Long before the first Europeans wandered to the shores of Jamaica, the island was inhabited by native peoples who, even in those far back times, already had a society influenced by thousands of years of culture. Little remains of these native peoples, other than the collected relics that are displayed in museums on the island and the touch of their influence that can be seen in the culinary and cultural traditions of some segments of today’s native populations. With the arrival of the Europeans came the colonial era, the remains of which can still be seen today, in historical buildings and collected artifacts.
There are a few fascinating collections relics remaining from the early native inhabitants. Coyaba River Garden is one of the places in which these relics are on display. Located on Shaw Park Ridge Road in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, Coyaba River Garden is the site of lush and beautiful tropical gardens that make the perfect setting for their museum, which houses an assortment of pre-Columbian era artifacts, including some of those left behind by the Arawak, an early sea-faring native tribe that inhabited the island. Open daily from 8am to 6pm, there is a small admission charge of $5 for those over 12 years of age.
When the Europeans settled, they created numerous plantations. Many of these still remain, restored as tourist sites. Among these is the Rose Hall Great House, built in the late 1800’s on what was a huge sugar plantation, with 2,000 slaves to work the fields. This house achieved notoriety for the numerous deaths and murders that occurred there through the years, including the strangling death of one of the later mistresses of the plantation. Located just outside of Montego Bay on Rose Hall Highway, the site is open to visitors and offers guided tours. The hours are 9am to 6pm daily, and there is a $15 admission charge for those over 12. For those under 12 the rate is $10.
Just outside of Ocho Rios, tourists to Jamaica can view a working plantation that has been restored as an educational site. In addition to touring the working farm areas, there trails for horseback riding. Prospect Plantation, on Route A3, offers tours three times per day, Monday through Saturday, at 10:30am, 2pm and 3:30pm. The tour rates are $6 for children under 12 and $12 for everyone over 12. The horseback riding rates are $20 per hour.
Spanish Town offers a splendid experience of 18th century British architecture, as well as structural remains of early Spanish rule. Walking is the best way to get the full effect of this lovely city. Spanish Town is also home to Saint James, which is the oldest cathedral, not only in Jamaica, but also in the Western Hemisphere. Elegant and beautiful, this is a sight that should not be missed.
Jamaica is full of small historical sites and museums. For those interested in such things, there are numerous places for exploration, with each of the complex eras of the history and culture of Jamaica represented. Wandering these sites, taking in the rich social and cultural history, will certainly leave the visitor with a greater understanding and appreciation of the Jamaica of today.