Jamaica is arguably the most famous of the Caribbean islands. Whether this is due to the achievements of some of its well-known citizens – from reggae legend Bob Marley to the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt – or its chequered history dating back to the time of Christopher Columbus, you can be sure that whatever you think you know about this amazing island is only half the story. Holidays in Jamaica are as varied as they come, so let us guide you through just some of the options available.
But first, a bit of history. At 4,243 square miles and with a population of less than 3m, Jamaica certainly punches above its weight for such a small country. The sporting and cultural achievements of this island nation are testament to the quiet determination and fighting spirit of a people who have had their fair share of oppression. When Columbus landed in 1494 the native Arawak Indians had Spanish rule forced upon them and many were killed or enslaved. In 1655 the British invaded and the Spanish fled, freeing their slaves before they left. These newly emancipated people became known as the Maroons and they and their descendants were a thorn in the side of the British, arming themselves and attacking their oppressors on a regular basis. Eventually the slave trade was abolished and Jamaica became a Crown Colony in 1866, eventually gaining independence in 1962, but choosing to remain as part of the Commonwealth.
Agriculture has been an important part of Jamaican life for centuries, from the sugar boom in the 17th and 18th Centuries to the introduction of bananas to reduce the economy’s reliance of sugar, and now the world famous Blue Mountains coffee and a myriad of Jamaican rums. Unsurprisingly, this has created a vibrant food culture displaying numerous global influences: cassava from the native Arawaks, pickled meat and fish from the Europeans, yams and bananas from Africa and curry from the East Indians. Of course, Jamaica’s famous jerk sauce can be found on every menu, but the national dish of Jamaica is actually ackee and saltfish, which is most often eaten for breakfast. The more adventurous visitor could also seek out authentic dishes like cow foot stew and goat head soup to really get a taste of the island!
With over 600 miles of coastline, holidays in Jamaica provide an amazing array of beaches and coves to explore. The inland rivers are also ripe for exploration, winding through the rain forest and cascading down mountains. Adrenalin junkies can get their fix with white-water rafting, canoeing and kayaking or those preferring to stay on dry land can hike into the interior to enjoy the lush vegetation and spectacular scenery.
The Blue Mountains are the highest point of the island, with a maximum peak of 7,401 feet. There are some beautiful places to stay up in the majestic hills, such as former plantation property Strawberry Hill, comprising a scattering of luxurious cottages and villas perching on the hillside at 3,000 feet. As well as a restful retreat from the bustle of the coast, it is also a gorgeous wedding venue.
Those looking for a holiday with historical resonance couldn’t do better than staying at Goldeneye, a stunning property rated as one of the best hotels in the world. Ian Fleming fell in love with the island in 1943 and used it as a retreat where he could write and relax after the end of the Second World War. He married in Jamaica and built Goldeneye in the 1940s, writing the majority of the James Bond novels here. Guests can stay in the Fleming Villa, his five-bedroom home on the island, or one of several villas and cottages scattered throughout the 52-acre estate which overlooks Oracabessa Bay.
Family holidays in Jamaica are plentiful, with a number of first class hotels to choose from. The Beaches Ocho Rios Resort has been voted one of the best beach resorts for families and it’s easy to see why: complimentary golf, an on-site water park, kids’ club and a superb spa, there really is something to keep everyone happy.
Jamaica is renowned for its laid-back lifestyle and easy-going people, so whatever kind of holiday you choose, you are sure of a warm welcome. From cultural pursuits to sporting endeavours, relaxation to exploration, we can put together the perfect package for you to discover all the delights that holidays in Jamaica have to offer.