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Give Kingston, Jamaica another try

By Greg Goodsell
March 22nd, 2010
Catholic Online (

All of Jamaica offers something for everyone natural beauty, reggae music and culture but there is still a stigma surrounding the island's capital of Kingston. According to National Geographic correspondent Paul Martin, there are still lingering bad feelings about the political upheaval that occurred there in the 1976 and 1980 elections.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) According to Martin, there are "polar opinions ... by two Jamaicans that I met. That's how Kingston affects people. Some love it. Some hate it -- or perhaps, more accurately, they fear it ... Today Jamaica's political parties seldom settle their differences Wild West fashion, and, while Kingston has more than its share of big city woes, travelers who bypass the capital miss out on a lot."

Kingston is home to a third of Jamaica's population, and "jumps with creative energy. Music, dance, theater, art—the island's best of each are here. So is some of the island's richest lore." Martin also has high praise for Kingston's geographical location. "The city spreads along the dry coastal plain of southeastern Jamaica, suspended like a mirage between the calm blue sweep of the world's seventh largest natural harbor and the green wall of the Blue Mountain range, which culminates in 7,402-foot Blue Mountain Peak.

"But perhaps the best reason to visit Kingston is Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park. Established in 1993 as Jamaica's first land national park (Montego Bay Marine Park opened the year before), these 193,260 acres preserve a green, quiet world just an hour northeast of the capital," Martin says.

Other places of interest are "the fishing village of Port Royal, at the end of the sandy spit that encloses Kingston harbor, you can step into the 17th-century lair of buccaneer Henry Morgan, while in nearby Spanish Town—Jamaica's first capital—you can sit in the cool stillness of St. James Cathedral, which traces its lineage to the 1520s."

Martin adds that Jamaicans are especially forthcoming about the beauties of their island nation. "I met Jamaicans eager to point out sights that I shouldn't miss. And if I was directed to more than one 'prettiest spot in the country,' well, that was understandable. Any number of places might qualify. In its 146-mile length, Jamaica manages to pack in a continent's worth of wonders ... I found Jamaica — and Jamaicans — a continual fascination ... how could you not be intrigued by a place where you can pet a crocodile, coax a hummingbird to sit on your finger, glide down a river on a bamboo raft, and walk up a waterfall?"

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