Although the Arwak Indians were the original inhabitants of the relaxed, culturally rich Caribbean island of Jamaica, it was first discovered by the Europeans in 1494 with the arrival of Christopher Columbus, who claimed the land for Spain. In 1655, control of Jamaica was transferred to Great Britain, and the island officially became a British colony. Under British leadership, Jamaica was transformed into a thriving center of commerce, especially in the sugar trade. The island later gained independence in the 20th century, and it is now known around the world for its unique Caribbean culture and gorgeous natural landscape, with a local color that cannot be found anywhere else in the Caribbean.
One of the prime destinations in Jamaica is the island’s second largest city. Known as Montego Bay, this city is situated on the island’s northwest coast and features the primary airport and the widest variety of hotel accommodations. It also offers tourists the best and most varied nightlife in Jamaica, with the “Hip Strip” of Gloucester Avenue sporting a number of clubs and bars that have become favorites of tourists and locals alike. Additionally, Montego Bay boasts several historic plantations, many of which have been fully restored and are excellent sightseeing destinations.
Another favorite destination in Jamaica is Port Antonio, which is situated between two harbors along the northeast coast of the island. With a history as one of the island’s key ports for banana shipping, Port Antonio even today maintains the unique atmosphere of a local village. Withdrawn from the bustling pace of many 21st century tourist centers, this town is beautified by tropical waterfalls, banana and palm trees, and secluded coves.
Other picturesque areas of Jamaica that are loved by many vacationers are Discovery Bay and Runaway Bay, located east of Montego Bay. These destinations feature translucent azure water, bordered by charming local villages situated along the spotless white-sand beaches. Here, visitors have the opportunity to not only enjoy a taste of Jamaica’s unique culture, but also to unwind and soak in Jamaica’s tropical setting.
Jamaica also offers visitors the opportunity to engage in the island’s wide range of recreational activities and aquatic sports. Hiking along the island’s mountains is an unforgettable experience, as is horseback riding on one of its gorgeous beaches. Other popular sports include snorkeling, cycling, mountain biking, diving, sailing, and fishing.
In addition, the island boasts a virtually endless variety of options for shopping. Because Jamaica has duty free ports, many of the items are significantly more affordable in the local boutiques and shops than they would be elsewhere. With its rich and artistic culture, Jamaica also features a number of local galleries displaying native artwork from across the island.