From the northern coast of Venezuela to the tips of the Yucatan and Florida Peninsulas, a string of gem-like islands guards the Caribbean Sea from the open Atlantic Ocean. These islands—known collectively as “the Caribbean”—harbor some of the world’s most magnificent experiences in nature. Designated as one of our planet’s 35 “biodiversity hotspots,” the Caribbean is a wonderland of endemism. The region’s 700+ islands host tropical flora and fauna that have evolved in isolation, resulting in some astounding numbers of endemic organisms. For starters, the Caribbean islands host more than 13,000 vascular plants, with over 6,500 single-island endemics (compared to 4,200 endemic species for continental North America). Not into plants? No problem. More than 640 endemic reptiles & amphibians include the snake that is smaller than a pencil lead and the curly-tailed lizards. The Jamaican Snoring Frog should be on every naturalist’s bucket list. Prefer fuzzy critters? Come search for the world’s only 2 remaining solenodons, representing an ancient lineage of shrew-like venomous mammals. You might have better luck actually seeing one of 20 hutia species, large rodents of the endemic Capromyidae family. And there is plenty of excitement for birders. The region is considered one of 218 global “endemic bird areas,” with over 170 endemic bird species, 36 endemic genera, and one endemic family: the incredibly adorable Todies (family Todidae), with 5 species in the Greater Antilles. Many of these can be seen along the Caribbean Birding Trail. If you actually get tired of birding, swim with Nurse Shark in the Bahamas or climb a volcano on Sint Eustatius. Taste the delicious Caribbean rums (every islander says that their island makes the best) and decide for yourself if the Dominicans or the Cubans make the best cigars. Whatever you do when you are there, make sure you go beyond the beach and experience the real nature of the Caribbean.