In the middle of the Caribbean lies a beautiful island submerged by an alpine mountainous terrain and encompassed by the turquoise crystal clear waters of the Caribbean sea. Its unprecedented beauty and dynamic culture are carved amongst the rocks of every parish and highlighted through the loving actions of its people. Jamaica was previously referred to by its first inhabitants as Xaymaca meaning ‘land of wood and water‘ given because of its rich vegetation and majestic rivers and coastal waters. Today, Jamaica continues to fulfill this legacy as it is the home to some of the most natural oases and dynamic culture in the Caribbean some of which I got to experience for my trip there for my birthday. It was both a life-changing and inspirational trip one that prompted me to continually seek new adventures beyond the U.S. border.
As I sat quietly in the moving vehicle and took a long deep breath ‘in and out’ ‘inhale and exhale, ‘ I was greeted with a warm embrace by a fragrance so familiar to me yet I had almost forgotten its strapping power. The fresh aroma of the Caribbean sea rejuvenated a sense of calmness and peace within me as I departed from the Norman Manley International Airport and onto the center of the country’s capital, downtown Kingston. There was soon a shift in the atmosphere, perhaps, prompted by the slowing of my father’s vehicle or the calming of the boisterous coastal wind. The dim lights that bordered the lonely streets soon shone bright and one by one large commercial buildings began to appear gleaming like jewels of the sun. Sounds of loud slamming soon emerged and stroke by curiosity, I leaned back in the car seat to peek my head through the car window. Immediately a huge smile plastered my face as four middle-aged men sat in front of a bar participating in a rather intense game of Dominos. Youngsters along nearby beaches could be seen dancing rhythmically and energetically to the Irie Jamaican dancehall music and prolific street vendors bordered the corners of the busy streets with their large wooden stalls. The mixture of modern world culture, such as commercialism, greatly contrasted with the Jamaican heritage was so immense that it almost felt like I was stuck between the portals of two extraordinary dimensions. It was amazing.
Four hours from Kingston we entered the beautiful tourist town of Ocho Rios which lies right along the north coast of the island. Although it is a typical tourist destination, to me it felt more like home as everything about the town said ‘Xaymaca’. From the green shrubs that carved out the mountains to the lavish rivers and beaches, the entire town was drenched in the perceptions of our first inhabitants, the Tainos. It astounded me how people who inhabited a country over centuries ago, leaving a very little trace of their ancestry, could nevertheless have such a significant impact. A band of triangular roofed homes that stretched along the shore of the beaches I soon learned was an architectural feature of the Tainos. The wooden carvings often bought by tourists as souvenirs were in fact first practiced by the Tainos in 1492. As I exited the car and walked along the seashore with my family these thoughts trailed my mind; I was in awe noticing the dynamic culture and captivating natural beauty of the island.
My hands trailed in the fine white sand and my toes barely touching the water I looked towards the sunset wondering what more beauties Jamaica could possess.
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