Jamaica is a Commonwealth island country in the Caribbean; it lies 90 miles (145km) southwest of Cuba and 119 miles (191km) west of Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti.) The capital of Jamaica is Kingston, on the southeastern coast. Jamaica is known for its music - genres like reggae, ska, rocksteady, and dub all originate from the Jamaican-African cultures. In recent years, Jamaica is also known for its athletes - namely Usain Bolt and the Jamaican bobsled team from the cult favourite Cool Runnings.
There are two international airports in Jamaica; fly into the one that best suits your immediate needs. Norman Manley International Airport, near Kingston and Port Royal, serves the southern coast and is the better choice if you are visiting the capital or the picturesque Blue Mountains. In the north, serving the Ochos Rio and Montego Bay areas, is the Sangster International Airport. Most tourists fly in here, as it is closer to the resorts and popular beaches. At both, there are taxis to get you into town or car rental companies if you choose to have your own vehicle.
The currency in Jamaica is the Jamaican dollar. The main economies are tourism and mining, with over half of the economy relying on the service and tourism industry. Cruise ships dock in Kingston regularly.
As with in much of the Caribbean, traditional European hostels are few and far between. You will find a variety of small hostels in Kingston, and some hostels and guesthouses along the coast. For inexpensive accommodation, you may find guesthouses a better choice, especially in smaller towns.
Even before your accommodation is sorted, you will feel the vibe of Jamaica. Music is literally life in Jamaica and everywhere you go you will find it. Do not miss the dancehalls in Kingston or the island churches on a Sunday morning. The indigenous tribes, the Arawak and the Taino, settled here from South America in the 5th-2nd centuries BCE. When Christopher Columbus visited, he claimed it for Spain but less than two hundred years later, the British evicted them (1655).
The former Spanish capital, Spanish Town, is at present-day St. Catherine and boasts the oldest cathedral in the Caribbean British colonies. Much of the economy during the first 200 years of British rule was sugar exporting. Jamaica achieved full independence from the British in 1962, however most Jamaicans still prefer to be a British territory. In Kingston and nearby Port Royal, you can visit Fort Charles, Liberty Hall, and various plantations such as Rose Hall at Ironshore or Devon House.
In the north, the beaches and resorts are quintessentially Jamaican. The lush rainforests seem to spring from the white sandy beaches and the turquoise seas. There is unparalleled hiking in the mountains, and its not strenuous; even the most moderate hiker can summit the famous Blue Mountain Peak. Jamaica’s forests are chock full of waterfalls. The top tourist choice is Dunn’s River Falls in Ochos Rios; there are better, less crowded ones if you get away from the tourist towns.
No matter what you do, Jamaica will capture your heart. To paraphrase what Sanka says in Cool Runnings, “feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, get on up, it’s Jamaica time!”
Hi, I'm Jakob Lombardi,
the Hostelz.com local expert for Jamaica hostels. Welcome.