Jamaica Travel Guide
Travelers have long regarded Jamaica as one of the most alluring of the Caribbean islands. Its beaches, mountains, and carnal red sunsets regularly appear in the world’s tourist brochures, and, unlike other nearby islands, it democratically caters to all comers: You can choose a private villa with your own private beach; laugh your vacation away at a party-hearty resort; or throw yourself into the thick of the island’s life.
Jamaica is firmly established as a center for tourists, mainly from North America. Greatly expanded air facilities linking Jamaica to the United States, Canada, and Europe were mainly responsible for the increase in tourism during the 1960s. Rising fuel costs and a weak international economy, as well as intermittent political unrest, contributed to a slowdown in the growth rate of the industry in the 1970s; between 1980 and 1986, however, the number of tourists increased by 68%, and tourism has continued to grow since early 2000. Some 1,350,285 tourists visited the island of Jamaica in 2003, about 79% of whom came from North America. The 20,827 hotel rooms with 43,909 beds had a 58% occupancy rate. The average length of stay was six nights. Major tourist areas are the resort centers of Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. Cricket is the national sport, and excellent golf and water-sports facilities are available. All visitors are required to have a valid passport and some countries require a visa. Citizens of the United States, Canada, and other Commonwealth countries may stay up to six months with other valid identification. All visitors must have an onward/return ticket and proof of sufficient funds for their stay.
Names associated with Jamaica’s early history are those of Europeans or of little-known figures such as Cudjoe, chief of the Maroons, who led his people in guerrilla warfare against the English in the 18th century. George William Gordon (1820–65), hanged by the British as a traitor, was an advocate of more humane treatment for blacks. Jamaica-born Marcus Garvey (1887–1940), who went to the United States in 1916, achieved fame as the founder of the ill-fated United Negro Improvement Association. In the mid-20th century, Jamaicans whose names have become known abroad have been largely political and literary figures. Sir (William) Alexander Bustamante (1894–1977), trade unionist, political leader, and former prime minister of Jamaica, and his cousin and political adversary, Norman Washington Manley (1893–1969), a Rhodes scholar and noted attorney, were leading political figures. More recently, Norman Manley’s son Michael (1923–97), prime minister during 1972–80, and Edward Seaga (b.US, 1930), prime minister from 1980–89, have dominated Jamaica’s political life. P.J. Patterson (b.1935) was prime minister from 1992–2006. Portia Simpson-Miller (b.1945) succeeded him in March 2006. The novelists Roger Mais (1905–55), Vic Reid (1913–87), and John Hearne (1926–94) built reputations in England, and the poet Claude McKay (1890–1948) played an important role in the black literary renaissance in the United States. Performer and composer Robert Nesta (“Bob”) Marley (1945–81) became internationally famous and was instrumental in popularizing reggae music outside Jamaica.
The climate ranges from tropical at sea level to temperate in the uplands; there is relatively little seasonal variation in temperature. The average annual temperature in the coastal lowlands is 27°c (81°f); for the Blue Mountains, 13°c (55°f). The island has a mean annual rainfall of 198 cm (78 in), with wide variations during the year between the north and south coasts. The northeast coast and the Blue Mountains receive up to 500 cm (200 in) of rain a year in places, while some parts of the south coast receive less than 75 cm (30 in), most of it falling between May and October. The rainy seasons are May to June and September to November. The period from late August to November has occasionally been marked by destructive hurricanes.
Culture & History
Jamaica was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1494 and was settled by the Spanish in the early 16th century. The Spanish used the island as a supply base and also established a few cattle ranches. The Arawaks, who had inhabited the island since about ad 1000, were gradually exterminated and replaced by African slaves. In 1655, the island was taken over by the English, and the Spanish were expelled five years later. Spain formally ceded Jamaica to England in 1670 by the Treaty of Madrid. The island became a base for English privateers raiding the Spanish Main. A plantation economy was developed, and sugar, cocoa, and coffee became the basis of the island’s economy. The abolition of the slave trade in 1807 and of slavery itself in 1834 upset Jamaica’s plantation economy and society. The quarter million slaves were set free, and many became small farmers in the hill districts. Freed slaves were replaced by East Indian and Chinese contract workers.
Dive into a world of wonder with our exceptional scuba diving program. Whether you’re an experienced diver or just starting out, you’ll delight in day and night dives.
Known as a diving paradise, the Caribbean offers underwater adventures not to be missed. Explore gorgeous Jamaican reefs — such as “Shark Reef,” “Coral Garden,” and “Fantasy Reef”— where tunnels and caves beckon with bioluminescent displays and coral formations enchant with their colorful intricacy. During day dives, dolphins, trumpet fish, and sea turtles delight, while nurse sharks and barracuda make a striking impression. The night dives reveal another spectacle — graceful octopi sidle along, moray eels swim in pairs, spotted drum fish and stingrays pass by within inches, while other colorful creatures of the night come out of hiding.
Take a ride aboard our glass bottom boats for a snorkeling tour to one of 30 different snorkel sites showcasing the island’s natural coral reefs. Fins, masks and snorkels are all provided.
Hobie Cat Sailing
Set sail! For those who’ve never set foot on a sailboat, beginner lessons are offered by our Watersports Staff.
Our fleet of sea kayaks offers optimum speed and grace. Available as a single or two-person hull, each kayak has a closed-deck design with self-draining scuppers to keep you dry out on the water. Lessons offered 9 am – 4 pm daily.
Our high-powered water ski boats ride smoothly over the waves, pulling guests behind them on two skis, a mono ski or a wake board. Expert instruction available. Water skis, wake boards and life vests are included.
The steady Caribbean breeze creates the perfect conditions for exhilarating windsurfing. Our state-of-the-art fiberglass windsurfers are perfectly sized so everyone can enjoy the experience. Equipment, life vests and lessons (9 am – 4 pm) offered daily.
Pedal your way across the seas on one of the resort’s hydro bikes. Enjoy a great bike workout while enjoying the sun and scenery.
Head to the north pool for a casual or competitive game of pool volleyball. Create a team with a few of your favorite couples or check with the Front Desk for times and teams.
Try this offshoot of surfing in our calm Caribbean waters. If you’re a beginner, start by kneeling on the board and using your arms to propel yourself forward, then graduate to standing and using a paddle to navigate.
Feeling adventurous? Knee boarding is a unique and fun way to ride the waves. Offered daily at 9:00 am – 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm. Sign up required in advance.