Rightly famous for its beaches and music, beautiful, brash Jamaica
is much more besides. There's certainly plenty of white
sand, turquoise sea and swaying palm trees, but there are also
spectacular mountains and rivers, tumbling waterfalls and cactus-strewn savannah plains.
Far more than just a resort, the island also boasts vibrant towns and cities such as sprawling
, which inspired the music of Bob Marley
and countless other home-grown reggae superstars.
Jamaica is a country with a swagger in its step - proud of
its history, sporting success and musical genius - but also with a weight
upon its shoulders. The island faces the familiar problems of a
developing country, including dramatic inequality of wealth and social tensions
that occasionally spill over into localized violence and worldwide headlines. As
a result Jamaicans are as renowned for being as sharp, sassy and
straight-talking as they are laid-back and hip.
People don't beat around the bush here, and
this can sometimes make them appear rude or uncompromising. Particularly around
the big resorts, this direct approach is taken to extremes at times, with
harassment reaching irritating levels. But there's absolutely no reason to be
put off. As a foreign visitor, the chances of encountering any trouble are
minuscule, and the Jamaican authorities have spent millions making sure the
island treats its tourists right.
As the birthplace of the "
Jamaica is well suited to those travellers who want to head straight from plane
to beach, never leaving their hotel compound. But to get any sense of the
country at all, you'll need to do some exploring. It's undoubtedly worth it, as
this is an island packed with first-class attractions, oozing with character,
and rich with a musical and cultural heritage; if you're a reggae fan, you're in
Most of Jamaica's tourist business is concentrated in the
of Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Negril, which together attract hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.
is a busy, commercial city with hotels lined up along its lively main strip, a stone's throw from a couple of Jamaica's most famous beaches. There's a great entertainment scene, especially during the annual August
Reggae Sumfest festival.
To the west is
its low-rise hotels slung along seven miles of fantastic white sand and two miles of dramatic cliffs. It's younger, more laid-back, and with a longstanding reputation for hedonism that still carries a hint of the truth. East of MoBay, and the least individualistic of the big three,
embodies high-impact tourism - purpose-built in the 1960s to provide the ultimate package of sun, sand and sea. It's not an overly attractive place, and the beaches don't compare favourably with Negril and MoBay, but its tourist infrastructure is undeniably strong - the place is packed with shops, restaurants, bars and watersports - and you're right by some of Jamaica's leading attractions, including the famous
Dunn's River waterfall.
Jamaica's quieter east and south coasts offer a far less packaged - perhaps more rewarding - experience, and there are plenty of real gems worth hunting out. In the island's
, lush, sleepy
and its increasingly popular neighbour,
, provide gateways to some of Jamaica's greatest natural attractions, like the cascading
at Reach. The
offers different pleasures, from gentle beach action at easy-going
- the perfect base from which to explore area delights such as the YS waterfalls - to boat safaris in search of local wildlife on the
||Wilderness ATV Tours|
||Great River Adventures Tubing and Kayaking|
||Jamaica Zipline Adventure Tours|
||Big Ship Tours and Transportation|
||White Witch Golf Club|
Last, but in no way least,
is the true heart of Jamaica, a thrilling place, pulsating with energy and spirit, that is home to more than a third of the island's 2.5 million people. This is not just the nation's political capital but the focus of its art, theatre and music scenes, with top-class hotels, restaurants and shopping, a clubbing scene that is second to none and legendary fried fish on offer at the fabulous Hellshire beach. A stunning backdrop to the city, the cool, coffee-smothered
offer plenty of hiking possibilities, while the nearby fishing village of
Port Royal , once a pirate refuge, provides historic
Jamaica is a melting pot of African, Asian, European and Middle Eastern cultures. You'll experience this diversity in its strong
crafts tradition, performing arts and distinctive dining options, like ackee and saltfish with roast breadfruit.
Take your vacation to new heights at famed cliff jumping spot, Negril Cliffs. Jamaica offers long beaches, protected coves,
rugged mountains, waterfalls, caves and sunshine and chances to play in the surf, ride horses and swim with dolphins. Jump in!
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