Jamaica Destination Information

Jamaica

Jamaica Travel Specialist

JAMAICA Destination Information

Jamaica is one of the three islands in the Northern Caribbean forming the Greater Antilles. It’s the largest English-speaking country in the Caribbean Sea, stretching 146 miles from east to west. Lying 550 miles north of the Panama Canal and 700 miles south of Miami, Jamaica is well-placed on the world’s major shipping and airline routes. The country’s name is derived from an Arawak (aboriginal Indian) word “Xaymaca”, meaning “land of wood and water”. And so it is, with waterfalls, and springs, rivers and streams flowing from the forest-clad mountains to the fertile plains, Jamaica has one of the richest and most varied landscapes in the region. For those who like to explore, the island offers a feast of contrasts. The north coast, with its popular resort areas of Montego Bay, Runaway Bay, Ocho Rios and Port Antonio, features fine coral beaches and broad plains where sugar cane, coconuts and citrus fruits are grown. On the western tip of the island is Negril, once a remote, swampy outpost but now a beachcomber’s paradise. The southern region of the island offers a rugged coastline where majestic mountains plunge into the sea – like inspirational Lover’s Leap in St. Elizabeth, a 1500-foot cliff of romantic legend. The center of the island is mostly mountainous and heavily wooded, spotted occasionally with small mining towns and villages. And, of course, there’s the famous Cockpit Country in the Norwest region, an eerie terrain of conical hills and deep sinkholes. The central mountain range, dominated by 7,402-foot Blue Mountain, divides the south coast of the island from the north and extends from Half Moon Bay to Portland. This great variety of terrain and climate allows virtually everything to grow here. Visitors can step into a country market and see a vast array of tropical fruits and vegetables with such unfamiliar names as callaloo, dasheen, soursop, breadfruit, cho-cho, and ackee otaheiti apple. Jamaica’s main exports (other than tourism) are sugar, citrus fruits, bananas, spices, and world-famous Blue Mountain coffee.

The Land of Jamaica

Jamaica is one of the three islands in the Northern Caribbean forming the Greater Antilles. It’s the largest English-speaking country in the Caribbean Sea, stretching 146 miles from east to west. Lying 550 miles north of the Panama Canal and 700 miles south of Miami, Jamaica is well-placed on the world’s major shipping and airline routes. The country’s name is derived from an Arawak (aboriginal Indian) word “Xaymaca”, meaning “land of wood and water”. And so it is, with waterfalls, and springs, rivers and streams flowing from the forest-clad mountains to the fertile plains, Jamaica has one of the richest and most varied landscapes in the region. For those who like to explore, the island offers a feast of contrasts. The north coast, with its popular resort areas of Montego Bay, Runaway Bay, Ocho Rios and Port Antonio, features fine coral beaches and broad plains where sugar cane, coconuts and citrus fruits are grown. On the western tip of the island is Negril, once a remote, swampy outpost but now a beachcomber’s paradise. The southern region of the island offers a rugged coastline where majestic mountains plunge into the sea – like inspirational Lover’s Leap in St. Elizabeth, a 1500-foot cliff of romantic legend. The center of the island is mostly mountainous and heavily wooded, spotted occasionally with small mining towns and villages. And, of course, there’s the famous Cockpit Country in the Norwest region, an eerie terrain of conical hills and deep sinkholes. The central mountain range, dominated by 7,402-foot Blue Mountain, divides the south coast of the island from the north and extends from Half Moon Bay to Portland. This great variety of terrain and climate allows virtually everything to grow here. Visitors can step into a country market and see a vast array of tropical fruits and vegetables with such unfamiliar names as callaloo, dasheen, soursop, breadfruit, cho-cho, and ackee otaheiti apple. Jamaica’s main exports (other than tourism) are sugar, citrus fruits, bananas, spices, and world-famous Blue Mountain coffee.

The History of Jamaica

Jamaica’s recorded history began before the birth of Christ when Arawak Indians began arriving in tree-trunk canoes from South America. A gentle people who farmed and fished, the Arawaks were ill-prepared to absorb the impact of the Spanish under Christopher Columbus on May 4, 1494. The first Spanish settlement was established at Seville Nueva near St. Ann’s Bay, but the settlers soon moved the capital across the island to present day Spanish Town. Finding no precious metals, the Spanish paid scant attention to their Jamaican colony. When an English force of 5,000 men invaded the island in 1655, they offered little resistance and within a few years abandoned it as a colony. Early English settler planted crops like tobacco, cotton and cocoa and logged indigo. However, privateering and piracy helped Port Royal become one of the richest towns in the Americas and certainly the most notorious. Its title as the wickedest city on earth went down with it when most of it sank during the earthquake of 1692. The eighteenth century saw the reign of King Sugar. Vast acreage of canefields dominated the plains while hillside slopes palatial residences, like Rose Hall near Montego Bay, were built. Success of the great plantations depended upon a vast and cheap labor force. As a result, slavery was introduced into the New World. Soon, large, organized slave markets were established, consisting primarily of Africans torn forcibly from their homelands and sold as slaves to the planters. Jamaica itself not only absorbed nearly one million slaves but became a huge trans-shipment center for slaves for other colonies in the Americas. In the vast mountains lived communities of fierce runaway slaves called Maroons, who constantly harassed planters with lightning raids on settlements and plantations. In a sense, modern Jamaican society began in 1838. The newly freed slaves rapidly deserted the plantations and established themselves as free settlers in the hills, forming hard-working, independent peasantry which is still regarded as the backbone of Jamaica. Since the turn of the century, sugar, banana, citrus, and coffee have become the main crops for export and the source of livelihood for thousands. Beginning in the 1950’s the mining of alumina and bauxite – the raw ore of aluminum – have become major contributors to the economy, along with tourism. For 300 years as a British colony, Jamaica had a stormy political life, with House of Assembly and vocal press providing the outlets for the vigorus creole politicians. But all real decisions affecting the country were made in England, and a vast majority of the people had neither say or representation in national life. Under successful nationalist leaders in the 20th century, the country began moving toward increasing autonomy in the running of national affairs, culminating in full independence in 1962. A a n independent country, Jamaica remains a member of the British commonwealth of nations, with the Queen of England as titular Head of State, or represented locally by the Governor-General . The island has its own Constitution, based on inherited British legal, religious, educational and political traditions. Jamaica is a parliamentary democracy with an elected House of Representatives and nominated Upper House or Senate. There is a well-established two-party system and vigorously contested elections are normally held every five years. All Jamaican’s over the age of 18 years are eligible to vote.

Things to Know about Jamaica

LANGUAGE English & Jamaican Creole TIME Jamaica is in the same time zone as the Eastern USA. However, Jamaica does not change to daylight savings time. Between late April and late October, Jamaica is one hour behind USA Eastern Standard Time.

Average Temperatures & Rainfall

Month High Low Rainfall in Inches
January 86 67 1
February 86 67 1
March 86 67 1
April 87 70 1
May 87 72 4
June 86 74 4
July 89 73 2
August 90 73 4
September 89 73 4
October 88 73 7
November 87 71 3
December 87 69 1

COMMUNICATIONS When dialing direct to Jamaica from the USA, dial 1 + 876 + the local number.

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