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Jamaica is surely one of the Caribbean’s most iconic destinations. The scenery offers everything from fish-filled coral reefs and white-sand beaches to breathtaking waterfalls and cloud-shrouded rainforests. The music is infectious, and the people represent one of the most diverse populations in the Caribbean, drawing from African, Chinese, Indian, British and German heritage.
Jamaica is the Caribbean’s third largest island with six main tourist regions – Montego Bay, Negril, Mandeville and The South Coast, Kingston, Port Antonio and Ocho Rios. There are numerous tranquil places to visit: The 7,402 foot Blue Mountain Peak is a challenge to allserious island trekkers, and bird watching is increasingly popular with more than 200 native species, including at least 25 species that are endemic. Jamaica is also reputedly home to more than 3,000 species of flowering plants, some 720 of which are found nowhere else. Jamaica is rich with formal gardens, too, such as Hope Botanical Gardens, Shaw Park Gardens, Coyaba River Garden and the Cranbrook Flower Forest.
Ocho Rios is a prime port for cruise ships but also boasts a succession of bays and beaches. Most notable are Runaway Bay, and Discovery Bay. Just inland lies Dunn’s River Falls – a much photographed attraction. Montego Bay is a mecca for watersports lovers including sailing, scuba diving, jet skiing, parasailing, sport fishing and glass-bottom boat excursions. For shoppers, Gloucester Avenue (dubbed the "Hip Strip") is lined with duty-free shops, souvenir arcades, restaurants and bars. Negril became known in the 1960’s and 1970’s as an idyllic escape for the backpack crowd, and still enjoys a low-key demeanor. Perched on limestone bluffs, Negril’s West End is home to numerous small resorts snuggled into the craggy cliffs.
Visit the many plantation great houses such as Rose Hall and Greenwood Great House. Tour the rum distillery at Hampden Great House. Like many Caribbean islands with a sugar plantation heritage, Jamaica showcases numerous fine rums, including Appleton, which offers a top-shelf label of aged rums. Another favorite treat is Tia Maria, a coffee-flavored rum liqueur.