Jamaica is a mid-sized island nation in the Caribbean. It covers 4,200 square miles (11,000 sq. km), making it a bit less than twice the size of the state of Delaware. It is situated near the islands of Hispaniola and Cuba, and east of Central America.
Arawaks first settled the island of Jamaica, which they called Xamayca, the land of wood and water, some 3,000 years ago. The first European to arrive at the island was Christopher Columbus in 1494, who immediately claimed it for Spain. In the early-16th century the first colonies were established. The Europeans quickly set about subjugating the Arawaks, slaughtering many indiscriminately, killing others through disease, and capturing the remainder as slaves. Soon after settlement, African slaves were also brought to the island to work the land.
From the mid-16th century on, Jamaica became a favored target of pirates and British privateers. The islands were beautiful and bountiful, and so offered pirates an ideal place to make anchor to resupply. By the mid-17th century the British had seized control of the island, and had invited buccaneers to the island to help fend off Spanish attacks. When the British drove out the Spanish, many of the Spanish left behind their slaves, who fled to the mountains of Jamaica to join with escaped Arawaks and formed Maroon colonies.
The British continued colonization of the island, eventually gaining control over all but the Maroon-dominated mountains and hills. The British signed a peace treaty with the Maroons, guaranteeing them land and safety, and offering a bounty for every escaped slave they returned.
Jamaica flourished for the next two centuries, with the sugar and coffee trades making the island’s economy boom. Major slave uprisings plagued the island through the 18th and early 19th century, eventually leading to the abolition of slavery throughout all of the British Empire in 1834.
Beginning in the 1940s, Jamaica started to see increased autonomy within the British Empire. Local elections with universal suffrage were held, and Jamaica began down the path to independence. In the late 1950s Jamaica joined the Federation of the West Indies, but soon withdrew, eventually achieving complete independence in 1962.
Since the 1980s Jamaica has instituted a number of economic reforms, aimed at lowering inflation and stabilizing economic growth. In the past decade the Jamaican economy has grown slowly but steadily, and in the past few years the nation seems to be experiencing a period of expanded growth.
Jamaica is one of the most frequented Caribbean destinations, and has the tourist infrastructure that entails. It’s a great destination for all styles of travel, from those who want huge private villas with sweeping views, to those who just want a hammock somewhere near the water. There are amazing clubs on the island, and if you like Reggae music this is, needless to say, the place to be.
Most of the tourist activities revolve around the beauty of the beaches and the water, and you don’t have to look hard to find them. The famous Blue Lagoon is here, and is absolutely gorgeous, but the same can be said for almost any stretch of beach on the island.
Jamaica is very well tied-in to major airports throughout the world, and flights arrive daily from most hubs. A veritable chain of cruise ships also make port at the island, and it is a popular destination for yachties, making it pretty easy to get to by sea as well.