Swaying palms, sparkling sands and crystalline waters brimming with marine life mark the island of Jamaica. The Caribbean's 3rd largest island, Jamaica offers 4,442 square miles of diverse tropical terrain. From its soaring Blue Mountain Peak, which rises 7,402 feet above sea level, to the valleys, plains and rivers that wind their way from the central mountain region to the coast, Jamaica's lush landscape is ripe with natural resources.
Alive with vibrant flora and fauna, Jamaica is home to the largest rainforest in the Caribbean and 3,800 types of flowering plants, including over 200 native species of wild orchids. Trees such as the mahogany, blue mahoe, satinwood, cottonwood and Spanish elm flourish in the island's fertile soil. More than 250 species of birds can be spotted floating across Jamaica's sunny skies.
Over 2.8 million people enjoy island life amidst Jamaica's picturesque backdrop. A mosaic of converging cultures, Jamaica is a melting pot of peoples from across the globe. With a diversity that harkens back to the island's origins, Jamaica's complex history includes settlers from all over the world. Jamaica's first inhabitants were a peaceful seafaring people known as the Tainos, which gave the island the name Xaymaca meaning "land of wood and water." Jamaica's abundant natural resources made it a wealthy British colony of large plantations producing 22 percent of the world's sugar. The slave trade and indentured servitude brought peoples from Africa, Asia and the Middle East to labor on the plantations of Jamaica, resulting in the eclectic blend of cultures found on the island today.
An independent nation since 1962, Jamaica's fabric is woven from a medley of traditions, foods, music, dance, legends and faiths. The nation's motto, "Out of many, one people," aptly articulates the island's multicultural landscape. From the pulsing beat of Reggae rhythms reverberating through the air to the sweet scents and flavors of the island's diverse cuisine, Jamaica has earned the nickname of "the biggest little island in the world."
Perhaps nowhere else is Jamaica's melting pot status more noticeable than in the musical dialect heard on the street. Although the official language of Jamaica is English, a smattering of Patois punctuates casual conversations. A combination of English, Spanish, Portuguese, African and local slang, Jamaican Patois is a reflection of the island's diverse history. Words such as irie (eye-ree), meaning "all's well," and boonoonunus, meaning "beautiful," are, not surprisingly, often heard punctuating the conversations of locals.
Made up of several distinctive regions including the capital city of Kingston, the popular Montego Bay, Negril, Ocho Rios, Port Antonio and South Coast, Jamaica offers something for everyone. Stroll the white sands of Doctor's Cave Beach in Montego Bay or Negril's Seven Mile Beach stretching along the west coast. Or, spend a day under the sun at Treasure Beach, known for its black sands, crashing waves and dramatic views. Indulge in the tropical playground of outdoor activities, from scaling Dunn's River Falls to exploring Green Grotto Caves to swimming with the dolphins at Dolphin Cove. Tour provider Chukka Caribbean Adventures also offers numerous outdoor excursions, including horseback riding, tubing and kayaking.