|Country Information & Lifestyle|
Land of Wood and Water
Jamaica, Land of Wood and Water, lies 140 km south of Cuba and 190 km west of Haiti. It is the largest island of the Commonwealth Caribbean and the third largest of the Greater Antilles.
The terrain is very mountainous and there are three land form regions, the eastern mountains, the central valleys and plateaus and the coastal plains. The southern coast has small stretches of plains lined by black sand beaches; the western coastline contains the island's finest beaches.
The climate is tropical, with hot and humid weather, although inland regions are more temperate. Warm trade winds from the east and northeast bring rainfall throughout the year. The island also has onshore breezes during the day and cooling offshore breezes at night. These are known as the Doctor Breeze and the Undertaker's Breeze.
The medicine quinine is taken from the cinchona tree grown in Jamaica. The value of quinine in the treatment of malaria fever was known to the Indians of Peru and other American countries from earlier times.
There is so much to see and experience on this tiny, yet exciting island so let's start off with a trip to Kingston, the capital and the commercial, administrative and cultural heart of the island.
Kingston is the largest English-speaking city in the Caribbean and is a modern, bustling, sprawling city that never seems to sleep. Residential Kingston is a charming mix of old and new, with wonderful traditional gingerbread homes with their elaborate balconies and fretwork, classic eighteenth century Georgian mansions, and modern houses and apartment blocks.
While the downtown area, close to the waterfront, is the place to explore, the heart of Kingston is now in New Kingston, a triangular area to the north, largely bordered by Half Way Tree Road, Old Hope Road and Hope Road.
Devon House, a national monument, is an elegant white three story Georgian-style Great House built in 1881 by George Stiebel, the Caribbean's first black millionaire. It has been beautifully restored and it contains one of the world's finest collections of antique mahogany furniture. A large shaded veranda runs round the ground floor, and there are balconies on the first floor with great views over the gardens and surrounding countryside.
The Bob Marley Museum in Hope Road was formerly Bob Marley's residence and the site of the Tuff Gong recording studio.
In the shadow of the John Crow Mountains that mark the northern boundary of Kingston's corporate area is the community of Mona, a generally quiet suburban neighbourhood with wide, tree-lined streets. The area is named for the expansive Mona Sugar estate, which once held stone aqueducts that supplied water to plantations and later to the city of Kingston. The Mona Reservoir has since replaced the old aqueduct system and today is a main source of water for the Kingston metropolitan region.
Uptown meets downtown in the constantly entertaining and lively road junction that is Half-Way-Tree. The capital of the parish of St Andrew, Half-Way-Tree is the unofficial marker of the divide between the urban, inner-city commercial areas of downtown Kingston, and the quieter, residential suburban communities of St. Andrew. Surrounded by schools, offices, stores, banks and other commercial interests, Half-Way-Tree is a shopper's paradise, since everything imaginable can be bought there.
Montego Bay is known for its duty-free shopping, cruise line terminal and the sheltered Doctor's Cave beach with clear turquoise waters, which is one of the most famous beaches on the island. Columbus was the first European visitor to Montego Bay in 1494. He made friends with some of the local Tainos and called the Bay El Golfo, the Buen Tiempo.
Fort Montego, about half a mile from the Bay was one of many built along the coast to protect the major shipping ports of Jamaica from invasion by French and Spanish forces and pirates that roamed around the Caribbean Sea. Today you still can find fortresses, Great Houses and other remnants of the colonial days.
Falmouth was one of Jamaica's original ports and 200 years ago was one of the busiest trading ports in the Caribbean. It was known for its wharf, sugar, rum and coffee. Walk through the Historical District to see the 19th century Georgian architecture, town squares, houses of famous historians, churches and parks.
Downtown is the best place to go and experience the real Jamaica. Amidst crumbling buildings and incessant traffic, Jamaicans go about their daily lives only 1 km away from the glitzy resorts on the hip-strip.
Good Hope, located fifteen minutes outside of Falmouth, began in 1774 as a sugar estate and grew to a village to support the workers after Emancipation. In the 18th century, the Good Hope Estate belonged to John Tharpe, then the largest land and slave owner in Jamaica.
Aside from Good Hope, Windsor Estate, the extensive Long Pond Estate and a number of other smaller sugar plantations in Trelawny belonged to Tharpe, who had as many as 3,000 slaves to run the plantations.
Ocho Rios, on the north eastern shore, is a popular destination for cruise ships and tourists. Dolphin Cove & Dunns River Falls is forty five minutes outside of Falmouth. Dunns River Falls is an adventurous 600 foot waterfall that can be climbed. You can also swim with dolphins, zip-line through the rain forest or bobsled down Mystic Mountain.
Many visitors to the island treasure memories made by the blue waters and white sands of the Jamaica beaches. They are some the most enchanting beaches in the Caribbean. Negril is known for its beaches and resorts and is a lot of fun with something for everyone. The area has good scuba diving, snorkelling, cliff jumping.
Seven Mile Beach is one of the loveliest beaches in Negril and as the name says you can walk for seven miles and enjoy every minute. The white sandy beach is clear with calm seas and when you visit you will not forget its beauty for many months afterwards.
Cousin's Cove, a small inlet along the Hanover coastline, is unknown to most tourists, but is as important to Jamaican heritage as it is beautiful. In the mid-17th century, as part of the Cromwellian system of land grants for military service, John Samuels acquired a parcel that included the pristine, secluded cove. Samuels, who arrived in the West Indies after fleeing the law in England, named the cove in honour of his cousin, Frances, whom he married.
Tucked sensuously away in a cove bathed by pellucid seas, Manchioneal is unhurried, bucolic and breathtakingly picturesque. Manchioneal was one of the first banana shipping ports in Jamaica, today, colourful canoes of the large fishing community have replaced the transatlantic steamers of yesteryear.
Lime Cay, a small, low-lying island, is fifteen minutes by boat from Port Royal and has one of the most beautiful beaches in Jamaica. The largest of the many small cays off the coast of Port Royal, Lime Cay is uninhabitable by humans because it is occasionally submerged when the tide comes in.
Mandeville is a harmonious contrast between the old and the new, a booming business centre set amidst rolling hills and lush vegetation. The town is one of the more peaceful and attractive places on the island.
Bloomfield Great House is a 200-year-old Georgian-style coffee plantation. The main house was built many years before the town of Mandeville was formed in 1838. It was renovated in 1997 and now houses a fine dining restaurant offering a spectacular view of Mandeville, and the occasional art exhibition and live music concert.
The countryside around the town of Claremont has for centuries been home to the wealthy landed gentry, and even today is dotted with elegant homes and estate houses. The wealth associated with the area can be seen in the architecture and plan of the town; the shops of Claremont high street exhibit remarkable architectural detail as well as very refined finishing.
Rio Bueno, a small seaside village on the border between the parishes of St Ann and Trelawny, owes its importance, history and livelihood to the magnificent Rio Bueno Harbour. The Rio Bueno Harbour is the deepest in Jamaica, perhaps one of the reasons why Columbus dropped anchor there on his first visit to Jamaica.
Clark's Town is located in the heart of the Trelawny sugar belt, and is a busy rural town with an interesting history. After the emancipation of slaves in Jamaica in the mid-19th century, the owner of the Swandswick Estate, Mr G.M. Clarke, donated a thirty-acre tract of land on the edge of his estate to be used for the development of a Free Village. The village at the time was structured in the traditional free village style, with a centrally located church and the houses of mainly sugar estate workers.
Jamaica is not all beaches, beautiful though they are the inland area and rural areas have a great deal to offer with plantations, small towns, history and friendly people. Capture the true spirit of Jamaica by visiting the interior of the island for an exiting adventure as you journey into the majestic mountainous country where lush vegetation, wild flowers and trickling waterfalls await you.
The small, clean town of Duncans dates back to the late 1700s and has produced many outstanding personalities. Harry Belafonte, world-renowned folk singer, actor and civil rights activist was born here, William Knibb, the fiery Baptist preacher who led the nation's struggle for the abolition of slavery is buried close to the church that he founded; and Diego Columbus, explorer and son of Jamaica's first tourist, Christopher Columbus, is also buried here.
In the heart of the sugar-producing regions of central Westmoreland is one of the older townships on the island. Petersfield, a no-frills one-street rural town is home to many of the workers of the Frome Sugar Estate.
Grange Hill, in the deep rural hills of Westmoreland, is a thriving community and the second largest commercial centre in the parish. The area is long used for horse breeding and rearing. Even today a number of notable breeders still operate farms here.
Linstead is a small inland town that has been a favourite meeting place for Jamaicans since the 19th century. It has a bustling weekly fresh produce market and farmers from the fertile hills and adjacent plains come to sell their produce.
Often regarded as Jamaica's most inhospitable region, the Cockpit Country is a hilly and dense area with limestone denudation traversing three parishes and covering over 500 square miles. The so-called "cockpit" is caused because limestone, the predominant soil in the area, does not retain water. Rainwater therefore, percolates downward through cracks and fissures, creating in time a landscape of pits and valleys.
YS Falls is a nature-based attraction nestled in the foothills of the cockpit country of St. Elizabeth. Enjoy an intimate experience with a spectacular 7-tiered waterfall surrounded by lush vegetation. A tractor drawn jitney takes you through a working thoroughbred horse and cattle farm to the hidden valley - home to the waterfalls.
Indulge yourself in a "nature pool" fed by underground and above ground springs. Reach Falls was first discovered by runaway slaves from plantations in the neighbouring parish of St.Thomas who sought refuge in the hills of the John Crow Mountains.
Brown's Town is one of the largest and most important inland towns of St Ann. Just to the north of the town centre is the Minard Estate, the pimento plantation and home of the eccentric and caustic Hamilton Brown, for whom the town is named.
Faith's Pen is marked by a humble strip of vendors along the road which winds down Mount Diablo and into St Ann. Located in the midst of bauxite-rich country, Faith's Pen appears where the climb up the devil's mountain levels off and marks the beginning of the descent to the north coast.
The short strip of neat stalls, which is set against a backdrop of brilliant red earth and bright green mountains, exudes vitality, with loud Reggae music pulsating throughout and the smell of roast breadfruit and jerk smoke wafting through the air.
Very few visitors (or Jamaicans for that matter) have actually been to the village of Mocho, nestled deep in the Mocho Mountains of the Clarendon interior. This pleasant and industrious rural community was once one of the most remote and inaccessible in Jamaica.
May Pen is one of the largest towns in Jamaica and was created in the 18th century on land belonging to a cattle estate owned by a Rev William May. May Pen is said to have first existed as two inns located across from each other on opposite banks of the Rio Minho.
Croydon on the Mountain, a working plantation nestled in the foothills of the Catadupa mountains, provides a breath taking and panoramic view of the surrounding countryside. The plantation invites visitors to journey into the majestic mountainous country where vegetation lush and wild flowers surround trickling waterfalls. Sample exotic and delicious fruits and drinks and after a delicious barbecued lunch finish off with the world famous Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee.
Bellefield Great House captures the essence of Jamaica's plantation-rich history: expansive views, tropical gardens, and an unforgettable mansion replete with antique furnishings and classic family heirlooms. This exciting explosion of island life is located on the privately owned Barnett Estate. Visitors are transported back in time as they explore the 300-year old great house and enjoy the breath taking view of the 3,000 acre estate
In Clarendon, running roughly from Kellits to Crofts Hill there is an area known as Old Woman's Savanna. It appeared so on earliest maps and apparently the old woman was a Spaniard -who refused to leave Jamaica when the English captured the island in 1655, even though her house and property in Spanish Town were seized. She received permission to retire to her hato in the country thus giving the name to the area
Mandeville is a harmonious contrast between the old and the new and is a booming business centre set amid rolling hills and lush vegetation. The town is situated some 2000 feet above sea level, and is one of the more peaceful and attractive places on the island. Bloomfield Great House is a 200-year-old Georgian-style coffee plantation main house built many years before the town of Mandeville was formed in 1838. It was renovated in 1997 and now houses a fine dining restaurant offering a spectacular view of Mandeville, and the occasional art exhibition and live music concert.
Many famous people have made Jamaica their home. Firefly is the historic home of playwright Noel Coward and is named for the luminous insects seen in the warm evenings. The house has certainly had its share of luminaries from both the political and entertainment worlds, including Queen Elizabeth II, Laurence Olivier, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Alec Guinness, Peter O'Toole, and Richard Burton. Even today the house is kept in the same state it was when the Queen Mother came to lunch in 1965. A tour of Firefly includes a look at the home, photos of the house's many celebrity guests, and the grounds where Coward is now buried.
Visit the humble beginnings of the superstar Bob Marley in the hills of St.Ann. Chances are you may meet Bob's mother Cedella Booker or some of his old friends on your visit. Along the road to Philadelphia and nine miles from Alexandria is Nine Mile, a rural community with few citizens and fewer amenities. Embedded in a hill made of solid rock and blood-red bauxite rich earth, Nine Mile is the birthplace of Reggae superstar Bob Marley and the site of the Bob Marley Mausoleum. A few meters away from the village centre stands the mausoleum and mini-museum, at the top of the famous hill that Marley climbed daily to carry water to his house.
Greenwood Great House is over 200 years old and the historical house of Edward Barrett who was one of the city's founding fathers. His family developed half of Falmouth. The house sits across the street from the Barrett Wharf, which is one of the major points for ships to offload and is one of the best preserved great houses on the island. He was a wealthy plantation owner and also the great grandfather of the famous 19th century poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
The Tharp House is the historical house of John Tharp who was once one of the wealthiest men in Jamaica. His house included his own wharf where ships arrived, carrying merchandise and slaves while other ships sailed off to England, transporting sugar and coffee grown on his plantation.
Capture the history of Jamaica by visiting the birthplace of Samuel Sharpe, one of Jamaica's national heroes, who gave his life in the fight against slavery. Immerse yourself in the flavour of Jamaica while strolling through this tropical paradise. Sample exotic and delicious fruits and drinks made from them. Taste the different varieties of pineapples and citrus, or nibble on a piece of sweet juicy sugarcane. Enjoy a delicious barbecued lunch, served with world famous Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee.
Jamaican cuisine includes a mixture of cooking flavors, spices, techniques and influences from the indigenous people on the island, and the Spanish, British, Africans, Indians and Chinese who have inhabited the island. Popular Jamaican dishes include goat curry, Stamp an Go(Codfish fritters) an old favourite which combines salted codfish with a tasty spiced dough, fried dumpling, and fried plantain. Pilau is a popular dish containing rice, chicken, pork, shellfish and vegetables, similar to Paella and rice and peas stewed with beans and coconut milk, is known Jamaica Coat of Arms simply must be tried.
Just about any meat can be jerked but the real secret to the flavourful taste is the marinade, a truly Jamaican blend of spices and seasonings. A wide variety of seafood, tropical fruits and meats are available and to finish try Coconut Gizzada, a delicious tart and a local favourite. It has a flaky crust with a sweet filling made from grated coconut. For centuries rum, one of Jamaica's most famous products, has enticed and intoxicated connoisseurs worldwide. You cannot leave Jamaica without sampling some of the best rums on the planet.
Jamaicans are naturally warm, friendly and entertaining. Their complex past, marked by slavery and the struggle for independence, has made them proud, resilient and strong. The heartbeat of the people is the thumping, infectious and passionate sounds of Reggae that pulses through their veins. Although this is Jamaica's music, its origins are in the villages of Africa.
There is Africa everywhere in the faces of nine out of ten Jamaicans, in the language, food, craft, religions and customs. Europe is here too. The Spanish, English, Irish, Germans and Scots have all left their mark. The Chinese, Indians, Lebanese, Syrians and Jews all have pieces of their homelands here as well. The traditions and customs of the foreign ancestors have been transformed into something special it could only be Jamaican.
Before we leave Jamaica the White Witch awaits you in the great house at Rose Hall. Dead more than a century, Annie Palmer still stirs memories of her reign as the mistress of the Rose Hall Great House. Cursed by slaves, the white witch turned a magnificent plantation into a hell house of atrocities. Countless slaves fell prey to her torture while all three of her husband’s met death at her hands.
So now you having had a taste of Jamaica you simply must visit this Land of Wood and Water for yourself.