Humanities › Geography Geography of Jamaica Learn About Caribbean Nation of Jamaica Share Flipboard Email Print Douglas Pearson/Getty Images Geography Country Information Basics Physical Geography Political Geography Population Key Figures & Milestones Maps Urban Geography By Amanda Briney Geography Expert M.A., Geography, California State University - East Bay B.A., English and Geography, California State University - Sacramento Amanda Briney, M.A., is a professional geographer. She holds a Certificate of Advanced Study in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) from California State University. our editorial process Amanda Briney Updated September 02, 2019 Jamaica is an island nation in the West Indies located in the Caribbean Sea. It is south of Cuba and for comparison, it is just under the size of Connecticut. Jamaica is 145 miles (234 km) long and 50 miles (80 km) wide at its widest point. Today, the country is a popular tourist destination and it has a native population of 2.8 million people. Fast Facts: Jamaica Capital: KingstonPopulation: 2,812,090 (2018)Official Language: English Currency: Jamaican dollar (JMD)Form of Government: Parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy; a commonwealth realmClimate: Tropical; hot, humid; temperate interiorTotal Area: 4,244 square miles (10,991 square kilometers)Highest Point: Blue Mountain Peak at 7,401 feet (2,256 meters) Lowest Point: Caribbean Sea at 0 feet (0 meters) History of Jamaica The first inhabitants of Jamaica were the Arawaks from South America. In 1494, Christopher Columbus was the first European to reach and explore the island. Beginning in 1510, Spain began to inhabit the area and by that time, the Arawaks began to die off due to disease and war that came with the European settlers.In 1655, the British arrived in Jamaica and took the island from Spain. Shortly thereafter in 1670, Britain took full formal control of Jamaica. Throughout most of its history, Jamaica was known for its sugar production. In the late 1930s, Jamaica began to gain its independence from Britain and it had its first local elections in 1944. In 1962, Jamaica gained full independence but still remains a member of the British Commonwealth. Following its independence, Jamaica's economy began to grow but in the 1980s, it was hit by a severe recession. Shortly thereafter, however, its economy began to grow and tourism became a popular industry. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, drug trafficking and the related violence became a problem in Jamaica. Today, Jamaica's economy is still based largely on tourism and the related service sector and it has recently held various free democratic elections. For example, in 2006 Jamaica elected its first female Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller. Government of Jamaica Jamaica's government is considered a constitutional parliamentary democracy and a Commonwealth realm. It has an executive branch with Queen Elizabeth II as chief of state and a local position of head of state. Jamaica also has a legislative branch with a bicameral Parliament consisting of the Senate and House of Representatives. Jamaica's judicial branch is made up of a Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, Privy Council in the U.K., and the Caribbean Court of Justice. Jamaica is divided in 14 parishes for local administration. Economy and Land Use in Jamaica Since tourism is a large part of Jamaica's economy, services and the related industries represent a significant portion of the country's overall economy. Tourism revenues alone account for 20% of Jamaica's gross domestic product. Other industries in Jamaica include bauxite/alumina, agricultural processing, light manufacturing, rum, cement, metal, paper, chemical products, and telecommunications. Agriculture is also a big part of Jamaica's economy and its biggest products are sugarcane, bananas, coffee, citrus, yams, ackees, vegetables, poultry, goats, milk, crustaceans, and mollusks. Unemployment is high in Jamaica and as a result, the country has high crime rates and violence related to drug trafficking. Geography of Jamaica Jamaica has a varied topography with rugged mountains, some of which are volcanic, and narrow valleys and a coastal plain. It is located 90 miles (145 km) south of Cuba and 100 miles (161 km) west of Haiti. The climate of Jamaica is tropical and hot and humid on its coast and temperate inland. Kingston, Jamaica's capital has an average July high temperature of 90 degrees (32°C) and a January average low of 66 degrees (19°C). Sources Central Intelligence Agency. "CIA - The World Factbook - Jamaica."Infoplease. "Jamaica: History, Geography, Government, and Culture."United States Department of State. "Jamaica."