During his four voyages to the New World, Christopher Columbus traveled extensively through the Caribbean and visited the coasts of Central and South America. In his first journey, he visited the Bahamas and Cuba, which he thought were Japan and China, respectively. His second voyage took him through much of the southeast Caribbean, and his third voyage visited Venezuela. His final voyage explored much of the Central American coast.
The first land Columbus reached in the New World was an island somewhere in the Bahamas that he named San Salvador. Unfortunately, his charts were ambiguous, and which island he actually first encountered is unknown. Although the island of San Salvador, renamed from Watlings Island in 1925, lays claim to this honor, there are several likely candidates in the island chain.
Before his famous journeys west across the Atlantic, Columbus took a number of voyages to explore Africa in search of a more traditional route from Europe to central and east Asia. His first journey nearly ended in disaster when French privateers destroyed his fleet in 1476, forcing him to swim to shore and make his way back to Portugal. In subsequent journeys, he became familiar with the currents around the Canary Islands. This knowledge proved useful on his four trips to the Caribbean.