JAMAICA By Hilary Rowland Jamaica - The Island Jamaica. Exciting, provocative, colorful, unpredictable, sometimes downright scary. If you habitually avoid the unexpected and seek the sanctuary of American food chains and a buttoned-down culture, then you're better off in Florida. But if you live for adventure and spicy foods, this could become your favorite tropical getaway. Jamaica's rich history runs the gamut from pirates to plantations, from colonialism and slave revolts to proud independence. Today, the tropical island has become the land of relaxation, reggae and Rasta culture. Tourism now accounts for 45 percent of Jamaica's (reported) foreign income, and we can see why. Thanks to the island's warm, crystal blue water, teeming fish and gorgeous reefs, it is the perfect place to learn how to scuba dive or spend a relaxing day snorkeling. The adventurous can also go 4x4 off-roading through the jungle, take a river rafting trip to spot crocodiles, or hike to a secluded waterfall. If you can dream it up, you can do it here. From water skiing to Sea-Dooing to river tubing and horseback riding; it's all available in Jamaica. The GDP is a strikingly low $2,653 per capita, making it one of the poorest countries in the Caribbean. You might never notice the poverty if, like most vacationers, you travel directly from the airport to your hotel along the northern roads from Montego Bay to Ochos Rios, as this strip is lined with beautifully manicured golf courses and giant international-style resorts. If you want to see the real Jamaica, you can rent a car at the airport for $300 US per week, and take a drive through the tropical mountains of central Jamaica, or tour the densely urbanized Kingston area, the resort-cluttered western coast, or the less travelled lower portion of the island. Be careful, though, driving at night-goats and cattle roam not only the fields but also most of the roads, and it's not uncommon to see animals get hit. Along the way, be sure to stop at some of the many roadside produce stands. The fruit they offer is wonderfully fresh and fragrant; there's a world of difference in the flavour of the bananas and papayas at the supermarket back home and the ones you'll be lucky enough to try here. If you have more of an appetite, you may like to try some of the jerk chicken or goat sold by roadside vendors. It's hot, tender and spicy, served with bread, rolled up in foil.