Official name: Jamaica
Area: 10,990 square kilometers (6,829 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Blue Mountain Peak (2,256 meters/7,402 feet)
Lowest point on land: Sea level
Hemispheres: Northern and Western
Time zone: 7 A.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 82 kilometers (51 miles) from east to west; 235 kilometers (146 miles) from north to south
Land boundaries: None
Coastline: 1,022 kilometers (635 miles)
Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)
Jamaica is an island nation situated within the Greater Antilles in the Caribbean Sea. A member of the British Commonwealth, it is located 145 kilometers (90 miles) south of Cuba and 161 kilometers (100 miles) west of Haiti. With an area of 10,990 square kilometers (6,829 square miles), it is the third-largest island in the Caribbean, and it is slightly smaller than the state of Connecticut.
Jamaica's offshore territories are the Morant Cays, about 60 kilometers (40 miles) southeast of Morant h2int, and the more extensive Pedro Cays, about 96 kilometers (60 miles) south of the southwestern coast.
Jamaica has a tropical climate moderated by northeast trade winds. There is little seasonal variation. The average annual temperature varies from 27°C (81°F) on the coast to 13°C (55°F) in the Blue Mountains. Rainfall ranges from as little as 75 centimeters (30 inches) in some places on the south coast, to 330 centimeters (130 inches) in Port Antonio in the northeast, to 500 centimeters (200 inches) or more in the Blue Mountains.
Coastal plains and valleys fringe an interior plateau that covers most of the island, extending from east to west along its length. The uneven surface of the plateau is broken by twisting valleys, limestone hills, broad basins, and two mountain ranges.
The Caribbean Sea plunges to great depths not far from the Jamaican shoreline. The Bartlett Trough, which lies between Jamaica and Cuba, reaches a depth of 7,010 meters (23,000 feet).
There are extensive coral reefs near the southeast coast.
The Jamaica Channel separates Jamaica from Haiti to the east. The Portland Bight, or bay, is located on the south coast.
There are cays (small coral and sand islands) in the Portland Bight, and a few scattered coral formations elsewhere as well.
The shoreline is indented by numerous harbors, of which the harbor at Kingston is the largest. On its southern flank, the Palisadoes Peninsula, an eight-mile-long sand spit, connects several coral islands. The northern coastal plain is known for its white-sand beaches.
Jamaica has no inland lakes.
Jamaica's major rivers include the Yallahs in the southeast, the Rio Grande in the south-central part of the island, and, in the west, the Black River—Jamaica's longest river and the only one that is navigable for a significant distance (40 kilometers/25 miles). Jamaica's numerous inland springs have led some to call it the Isle of Springs.
There are no deserts on Jamaica.
Jamaica has several radioactive hot springs. One—the Milk River Bath—is said to have the highest level of radioactivity in the world.
The narrow northern coastal plain extends almost continuously from east to west. The southern coastal plain is discontinuous but much more extensive. The city of Kingston lies on the broad Liguanea Plain in the southeast. The Westmoreland Plain occupies much of the western extremity of the island.
There are partially drained swamps along the lower course of the Black River and in the vicinity of Morant Point and South Negril Point.
The Blue Mountains extend over the eastern part of the island. Jamaica's main mountain system contains two ranges. The northerly one includes Blue Mountain Peak, which rises to 2,256 meters (7,402 feet), the country's highest elevation. The second range, known as the Port Royal Mountains, extends south-eastward from the principal range, reaching elevations of up to about 1,219 meters (4,000 feet). The John Crow Mountains rise in the extreme northeast of the island, between the Rio Grande and the sea. Vestiges of volcanic activity occur in Jamaica in the form of lava cones and hot springs.
The karst landscape of the central plateau has sinkholes, underground caverns and streams, steep hills, and caves. It is most distinctive in the Cockpit Country, an area of about 518 square kilometers (200 square miles) located largely in the western parish of Trelawney.
Elevations on Jamaica's central plateau range from near sea level to about 914 meters (3,000 feet). Along much of the coastline, especially in the north, the plateau extends almost to the tidewater, and in places it rises in steep coastal cliffs that reach as high as 609 meters (2,000 feet). Much of the plateau is composed of the irregular limestone terrain known as karst.
There are no significant man-made features affecting the geography of Jamaica.
Baker, Christopher P. Jamaica . 2nd ed. Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet, 2000.
Hurston, Zora Neale. Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica . San Bernardino, CA: Borgo Press, 1992.
Wilson, Annie. Essential Jamaica . Lincolnwood, IL: Passport Books, 1996.