Every year over one million tourists visit Jamaica, the Caribbeanå‘s third-largest island å- and itå‘s not hard to see why.
It is a self-contained holiday universe offering unsurpassed tropical beauty, excellent watersports, the most vibrant of music scenes and a sophisticated tourist industry.
There are many different images of Jamaica and, because the country is so diverse, visitors find that most of them are accurate. It’s an island where you can find peace and seclusion in relaxed coastal hide-aways or join the crowds in the big, popular resorts.
There’s Kingston - the Caribbean’s largest English-speaking city; Montego Bay`s wonderous strech of white sand and more hotels rooms than anywhere else on the island; Negril with its ledgendary seven miles (11km) of white sand beach and breathtaking sunsets; and Ocho Rios, home of the spectacular Dunn River Falls. Port Antonio on the east coast is known for its lush vegetation and, for a more unhurried pace, there is the laid-back South Coast on Jamaica’s rustic countryside.
Metropolitan Kingston is the centre of the island’s cultural and business life, where you’ll find markets, art galleries, museums, theatres, nightclubs and, of course, the Bob Marley Museum, the recording studio in which the reggae star worked and lived.
If you’re Marley mad, you might want to go inland to see the Bob Marley Mausoleum at Nine Miles, 45 minutes from Ocho Rios. The National Heroes Park in Kingston celebrates the lives of other notable Jamaicans. In nearby Port Royal - once the island’s capital - you can see where pirates such as Sir Henry Morgan and other buccaneers lurked when they weren’t carrying out raids across the Caribbean.
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 underwater lovers like divers and snorkellers.
On dry land, popular sports include tennis, horse riding, cycling and golf - Mandeville is said to have the oldest course in the Caribbean whilst Jamaica boast 12 other world class courses. The main spectator sports are football, horse-racing, polo and cricket - the game inherited from the English but followed with much greater passion by the Jamaicans. Cricket was also the game from which American baseball was developed.
History-seekers can visit great colonial country houses and plantations, while visitors searching for natural wonders can see waterfalls, exotic flowers, the 550 native Jamaican ferns and 250 species of birds.
The Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park is another superb spot for nature lovers, home to vast variety of rare flora and fauna - but 200,000 acres (800 sq km) to cover, you`d best take a guide.
And those remote, unspoiled get-away-from-it-all coves and beaches? Come and find them!