What Are the ABC Islands?

The coast of Curaçao, which is one of the three ABC islands.
The coast of Curaçao, which is one of the three ABC islands.

The Caribbean Sea is known for its beautiful islands, sandy beaches, coral reefs and a large variety of amazing marine life. There is a total of more than five thousand islands scattered throughout the Caribbean and the Atlantic region. Three specific Caribbean islands are known as the ABC islands: Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao.

The ABC islands make up the westernmost part of the of the Leeward Antilles in the Caribbean Sea, just north of Venezuela's Falcon State. Aruba and Curaçao are independently governed constituent countries of the Kingdom of Netherlands, while Bonaire is a special municipality of the Netherlands (which is another constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands). Despite being part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, none of these islands are part of the European Union.

History of the ABC Islands

The exploration of the ABC islands in 1499 is credited to Alonso de Ojeda, the Spanish navigator famous for exploring Venezuela and Santa Cruz and known as the first European to visit Colombia. Spanish settlers soon formed colonies on the islands in search of gold and silver reserves, established a government, introduced Catholicism, and enslaved the native people of the ABC islands.

The Dutch took interest in the ABC islands, and ultimately defeated the Spanish to take control over the islands in 1634. The Dutch West India Company soon began to develop the islands. The ABC islands became part of the Netherlands Antilles in 1954, and Aruba and Curaçao became independent constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1986 and 2010, respectively.

Travel to the ABC Islands

The ABC islands attract a large number of tourists each year. Famous for its shopping, restaurants, hotels, casinos, parks, coral reefs, beaches and wonderful weather, the islands are also considered a marine paradise and are home to many rare species of fish and marine life.

Surfers and scuba divers enjoy exploring the coral reefs and marine life, while others are kept busy sun-bathing on the beaches. The islands are contains numerous historical sites, including Willemstad, the capital of Curaçao and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Economy of the ABC Islands

The economy of ABC islands is directly influenced by the economy of Venezuela, which is one of the world's major oil-producing countries. As a result, oil refining, shipping, tourism, information technology, and finance make up a large part of the GDP.

Languages Spoken in the ABC Islands

The Netherlands ruled the ABC islands for more than three centuries, and during this time Dutch was the official language on all three Islands. However, in March 2007, the islands adopted Papiamentu as the official language. English is also commonly spoken on the islands, given the large number of international travellers that visit the ABC islands each year.

Demographics and Religion in the ABC Islands

Afro-Caribbean and Mestizo people represent a large portion of the population in the ABC islands. The islands are also home to a sizeable population of Latin Americans. As a result of the Spanish colonial period, Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism, is the major religion practiced on the ABC islands.


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