The Spanish left Jamaica in 1655, and the island was British until 1962. Since then, it has become famous as the birthplace of reggae and the Rastafari movement. English is the official language, although patois is widely spoken.
Jamaica is known for its beaches, the epic Blue Mountains and its coffee plantations. However, it has beautiful manicured parks, such Shaw Park. Rainforests abound.
Port Royal, the old capital of Jamaica, is a good place to start learning about the island’s swashbuckling past. The Spanish heritage and the town’s ancient streets. Visit Bob Marley’s old house at 56, Hope Road, Kingston, where he composed some of his most popular songs.
Like to be active? Raft the Rio Grande, hike the Blue Mountains, visit the limestone caves on the north coast. Swim with sharks and dolphins! If you can stomach it, peer over Lover’s Leap which overhangs Cutlass Bay. You’ll also want to experience Montego and Treasure Bays, as well as the villages of the mountainous interior.
Jamaica also has some glorious underwater gardens such as in Montego Bay, which you can dive down into and explore sunken wrecks and coral sponges.
Dance to drums and steel bands in the riotous Bacchanal Carnival, a wold-famous Kingston street party This extended party begins in January and builds up to the road march and parade, held after Easter.
After dark, you can be as hedonistic or as classy as you wish. Live music and street dancing are everywhere and Montego Bay is especially vibrant. Expect fire-eaters and limbo dancers too.
Local handcrafts include hand-loomed fabrics, and custom-made rugs, while rum and coffee make for great gifts. Kingston’s Coronation Market is the most famous on the island.
Accommodation ranges from all-inclusive resorts to boutique hotels, upmarket camping, eco lodges and beach cabins. You really will be spoilt for choice.
A rich cuisine has English, Asian, African and Caribbean influences, while one local speciality is the ackee tree fruit (related to the lychee fruit family), served with dried cod salt fish.
Car hire is widely available – be careful after dark, as not all roads are impeccably maintained. Agree cab prices pre-departure, and shared minibuses can be flagged down. Kingston buses can be erratic, ferries run between some points of the island.
The island is generally safe, but take special care after dark in Kingston, some areas of which have high levels of violence and street crime.