Geography of Jamaica Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

'Ello, mi fren!' is Jamaican slang for 'Hello, my friend!' This lesson will take you on a tour of the island of Jamaica. Put on your sunscreen and shorts and read on to find out about the geography of Jamaica!

Where is Jamaica?

Jamaica, with an area of about 4,400 square miles, is the third largest island in the West Indies. It's about the same size as the state of Connecticut in the United States.

Map showing Jamaica (at center) in red.
Jamaica map

Jamaica is located in the Caribbean Sea about 600 miles south of Miami, Florida, and 90 miles south of Cuba. Its geographical coordinates are 18 degrees north (latitude) and 77 degrees west (longitude). Jamaica is in the Northern Hemisphere and the Western Hemisphere.

The native people of Jamaica, the Taino, called it 'Xaymaca,' which means 'land of wood and water' or 'land of springs.' Port Royal, a village on the island of Jamaica, was once a major port for war ships and pirates!

Jamaica's Geography

Jamaica was formed about 25 million years ago, and is actually the tip of a mountain that begins on the sea floor. Around the island are many cays, which are small, sandy islands on coral reefs.

There are over 100 rivers in Jamaica, but many of them are small underground rivers that cannot be seen. The three major rivers are the Black River, Rio Cobre, and the Rio Grande. Jamaica is divided into three main geographical areas: eastern mountains, central valleys and plateau, and coastal plains.

Eastern Mountains

The eastern mountains extend for about 30 miles on the eastern side of the island. This mountain range is known for being very high and steep. The highest point on the island, Blue Mountain Peak, is located in this mountain range. It's about 7,400 feet, or almost 1 ½ miles, high! Because these mountains are so high, they have the perfect climate for coffee growing, and are famous for Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee.

Blue Mountains in Jamaica

The second-largest swallowtail, and one of the largest butterflies in the world, the Homerus swallowtail, lives in this region. It is also called the 'Jamaican Giant Swallowtail.' This large butterfly has a wingspan of almost six inches! They are currently endangered, and are being protected.

Central Valleys and Plateaus

A limestone plateau covers two-thirds of the island. Because of this, there are many caves, caverns, and valleys that were formed when water eroded the soft limestone. In this central area of the island, you can also find the John Crow Mountains, which are almost 3,300 feet high.

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