A review of the history of earthquake observations in Jamaica is presented; there have been several high‐intensity earthquakes in the last 300 years. The observed seismicity of the Jamaica region is discussed in the context of what is known of regional tectonics, and possible source regions of earthquakes are identified but a comparison between instrumentally determined seismicity and macroseismicity shows that the instrumental data are of insufficient quantity or quality to permit direct assessment of earthquake risk by conventional techniques. An alternative approach has been adopted; consideration of the macroseismic record suggests that the peak acceleration in rock with 90 per cent probability of not being exceeded in any 50‐year period is of order 0.3 g but that there are very significant local variations caused by near‐surface geology. Especially this applies to the capital, Kingston, and envelope response spectra are derived for shallow, intermediate and deep thickness of sediments under the city to demonstate the possibility that localized amplification may occur. A current apparent decline in the seismicity of the Jamaica region is noted but it is shown that the decline in the number of earthquakes of engineering interest is not yet statistically significant.