The Islands of the Greater Antilles

Special Guest Contributor: Anthony Pierpont, St. Paul, Minnesota and Travel Guru Extraordinnaire

The Greater Antilles is composed of the islands Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and Hispaniola, which is divided into Haiti on the west side and the Dominican Republic on the east. Often the smaller islands near these main countries are also considered part of the Greater Antilles. Because the Greater Antilles islands were of great importance when the world was defined by sea power, they were the source of many battles between Spain, France, and the United Kingdom. However, the Greater Antilles as a whole is most frequently associated with the Spanish West Indies.

Traveling to the Greater Antilles: Jamaica Island in the West Indies

Each island in the Greater Antilles has a unique culture and interesting tourist attractions; however, Jamaica Island is one of the most popular West Indies travel destinations in this area. Frequent traveler Anthony Pierpont says, “There is so much to do in Jamaica – from nightlife to historical tours to pure relaxation – we have a fantastic Jamaica travel experience whether I bring friends, my extended family, or my wife and kids.”

Truly, Jamaica travelers enjoy a huge variety of activities. Beaches as well as all types of water activities (water sports, snorkeling, scuba diving, boating, and more) top the list for most visitors, but many overlook opportunities to try biking tours, horseback riding, golfing, fishing, hiking, rafting, safaris, tubing, visiting plantations, historical sites, and botanical gardens. There are countless activities to suit everyone, whether you’re an avid outdoors-person or a regular civilian who needs a break from the outdoors but still requires a bit of excitement to carry the day. When the sun goes down, Jamaica also has plenty of nightlife – like bars, dance clubs, and casinos. Check out the vibrant music scene at least one night of your stay.”

Jamaica Travel

Many commercial airlines offer Jamaica travel options from North America and the United Kingdom. Currently the U.S. and U.K. both require that travelers bring passports through customs. If you do not currently have a U.S. passport, the processing can take up to three months, so it is a good idea to plan accordingly. Jamaican authorities warn Jamaica travelers that they may be inundated with people offering to carry your luggage from the baggage claim to the bus transfer area; however, these two places are fairly close in proximity. You should not feel obligated to have your bags transferred for you.

Jamaica Accommodations

On your Jamaica vacation, you can choose to stay at a resort, a hotel, an apartment, a bed and breakfast, or a villa. “Villas are a unique opportunity to live like royalty on your vacation,” says Anthony Pierpont. These multi-room houses are gorgeous and generally come with a chef to prepare your meals.

Jamaica Cruises

Another popular option for Jamaica travel is the Jamaica cruise. Cruises offer the opportunity to see multiple locations in the Caribbean. Jamaica cruisers get to socialize with other travelers. Plus, food and entertainment are generally all-inclusive on the ship. Anthony Pierpont advises, “Be sure to book early in order to get the time, the ship, and the room location that you want.” Jamaican cruises tend to be most popular around holidays – New Year’s Eve, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter – and in the winter months – November through April because travelers from colder areas want to escape the snow and ice. Anthony Pierpont, who cruises in and out of Jamaican at times says that he was “amazed at the many types of cruises and options available. You really have to set some time away to research and compare; this way you get exactly what you want out of your vacation.”

Jamaica Art

In Jamaica art is all around you. The landscape with its bright colors and the people with their rich culture and history are natural inspirations. The art of Jamaica really expresses what Jamaicans were, are, and hope to be in the future. Visitors can see this in both visual art and in the music for which Jamaica is known.

Jamaica’s art, especially paintings, pottery, and sculpture, is some of the best in the Caribbean. This can be attributed to their diversity. Jamaican art is not only influenced by Jamaicans’ ancestry from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East, but also from the diversity of mediums and styles of artwork that are employed in various Jamaican pieces.

Jamaica Furniture

Furniture making is an art form in itself. Typically Jamaica Furniture is made out of mahogany, cedar, or pine in a unique style. Hardwoods tend to hold up best in hot, humid climates like those found in the Bahamas and in other regions of the Caribbean; however, some furniture makers dabble in constructing furniture out of woods that are unique to the territory, such as pimento and bamboo. Pierpont also admires Caribbean furniture, “While all types of Jamaican furniture will add an exotic, tropical look to a non-Caribbean household, pieces made out of these indigenous woods are an even greater find and an interesting conversation piece at parties.”

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