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Jamaica Travel Guide, Jamaica Destinations
JAMAICA  |  Jamaica Travel Guide
Monday, June 17, 2024


DestinationsCountry Map

Jamaica is one of the liveliest of the Caribbean islands, and topographically among the most interesting as well. The island covers over 4,000 square miles. Mountains run like a backbone down the center from east to west, and along the journey they create a quiltwork of 160 rivers and cascading waterfalls. The largest river on the island is the Black River, navigable for about 25 miles. Other significant rivers include the Rio Cobre, the White River, the Rio Grande, and the Lethe.

The most mountainous, unsettled area is the eastern end, location of the Blue Mountains. The mountains form the boundary between the Portland and St. Thomas parishes, running for about 50 miles. It’s here that the famous Blue Mountain coffee is grown, and it’s also where you’ll find the world’s second largest butterfly, the Papilio homerus. Formed by an uplifting of a limestone plateau, the mountains include a look at the exposed strata below. Peaks top 7,500 feet above sea level, and visitors often find themselves grabbing for a jacket in the cooler air. The mountain system is actually two ranges. In the northern section – called the Central Range – lies the highest point, Blue Mountain Peak, at an elevation of over 7,400 feet. The second range, called the Port Royal Mountains, rises above the Liguanea Plain just north of Kingston. The John Crow Mountains are the largest limestone range in the country. Although their name may not be as recognized as the Blue Mountains, these landforms rise from the northeast of the island between the Caribbean Sea and the Rio Grande.

Jamaica is also a patchwork of communities. The capital city is Kingston on the south shore, a metropolitan area that’s visited primarily for business rather than pleasure. The resort communities lie on the north shore. Quiet Port Antonio, once a hideaway for Hollywood stars, lies to the east. Heading west, the garden city of Ocho Rios is popular with couples. Montego Bay, or Mo Bay, is the first taste most visitors have of the island as it’s the home of the north shore airport. To the far west, Negril was once a hippie haven, but today it’s a delightful vacation spot with a laid-back atmosphere and unbeatable sunset views.

The is land is divided into three counties: Cornwall, Middlesex and Surrey. These counties (whose designations are used infrequently) are then divided into 14 parishes (whose designations you will often hear). The parishes of Jamaica are Kingston, St. Andrew, St. Thomas, Portland, St. Mary, St. Ann, Trelawny, St. James, Hanover, Westmoreland, St. Elizabeth, Manchester, Clarendon and St. Catherine. Each of these parishes has a capital city to handle local governmental matters.

Although predominantly of African descent, Jamaica has a rich mix of peoples and cultures. 92% of Jamaica’s residents are of Black African descent. East Indians and African-East Indians make up about 3.4% of the population, while Caucasians represent about 3.2%. Chinese and African-Chinese residents compose a little over 1% of the population.

The official language of Jamaica is English, spoken in proper fashion with a uniquely Jamaican accent. But the language of the streets is patois. This musical dialect is a combination of English, Spanish, Portuguese, African phrases and a good dose of Jamaican slang. Spoken in a sing-song style, the result is as exotic as any foreign language. Jamaican patois is a fascinating use of the language. With patois, “You get more mileage out of your tongue,” Jamaicans will tell you.

Politically, since 1962, Jamaica is an independent nation in the British Commonwealth. Jamaica’s government is a parliamentary democracy based on that of Great Britain, with a Governor-General appointed by the Crown. Power of the government, however, resides in the office of the Prime Minister, who is appointed by the Governor-General, as are the various Ministers of the Cabinet who are recommended for appointment by the Prime Minister. The Jamaican legislature is composed of two houses, the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House is composed of 60 members elected to five-year terms, while the Senate consists of 21 members appointed by the Governor-General on advice of the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition.


Destinations in Jamaica (5)

  • Kingston, Jamaica

    The capital city of Kingston lies on the south shore. This metropolitan area of over 800,000 residents is visited primarily by business travelers. Within this sprawling metropolis, however, beats the true heart of Jamaica. Travelers interested in...

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  • Mandeville, Jamaica

    Mandeville is one of Jamaica’s hidden treasures, a community tucked high in the mountains at an elevation of 2,000 feet above sea level, ensuring cooler days and nights than in the coastal communities. It is a strong contrast to...

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  • Montego Bay, Jamaica

    Montego Bay is Jamaica's most famous tourist destination. It is the face of Jamaican tourism, the capital of the island's tourism industry. It is of course a bayside city, home to some of the Caribbean's most lavish resorts,...

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  • Negril, Jamaica

    Negril is the hottest ticket in Jamaica. It is the party central of the island. And the home of hedonism. It is a prolific jumble of hotels and resorts, of restaurants, and of clubs and bars where the ice cubes clink into the wee...

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  • Ocho Rios, Jamaica

    Ocho Rios, or "Ochi," is famously the garden center of Jamaica. It is a resort community, to be sure, situated on a splendid bay on the island's north shore, just to the east of Montego Bay, and backed on its south by rolling...

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