Big up Kingston – Welcome to the real Jamaica

In Jamaican slang they like to use the phrase big up. It’s a term intended to bestow respect, giving a shout-out to its recipient in recognition of specific talent or excellence. In Kingston, Jamaica’s capital and largest city, “big up” is a phrase that rings particularly true. Kingston is very much a city on the brink, a renowned capital of reggae, Caribbean culture and stories of rum and pirates from ages past, all dying to be explored. It’s also a city with a fiercely defined identity – unlike the “tourist Jamaica” of Negril, Montego Bay or Ocho Rios, Kingston is very much a town that exists for Jamaicans: built and defined by its proud local residents.

Kingston is a city striving to define itself in the modern day – picking and choosing among the influences of eras past. Founded in the the late 17th Century, Kingston was birthed by the destruction of the infamous Port Royal, Caribbean capital of English pirates and their legendary violence and hedonism. Over the next 200 years, Kingston would thrive as a central trading port of the colonial Caribbean, ground zero for giant sugar cane plantations and the slave trade

By the 20th Century, Kingston was among the largest cities in the Caribbean, playing a central role in one of the era’s most influential and prolific musical movements: reggae. Yet this flowering of Jamaican culture was not without its flaws: by the the 1970′s economic decline and gang violence contributed to steep decline in tourism. Visitors began to steer clear of the lively capital in favor of safer resort towns on the island’s northern and western coasts.

Kingston in 2009 looks more ready than ever to re-assume its eminent position as a central Jamaican tourist destination. Idyllic beach visit Kingston is not – but with an outgrowth of new accommodations, myriad cultural activities and a wealth of overlooked attractions, Kingston is ripe for exploration and worthy of a second look. Over the next few days, Gadling will be sharing a surprising look at Jamaica’s overlooked capital. Big up Kingston, you’ve earned our respect!

Gadling was recently invited by the Spanish Court Hotel to take a look at Kingston’s newest resort and see all this fascinating city has to offer. Though the trip was paid, all opinions remain our own. You can read all future Big up Kingston posts HERE.