Travel Alert: While the government-declared state of emergency in some parts of Kingston due to civil unrest has now been lifted, violent crime is still an issue so caution is advised when travelling. For further information see Safe Travel for updated government warnings and the BBC for the latest news updates.
Despite its location almost smack in the center of the Caribbean Sea, the island of Jamaica doesn’t blend in easily with the rest of the Caribbean archipelago. To be sure, it boasts the same addictive sun rays, sugary sands and pampered resort-life as most of the other islands, but it is also set apart historically and culturally.
Today’s visitors will appreciate their trip to Jamaica all the more if they embrace the island’s unique character and the inherent ‘African-ness’ of its population. Aside from its people, Jamaica has much to offer, the curious, thirsty or weary traveller. The Blue Mountains boasts the world’s best coffee, try a cup in the century-old factory at Mavis Bank. There are world-class reefs for diving including those at Runaway Bay and Ocho Rios and great stretches of palm-fringed sand at Treasure Beach or Frenchman’s Cove near Port Antonio. There are offbeat bush-medicine hiking tours, congenial fishing villages, pristine waterfalls, cosmopolitan cities, wetlands harboring endangered crocodiles and manatees, unforgettable sunsets – in short, enough variety to comprise many utterly distinct vacations.
Nowhere else in the Caribbean is the connection to Africa as keenly felt as it is in Jamaica. Kingston was the major nexus in the New World for the barbaric triangular trade that brought slaves from Africa and carried sugar and rum to Europe, and the Maroons (runaways who took to the hills of Cockpit Country and the Blue Mountains) safeguarded many of the African traditions – and introduced jerk seasoning to Jamaica’s singular cuisine. St Ann’s Bay’s Marcus Garvey founded the back-to-Africa movement of the 1910s and ’20s; Rastafarianism took up the call a decade later, and reggae furnished the beat in the 1960s and ’70s. Little wonder many Jamaicans claim a stronger affinity for Africa than for neighboring Caribbean islands.