The country of Jamaica is a tropical paradise that is alive with its own culture and tradition. As the home of reggae music, it also has its own distinct attractions and cuisine.
Found in the Caribbean Sea, Jamaica is located between 17 and 19 degrees north longitude, and 76 and 79 degrees west latitude. It is approximately 90 miles south of Cuba, and 119 miles west of Hispaniola Island. Although there are no bordering nations, it shares maritime borders with a number of other countries including Colombia, Haiti, and Cuba. It is roughly 190 miles from Puerto Rico and approximately 1,000 miles from Miami, Florida.
Jamaica ranks third in land mass among islands in the Greater Antilles, and fifth in size among island nations in the Caribbean Sea. It consists of around 4,240 square miles of territory, and 634 miles of coastal area. Jamaica is around 145 miles long and about 80 miles wide. It has an estimated population of around 2.9 million people, and approximately 580,000 of those people live in the capital city of Kingston. In all, Kingston makes up around 185 square miles of this country’s total land area.
The citizens of Jamaica are primarily of African descent, yet it is not uncommon to find multiracial individuals here. There has been an increase in immigration over the past few years with most immigrants coming from China, Haiti or Columbia. English is the native language, with a distinct dialect known as Jamaican Patois being very common. Jamaican Patois has elements of the English and African languages along with a few Native American words mixed in. Christianity is the primary religion, with most who profess Christianity belonging to one of the Protestant denominations.
Jamaica has a tropical climate, with average temperatures year round ranging in the 80s. Temperatures are somewhat higher during July and August, while the lowest temperatures are found in February. Areas of high altitude tend to be slightly cooler than low-lying areas, and temperatures in mountainous regions can get to as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter. The southwestern region of this country is mostly arid, while the eastern section receives a decent amount of precipitation. Hurricanes are possible on this island from June 1st through November 30th.
As the capital city of St. James Parish, Montego Bay is a popular tourist destination because it offers plenty of duty-free shopping and is also a port of call for many cruise ships. It is famous for its pristine beaches, which are flanked by breathtaking mountains. Visitors here can enjoy a mountain safari, sink below the ocean’s surface in a special vessel or go jungle river tubing. Windsor Caves are located on the grounds of a historic estate that is also open to visitors. Zip lines, scuba diving, snorkeling and hiking can all be enjoyed here as well.
Negril is a popular tourist destination primarily because of the lack of development. It is best known for its Seven Mile Beach, which was also featured in the movie 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. Guests can frequently enjoy live music or block parties on this beach. Numerous cliffs overhang the ocean, and these areas are dotted with quaint restaurants and smaller boutique hotels. These cliffs also attract jumpers, who are somewhat of a tourist attraction in themselves. Tourists often gather along the cliffs of Negril to enjoy a beautiful sunset or watch cliff jumpers in action.
Literally interpreted, Ocho Rios means “eight rivers”. This town is located in the parish of Saint Ann, which is along Jamaica’s northern coast. This area has traditionally been a fishing village that is now a port of call for cruise and cargo ships. Water sports such as scuba diving and skiing are popular among visitors here. Many also flock to Ocho Rios to visit Dunn’s River Falls, a 180-foot high waterfall that appears to be a set of stairs. Dolphin Cove is another popular attraction that allows guests to swim with dolphins in shallow water.
Located along the northeastern shore of Jamaica, Port Antonio is known for ecotourism. Here visitors can purchase lots of handmade goods from local merchants, and a few of the items available include wicker baskets, furniture, grass mats and handmade paper. Travelers are also encouraged to ride horseback by the sea, go scuba diving or enjoy bamboo rafting along a local river valley. A rainforest area provides visitors with a view of exotic waterfalls and caves that must be accessed by hiking in.
Jamaica is known for having a number of botanical gardens, many of which date back to the 1860s. These gardens were primarily established by the British, with some of them being used to grow various types of fruit. Bath Botanical Gardens is located in St. Thomas parish, and consists of one hectacre of exotic fruit trees and flowers. Cinchona gardens is found in St. Andrew’s, and contains beautiful displays of the cinchona plant. The Enchanted Gardens in Ocho Rios is full of flora and fauna, and is also the location of 14 different scenic waterfalls.
The longest mountain range in Jamaica is known as the Blue Mountains. The highest point in Jamaica is found along this range, and from it, visitors can sometimes get a glimpse of Cuba. Hiking trails up the side of these mountains provide guests with a chance to see unusual wildlife and native plants. There are also two parks here: John Crow and Blue Mountain, and these parks act as a nature preserve for various species of animals. The watersheds along these mountains are a popular spot for migratory birds to stop, which makes visiting during the winter months especially attractive.
One could easily come back to Jamaica time and time again without tiring of the beautiful scenery or friendly people there. Since many of the beaches in Jamaica are less developed than in other Caribbean nations, this country can be an excellent destination for those looking for a quiet and romantic getaway.