Dutch Caribbean
Location of the Dutch Caribbean islands
Area980 km2 (380 sq mi)[1]
(as of January 2019)
GDP (Nominal)US$8.911 billion[2]
GDP per Capita (Nominal)US$29,240[2]
Density343/km2 (890/sq mi)
LanguagesDutch, English, Papiamento
Government3 constituent countries
3 special municipalities

The Dutch Caribbean[a] (historically known as the Dutch West Indies) are the New World territories, colonies, and countries (former and current) of the Dutch Empire and the Kingdom of the Netherlands located in the Caribbean Sea, mainly the northern and southwestern regions of the Lesser Antilles archipelago.

Currently, it comprises the constituent countries of Curaçao, Aruba and Sint Maarten (the 'CAS' islands) and the special municipalities of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba (BES islands).[1] The term "Dutch Caribbean" is sometimes also used for the Caribbean Netherlands, an entity consisting of the three special municipalities forming part of the constituent country of the Netherlands since 2010.[3][4] The Dutch Caribbean had a population of 337,617 as of January 2019.[1]


Further information: Dutch colonization of the Americas and Dutch West India Company

Andrew Doria receives a salute from the Dutch fort at Sint Eustatius, 16 November 1776

The islands of the Dutch Caribbean were, formerly, part of Curaçao and Dependencies (1815–1828), or Sint Eustatius and Dependencies (1815–1828), which were merged with the colony of Suriname (not actually considered part of the "Dutch Caribbean", although it is located on the Caribbean coast of northeastern South America). Until 1845, they were governed from Paramaribo, Suriname, at which point all the islands, again, became part of Curaçao and Dependencies.

In 1954, the islands became the land (Dutch for "country") of Netherlands Antilles, lasting until 2010. The autonomy of the Netherlands Antilles' island territories was stipulated in the Islands Regulation of the Netherlands Antilles. Initially, the Netherlands Antilles consisted of four island territories—Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao and the Windward Islands. The latter split into the Island Territories of Saba, Sint Eustatius and Sint Maarten, in 1983.

The island of Aruba seceded from the Netherlands Antilles in 1986 to become a separate constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, leaving five island territories within the Netherlands Antilles. This arrangement lasted until the complete dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles, as a unified political entity, in 2010; that year, Curaçao and Sint Maarten became autonomous constituent countries within the Kingdom (like Aruba). Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba became special municipalities of the Netherlands proper (located on the European mainland), a member state of the European Union.


Map of the Dutch Caribbean islands
Those countries and special municipalities of the Kingdom of the Netherlands that are located in the Caribbean (blue background) form the Dutch Caribbean

Geographically, the six entities of the Dutch Caribbean are clustered into two vastly separated areas of the Caribbean:

Politically, each (six) entity of the Dutch Caribbean currently has one of two relationships with the Netherlands:

Constituent countries

Three Caribbean polities are landen (Dutch for "countries") within the Kingdom of the Netherlands: Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten. The Netherlands is the fourth and largest constituent country in the Kingdom.

Sint Maarten comprises the southern half of the island of Saint Martin. The northern half of the island (the Collectivity of Saint Martin) is an overseas territory of France. Aruba and Curaçao are located in the far south of the Caribbean, roughly 30 kilometres and 65 kilometres from the coast of Venezuela, respectively.

Special municipalities

Main article: Caribbean Netherlands

Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard cutter

The three Caribbean islands that are special municipalities of the Netherlands alone are Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba. Abbreviated collectively, these are also known as the "BES islands", or the Caribbean Netherlands. Bonaire is located in the far south of the Caribbean, being about 80 kilometres north of the coast of Venezuela; Saba is located about 50 kilometres south of Sint Maarten, and boasts the highest mountain in the Netherlands, Mount Scenery, at 880 m (2,887') above sea level). Sint Eustatius is located directly north of Saint Kitts.

Dutch Caribbean islands

Flag Coat of arms Name Island group Constitutional status Capital Area[1] Population[1]
(January 2019)
Aruba Aruba Leeward Antilles Constituent country of the
Kingdom of the Netherlands
Oranjestad 180 km2 (69 sq mi) 112,309 624/km2 (1,620/sq mi)
Bonaire Bonaire Leeward Antilles Special municipality of the Netherlands Kralendijk 294 km2 (114 sq mi) 20,104 69/km2 (180/sq mi)
Curaçao Curaçao Leeward Antilles Constituent country of the
Kingdom of the Netherlands
Willemstad 444 km2 (171 sq mi) 158,665 358/km2 (930/sq mi)
Saba (island) Saba Leeward Islands Special municipality of the Netherlands The Bottom 13 km2 (5.0 sq mi) 1,915 148/km2 (380/sq mi)
Sint Eustatius Sint Eustatius Leeward Islands Special municipality of the Netherlands Oranjestad 21 km2 (8.1 sq mi) 3,138 150/km2 (390/sq mi)
Sint Maarten Sint Maarten Leeward Islands Constituent country of the
Kingdom of the Netherlands
Philipsburg 34 km2 (13 sq mi) 41,486 1,221/km2 (3,160/sq mi)
Total 986 km2 (381 sq mi) 337,617 343/km2 (890/sq mi)

Photo gallery

Grouping of islands

The islands have also been informally grouped in the following ways.

See also


  1. ^ Dutch: Caribisch deel van het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden, lit.'Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands'; colloquially de CAS- en BES-eilanden, 'the CAS and BES islands'.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Zaken, Ministerie van Algemene (May 19, 2015). "Waaruit bestaat het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden?" (in Dutch). Rijksoverheid.nl.
  2. ^ a b COUNTRY COMPARISON GDP , Central Intelligence Agency.
  3. ^ "Rijksdienst Carbische Nederland (Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean)". Government of the Netherlands. Archived from the original on 2 July 2015. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
  4. ^ "Visa for the Dutch Caribbean". Netherlands Embassy in the United Kingdom. Archived from the original on 19 January 2014. Retrieved 4 June 2015.