The geography of the region ranges from relatively flat terrain of non-volcanic territories to those with rugged towering mountain-ranges. The climate is tropical but rainfall varies with elevation, size and water currents. The region enjoys year-round sunshine, divided into 'dry' and 'wet' seasons.
The waters of the Caribbean Sea host large, migratory schools of fish, turtles, and coral reef formations. The region experiences hurricanes during the July to November period of the year. The region sits in the line of several major shipping routes with the Panama Canal connecting the western Caribbean Sea with the Pacific Ocean.
The Caribbean region is known for its exceptionally diverse terrestrial and marine ecosystems ranging from significant forest cover to cactus scrublands. The region contains approximately 8% (by surface area) of the world’s coral reefs, with remarkable diversity of animal life, plants and fungi and has been classified as one of Conservation International's biodiversity hotspots. The region's coral reefs are said to contain approximately 70 species of hard corals and between 500–700 species of reef-associated fishes. The natural environmental diversity of the Caribbean islands accounts for the region’s strength as a tourism Mecca and has led to strong growth in recent years in eco-tourism.
Some Caribbean islands have terrain that has been found to be suitable for cultivation for agriculture. In particular, the production of sugarcane, tobacco and bananas has been grown over the years as the region’s staple crops, primarily for export to Europe. The tropical plantation system dominated Caribbean settlement in the past. Some islands are heavily covered in forests, while others are extremely arid, making them unsuitable for agriculture.