Vibrant Heart of the Caribbean
Alluring sunscapes, lush mountain backdrops, friendly people, spicy flavours and island beats make Jamaica the vibrant heart of the Caribbean and one of the top destinations for Canadian travellers. Jamaica is truly unique, with her gifts to the world including reggae music, fine rum, exquisite coffee and jerk seasoning. The island is also home to the widest variety of attractions in the Caribbean, from stunning waterfalls to cycling tours in the Blue Mountains to some of the region’s best golf courses.
Those looking to get an insight into Jamaican life can make arrangements to be part of the island’s Meet the People program. Launched in 1968 by the Jamaica Tourist Board, Meet the People allows visitors to be introduced to local ambassadors who share a common profession or interest with the visitor. Doctor to doctor, teacher to teacher, musician to musician; it’s an amazing program that is provided at no cost. The Jamaica Tourist Board will make arrangements for you to participate in the program. Once you know your travel dates, simply sign up online, or contact the Jamaica Tourist Board office. It’s all about making new friends and enjoying good times.
Snorkeling tours, river rafting and breath-taking waterfalls are all in close proximity to most of the major hotel areas. Just outside Ocho Rios is Jamaica’s world-renowned attraction, Dunn’s River Falls, where visitors can climb the 183 metres of cascading waterfall. Other popular experiences on the island include horseback riding, bicycle tours in the Blue Mountains, 4×4 Jeep safari tours and zipline canopy tours.
River rafting on the Martha Brae in Montego Bay or the Rio Grande in Port Antonio is a signature vacation treat for visitors to Jamaica. The rides date back to the 1950s when actor Errol Flynn noticed banana farmers strapping harvests to bamboo rafts and floating them down the river. Flynn set up the first rafting outfit, offering an afternoon of luxury and natural tropical beauty to guests. The Rio Grande journey lasts nearly two and a half hours and winds through rainforests and farmland on a thirty-foot raft expertly steered by a local “captain”. Along the way, guests may stop for a quick swim, enjoy a rum punch or stop to chat with locals.
A rich Jamaican cultural history lesson is in the food Jamaicans enjoy. To conceal their whereabouts, the Maroons (African slaves that escaped to the mountains during the British occupation of Jamaica) devised “jerking,” a method of spicing and cooking meat underground so smoke couldn’t be seen. To feed slaves in the 1600s, ackee fruit was brought from Africa. The national dish of Jamaica is gently-spiced ackee and saltfish.
Of course, a visit to Jamaica would not be complete without tasting Blue Mountain coffee or sipping some island rum. Perhaps one of the most identifiable products associated with Jamaica is Appleton Rum. Its birthplace, the Appleton Estate in St. Elizabeth, was founded in 1749 and is the oldest sugar estate and distillery in Jamaica. A visit to the Appleton Estate in the South Coast region allows visitors to experience the history of rum and provides an intimate look at the creation of one of the most celebrated spirits in the world.
Montego Bay may be Jamaica’s premier tourist destination and the second-largest city, but it hasn’t forgotten its charm. Surrounded by white sand beaches, grand hotels, all-inclusive resorts and charming small hotels and villas, Montego Bay is renowned for its beauty and range of activities.
Negril is located at the western tip of Jamaica and known as the “Capital of Casual.” The destination is a virgin paradise known for its natural beauty and “Seven Mile Beach,” a ribbon of white sand flanked by rugged cliffs.
Ocho Rios and Runaway Bay are located in the heart of the north coast region defined by fern-clad cliffs and cascading waterfalls. Known as Jamaica’s “playground,” there is almost an endless variety of activities to do here.
South Coast: The winding roads through tropical forests seem to go on forever in this beautiful, seemingly untouched area. Travellers in search of privacy and solitude will enjoy isolated beaches here, where the only footprints are their own.
Port Antonio is a haven for visitors from across the globe looking for quiet charm, natural beauty and lush surroundings. The region is the birthplace of Jamaica’s tourism industry — with the Titchfield Hotel established in 1905.
For full details on upcoming festivals/events, attractions and accommodations in Jamaica visit the Jamaica Tourist Board’s website at VisitJamaica.com or call