There is so much to learn about Jamaica, its rich cultural heritage, amazing geography, and vibrant culture. One trip to Jamaica will only be the beginning of what is a lifelong love affair with her loyal visitors. So we thought we would give you a head start on all the interesting information about this "big little Island".
Jamaica is the third largest island in the Greater Antilles. The island is 4240 Square Miles and sits just 90 miles south of Cuba. On a clear day one can even see Cuba, our nearest neighbour from the Negril lighthouse, the most western point on the island.
Its indigenous settlers the Taino's called it Xaymaca, meaning Land of wood and water, it was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1494, and remained under Spanish rule until 1655 when the English defeated the Spanish and took control of the island, then calling it Jamaica. A member of the commonwealth to this day, Jamaica was granted independence from the United Kingdom in August 1962.
The official language of Jamaica is English. Jamaicans primarily speak an English-African Creole language known as Jamaican Patois, which has become known widely through the spread of Reggae music. Jamaican Patois was formed from a base of mainly English words with elements of re-formed grammar, together with a little vocabulary from African languages and Native American words. Some archaic features are reminiscent of Irish English.
- ah sake ah - it’s because of
- ah weh - to where
- ar - her
- badda - bother
- breddah - brother/man/guy
- cho - an exclamation meaning wow, DARN! etc.
- dah - that
- deh - right there (optional because this sentence would still make sense without it)
- duh - do
- eeh! - isn't he/do you agree
- eem - him/her (usually "him" in most cases)
- mek eem - why he
- mout ah massy - chatterbox/talkative
- nah guh - not going
- nah lef - not leaving
- suh - so
- tink eem ah guh - thinks is going to
- yah - her
- yuh - you
Did You Know? - Fun Facts About Jamaica
- Jamaica was the first British colonial territory to establish a postal service (1688).
- Ian Fleming designed and built his home, "Goldeneye", in Jamaica and wrote ten of his James Bond novels there.
- Usain Bolt, is dubbed the fastest man in the world, the reigning Olympic champion is the first man to win six Olympic gold medals in sprinting, and an eight-time world champion. He was the first to achieve a "double double" by winning 100m and 200m titles at consecutive Olympics (2008 and 2012), and topped this through the first "double triple" (including 4×100m relays).
- Jamaica is the first team from the English-speaking Caribbean to qualify for the Football (Soccer) World Cup. This was the 1998 championship.
- Jamaica also was the first island in the Caribbean to produce rum on a commercial basis.
- Jamaica was the first country in the Western world to construct a railway, even before the United States. This was only 18 years after Britain.
- The Manchester Golf Club in Jamaica, established in 1868, is the oldest in the western hemisphere.
- Apart from the United States, Jamaica has won the most world and Olympic medals.
- Jamaica has the second largest butterfly in the world? (The Giant Swallowtail).
- Jamaica stands strong in 3rd place on the list of countries to win the Miss World titles the most. The only countries to have won it more than Jamaica are India, Venezuela and the UK.
- Jamaica was the first tropical country to enter the IOC Winter Olympics. The bobsleigh team's efforts inspired the film "Cool Runnings".
- The Town of Black River was the first town in Jamaica to be lit by electricity in 1893.
Land Of Wood And Water...
So much to do... or so little to do... it's all up to you on your Jamaican Holiday. Jamaica, land of wood and water has many options to offer her visitors. Whether it's an adventure at 7402ft above sea level in the rugged Blue Mountains, a climb of the breathtaking cascades at Dunns River Falls, walks in the Many Tropical forests or just lying on one of our Pristine white sand beaches, experience as much or as little of Jamaica as you wish.
Check out some of our recommended activities:
Dunns River Falls
Dunn's River Falls is the signature tourist attraction in Ocho Rios and one of Jamaica’s natural treasures and definitely is a "must do" when you visit Ocho Rios. It has a truly remarkable atmosphere, enjoy refreshing cascading falls, which are a delightful challenge to all visitors.
Green Grotto Caves
The central feature of this natural attraction is the large labyrinthine limestone cave with its numerous rock formations, its stalactites, stalagmites and abundance of overhead ceiling pockets. A truly off the beaten path Jamaican adventure.
Images courtesy of the Jamaica Tourist Board
Rafting on the Martha Brae
Climb aboard a 30-foot, bamboo raft and be poled down a jade-green river's core by your very own experienced raft captain. The Martha Brae River, located in the Jamaican parish of Trelawny (birthplace of sprinter Usain Bolt) invites you to trail your hand in its shimmering waters. Gaze raptly at towering trees filled with brightly-hued birds and exotic flowers as you glide past the tropical river banks. Surrender to the romance of the moment, sensing leaves rustling in the breeze. Experience a truly Jamaican pastime as you raft down a gently twisting river glistening in the sun. The raft ride is operated over a three mile stretch of the beautiful Martha Brae river and lasts approximately one hour.
Horseback Ride & Swim
Combine trails and waves in the unique Horseback Ride ‘N’ Swim! After riding horses through Jamaica’s backcountry, swim horseback in the Caribbean Sea!
Fly through the forest with this breathtaking zipline canopy tour! Get a new perspective as you explore the heart of Jamaica!
Take a ride on the wild side in an amazing ATV safari through the brilliant Jamaican backcountry!
Find fun for the whole family in this river tubing adventure! Dip into the cool waters of Jamaica, from enchanting lagoons to challenging rapids!
Off Road Jeep Safari
Take a ride through the real Jamaica with an exciting 4×4 off road safari!
Hold onto your hat as this is a wild ride. Inspired by the famous Jamaica Bobsled Olympic team, the bobsled ride in Rainforest adventures Jamaica is the park's signature attraction.
Sky Explorer Tour
The Rainforest Sky Explorer takes you soaring 700 feet above the Jamaican rainforest, giving you a chance to explore the treetops above the Mystic Mountain in Ocho Rios. You can also enjoy a magnificent view of the nearby Dunn's River Falls from up above.
Dolphin Cove is Jamaica's Number One marine attraction where visitors are sure to have an "Experience of a Lifetime". Dolphin Cove Ocho Rios Feel the thrill as these majestic mammals pull you along by their dorsal fins or give you a foot-push through the crystal-clear Caribbean Sea. After this invigorating encounter, spend the day here and enjoy all that Dolphin Cove, Jamaica has to offer. Watch the dolphins at play. View the exciting Shark Show. Marvel at the colorful birds, exotic snakes and iguanas. Enjoy unlimited mini-boat rides and glass-bottom kayaking. Interact with safe, gentle stingrays. Go shopping in “Little Port Royal,” a colorful Pirate’s Village, where buccaneers roam. Top off your day in Dolphin Cove by relaxing on a chaise lounge set directly on the pearly-white sand beach, as cool, Caribbean breezes caress your skin.
The Hidden Gem of Jamaica is its fantastic shopping Island wide. Shopping in Jamaica is an experience whether it is a stroll in the local straw market or a bespoke shopping experience at one of the many duty-free shopping centers on island. Jamaica is truly a shopaholic's paradise.
Good choices include Jamaican crafts, ranging from artwork to batik fabrics to baskets. Wood carvings are one of the top purchases; the finest carvings are made from the Jamaican national tree, lignum vitae (tree of life). This dense, blond wood requires a talented carver to transform it into dolphins, heads, or fish. Naturally, Jamaican rum is another top souvenir—there's no shortage of opportunities to buy it at gift shops and liquor stores — as is Tia Maria, the Jamaican-made coffee liqueur. Coffee (both Blue Mountain and the less expensive High Mountain) is sold at nearly every gift shop on the island as well.
Special tip - be sure to bargain before buying in Jamaica... regardless of whether it is a straw market or a luxury store.
Shoppes of Rose Hall - The Shoppes at Rose Hall is an upscale boutique shopping plaza featuring stores that sell luxury goods and souvenirs. There is also a gourmet cafe and restaurant in the plaza.
The Shoppes at Rose Hall was designed to resemble an old time Caribbean town, in keeping with the historic Rose Hall Great House, located on the opposite side of the road. The Plaza features cobblestone paths, a recreation of a traditional sugar plantation water wheel, covered walkways, fountains and towering palm trees.
This well-appointed plaza is at home in Montego Bay's "Elegant corridor"
Wassi Art - Wassi Art sells pottery, ceramics and other local arts and crafts, all of which are made locally in Jamaica. Studios are located in Ocho Rios Jamaica.
Local Craft Markets - No matter what town or City you are visiting in Jamaica, there will be a local craft market displaying the handiwork of Jamaican Artisans. Many of the crafts are made of straw or wood, and generally the vendors in the market are characters that will invite you into their stalls to look ... so be ready to strike a deal and bargain with these vibrant Jamaicans!
Jamaican Cuisine is so much more than just Jerk! Although Jerk is one of our most famous exports - be sure to take a culinary journey into Jamaica during your holiday.
Simply ask your experienced Villa Staff about one or all of the dishes we have recommended below - they will be more than happy to prepare for them for you!
Oxtail - Oxtails are beef tails and they make a deliciously rich and hearty stew filled with vegetables. The Jamaican touch is in the use of the allspice. Don't miss it!
Curried Goat - Curry goat is a curry dish originating in India and has become very popular in Indo-Caribbean cuisine. You need to know that Jamaican curry powder is different from Indian curries, although they tend to have most of the same ingredients: turmeric, coriander, cumin, mustard, cayenne and the like. Jamaican curry is heavier on the allspice.
Jerk Pork - Jerk is a style of cooking native to Jamaica in which meat is dry-rubbed or wet marinated with a very hot spice mixture called Jamaican Jerk Spice. Jerk seasoning is traditionally applied to pork.
Roasted Yam and Saltfish - "Usain Bolt's super fuel" - A roadside must in Jamaica is Roasted Yam and Saltfish. While driving around the island one will see many roadside eats and it Yam and Saltfish is on the menu this is a must try dish. For years vendors have been satisfying appetites with roasted yam and saltfish but some customers opt for just the yam with a little butter.
Golf - White Witch Golf Course
The White Witch Course at Rose Hall is named after one of Jamaica's most famous legends, Annie Palmer who was called the "White Witch of Rose Hall." It is rumored that her spirit haunts the Rose Hall estate, including the golf course. Rather than a tropical setting, the course has a unique mountainous terrain but the vibrant foliage, tradewinds, and pleasant ocean views are still in keeping with its Caribbean location. The golf course is challenging with an intimidating layout that features dramatic elevation changes and numerous well-placed bunkers. Although it is a difficult course, its scenery makes it popular amongst all golfers.
Designed by: von Hagge, Smelek and Baril
Built in: 2000
Golf Season: Year round
Visitor Policy: Welcomed
The Tryall Club
The Tryall Club offers a golf course with a varied terrain whose borders skirt the shoreline and climb up forested hills. Jungle ravines and coconut groves that are scattered throughout this championship course provide a scenic tropical setting. The Tryall Club layout features an interesting variety of holes that can be played several different ways due to their unique challenges, guaranteeing that a round on this course will never be boring. The signature hole however, is the par-3 fourth hole, on which the Caribbean Sea and the Flint River come into play. Next to the Tryall Club's seventh hole is an 18th-century water wheel that once powered the sugar mills that used to be on the estate.
Located In Rose Hall, Montego Bay Cinnamon Hill like The White Witch, is a von Hagge and Baril designed course. Cinnamon Hill with elevations that give the sense of both links and inland golf. You’ll experience the best of Jamaica golf the cool ocean spray on your cheeks as you putt on seaside greens, then the wind whistling through the pines as you tee- off on the 17th hole, 350 feet above sea level. This is a test you will enjoy, enchanting panoramas framing your every shot. To get the most out of this unique experience, talk to our caddies. They are listed among “The Best In The World” by Golfer magazine, and they will be equally happy to discuss Annee Palmer or Arnold Palmer and can read greens better than any pro.
Undulating greens, demanding holes, challenging drives and breathtaking vistas are all part of the award-winning, Par-72 championship course, designed by renowned course architect Robert Trent Jones, Sr. Renovated by renowned golf course architect Roger Rulewich in 2005, the course features newly-aligned, multiple tee complexes as well as repositioned fairways and greenside bunkers. Well known across the Caribbean and around the world, as one of the finest luxury golf resorts worldwide, Half Moon’s Golf Course has been consistently considered as one of the top courses in the Caribbean.
Polo in Jamaica
Introduced by the British Army towards the end of the 19th century, polo is very much alive in Jamaica. There are five clubs with around fifty players and the island is a regular host to overseas teams. Probably the best known club is the Chukka Cove Polo Club at Laughlands (west of Ocho Rios) which hosts both local and international matches. Games are played there year round normally on Saturdays, and lessons or “stick and ball” sessions can be arranged for visitors. The game is also played at the Chukka Blue Polo Club in Sandy Bay, Hanover, near Montego Bay. The island’s two main clubs, which host the majority of the international matches, are the Kingston Polo Club in the capital and the St Ann Polo Club at Drax Hall in St Ann, which is also the home of the Jamaica Polo Association.
Music and Culture
Jamaican Culture is built on the foundations of the happy people with a deep love and appreciation for music, entertainment and the arts. It goes without saying that when one thinks of Jamaica, Reggae Music and Bob Marley automatically come to mind. Bob Marley's music continues to be legendary today some 32 years after his passing, however, Jamaica's musical culture has beginnings that go much deeper than the reggae that we know today.
Starting with Jamaican folk music and many popular genres, such as mento, ska, rocksteady, reggae, dub music, dancehall, ska jazz, reggae fusion and related styles. Jamaican music's influence on music styles in other countries includes the practice of toasting which was brought to New York City and evolved into rapping. British genres as Lovers rock and jungle music are also influenced by Jamaican music.
For our Bob Marley enthusiasts we recommend that you Journey to the village of Nine Mile, where Bob was born, lived, loved and played. Learn about the Rastafarian religion as well as see his final resting place. A moving tribute to a great musician!
In the words of Bob Marley - "one good thing about music, is when it hits you feel no pain"
So, when in Jamaica experience her Music and Vibes and energy! Whether it is in your very own villa, or on a night out on the town, or perhaps on a roadside stop while exploring an local Jerk Center, stop and take in the Music, it will make holiday memories that will last a lifetime.