Jamaica, part of the Greater Antilles, is located in the Caribbean Sea at a latitude of 18 degrees north and a longitude of 77 degrees west (of the capital, Kingston). It is about 1127 km (700 miles) south of Miami, Florida, USA, and 145 km (90 miles) south of Cuba, its nearest neighbor. The island has an area of 11453 sq km (4411 sq miles). It is 235 km (146 miles) long from east to west, and 82 km (51 miles) across at its broadest point, from St Ann’s Bay in the north to Portland Point in the south.
Jamaica has a warm, tropical maritime climate. The average temperature on the coastal lowlands is 26.7· Celsius (80·F). There is a difference of about 5·C (34·F) in the average temperature between January-February and July-August (respectively the coldest and warmest periods of the year). There is an estimated fall in temperature of 16·C (4· F) per 1000 foot increase in altitude; the average temperature at Blue Mountain Peak, the island’s highest point, is 13·C (56·F).
Average annual rainfall for the whole island is 195.8cm (77.1 inches). Rainfall peaks in May and October, and is at its lowest levels in March and June. The Blue Mountain range and the northeast coast receive the highest annual rainfall, the average being about 330 cm (130 inches). Jamaica lies in a hurricane zone; the hurricane season lasts from June to November.
Jamaica is extremely mountainous, with a central chain of mountains running east to west, forming a backbone through the middle of the island. Nearly half of the island’s area is over 300 m (1000 feet) above sea level. The highest point is Blue Mountain Peak, on the border between Portland and St. Thomas, at 2256 m (7402 feet).
Most of Jamaica’s rivers flow to the north or to the south, from the mountainous interior toward the coast. The largest river is Black River, located in the parish of St. Elizabeth, which is 71 km (44 miles) long. Several rivers go underground, the island being mostly covered with limestone. Sinkholes and underground streams are especially to be found in the karst-like topography of the Cockpit Country in the west of the island.
Jamaica is divided into three counties – Cornwall, Middlesex and Surrey – and further divided into 14 parishes. Kingston, the capital and commercial centre of Jamaica, is situated on the southeast coast of the island. Montego Bay, located on the north-west coast, is the island’s second city. It was granted city status on May 1, 1980.