10 Things About Jamaica You Didn't Know

By: Rhiannon Ball
A woman makes her way past a wall painted depicting Jamaican culture in downtown Kingston on June 29, 2013. Major sectors of the Jamaican economy include agriculture, mining, manufacturing and tourism as an estimated 1.3 million foreign tourists visit the island every year. AFP Photo/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty Images) AFP via Getty Images / 2013 AFP

Jamaica is a hotspot for tourists, one of the best Caribbean islands drawing in an average of 4.3 million people to this part of the Caribbean every year. Spanning 10,990 square kilometers, the island draws people in with its laid back atmosphere, sandy beaches, tropical weather, all-inclusive resorts, rich culture, lively music, and varied geography. Plus, it doesn’t cost a lot of money to travel to and take a vacation in this area! But there’s much more to this country than what tourists see and experience! So here are 10 fun facts about Jamaica that you probably didn’t know before!


1. Foreign Crops

Monty Rakusen / Getty Images

The original inhabitants of Jamaica, the Arawak, grew corn and yams. Today, the major crops of Jamaica include sugar cane, bananas, and mangoes. None of these crops are native to the island; they were imported to the island at varying times in the island’s history. Coconut Palms, breadfruit, and bamboo were also imported to the island.

2. Innovation

Railway track / railroad switch (turnout/points) with points indication signal
Getty Images / Erik Tham

Jamaica was the first country in the Western world to build a railroad. They built their railroad a mere 18 years after Britain built theirs. AT&T copied Jamaica’s telephone system because it was so well developed. In 1994, Jamaica became the first Caribbean nation to launch its own website. As an upper-middle-income country, they continue to be innovative into the current day.

3. James Bond

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British writer, Ian Fleming, is famous for his 007 James Bond character. After designing his dream home, Ian Fleming chose to have it built in Jamaica and named it Goldeneye. This is where he wrote ten of his world-renowned James Bond spy thrillers for 12 years beginning in 1952. A number of the Bond movies, including Dr. No and Live and Let Die were also filmed near the Goldeneye estate in Jamaica. Interestingly, twelve years after Fleming’s passing, Goldeneye was purchased by renowned reggae artist Bob Marley.

4. Snake Population

Chilabothrus subflavus - Jaimacan boa - Endangered
Getty Images / R. Andrew Odum

There are very few snakes on the island of Jamaica, despite having a climate that you’d think would be attractive to serpents. In 1872, the mongoose was imported to Jamaica to rid the cane fields of rats. As an unintentional side effect, the mongoose also killed off almost the entire snake population. Housing expansion and farming have also contributed to their reduction in so running into one aren’t common in Jamaica. Even if you do, all of the native species are non-venomous, so you have very little to worry about.


5. Independence and the Queen

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Jamaica was the first Caribbean nation to gain independence in 1962. After years of internal self-government, Jamaica became an independent nation but chose to remain a member of the British Commonwealth. Similar to Canada, Queen Elizabeth II remains the Queen of Jamaica but by tradition, and not practice, only. The country is primarily English speaking, though Jamaican Patois is a very popular dialect as well.

6. Drink of Choice

Two rye whiskey cocktail drinks toasted together,Addictive substance
krisanapong detraphiphat / Gety Images

Surprise, surprise! Rum is the national drink of Jamaica. Here, rum is mixed with just about any other beverage, including classic cocktails like daiquiris, piña coladas, dark ‘n’ stormys, and mojitos. Try rum and coconut water for a refreshing island drink.

7. Olympic Winners

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In 1988, Jamaica became the first tropical country to enter a Winter Olympic event – the bobsled. The movie, Cool Runnings, tells the story of Jamaica’s first foray into the Winter Olympics and it’s one of true grit and great talent.

8. Flags of the World

Getty Images / Sam Diephuis

Jamaica is one of only two countries in the world that has no common colors with the flag of the United States of America. The other country is Mauritania (green and yellow). Libya used to have a solid green flag but has since changed it to include red and white. The Jamaican flag is green, yellow, and black with two yellow stripes intersecting in an “x” with green filling in the top and bottom and black on the sides.

9. Blue Mountains

Blue mountain view near Strawberry Hills.
Getty Images / davidmaddenphoto

The stunning Blue Mountains, located between Kingston (the capital) to the south and Port Antonio to the north, are named for the mist that covers this mountain range, which is the largest in the country at 45 miles long. From a distance, this gentle mist actually appears to be blue. This region is the home of Blue Mountain Coffee, a popular type of mild beans known for its lack of bitterness whose popularity and demand have exploded over the past decade, making it one of the more expensive coffees on the market.


10. National Dish

bonchan / Shutterstock

The national dish of Jamaica is ackee and saltfish. Ackee is an odd-looking fruit that grows locally. The saltfish – a white fish (commonly doc) – is rehydrated in water overnight to reduce the saltiness and then cooked in a small amount of oil with peppers and onions added for flavor. This dish is served with dumplings that are either fried or boiled and typically eaten for breakfast.