Jamaica is a sovereign island country situated in the Caribbean Sea. Spanning 10,990 square kilometres (4,240 sq mi) in area, it is the third-largest island of the Greater Antilles and the Caribbean (after Cuba and Hispaniola). Jamaica lies about 145 kilometres (90 mi) south of Cuba, and 191 kilometres (119 mi) west of Hispaniola (the island containing the countries of Haiti and the Dominican Republic); the British Overseas Territory of the Cayman Islands lies some 215 kilometres (134 mi) to the north-west.

Originally inhabited by the indigenous Taíno peoples, the island came under Spanish rule following the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1494. Many of the indigenous people either were killed or died of diseases, after which the Spanish brought large numbers of African slaves to Jamaica as labourers. The island remained a possession of Spain until 1655, when England (later Great Britain) conquered it, renaming it Jamaica. Under British colonial rule Jamaica became a leading sugar exporter, with a plantation economy dependent on the African slaves and later their descendants. The British fully emancipated all slaves in 1838, and many freedmen chose to have subsistence farms rather than to work on plantations. Beginning in the 1840s, the British began using Chinese and Indian indentured labour to work on plantations. The island achieved independence from the United Kingdom on 6 August 1962.


Jamaica is regarded as a bilingual country, with two major languages in use by the population. The official language is English, which is "used in all domains of public life", including the government, the legal system, the media, and education. However, the primary spoken language is an English-based creole called Jamaican Patois (or Patwa). The two exist in a dialect continuum, with speakers using a different register of speech depending on context and whom they are speaking to. "Pure" Patois, though sometimes seen as merely a particularly aberrant dialect of English, is essentially mutually unintelligible with standard English and is best thought of a separate language. A 2007 survey by the Jamaican Language Unit found that 17.1 percent of the population were monolingual in Jamaican Standard English (JSE), 36.5 percent were monolingual in Patois, and 46.4 percent were bilingual, although earlier surveys had pointed to a greater degree of bilinguality (up to 90 percent). The Jamaican education system has only recently begun to offer formal instruction in Patois, while retaining JSE as the "official language of instruction".

Phrases common in Jamaica:

  • Mi Soon Come I will be right back
  • Big up, respect Well done!
  • Sell off! Excellent!
  • Wah gwaan? What's up?
  • Mi deh yah Everything is good
  • Likkle more See you later
  • Zeen I understand
  • Ova deh Over there
  • Wha Yuh Deh Pon What are you up to?
  • Mi Nuh Biznizz I don't care



Negril Beach & Cliffs

Negril Beach, also known as Seven Mile Beach, is one of Jamaica's most beautiful stretches of white sand and aqua sea. Backed by the famous Negril Cliffs, it's also one of the best beaches in the Caribbean. Although it's actually closer to four miles long, the beach extends from Bloody Bay to Long Bay. Tucked within groves of coconut palms, resorts fringe the shore here, from large all-inclusive resorts to smaller boutique properties.


Dunn's River Falls

Encompassing 180 meters of gently terraced waterfalls, Dunn's River Falls is one of the top attractions in Ocho Rios. These picturesque falls tumble over rocks and limestone ledges into the sea. You can climb the natural tiers to the top of the falls with the aid of a guide and cool off in the refreshing pools at the base.


Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park

Once a refuge for former slaves and the indigenous Taino, who fled here to escape slavery, this unspoiled preserve offers breathtaking scenery. Within its borders, you can explore jungle-clad mountains, waterfalls, lush rain forests, and coffee plantations. The wildlife is also impressive. More than 800 species of endemic plants, 200 species of birds, and the world's second largest butterfly live within the park.


Port Antonio

Set between mountains and a double harbor, Port Antonio exudes the relaxed charm of a sleepy fishing village. Once a center for banana export, the area is distinctly less commercial than the other resort towns. Popular things to do in Port Antonio include hiking jungle trails, rafting the Rio Grande, taking a tour to Reach Falls, and snorkeling and diving the coral reefs.

Fun Facts

  1. Although Jamaica is probably one of the most famous Caribbean destinations, it’s only the third largest island in the region.
  2. As an incredibly mountainous island, the Blue, John Crow, Don Figuero, and Cockpit Country mountain ranges are all found in Jamaica.
  3. Alongside it’s large Caribbean island brethren Cuba and Hispaniola, Jamaica is part of the Greater Antilles.
  4. The submarine range which supports the island is known, unsurprisingly, as the Jamaica Ridge. This vast underwater range separates the Cayman Trench and Cayman Basin from the Columbian Basin.
  5. A third of all Jamaicans live in the country's capital city Kingston.
  6. After more than 3 centuries of British rule, Jamaica finally gained its independence in 1962. Independence Day is celebrated on 6 August with huge street parties.
  7. As a result of that colonial past Jamaica keeps hold of many British laws, constructs, and quirks. Driving on the left side of the road is just one of them.
  8. Jamaica is home to the endangered Homerus swallowtail who has a maximum wingspan of 6 inches and is one of the 12 largest butterflies globally.
  9. 250 species of birds call the Jamaican island home.
  10. Jamaica's flag's three colors represent: difficulties, sunlight, and agriculture.

Travel Guidelines

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  • Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis (TDAP)
  • Flu (influenza)
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