Jamaica: Little country, big adventures

The name ‘Jamaica’ conjures images of a hedonistic vacation, lying on a beach covered in rum. While understandable (and certainly an option), this image in no way does the island justice in terms of what it has to offer its visitors. Long famous as the Caribbean’s cultural powerhouse, Jamaica has a to-do list that is entirely disproportionate to its size. While it is impossible to capture the island’s unique spirit in writing, here are 4 quick reasons you should add Jamaica to your bucket list:

1. The places

Though the beach is the most obvious attraction on any Caribbean island (and with good reason), it is far from the only option. The Blue Mountains, which dominate the island’s centre, offer the intrepid tourist a chance to trek up to see the sunrise breaking over the peaks. Any number of waterfalls cater to every taste, from those who would like a quiet dip to those who’d appreciate a rustic adventure, hiking through jungle to dive from craggy rocks. Add to these kayaking, tubing, paragliding, cliff-diving, even an old plantation that now houses ostritches and camel rides –  Jamaica is full of potential for adventurers.

The island is also home to some surprising landmarks. The most famous may be the luminous lagoon, which is home to a rare microscopic organism that lights up when disturbed. It has the ethereal effect of causing the water to glow when visitors take a night boat ride or go swimming. The Blue lagoon, said to be bottomless and home to an ancient sea monster, has long been an escape for the rich and famous. And the Pelican Bar is an odd and delightful surprise; seemingly constructed entirely from driftwood, it stands a few miles off the coast and you have to charter one of the local ferryman to get there. Once there, you can relax, enjoy the view of nothing but ocean for miles around you, or stand with an ice cold drink on a sandbank while baby stingrays glide by your feet.

2. The people

A Jamaican’s best and worst trait is their friendliness. They’re happy to help out, happy to get to know you and also happy to stop and talk for far longer than you’re used to. While some who reside in the tourist ports have grown savvy to taking advantage of an opportunity for a foreign dollar, many people in the rural parts and the cities will display a level of hospitality that has died out in the rest of the world. Don’t be surprised to find yourself fed, guarded and most frequently, offered unsolicited life advice by anyone – a fisherman on the beach, the barman at the restaurant or your taxi driver.

3. The food

Jamaican food has to be experienced to be understood. One of the few places in the world where roadside vendors can be as good as top restaurant chains, you can eat like a Caribbean king. From eating things you’ve never heard of (ackee, anyone?) to finding out that fruit and chicken is a perfectly normal combination, the island can is as much a culinary adventure as any other kind.

4. The music

Though Usain Bolt has become the island’s most familiar face recently, Bob Marley still reigns supreme as the nation’s greatest son. A visit to the capital, Kingston, isn’t complete without a tour of his old home, reconstructed as a museum. And the nightlife will throw you feet-first into the island’s dancehall culture, which breeds as many ardent fanatics as it does opposition. (As a side note, wandering the clubs of Kingston gives you a decent chance of bumping into one of the country’s famous track-and-field athletes. Indeed, some tourists come to the city with solely that in mind!)

These, and many more quirks and attractions, make the island a jewel in the Caribbean, and impossible to finish in a single visit. Many visitors find themselves coming back repeatedly, and still finding themselves equally captivated by the little country’s enormous charm.

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