Jamaica, known for its abundance of beautiful mountain scenery, long stretches of white sand beaches, and pulsating rhythms of the Reggae beat, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean. Set in a turquoise sea, with silver beaches lapped by gentle waves, its vast plains rising to lofty mountains, has attracted visitors from other lands for centuries. It is a tropical playground where the fun seems to never end!
Its colorful culture makes for a lively atmosphere where the majority of the population is of African descent, but you will notice European, Arabic, Chinese, and East Indian ancestry as well.
It is the third largest of the Caribbean islands measuring 146 miles long and up to 51 miles wide, and its highest peak, the Blue Mountain Peak, is 7,402 feet above sea level. The official language of Jamaica is English. However, Patois, a blend of English and African, is a widely spoken dialect amongst the local people. In fact, a conversation may be almost incomprehensible to the visitor at first, but in a little while you catch the rhythm and begin to pick up expressions.
Jamaica has one of the richest and most varied landscapes in the Caribbean, and with waterfalls, springs, rivers, and streams all flowing from the forest-clad mountains to the fertile plains, a trip to Jamaica may include river rafting, waterfall climbing, horseback riding, beachcombing, or hammock swaying.
Montego Bay, located on the northwest coast, is nestled in mountaintop jungles and framed by miles of tropical beaches. It is here where most Jamaica visitors arrive by air and later transferred to their final destination. Also known as Mobay, the town has nice private beaches, many restaurants and bars and an enjoyable nightlife. Activities are practically endless in this large island city and there is truly something for everyone.
Ocho Rios, the main cruise port on the island, is another great city that offers something for everyone. Here the visitor can choose from shopping, beach activities, polo, golf, or climbing the world famous Dunns River Falls.
Negril, known for its wonderful 7-mile beach, its rocky cliffs, its unbelievable sunsets, and its all-inclusive resorts, has no competition in the Caribbean. If you want a place with plenty of sun, with a nice beach and where you can party, this is the place for you.
This emerald isle, set in a turquoise sea, with silver beaches lapped by gentle waves, its vast plains rising to lofty mountains, has attracted visitors from other lands for centuries.
Christopher Columbus was perhaps the first outsider to beach his boats on Jamaicas North Shore. Ah, cried the Admiral, India at last! So okay his calculations were a bit off. To make things worse, there were no silks and perfumes of the Orient that he had promised his patron, Queen Isabella of Spain.
Since the island was now Spanish property, the earliest Spanish settlers arrived. Finding no gold, they reluctantly began cattle-rearing and sugar cultivation, shunning the beaches, which wouldnt even grow an onion!
But over the next century, Britain and Spain were jousting for power. In l665, two British Admirals, Penn and Venables, were sent by the British ruler to capture the Spanish island of Hispaniola (today the home of Haiti and the Dominican Republic). They failed. Not wanting to go home with empty hands, they turned their ships south and captured Jamaica instead.
As time passed, the pirates and privateers who plundered merchant vessels had won for the tiny settlement of Port Royal the title of wickedest city in the world, with every shop a warehouse for stolen goods, a bar, or a house of ill repute.
But this, too, would pass. And by the end of the nineteenth century Jamaica was attracting visitors to the cool mountains and their salubrious breezes. Miraculous cures were reported for everything from gout to ills of the digestive system; Britons and rich Americans flocked to modest guesthouses springing up in the hills, where they were fed papaya and West Indian cherries the first well known as a cure for stomach ills, the second containing the worlds highest concentration of Vitamin C.
Travel wasnt easy in those good old days the long sea voyage was followed by horse-and-buggy trips to the hills. Visitors swore the effort was worth it!
Then, in 1891, the British Prince of Wales opened the vast International Exhibition in Kingston, now the capital city, which hosted 300,000 visitors. Meanwhile, a Boston sea captain had established a fleet to transport bananas to Boston. Fruit ships plying the trade from England, the United States and Canada now carried an increasing number of vacationers. Jamaica had become the in destination.
But a new era of travel was on the horizon. In the early 1930s, a young American named Charles Lindbergh flew from Florida to Jamaica with only one stopover to refuel. Soon guesthouses and small hotels were doing excellent business, and international celebrities royalty, stars of stage and screen were flocking to Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Port Antonio, and the mountain town of Mandeville. But it wasnt until 1952 that one guidebook reluctantly mentioned a small fishing village named Negril. In the Sixties and Seventies, the Flower Children arrived with their backpacks to camp on the sand or beg-a-cotch in Mas Joes Cold Supper Shop or on Aunty Maes verandah.
Talk The Talk…
Jamaicans are famous for having a way with words and creating descriptive phrases as needed. The humble vendor who spreads her wares on the sidewalk of a busy street is the proprietor of Ben Down Plaza (Yes, the customer does the bending down). Plurals are formed in a different way than in standard English. New way: one child is a pickney, two or more are de pickney dem. Similarly: de mango dem, de gal dem.
Most Jamaican jargon comes from the Rastafarian movement. Each individual is sacred, so that I an I means we. And a father may say of his pickney I love him to life!
Older Jamaicans say goodbye with the traditional walk good. Teenagers will say Lickle more. And if a youngster says Resdat! you better stop whatever youre doing or saying, or hell shout Scubay! rough translation: Get Lost!