other Caribbean nations.
#11 San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina
San Andrés, Providencia, and Santa Catalina are part of an archipelago above Colombia in the Caribbean Sea. San Andrés is the largest and most populous island, while the other two are a bit quieter but no less picturesque.
The main island of San Andrés offers the widest variety of accommodations and entertainment, but all three islands are premier tourist destinations with ample opportunities to enjoy all the island has to offer. Providencia is one of the Caribbean’s premier diving destinations.
England and Spain have a rich history with these islands, and while Spanish is the official language, English is commonly spoken, along with Spanish creole.
Top Questions About Spanish Speaking Countries in the Caribbean
People have plenty of excellent questions about the Spanish Caribbean. We’ve compiled the most common ones below. Let us know if we answered all your questions!
How many countries speak Spanish in the Caribbean?
Wondering what islands in the Caribbean are Spanish? In total, 11 different countries in the Caribbean speak Spanish as their official language.
Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Bocas del Toro, Bay Islands, Federal Dependencies of Venezuela, Cozumel, Mujeres, Nueva Esparta and San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina all speak Spanish as their official language. Spanish is also commonly spoken on several other Caribbean islands where Dutch, English, or French are the official languages.
Is Caribbean a Spanish word?
The word Caribbean is derived from Carib, which is a term for the native Amerindians who initially inhabited many of the regions of today’s Caribbean. The word has roots in Latin, and it was first coined by the Spanish and European conquistadors of the 15th century.
What is Caribbean Spanish?
Caribbean Spanish refers to the Spanish dialects spoken throughout the region. While Caribbean Spanish is closely associated with Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic, the dialect is also spoken in other Spanish Caribbean countries off the South American mainland.
While Caribbean Spanish is similar throughout the region, especially when compared to how the language is spoken on the Spanish mainland, each island places an original spin on the dialect, and most Spanish speakers can point out the subtle differences between different Caribbean Spanish speakers.
How is Caribbean Spanish different from Mexican Spanish?
The dialects of Caribbean Spanish and Mexican Spanish have some differences because of cultural and ethnic differences in each region. The Caribbean, and the way Caribbean people speak Spanish are influenced by African culture, which helps explain the notable differences between the two.
Other cultural influences in the regions also help to shape the way Spanish is spoken in Mexico and the Caribbean.
Why did the Spanish come to the Caribbean?
During the Age of Exploration, wealthy countries in Europe set sail in an unknown world in hopes of discovering new trade routes, and wealth while spreading their faith. The Spanish were first to arrive in the region, and they found a rich and fertile landscape to lay claim to as they sought to expand Spanish influence in the world.
What did the Spanish bring to the Caribbean?
As the Spanish began to settle along the islands of the Caribbean, they brought with them many of the crops that are common in the region today, including bananas and sugar cane. The Spanish are also credited with introducing pets to the region.
What was the first capital of the Spanish empire in the Caribbean?
When the Spanish initially settled in the Caribbean, they did so on the island of Hispaniola. Today, this island is made up of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The first Spanish settlement was in modern-day Santo Domingo, and it came to be known as the “mother of settlement” in all of Latin America.
Inspired by the success of their settlement at Santo Domingo, the Spanish quickly settled in modern Havana, Cuba and San Juan, Puerto Rico. These new ports would quickly eclipse Santo Domingo in influence, but Santo Domingo remains the de facto first capital of the Spanish empire in the Caribbean.
The Spanish Caribbean is home to some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, with tons of world-class attractions, dining, and anything else you could want. The Caribbean is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse places in the world.
Islands separated by only a few dozen miles often have completely different cultures, languages, and lifestyles. Outside of these 11 Spanish-speaking countries in the Caribbean, there are dozens more who speak English, Dutch, Creole, or indigenous languages as their primary tongue.
First-timers and experienced island hoppers agree the Spanish Caribbean is among the most beautiful, diverse, and enjoyable places to visit or move to in the world.
See anything we missed? Let us know in the comments below!
Related: English Speaking Caribbean Islands