Desiree Gibbon, of Queens, was found with her throat slashed, lying on the side of a road in the town of Anchovy on Saturday morning, ABC station WABC-TV in New York reported.
She was due to come home just days later on Thursday, her mother and aunt told ABC News.
Desiree Gibbon's mother Andrea Gibbon described the young woman as "beautiful," "selfless" and a "free spirit."
"More than anything in life I think she loved traveling and meeting new people and listening to what their stories are," Andrea Gibbon said.
The young New Yorker had been working as a model, but wanted to pursue a career in documentary film-making, she added.
Desiree Gibbon had flown down to Jamaica in October because she wanted to earn money for school working at a resort job, according to her aunt Peggy Brunner. Gibbon's grandmother has a hotel on the island.
"She lived life to the fullest. She traveled everywhere," Brunner said. "She loved learning about different cultures. Everybody loved her."
"I'm numb ... devastated ... I'm lost," Gibbons said.
Police have not made any arrests, WABC-TV reported late Thursday.
Desiree Gibbon's body was found in the countryside, her mother said, although she usually stayed in safe, tourist-populated areas.
"She had tremendous self awareness," Andrea Gibbon said. "She never ventured out by herself."
The woman's two younger sisters, ages 18 and 14, are also mourning her loss.
Brunner said one sister felt like this week has been a nightmare and she wants to "wake up and it won't be true."