|Land of Rastafarians, reggae, and rum, Jamaica wears an aura of roughshod romance that attracts certain travelers as strongly as it repels others. Yet its reputation as dangerous is largely undeserved; yes, its urban street-life is jubilant to the point of chaos, and the music of Bob Marley's heirs may be heard at top volume from Negril's youthful beach scene to shanty towns in the remote areas, but this country is no less welcoming than its more staid Caribbean siblings. Whether your clients want to recuperate from the rat race at a Riviera-style resort, sneak off to a couples-only hedonistic hideaway, or venture forth on a tropical safari, Jamaica is in many ways unbeatable. |
The island's 4,400 square miles comprise a beautiful mountainous interior ringed by a necklace of golden beaches lined with tall palms. Since Jamaica was once the crown jewel of the British sugar empire, its coastal plains and lofty jungles are still the setting for colonnaded mansions and thriving plantations. But the island has been independent for three decades, and cultivation has given way to tourism as the premier moneymaker. Many of those mansions are now opulent inns flanked not only by sugar fields but also by golfing greens, and the northern beaches where pirates once plundered rum are now resplendent with bikini-clad beauties and high-rise hotels of gleaming glass.
Kingston, the capital, is a scintillating hurly-burly of a town where politicians and financiers rub shoulders with dreadlocked dancehall musicians and farmers leading fruit-laden mules. It is rich with cultural history, museums, and some of the Caribbean's hottest local color. Most travelers, however, stay in one of the north coast resort towns, first and foremost Montego Bay, which has grown from a playground of the prosperous to a patchwork of luxury hotels and old-fashioned elitist enclaves. Negril and Ocho Rios are the most youthful tourist havens, featuring dazzling expanses of fine sand and package deals offering everything from toga parties to volleyball clinics. Farther east, Port Antonio is a peaceful romantic village with wistful traces of colonial grandeur. In all these locales, sports of every stripe abound.
Adventuresome clients may prefer Jamaica's wilder, less trodden south side with its windswept sugar fields, winding coastline, and deliciously deserted beaches. This island, in fact, has much to delight the nature lover, from the cool runnings of its rivers and waterfalls to the daunting peaks of the Blue Mountains, rising to 7,400 feet. Botanical gardens are as plentiful as golf courses, the birdlife as vivid and varied as the wares in Kingston's marketplace. For those with a free and festive spirit, Jamaica will leave them more than satisfied.