What Countries Make up the West Indies?

Trish Hartmann/CC-BY 2.0

The countries that make up the West Indies are the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Cuba and Haiti. The West Indies are a group of islands in the Caribbean called the Greater Antilles.

The West Indies are all part of the same oceanic mountain range, effectively dividing the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.

Columbus discovered the first two islands of this group in 1492 and called them the West Indies. This group of islands received the name of West Indies to distinguish it from the East Indies, which is now known as Southeast Asia.

Although Spain first laid claim to the West Indies, the country only held the islands for about a century. England claimed some of the islands for a time, calling them the British West Indies. Islands in the group then became the Danish West Indies, the Dutch West Indies and the French West Indies before passing to American hands in 1916. The United States bought the islands from Denmark for 25 million dollars, and they became the United States Virgin Islands.

The West Indies are located in the Tropic of Cancer, which gives them tropical and subtropical climates. The islands receive plenty of sunlight and rainfall, making it a great location for growing crops.