Jamaicans are experts in tourism, as witness the "export" of their expertise. More and more Jamaicans have branched out with hotels and resorts now based in The Bahamas and even Cuba. Foremost among these entrepreneurs are "Butch" Stewart of Sandals fame, John Issa of SuperClubs and Chris Blackwell, music mogul turned hotelier. In Jamaica itself, most of the action is concentrated in Ocho Rios, Port Antonio, Negril, the Blue Mountains with its gourmet coffee, and Montego Bay.
Montego Bay, better known as MoBay, is encased in mountaintop jungles and edged in miles and miles of tropical beaches. Jamaica's "Second City" is where most Jamaica visitors arrive by air, landing at ultra-modern Sir Donald Sangster International Airport. Older sections of MoBay look pretty much like they did two centuries ago. Sightseeing musts include 18th century plantations, restored Great Houses revealing the splendour of planter digs and, sadly, the squalour of slave lifestyles.
Negril has had lots of time to learn the ins and outs of being party central. During the early 1700s heyday of piracy, Negril was the gathering place of treasure-laden galleons about to sail out of the Caribbean and on to Europe. Back in the days of piracy, Calico Jack Rackham and his female pirate mates once guzzled too much Jamaican firewater - aka rum. British party-poopers subsequently raided Calico Jack's rum rumble and made arrangements for his death by hanging.
Jamaica's No 2 tourist magnet is about 70 miles from Montego Bay and around the same distance from Kingston. Ocho Rios sounds like ochos rios, Spanish for eight rivers. A more likely name derivation is the corrupting of Las Chorreras, meaning waterfalls. Dunn's River Falls, after all, is Ochee's main claim to tourism fame. A collection of waterfalls tumbles helter-skelter about 600 feet from top to bottom. This is the place to really "get down," act a little juvenile and silly, if you will.
Located on Jamaica's northeast coast, low-key Port Antonio is a world away from the party atmospheres of the country's main tourist destinations, Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and Negril. Lacking the urban sprawl of Jamaica's capital, Kingston, and the busy high-rise and all-inclusive resorts of the north coast, Port Antonio offers the authentic Jamaica enveloped in a setting of pristine natural beauty. Once the banana capital of the world, some say tourism was born in Port Antonio at the turn of the last century when boats shipping the "green gold" brought visitors.
The relatively arid southeast Jamaican coast has only one main town of note: Morant Bay. It was the home base for rebellious slaves during colonial days. You are more apt to hear a more Jamaican approach to the Queen's English. Gi ma smallers, boss means give me a dollar, boss. Anyone in authority, or able to give favours, is called boss. The common greeting is everyt'ing cool, mon? or everyt'ing irie? Travel west to Kingston and just south of this city is what's left of former colonial capital, Port Royal.
Caribbean Information Centre
Caribbean.com is a travel site specializing in The Bahamas, Bermuda and the Caribbean region. Our destination guides contain thousands of listings and virtual reality map tours to help you plan your perfect vacation. Listings include hotels, restaurants, activities, attractions, diving, snorkelling and shopping for 50+ destinations.