What is Jamaica known for?

For Jamaica’s section of the famous things across the globe series, we have asked our fellow travel blogger Charmaine Hutton of Jamaica Travel Saver “What is Jamaica known for?” This is her incredible response.

Every tourist dreams of visiting Jamaica. The main attractions are the draw of white sandy beaches, swaying palm trees, and the people’s laid-back attitude. However, Jamaica has made its presence known on the world stage for such a small island in numerous ways.

Keep reading to gain some insights into the most famous things that can be found and enjoyed in Jamaica – learn what is Jamaica known for?

Things Jamaica is known for

#1 Reggae Music

Not many countries can boast they have created a whole new genre of music. But Jamaica can boast that it has created not one but more than five genres of music.  

The most famous, of course, is reggae, but a few others are ska, mento, dub, and dancehall.  Jamaican music is known worldwide, and it’s uncanny how such a small island has had such a significant impact on the world’s musical stage. 

Reggae originated in the late 1960s, preceded by ska, rocksteady, and mento. Reggae legends such as Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Beres Hammond, Jimmy Cliff, and Dennis Brown helped to shape the Jamaican music we hear today.   

Reggae music is usually linked with the Rastafarian religion, but it has spread to many other countries in the world, incorporating local instruments and fusing them with other genres.   

Reggae’s influence nowadays can be heard in mainstream songs such as Rhianna’s work. Reggae has undoubtedly left an indelible imprint on the musical landscape.

#2 Bob Marley

This legend is definitely Jamaica’s greatest musical export. No matter where you travel, when you say you are from Jamaica, the first thing anyone says is “Bob Marley”. 

Bob Marley’s contribution to reggae music has been locally and internationally recognized. In 1981 Bob Marley was awarded Jamaica’s third-highest honor, the Order of Merit. 

Internationally his albums have sold over 15 million copies, and he was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement award. TIME magazine also named his album Exodus the best album of the 20th century.  The BBC adopted his song One Love as its millennium anthem.

Famous things of Jamaica
Bob Marley Shrine – One of the many reasons Jamaica is famous for | photo by marphotography via yayimages

#3 Fastest Sprinters in the World 

Jamaica is known as the sprinting capital of the world. Three of the world’s four fastest 100-meter men sprinters are from Jamaica.

On the women’s side, two of the four fastest times ever run in the 100 meters were achieved by Jamaicans.

Most people only know about Usain Bolt, but Jamaica has an illustrious history in sprinting that dates back to 1948 when Arthur Wint won a Gold medal in the 400 meters race. 

Other trailblazers such as Donald Quarrie, Merlene Ottey, Veronica Campbell Brown, Asafa Powell, Yohan Blake, Elaine Thompson, and Shelly-Ann Fraser have put Jamaica on the map when it comes to sprinting. 

#4 Jerk Meat 

Food is an integral part of any culture, and Jerk is one of Jamaica’s most famous food exports. More specifically, Jerk Chicken and Jerk Pork; however, it is common to find jerk lobster, fish, or lamb. 

To prepare jerk, meat is marinated with a jerk sauce or seasoning that usually contains the following ingredients: thyme, pimento, onion, garlic, scallion, and scotch bonnet peppers. The meat is then slow-cooked over pimento wood.  

Jamaican food is really fascinating. If you are a foodie, look at this traditional Jamaican food post.

Chicken Jerk - one of the reasons Jamaica is known for
What is Jamaica famous for? Jerk Meat, in this case, Jerk Chicken | photo by myviewpoint via Depositphotos

#5 Rastafarianism

The religion became prominent mainly because of our reggae musicians, who were Rastas, the most famous being Bob Marley. 

Rastafarianism, also known as Rastafari, is an Abrahamic religion that emerged in Jamaica in the 1930s. Its practitioners are known as Rastas, Rastafarians, or Rastafari. They believe in a single god known as Jah, who partially resided in each individual.  

Rastas consider Haile Selassie, the emperor of Ethiopia between 1930 and 1974, as an incarnation of Jah, while others believe he is a human prophet. 

Rastas emphasize what they regard as living naturally or having “ital” dietary requirements, twisting their hair into dreadlocks and following patriarchal gender roles.

#6 Beautiful and Diverse Scenery

For such a small island, Jamaica has very diverse scenery.  In the east, a lush rainforest leads to hidden beach coves. 

In the southeastern part of the island, you have the capital city, with the seventh-largest natural harbor in the world and the world-famous Blue Mountains as its backdrop.   

To the southwestern part of the island, you have Treasure Beach, which has a rustic, desert-like atmosphere with cozy black and brown sand beaches. Here you will have the opportunity to experience several small fishing villages. 

To the west of the island, you can expect to see white powdery sand beaches in the beach town of Negril. 

As you move along the island’s northern coast, expect to see white sand beaches backgrounded by beautiful mountains. And because of its mountainous terrain and over 120 rivers, Jamaica has plenty of waterfall attractions. 

Some of my favorite waterfall attractions are the Blue Hole, Dunns river falls, and YS Falls. As you head inland to the island’s center, you will come into cockpit country, where the land is marked by steep-sided hollows divided by conical hills and ridges. 

To the east of the cockpit country, you have the Blue Mountains, where you will find the highest point in Jamaica at 2,256 meters.

What is Jamaica best known for? Beautiful scenery like Dunns river falls
Dunn’s river falls in Jamaica | photo by swisshippo via Depositphotos

#7 Blue Mountain Coffee 

Blue Mountain coffee is one of the rarest and most expensive coffees in the world. Coffee Connoisseurs rate these Jamaican beans as some of the best in the world.  

Only coffee grown in the Blue Mountains at 3,000 to 5,000 ft. (910 – 1,700 meters) and 5,500 ft. (1,700 meters) is given the precious title of Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee.   

Interestingly, the upper regions of the Blue Mountains are home to the Blue and John Crow Mountain Park, the first site in the Caribbean to be awarded UNESCO World Heritage Mixed Site for both natural and cultural riches. 

#8 Jamaican Patties  

Jamaican patties are a staple for many Jamaicans at lunchtime and a perfect snack for those on the run. The patty consists of a crispy, flaky crust with a meat filling.

The most popular meat filling is beef. However, other meats can be used. You can try options such as callaloo or chickpeas if you are vegetarian. 

These patties are frequently enclosed in a type of bread called cocoa bread. Jamaica has a large immigrant population in the US and the UK, and the patty has slowly crossed over and gone mainstream as a quick snack.

Jamaican Patties - one of the most famous foods from Jamaica
Jamaican Patties- famous foods of Jamaica | photos by mariakarabella via Depositphotos

#9 Cannabis / Marijuana / Ganja 

Marijuana plays a large part in Jamaica’s culture. Reggae musicians such as Bob Marley and Peter Tosh popularized its use.   

Rastafarians have used marijuana for religious purposes for over 100 years. A lesser-known fact is that Jamaica was one of the largest suppliers of illicit weed to the United States. 

More recently, Jamaica has been promoting its medical marijuana industry. In 2015 Jamaica legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes and decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

As a result, Jamaica is quickly becoming a hub for medical marijuana in the Caribbean, with a large number of medical marijuana complexes opening their doors in recent years.

#10 Once the Pirate Capital of the Caribbean

The sleepy seaside town of Port Royal was once known not only as the Pirate capital and the largest city in the Caribbean but also as the wickedest city in the Caribbean.

It was destroyed by an earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 1692 when most of the city disappeared underwater. 

Today most of the remains of the 17th-century city lie under almost 40 feet of water; if you get special permission, you can dive and explore the remnants of this once-thriving pirate city.

What is Jamaica known for
Ocho Rios in Jamaica | photo by TallyPic via Depositphotos

#11 The Jamaican Bobsled Team 

Jamaica is famous for reggae music, white sand beaches, and a warm, sunny climate, so the world took notice when the island’s bobsled team debuted at the Winter Olympics in 1988. 

The inexperienced team placed last but gained further notoriety when their experience at the Olympics was portrayed in the Disney comedy movie “Cool Running” in 1993. 

But Jamaica did not give up, and in 1994 the bobsled team made an Olympic return in Lillehammer, where the four-man team finished 14th, ahead of such teams as the United States, Russia, and France. 

Jamaica’s bobsled team made further appearances at the Winter Olympics in 1998, 2002, 2014, and 2018. Jamaica’s women’s bobsled team first appeared at the Winter Olympics in 2018.

#12 Jamaican Rum

The island of Barbados in the eastern Caribbean is rum’s birthplace. However, Jamaica has refined the rum-making process. 

The oldest rum producer is Appleton in Jamaica, dating back to 1749. This makes Appleton the second-oldest rum producer in the Caribbean. At one time, rum, known as “kill devil,” was used to trade meat, timber, and livestock with the American colonies. As the processing technique improved, so did the taste and its popularity.  

At one time, there were over 148 distilleries on the island, whereas today, there are only five distilleries. However, with technological improvements, Jamaica now produces the widest varieties of rum in the world and exports the product to over 70 countries. 

Interestingly, today Jamaica has the most rum bars per square mile in the world, and the reputation and standard of its rum are highly regarded.

Charmaine loves exploring her home country Jamaica and sharing her new finds with others, especially when she finds those hidden gems. You can learn more about Jamaica on her blog.

* Cover photo by TallyPic via Depositphotos

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