The largest English-speaking island in the Caribbean, Jamaica is more than 4,400 square miles of mountains, rivers and plains. Before its independence in 1962, the tropical country was home to a variety of peoples from the Arawak people who discovered the land to the Europeans who controlled it and the Africans brought to work here. Throughout its history, Jamaica endured unrest and power struggles before it became the vacation destination, now famous for its waterfalls, beaches and reggae music.
Christopher Columbus landed on the Amerindian-inhabited island in 1494, beginning what would be hundreds of years of European colonization. After the Spanish came the British, eager to increase England’s Caribbean presence and economic power. By the mid seventeenth century, they had overcome the Spanish and claimed the area for their sugar plantations. The seventeenth century was also a time ruled by pirates.
One of the most historic regions in Jamaica, Port Royal was once a center for swashbucklers and much of the old city now lies underwater due to an earthquake. Historical attractions dot the island, including Rose Hall Great House, the former plantation of cruel Annie Palmer; the old scenic roadway along the Rio Cobre, leading to the village of Bog Walk and the city of Falmouth, known for its Georgian architecture. With botanical gardens and hot mineral springs the town of Bath, which was once an 18th century getaway for Europe’s upper crust, is still a popular place to visit.
More recently, Jamaica became well known for its reggae music star, Bob Marley. Vacationers can stop by the mausoleum in Nine Mile, Marley’s birthplace, and the museum dedicated to the late music legend in Kingston.