Jamaica has some of the most varied and unusual topography in the Caribbean, including a mountain range laced with rough rivers, streams, and waterfalls. The 77,699-hectare (192,000-acre) Blue Mountain-John Crow Mountain National Park is maintained by the Jamaican government. The mountainsides are covered with coffee fields, producing a blended brew that's among the leading exports of Jamaica. But for the nature enthusiast, the mountains reveal an astonishingly complex series of ecosystems that change radically as you climb from sea level to fog-shrouded peaks.

The Blue Mountains, Jamaica's highest peaks, form a virtual botanical Garden of Eden. Steep and exhausting, and invariably hot and muggy, the trails and hikes are not as hazardous -- or frightening -- as, say, the alpine peaks of Switzerland and Austria. The foothills of the Blue Mountains begin on the outskirts of Kingston.

To the east of the Blue Mountains, moving toward the sea, are the John Crow Mountains, another vast area of scenic beauty, although the trails here are more overgrown than the more trodden paths of the Blue Mountains. The most dedicated hikers can go, in 3 days, from the Grand Ridge of the Blue Mountains to Port Antonio on the coast. But they need a machete to hack their way and blaze a trail.

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