Jamaica – Ah! To be in Carribea! Land of reggae music, rum, and endless stretches of some of the world’s best beaches. Nature aside, who doesn’t know Usain Bolt, Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Marcus Garvey, Harry Belafonte, Louise Bennett-Coverley to name just a few famous Jamaicans who have rocked on the world stage in different capacities.
The capital city Kingston is vibrant and colorful. Columbus, the explorer landed here way back in 1494 and until 1961 it was under British occupation. Jamaica attained independence the following year and ever since then, this island nation has gone from strength to strength, evolving as the “Crown of Caribbea”.
Jamaica attained worldwide attention in the mid-70s due largely to reggae legend Bob Marley who spread the Rastafarian creed worldwide through his songs. Such is the hype around Bob Marley that he is popularly referred to as the “Guitar wielding freedom fighter”. Through his music, Marley highlighted the socio-political issues of his island nation that cut asunder petty boundaries of class, colour and creed, so much so that today reggae music is a global phenomenon with millions of Bob Marley fans spread worldwide.
Today, Bob’s eldest son Ziggy Marley and others of his ilk are further spreading the spirit of reggae music to today’s discerning music lovers. In fact, Ziggy himself was awarded the prestigious Grammy awards several times for his contribution to world music.
Jamaica may be small in size (10,991 km2), but make no mistake, it is an assault on your senses – food, music and obviously the legendary Jamaican Rum. The principal resort areas are Kingston, Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, the South Coast, Negril and Port Antonio.
Kingston being the capital of Jamaica is the administrative headquarters as well with the Governor General’s office and the Prime Minister’s office – Jamaica House both located in Kingston.
The Kingston Resort are, for instance, blessed as it is with the magnificent backdrop of the Blue Mountains is easily the most preferred vacation spot with an eclectic mix of cultural and natural recreational options. The legendary charms of Spanish Town and Port Royal alongside theatres, art galleries, curio shops, immaculately landscaped gardens and numerous hiking trails makes Kingston a firm favourite for visitors on the lookout for fun and excitement.
One of Kingston’s most iconic landmark is the Devon House, located on 26 Hope Road, which is perhaps one of the finest specimen of British plantation houses anywhere in the world. This magnificent edifice dates back to 1881 and the interiors are conspicuous by their 19th century Georgian architecture. A tour of Devon House should be high on the priority list of every visitor to Jamaica.
Another outstanding visitor attraction of Jamaica is the National Gallery, located ideally on 12 Ocean Boulevard. This is perhaps the largest of all art galleries in the Caribbean and is conspicuous by its five galleries that showcases the very best of Caribbean art as it has evolved through centuries. A tour of the galleries will open your eyes to the fascinating evolution of Caribbean art from Pre-Colombian era. Works of indigenous artists like Edna Manley and Mallica Reynolds offers great insight into all things Caribbean.
While in Jamaica, can rum be far behind? No way! Head for Nassau Valley where the world famous Appleton Estate is located in the midst of verdant greenery. The Estate has been silently brewing the famous Jamaican rum for the past 265 years.
The Estate offers guided tours for visitors and rum aficionados and are priced $ 30 per person. Visitors can rest assured of a truly immersive rum-experience through both audio-visual presentations as well as field trips.
Here in Cockpit Country, the Appleton Estate has history written all over. Legend has it that the Estate became operational in 1655, courtesy the pioneering initiative of Sir Francis Dickenson. At Appleton Estate, rum making is actually a very complex process involving several unique techniques that starts right from the time the sugarcane is assembled to the fermentation stage and beyond to the ultimate bottling. Such is the quality of Appleton rum that it happens to be the only rum brand that has earned the priceless “Terroir” tag.
What sets apart the rum produced at Appleton Estate, is perhaps the combination of fertile land where the choicest of sugarcane is cultivated that is further augmented by the bounties of nature in the form of uninterrupted supply of water from the Limestone Spring. Interestingly, the master blender at the Estate is not a man, but an exemplary woman rum blender – Joy Spence, which reportedly is a first in the industry anywhere in the world. Some gender equality this!
The dining and entertainment scene in Jamaica is eclectic to say the least and the local cuisine has evolved over the past several decades and is still evolving. People from many nations have for generations come and settled in Jamaica – Americans, Europeans, Indians and Chinese have all contributed towards enriching the Jamaican cuisine.
If you are a gastronomy buff, rest assured Jamaica won’t let you down. There are no shortages of fine dining outlets and the “Restaurant Week”, which is celebrated every year bears testimony to the island’s rich culinary legacy where a bewildering array of world cuisines are offered to the discerning diners at very competitive prices.
Gastronomy apart, when it comes to entertainment, Jamaica is in a class of its own. Reggae, which is Jamaica’s native music that has become so acceptable at the global music platform comes alive at the annual Reggae Sumfest that brings together some of the best reggae musicians of the world. There is another spectacular annual event – the Festival of Arts that showcases the very best of Jamaica’s dance, drama, folklore, indigenous music and much, much more.
Jamaica being the rum capital of the world, the bar scene is absolutely awesome. The city isn’t ideal for pedestrians but then one can always avail of the services of a cab. Most bars that are centrally located offer good food, DJs and a great crowd. The rooftop CRU Bar & Kitchen for instance is a name to reckon with when it comes to cocktails, while Regency Bar on 71 Lady Musgrave Road is easily the most sought after by the discerning international visitors.
If laying a bet is on your mind, look no further than the Macau Gaming Lounge at 28 Lindsay Crescent. The atmosphere here is pulsating and the casino with its outdoor patio offers a truly stress-free environ in which you test your lady’s luck. Mahogany Tree Bar, Jojo’s Jerk Pit and Distil Bar too, are much preferred by visitors. Summing up Jamaica, Michael Franti once remarked:
In Jamaica, the music is recorded for the sound system, not the iPod. It's about experiencing music together, with other people.
It is true even today.
Traveller’s fact file
Jamaica is blessed with three airports and so reaching here is very easy as it is well connected by some of the world’s most preferred airlines from US, Canada, UK and Europe. Jamaica is where some of the world’s largest cruise liners make their landfall. Passenger terminals are located in Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, Port Antonio, Falmouth and Kingston.
Jamaica has rooms in excess of 26,000 and the range of accommodation varies – from multi-storied high rise apartment hotels to the more spacious villas and boutique hotels that are synonymous with old-world hospitality. Leading hotels: Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall, The Spa Retreat Boutique Hotel, Grand Bahia Principe Jamaica, Grand Palladium Jamaica Resort & Spa, The Cliff Hotel, Secrets Wild Orchid Montego.