Since 2007, I’ve visited Jamaica at least 15 times and I’ve spent three winters there – from December through March of each year.
Friends, colleagues and family often ask me – why Jamaica? Pretty beaches? Boyfriend?
I laugh. Because the truth is, Jamaica is the lover. True, it’s known for its gorgeous beaches and is a favorite wedding or honeymoon destination, but Jamaica is so much more than that. I could give you many more reasons than five, believe me, but one must start somewhere.
Reason #1: The people are friendly and fun
Shopkeeper in Duncans, Jamaica
A hidden waterfall in Western Jamaica
The average Jamaican is friendly, hard working and spiritual. “Respect!” is the reply one often gets when meeting and shaking hands with a Jamaican. Jamaicans are funny, full of energy, and hospitable. They welcome questions about their culture. They appreciate and know the value of a person visiting their country. They won’t even laugh as you attempt to speak or learn patois. And most of all, people here say hello and appreciate being greeted. Whether you are a solo traveler or a group, you will never feel out of place.
Reason #2: The culture is diverse and fascinating ~ African pride resides
“Peter” – A Jamaican Rastafarian
When I pick a travel destination, I base it in part on how much culture there is for me to soak in and to capture. I have a thirst for learning about others’ lifestyles and heritage. It’s in my blood. I come from a rich culture myself (Ethiopia) and I also grew up in another one, in West Africa. Jamaica, the majority of which is of African ancestry, celebrates and acknowledges its African heritage, unlike many other Caribbean nations. And from the Maroons to the Rastafarians, there are different pockets of African culture within a culture and different viewpoints within one island. As the Jamaican motto says, “Out of Many, One People.”
Reason #3: The Reggae music is intoxicating
Legendary Reggae Artist Beres Hammond, Live at the annual “One Love Concert Series” in Negril, Jamaica
Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, Live in Negril
Live reggae on the beach every week with The Hiyah Grade Band at The Boat Bar, Negril
Reggae music was born here, as was Bob Marley. And it is well alive. You can listen to live, authentic reggae on almost any corner of the island. On the beach, at amazing all-day festivals such as Rebel Salute, or even at a bar in your neighborhood. Reggae melodies are constantly in the air, and the world’s top reggae artists are “at home” here and much more accessible to their fans. Like I always say, you haven’t listened to reggae until you’ve been to Jamaica – even if you don’t consider yourself a reggae fan, it’s worth the experience.
Reason #4: Life is more than a beach
Silver Sands Beach in Trelawny, on the North Coast of Jamaica
Reach Falls, Portland
The Jamaican landscape has something for everyone – whether you’re a beach bum or an adventurous “interior” kind of person. From waterfalls to mountains and rivers, and coupled with the size of the island – one of the largest in the Caribbean – there is more than enough to do. You couldn’t possibly see it all in one trip, or even two. And in addition to the popular attractions, there are many off-the-beaten path spots to explore and discover. Just this last trip, I was led to a beautiful waterfall I didn’t know even existed (stay tuned for more on this!).
Reason #5: The food is to die for ~ from jerk to ital
Curry goat with rice and peas, from Pilot’s Cafe in Negril, Jamaica
Rastafarian “Ital” cooking is both healthy and tasty, and perfect for vegetarians visiting the island.
Everyone knows – Jamaica is the birthplace of “jerk” cuisine. Aside from getting an true taste of it – from jerk chicken or pork to jerk lobster – there is much more to sample, such as curries, soups, “Ital” or vegetarian dishes, and lots of fresh fish. And all of it very affordable.
All right – and my sixth, completely selfish reason: it’s where I started my professional photography. So it holds an even more special place in my heart.