Jamaica: Overview

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Updated: 2017-03-15.

On my first day in Jamaica, as I drove into Montego Bay, a guy on a bicycle came up to my window and said, “Welcome to Jamaica, where our three biggest exports are coffee, weed, and Bob Marley.

Jamaica is an island nation that is located in the center of the Caribbean Sea. It is about 145 km (90 mi) south of Cuba, and 191 km (119 mi) west of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Jamaica can be hard on the senses; it may seem chaotic and uncivilized and dangerous, especially for those who come from Western countries like the U.S. or U.K. However, the Jamaican people are some of the friendliest and most helpful people anywhere. Jamaica doesn’t share many of the same characteristics that many of the other Caribbean islands around it have; it’s closest in terms of culture and food may be Haiti.

Jamaica has many cultural influences throughout the years though: South American Tainos and Arawaks settled on the island first, between 3 – 6 thousand years ago; the Spanish, by the hand of Christopher Columbus, claimed it in 1494; by the mid-17th century, the English had taken over control; also in the mid-17th century, Jews came to settle the island from France, when the French outlawed Judaism.

Some people will go to Jamaica simply for their wide array of flavorful foods. From their jerk chicken to the oxtail, to all the different soups made with seemingly-inedible body parts of goats and chickens, Jamaicans know how to eat. And it doesn’t stop at the food – Jamaicans claim that their Blue Mountain coffee is the finest there is. Jamaican rum is another pride of the people, head over to Appleton Estate for a tour of the distillery which most consider to make the best rum.

As with most Caribbean islands, Jamaica also prides itself on its beaches. All around the island are beautiful beaches with soft, white sand. It has been the backdrop of many a destination wedding, and it is no wonder why. The water is pristine and crystal clear. While you’re there, make sure to take in the glorious sunsets on the west coast.

flag of Jamaica

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