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 Jamaica - just saying this word conjurs up thoughts of sunny warm days, friendly faces, and, of course, beautiful beaches just waiting for you to discover them. This island can be found in the West Indies, about 100 miles west of Haiti and around 90 miles south of Cuba. For some perspective, it is almost the size of Connecticut.

 Discovered in 1494 by Columbus, Jamaica's history is filled with plantations and pirates. Before being captured by the British in 1655, it was known as a Spanish colony. A steady supply of slave labor coming in from Africa helped Jamaica to establish lots of sugar plantations in the 18th century. Even though those slaves were emancipated in 1838, indentured labor was brought in from China and India to keep up the sugar estates.

 It wasn't until the 1930's that Jamaica started to get local control and out from under British rule. Universal adult suffrage was achieved in 1944 and the political parties that were formed at this time were the People's National Party and the Jamaica Labour Party. Jamaica finally was totally independent and away from the United Kingdom in 1962; however, it still has membership in the British Commonwealth.
Map of Jamaica1

 Nowadays, it is estimated that at least one million people visit Jamaica each year. It is such a wonderful place to go to where you can have a blast participating in all the fantastic sports both on and off the water, enjoy the various music scenes and take in all the gorgeous tropical beauty. Here you will find the volcanic hills known as the Blue Mountains; Montego Bay, which has the most villas and hotels on the island; Ocho Rios, where the main beach happens to be right in the middle of the town; Negril, where the Green Flash happens at sunset; and Kingston, the largest city just south from Miami.

 You can't come to Jamaica without seeing Dunn's River Falls in Ocho Rios, definitely one of the most beautiful places there. It is said to be one of the national treasures in Jamaica. It was given the name "Las Chorreras", which means the springs or waterfalls, by the Spaniards, and once you have seen it, your breath will be taken away.

 If hiking, camping and having a picnic are what you want to do, then Mayfield Falls is the place to go. Here you can also relax in a natural jacuzzi, get an awesome massage, go cave diving or even cliff jumping. You will also learn some local folk dances and the way that the local dishes are prepared using herbs and spices. This is a great place to unwind and experience new things.


 Some of the water activities you can choose to do are water skiing, yachting, windsurfing, parasailing, scuba-diving, river rafting and deep-sea fishing. The 6,000 acre Montego Bay Marine Park is an ocean reserve for sailors, snorkelers, divers and windsurfers. Other sports are also available, including horse riding, golf, cycling and tennis. Or, you could check out a soccer or cricket game.

 As astonishing amount of bird species, 252 to be exact, are found in Jamaica and 27 of those cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Some of these species are the bee hummingbird, which happens to be one of the tiniest birds in the world, the streamer-tailed hummingbird, which is the national bird, and the Jamaican tody, or robin redbreast, that only lives on the island and makes its nest in a hole in the ground.

 The second largest butterfly in the world is the Giant Swallowtail and Jamaica is the only place you can find it. It's wingspan can go up to 6 inches and it is truly stunning to see. Yet another indigenous butterfly called the Zebra exhibits very odd behavior by congregating in large swarms on one branch or tree - scientists cannot figure that one out.

 Getting around Jamaica will not be hard as there are taxicabs, coaches, limos, and buses that can take you wherever you need to go. You could also rent a car and keep in mind that when you are driving, stay on the left side of the road. The speed limits are 50 mph on the highways and 30 mph in the towns. Also, you must be no younger than 25 years old to rent a car and you must post a bond before you can drive one.

 So don't wait any longer - make plans to go and discover Jamaica, where the heritage is culturally rich, there are always warm tropical breezes blowing, you will never run out of things to see and do, and lots of sunny beaches are waiting for your arrival.

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