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The Towns of Jamaica: Kingston

Updated: Nov 6, 2019

Map of Jamaica showing the Capital, Kingston

The Town

Kingston is the capital and largest city of Jamaica, located on the southeastern coast of the island. It faces a natural harbor protected by the Palisadoes spit. The spit connects the town of Port Royal and the Norman Manley International Airport to the rest of the island. In the Americas, Kingston is the largest English-speaking city south of the United States.

Kingston, as the capital, is the financial, cultural, economic and industrial centre of Jamaica. Many financial institutions are based in Kingston. The city boasts the largest number of hospitals, schools, universities and cultural attractions of any urban area on the island. Notable Kingston landmarks include the University of the West Indies, Jamaica Defence Force Museum, and Bob Marley Museum. A United Nations agency, the International Seabed Authority is headquartered in Kingston.

Jamaica in the 1890s


Kingston was founded in July 1692, as a refuge for survivors of the earthquake on June 7th which had destroyed two-thirds of Port Royal. Prior to the earthquake, Port Royal was the headquarters of the English buccaneers. It was known as the “wickedest” city in the world because of the riotous life of the town’s inhabitants including the likes of privateer, Sir Henry Morgan.

Kingston was the largest town in Jamaica by 1716, and due to its deep-water harbor it was also the center of trade for the entire British colony. In 1775 Sir Charles Knowles, the British governor of the Colony, moved all government offices from nearby Spanish Town to Kingston. Kingston was declared the official capital of the Colony of Jamaica in 1872.

In 1907 Kingston was struck by an earthquake that killed over 800 people and destroyed nearly all the buildings in the center of the city. That quake led to a three-story height restriction on all central business district structures, and that they be built in reinforced concrete.

When independence came in 1962, Kingston remained the capital of the new nation. At the time its population was estimated at 350,000.

By the early 1970s reggae music emerged from Trench Town, a Kingston slum that produced singers such as Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff. The name of the slum came from residents who described the unpaved streets without sidewalks as trenches.

Bob Marley Museum

Local Attractions

Kingston is the business capital of Jamaica, with a wealth of cultural and historical attractions.

Bob Marley Museum

When thinking of Jamaica, one of the first things that comes to mind is the birth of reggae music. This museum documents the life of Bob Marley, his and his family’s contributions to reggae music. Also, the popularization of Jamaican/Rastafari culture.

Devon House

Devon House ice-cream has garnered a reputation for being one of the best in the world. One can also tour Devon House, a restored Great House from Jamaica’s colonial past. The Great House gives guests insights into the lifestyle of the upper-class in the late 1800s.

On the property as well are various gift shops, a bakery and restaurants.

Emancipation Park

A landmark park with a distinct fountain statue of two slaves. Located in one of the busiest parts of Kingston, the park allows you to enjoy your own personal activities in a serene environment. Encircled by a well-used exercise track, the park also has a stage, which hosts concerts, fairs and exercise sessions.

Hope Botanical Gardens and Zoo

Hope Gardens has undergone a massive renovation in recent years and is well worth visiting, especially if you’re a nature-lover. The botanical gardens features two hundred acres of land divided into smaller gardens. Each garden allows for peaceful reflection and an opportunity to appreciate indigenous Caribbean flora. There is also the newly renovated Hope Zoo, with an exhibition of animals from Africa, the Americas and the Caribbean. Finally, it is home to a plant nursery and several concert events that take place throughout the year.

Loose Canon Tours

Loose Cannon Tours offer yachting tours around Maiden Cay and the Kingston Harbor. Their party tours last about 3-4 hours with an extensive menu, open bar and a fun-loving DJ. They also offer private tours on different-sized vessels, catering to private events.

Port Royal

Another aspect that comes to mind when one thinks of Jamaica, or if you’re a Pirates of the Caribbean fan, is Port Royal. The Caribbean’s history of piracy reached its peak in Jamaica with buccaneers, looting, lewd lifestyles. Port Royal's reputation as the "Wickedest Place on Earth," was destroyed by an earthquake. Port Royal also chronicles Jamaica’s naval history, with the remains of forts, canons, and buildings affected by the earthquake. There is also a small museum full of items recovered from the sea that tell the story of life before the earthquake.

Rockfort Mineral Bath

This bath, located on the margins of Kingston, is a few minutes’ drive from the Norman Manley International Airport. The waters of Rockfort Mineral Bath have proven therapeutic and healing properties. The Bath comprises several pools (to which the healing spring pours into), snack bars, lockers, changing rooms and a picnic lawn.

Port Royal Canons

Places of Interest


Located in the centre of the city, Parade was originally called the Victoria Park, after Queen Victoria. It was renamed the St. William Grant Park in 1977, after the noted labor leader and Black Nationalist. Today, Parade is a terminus for buses coming from all over the island, is the busiest centre of activity in Kingston.

Cross Roads

Formerly known as Montgomery Corner, after a Lieutenant Montgomery. He was allegedly thrown by his horse and dragged to that spot where he died. Marking the heart of Cross Roads is a clock tower, erected to the memory of servicemen from Kingston and St. Andrew who died in the Second World War.

Kingston Harbor

The seventh largest harbor in the world, considered one of the finest anchorages.

Gordon House

Jamaica’s House of Representatives meets at Gordon House, located at the corner of Duke and Beeston Streets in Kingston. Built in 1960, Gordon House is named after one of Jamaica’s National Heroes, George William Gordon. Before 1960, the Legislature met at Headquarters House on the opposite side of Beeston Street.

The Jamaica Conference Centre, Ocean Boulevard

The Jamaica Conference Centre, an architectural masterpiece constructed in the late 1970s to house the International Law of the Sea Secretariat. The Centre is a venue for local and international conferences and seminars.

The National Gallery, 12 Ocean Boulevard, Kingston Mall

The National Gallery houses some of Jamaica’s invaluable art collections.

The Institute of Jamaica, 12 East Street

The Institute of Jamaica was established in 1879 for the development of literature, science and art. The National Library and the Natural History Division are the two main sections of the Institute.

Wall of Faces - Which Famous Artiste is That?


Most of the population of Kingston is of African descent. East Indians and Chinese, minority ethnic groups, came to the country as indentured servants in the late 19th century. The Chinese occupy important roles in Jamaica's economy, especially in the retail markets. There is also a minority of Europeans, descendants of immigrants from Germany and Great Britain. Syrians and Lebanese form one of the most influential ethnic groups in the island. Edward Seaga, a Jamaican of Lebanese descent, served as the nation’s fifth Prime Minister from 1980 to 1989.

The Business District - New Kingston


Kingston plays a central role in Jamaica's economy. Most of the economic activity takes place within Kingston. Most government ministries are sited in the city. The high population density of the capital city means that most monetary transactions occur in Kingston - stimulating much of Jamaica's economy. The city is also home to the highest number of schools, hospitals and universities anywhere in Jamaica. Kingston is also the island's main transportation hub and its largest seaport.

Many multinational conglomerates and financial institutions are headquartered in and around the Kingston Metropolitan Area. The city's major industries include tourism, apparel manufacturing, and shipping. Many international exports trade through the city's seaport, with major exports including bauxite, sugar and coffee.

Map of Kingston, Jamaica


Kingston is surrounded by the Blue Mountains, Red Hills, Long Mountain and the Kingston Harbor. The city is on the Liguanea plain, an alluvial plain alongside the Hope River. Kingston experiences frequent earthquakes, including the 1907 earthquake.

Kingston has a tropical climate, boasting a tropical wet-and-dry climate, that borders on a hot semi-arid climate. It is characterized by a wet season from May to November, which coincides with the hurricane season, and a dry season from December to April. Kingston is on a coastal location, hence it comes under the influence of the sea, though dense urban development can negate this effect.

In the 21st century, Kingston experienced temperatures as high as 38.8 °C (102 °F) and as low as 13.4 °C (56 °F). Between 1895 and 1990, total average rainfall recorded was 813 mm (32.0 in). Fog, hail, thunder and tornadoes are all rare.


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