Every year over one million visitors come to Jamaica, the Caribbean’s third-largest island. It's a self-contained holiday universe offering unsurpassed tropical beauty, excellent water sports, the most vibrant of music scenes, and a sophisticated tourism industry.
Ocho Rios, Dunns River Falls
Jamaica is the largest English-speaking island in the Caribbean and the third largest in the region. With a total land area of 4442 square miles (10991 sq. km.), the island is 146 miles long with widths varying between 22 and 51 miles (35 and 82 km).
There’s Kingston – the Caribbean’s largest English-speaking city south of Miami; Montego Bay with its stretches of white sand and more hotels and holiday villas than anywhere else on the island; Negril with seven miles (11 km) of white beach and the famous Green Flash at sunset; and Ocho Rios, where the main beach is a spectacular band of gleaming sand right in the center of town.
Sporting types will be bewildered by the choice of activities. On and under the water, there’s windsurfing, water-skiing, parasailing, yachting, deep-sea fishing, scuba-diving and river rafting. The Montego Bay Marine Park is a 6,000 acre (25 sq km) ocean reserve for windsurfers, sailors, divers and snorkelers.
On dry land, popular sports are tennis, horse riding, cycling and golf – Mandeville is said to have the oldest course in the Caribbean, and championship courses are all along the island's north coast. The main spectator sports are horse-racing, polo and cricket – the game inherited from the English but followed with much greater passion by the Jamaicans. Since the national team, the Reggae Boyz, reached World Cup finals, soccer is more popular than ever.
Dunn's River Falls is one of Jamaica's national treasures. Globally, it is as well known as reggae and equally stimulating. There are few places where the Arawak name "Xayamaca" - land of rivers and springs - is more apt. The Spaniards called the area "Las Chorreras", the waterfalls or springs and it is truly one of the most beautiful spots on the island. A stone's throw from Ocho Rios, one of Jamaica's fastest growing resort centres.
Situated on a five-acre property, Mayfield Falls is a great spot for camping, hiking and picnicking. Other activities include cliff jumping, cave diving, relaxing in one of the natural jucuzzis and enjoying a massage. The staff at Mayfield Falls welcomes everyone. At Mayfield Falls visitors are taught local folk dances, and how to prepare local dishes with spices and herbs.
Montego Bay Jamaica
Jamaica boasts more than 24,000 guest rooms, including five-star resorts and hotels; all-inclusive resorts; private villas; small inns (with under 50 rooms) and guesthouses; condominiums; spa resorts; golf and tennis resorts; and convention hotels. An additional 800 rooms will be operative by the end of 2004.
All taxicabs have red license plates. Rates between locations are pre-determined. Limousines and air-conditioned coaches are available, and local bus service operates between villages, towns and cities.
Several reputable car rental companies operate in Jamaica. Drivers should note that driving is on the left side of the road; the speed limit is 30 MPH (50 km) in the towns and 50 MPH (80 km) on highways; service stations are open every day - cash payments and major credit cards are accepted. Rental-car drivers must be at least 25 years of age and present a valid license; to meet insurance regulations, drivers are required to post a bond with cash, major credit card or travelers check.
The Jamaican dollar is the only legal tender, though prices are often quoted in US dollars, which are widely accepted. European currencies are generally frowned upon so it's best to have US dollar traveler's checks. All major brands of traveler's checks and credit cards are accepted in Jamaica.
Kingston. Population: 643,801 (1991).
Eastern Standard Time. Jamaica does not observe Daylight Savings Time.
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