Dutch Caribbean

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Dutch Caribbean
Flag of the Netherlands.svg
Dutch Caribbean location map.svg
Location of the Dutch Caribbean islands
Area999 km2 (386 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 (historically known as the Dutch West Indies) are the territories, colonies, and countries, former and current, of the Dutch Empire and the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Caribbean Sea. They are in the north and south-west of the long Lesser Antilles archipelago.

Currently they comprise the constituent countries of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten; and the special municipalities of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba.[1] The contemporary term 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 has a population of 337,617 as of January 2019.[1]


The islands in the Dutch Caribbean were, from 1815, part of the colonies Curaçao and Dependencies (1815–1828) or Sint Eustatius and Dependencies (1815–1828), which were merged with colony of Suriname (not considered part of the Dutch Caribbean, although it was on the Caribbean coast of Northeastern South America) and governed from Paramaribo until 1845, when all islands became part of the colony again called Curaçao and Dependencies.

In 1954, the islands became the country (Dutch: Land) Netherlands Antilles (1954−2010). 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 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 situation remained until the complete dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles as a unified political entity in 2010. In that year Curaçao and Sint Maarten became autonomous constituent countries within the Kingdom (like Aruba); while Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba became special municipalities of the Netherlands proper. The Netherlands proper is located in the European Union.


Currently, there are two main divisions in the Dutch Caribbean:

  • those islands that have the status of being constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
  • those islands that have the status of being special municipalities of the Netherlands alone, as distinct from the Kingdom in its entirety.

Constituent countries[edit]

Willemstad, the capital of Curaçao and the largest city in the Dutch Caribbean

There are three Caribbean islands that are countries (Dutch: landen) 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 approximately one half of the island of Saint Martin. The northern half of the island – the Collectivity of Saint Martin – is an overseas territory of France.

Special municipalities[edit]

The three Caribbean islands that are special municipalities of the Netherlands alone are Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba. Collectively, these special municipalities of the Netherlands are also known as the "BES islands" or the Caribbean Netherlands.


Flag Name Capital Area[1] Population[1]
(January 2019)
Aruba Aruba
Oranjestad, Aruba
180 km2 (69 sq mi) 112,309 624/km2 (1,620/sq mi)
Bonaire Bonaire
294 km2 (114 sq mi) 20,104 69/km2 (180/sq mi)
Curaçao Curaçao
444 km2 (171 sq mi) 158,665 358/km2 (930/sq mi)
Saba Saba
The Bottom
13 km2 (5.0 sq mi) 1,915 148/km2 (380/sq mi)
Sint Eustatius Sint Eustatius
Oranjestad, Sint Eustatius
21 km2 (8.1 sq mi) 3,138 150/km2 (390/sq mi)
Sint Maarten Sint Maarten
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)

Grouping of islands[edit]

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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Zaken, Ministerie van Algemene (May 19, 2015). "Waaruit bestaat het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden? - Rijksoverheid.nl" Check |url= value (help). onderwerpen.
  2. ^ a b COUNTRY COMPARISON GDP Archived 2010-10-22 at WebCite, 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.
  5. ^ a b "Partners for International Business (PIB)". Dutch Government (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 25 June 2018. Retrieved 20 November 2018.

External links[edit]