Jamaica is a Caribbean island with a lot of personality. In addition to its postcard-worthy beaches, it’s known far and wide for its relaxed reggae music, its savory jerk spiced-cooking, its sweet rum, its Blue Mountain coffee, and its Red Stripe beer. But these popular Jamaican exports don’t give the full picture of an island that’s got a few surprises up its sleeve.
For starters, while the jerk chicken is ubiquitous, the island is actually very vegetarian friendly. Many Rastafarians avoid meat products of all kinds (although some eat fish), so virtually every restaurant has a vegetarian option on the menu, and it’s often quite exotic. Some of my favorites were peas (beans) and rice and scrambled ackee fruit (which, when cooked up with butter, salt, and pepper, tastes quite a bit like scrambled eggs).
The second thing that might surprise you is that even though you might think of Hawaii when it comes to the pineapple, most of those pineapples in Hawaii can actually trace their lineage to Jamaica. Pineapple has been a beloved crop on the island of Jamaica since the time of the Caribe Indians, and over time the Jamaican strain of pineapples made their way to Hawaii where they are grown as crops today. In Jamaica, the pineapple is used not just for its delicious taste and for adorning cocktails but for healing purposes for everything from skin ailments to arthritis.
A final thing that can surprise people on Jamaica vacations is that while most tourists come and spend their whole time on the pristine beaches, it’s actually a surprisingly rugged island in parts. Over half of Jamaica stands over 1,000 feet above sea level, and in the interior, mountains loom large. The Blue Mountains are perhaps most famous, known for their gorgeous blooming twists and turns and for the prized coffee that’s grown there. And, in addition to its decidedly non-beachy mountains, Jamaica is also home to over 100 rivers, so there is plenty of freshwater entertainment available for those who’ve had enough of the Caribbean Sea’s salt or the swimming pool’s chlorine.