Rightly famous for its beaches and music, beautiful, brash
is much more besides. There's certainly plenty of white sand, turquoise sea and swaying palm trees, but there are also spectacular mountains and rivers, tumbling waterfalls and cactus-strewn savannah plains. Far more than just a resort, the island also boasts vibrant towns and cities such as sprawling
, which inspired the music of Bob Marley and countless other home-grown reggae superstars.
Jamaica is a country with a swagger in its step - proud of its history, sporting success and musical genius - but also with a weight upon its shoulders. The island faces the familiar problems of a developing country, including dramatic inequality of wealth and social tensions that occasionally spill over into localized violence and worldwide headlines. As a result Jamaicans are as renowned for being as sharp, sassy and straight-talking as they are laid-back and hip. People don't beat around the bush here, and this can sometimes make them appear rude or uncompromising. Particularly around the big resorts, this direct approach is taken to extremes at times, with harassment reaching irritating levels.
But there's absolutely no reason to be put off. As a foreign visitor, the chances of encountering any trouble are minuscule, and the Jamaican authorities have spent millions making sure the island treats its tourists right. As the birthplace of the "
" hotel, Jamaica is well suited to those travellers who want to head straight from plane to beach, never leaving their hotel compound. But to get any sense of the country at all, you'll need to do some exploring. It's undoubtedly worth it, as this is an island packed with first-class attractions, oozing with character, and rich with a musical and cultural heritage; if you're a reggae fan, you're in heaven.