The Caribbean is a region consisting of the Caribbean Sea, its islands (most of which enclose the sea), and the surrounding coasts. The region is located southeast of the Gulf of Mexico and Northern America, east of Central America, and to the north of South America.
Situated largely on the Caribbean Plate, the region comprises more than 7,000 islands, islets, reefs, and cays. These islands, called the West Indies, generally form island arcs that delineate the eastern and northern edges of the Caribbean Sea. These islands are called the West Indies because when Christopher Columbus landed there in 1492 he believed that he had reached the Indies (in Asia).
The region consists of the Antilles, divided into the larger Greater Antilles which bound the sea on the north and the Lesser Antilles on the south and east (including the Leeward Antilles), and the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, which are in fact in the Atlantic Ocean north of Cuba, not in the Caribbean Sea.