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Just out: Caribbean tourism stats for 2013

Steel band bats out island favorites on St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Photo by Bob Schulman.

A whopping 18.5 million visitors showed up on the powdery beaches of the Caribbean last year, according to the latest figures of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO). The stats – which count guests who checked into hotels or otherwise spent at least a night on the Caribbean's 27 main islands – show the Dominican Republic again took the region's heavyweight crown with close to 4.7 million arrivals.

Rounding out the top five islands last year, some 2.85 million visitors left footprints on the talcumy beaches of was Jamaica (2 million), followed by Puerto Rico (1.2 million, but only nine months reported) and the Bahamas (1.1 million, for eight months).

Next on the list, the CTO said some 3.6 million visitors shook their booties to reggae, merengue, salsa and other Caribbean tunes on these six islands or island groups last year: Aruba (979,000), the U.S. Virgin Islands (703,000), Barbados (508,000), Martinique (490,000), St. Maarten (467,000), and Curacao (440,000).

Another 21.5 million vacationers came down the gangplanks of cruise ships for shore leaves on the islands in 2013. Heavyweights with over a million visitors in this category were (in descending order): the Bahamas, the Mexican island of Cozumel, the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Maarten, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica and Puerto Rico