The word Jamaica is derived from the local Taino Native Americans meaning "Land of Wood and Water," or "Land of Springs." Today, Jamaica still has its water with beautiful waterfalls and the crystal clear Caribbean sea, and its wood, which comes from the Blue Mountains. But Jamaica today also has a rich cultural heritage and history, fully modern cities such as Kingston, and a people who are inviting and welcoming to visitors.
The capital and largest city in Jamaica is Kingston. Founded in the late 1692 as a place for refugees from an earthquake, Kingston now has a diverse population of over 650,000. The majority of residents are of African descent, but there are also a large minority of people originally from China, Europe, and India. These influences all merged together to help form the sound of Jamaica, reggae music. The music pulsates through the streets of Kingston, especially Knutsford Boulevard, also known as the "Kingston Strip," and hub to Kingston nightlife. There are also plenty of places to eat and shop, including boutique stores and restaurants in the New Kingston Shopping Centre.
Towering over Kingston and taking up much of the Eastern third of Jamaica are the Blue Mountains. From the highest point, Blue Mountain Peak at 2,256m (7,402 ft), one can see both the northern and southern coast of the island. The mountains are home to over 500 species of flowering plants, many of which can only be found in Jamaica. The mountains are also home to the largest butterfly found in the Americas, the Homerus swallowtail, and more than 200 species of birds. On the lower slopes of the mountain is where the world famous Blue Mountain Coffee is grown, which is said to be some of the best beans in the world for brewing. There are plenty of hiking, biking, and horse-back riding tours offered on the mountains, and Blue Mountain Coffee has a small gift shop for t-shirts, mugs, and of course, coffee.
The most notable feature of Jamaica has to be the sand and sun. The beaches are so beautiful that it is said even the locals cannot get enough of them. In Ocho Rios, Turtle Beach and Mallard beach are popular tourist spots with plenty of food and activities. Also close by is James Bond Beach named so because it was home to the Bond Series author Ian Flemming. In Negril, Seven Mile Beach was the Caribbean home to the Hippie movement, and while it caters more to tourists, the beach still stays close to its roots with several clothing optional areas. Montego Bay's beaches of Cornwall Beach and Walter Fletcher Beach offers incredibly calm waters and are great family spots. And in Port Antonio is Frenchman's Bay, said to be the most beautiful beach in the world, and Blue Lagoon, made famous by the movie of the same name.
If you want to spend your mornings sipping great coffee, your days at pristine beaches, and dance your nights away to the sounds of reggae, then Jamaica is your paradise vacation destination. And while you are there, do not forget to stop and enjoy the uniqueness of the mountains and the culture of the people.