Jamaica is more a Caribbean country than a Caribbean island. In fact, with a population of
just under three-million people and a land mass of 4,244 square-miles, it's the third largest
destination in the West Indies archipelago, coming in just behind Cuba and Hispaniola. Yet it's
definitely number one when it comes to tourism, welcoming well over two-million visitors each year,
almost all of them attracted to the coral white sands along its reef-protected north coast.
Montego Bay and Ocho Rios definitely rank as its most fashionable northern resorts, their palm-fringed
beaches and tranquil azure waters combining with their elegant colonial-style hotels to attract many of
the world's rich and famous - yes, celebrated properties like Round Hill and Jamaica Inn are still working
the same kind of magic that they did in the days of Noel Coward, Errol Flynn and Ian Fleming. But if it's
a particularly laid-back ambience you're after, then Negril is probably the place to head for, its endless
beaches and dramatic sunsets complemented by a relaxed island lifestyle initially made famous by hippies
in the sixties.
Yet Jamaica's outstanding natural beauty is not only restricted to its beaches, of course. Just inland
from Ocho Rios, there's Dunn's River Falls, a series of stunning water falls which visitors are invited
to climb accompanied by an experienced Fall Guide - definitely a photo opportunity not to be missed! Then
just 25-miles inland from Montego Bay there's the Martha Brae River, and surely there's no better way of
spending the afternoon than to raft slowly through the emerald forest and discover more about the island's
The dramatic mountain range that runs through the centre of the island is also well worth a day away
from the sun loungers, the famous Blue Mountains perpetually shrouded by mists and a great place for
hiking and bird-watching - it goes without saying that no one leaves without purchasing at least 16-ounces
of the region's famous coffee!
Water sports, canopy tours, fun cruises and jeep safaris are just a handful of other exciting activities
designed to show off Jamaica's scenic wonders.
And don't forget that these scenic coastal resorts are well over two-hours drive from Kingston - just
in case you've previously been put off Jamaica by some of the negative publicity surrounding the country's
bustling and energetic capital city.
Of course, the island also boasts a rich cultural heritage. Stately old great houses such as Rose Hall
and Greenwood reflect its interesting colonial history, most of them built between the 16th and 19th
centuries by rich European planters - at one time almost a quarter of the world's sugar was produced
here, but nowadays they are simply a way of learning a little more about the island's past.
More recently, of course,
Jamaica has become the centre of Caribbean reggae music and few visitors
ever leave the island without purchasing at least one Bob Marley CD - there's something about his music's
lyrical words and hypnotic beat that sum up the warmth, vibrancy and energy of this unique Caribbean island.