Jamaica Travel Guide
No problem mon! so goes the mantra of the rum, reggae and reefer atmosphere of one of the Caribbean’s largest island. With lush green hills, brilliant white sand beaches and spectacular peach-colored sunsets, Jamaica is among the most beautiful and most developed Caribbean islands.
Jamaicans welcome visitors with a warmth that is only exceeded by the spice of their cooking and the vigor of their booty shaking during one of the many musical festivals on the island. Other than the laid back beach life, Jamaica also has a dramatic limestone landscape with interesting hiking and caving opportunities and some of the most scenic and challenging golf courses in the Caribbean.
Why You Should Go
What’s Cool: Reggae music, dreadlocks, beaches, sunsets, golfing in Montego Bay, scuba diving, the slow pace of life.
What’s Not: Hurricanes, crime in Kingston, traffic in Montego Bay, crazy drivers, the fact that ganja is actually illegal (can you believe it?)
When to Go
Jamaica always has lovely tropical weather. Although there are occasional showers throughout the year, most of the rain comes in May and October. You may want to avoid travel between June and October as if a hurricane were to hit, that’s when it would happen.
Getting There & Away
Most of the international flights into Jamaica come through Miami, New York, London or Germany and fly into the Donald Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay. Kingston has an international airport as well although some would prefer to avoid the city altogether. You can arrive by boat at several ports on the island from other Caribbean locations.
Don’t expect timetables or public transport experiences to be anything less than chaotic. Generally, buses leave when full and when the driver is ready. Although you can escape the unpredictability by renting a car or motorcycle, you won’t escape the chaos. Stay calm, focused and float through the honking, swerving mess you will find on the roads before you.
Health & Safety
There is some danger from malaria and dengue fever in Jamaica, so be sure to pack mosquito repellant and use it. Tap water is generally considered safe, although it can upset the stomach of non-residents so you are probably better off sticking to bottled water unless you are planning to stay awhile. Kingston’s reputation for crime and violence is somewhat well deserved, but it shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the city. Take reasonable precautions and you shouldn’t have any problems.
Food & Hospitality
Jamaican food is as loud to the mouth as a steel drum band can be to the ears. If you eat local, you should be prepared to handle the peppers and spices. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding evening entertainment, no matter where you are in Jamaica. Even the smallest towns have a street dance on a regular basis and steel drum bands play at big resorts and small clubs alike.
You’ll find that time seems to slow the moment you hit a beach in Jamaica, so make sure you budget plenty of time to enjoy the more relaxed pace of life.
- One week in Montego Bay.
- One week in Negril.
- One day in Cockpit Country.
- Two days in Mandeville.
- One day in Falmouth.
- A day or two in Kingston.
negril: is the beach to be on in Jamaica for nearly seven miles of sand, close coral reefs, spectacular sunsets and live reggae concerts.
montego-bay: can be a crowd of tourists and hawkers, hot air and bad traffic. However, go beyond the main coastal strip and you will discover the beautiful beaches and great golfing that made MoBay famous in the first place.
blue-lagoon: Brooke Sheilds isn’t likely to be hanging around, but you can still swim in the waters that are ever-changing shades of blue. Kingston: visited with caution during one of its many festivals, the capital city can be quite enjoyable.
cockpit-country: is best seen from a helicopter or light plane. The limestone landscape is full of dramatic valleys and strange natural sculptures.
mandeville: escape the heat 2,000 feet above sea level in a landscape of fruit trees and gardens in the heart of Jamaica’s citrus industry.
falmouth: you can go rafting, visit a crocodile farm or tour a plantation mansion at this harbor resort on the north coast.
nine-mile-museum: although out of the way, the museum is the birthplace of Bob Marley. He and his guitar are buried here.
Surfing: you’ll find the best beaches on the north coast, particularly in Boston Bay.
Diving: Jamaican waters are famous for exceptional visibility as well as wrecks, sponge forests and coral reefs – all of which can usually be found fairly close to shore.
Fishing: there’s a good variety of fish to be hooked in the freshwater rivers as well as good deep sea fishing and spear fishing on the reef.
Golf: Montego Bay is the center of golfing in Jamaica where there are some of the most scenic and formidable golfing in the Caribbean.
Caving: with few roads, Cockpit Country offers endless opportunities for hiking and exploring the extensive and mostly uncharted cave system.
Festivals & Events
Jamaica hosts some major cricket matches and yacht races, but most of Jamaica’s most interesting festivals center around music and dancing:
January: listen to traditional drumming, singing, dancing and eat large amounts of food at Accompong Maroon Festival.
February: Carnivale is a week-long island-wide celebration with music and dancing.
July/August: Reggae Sunsplash and Reggae Sumfest are the two biggest beach music festivals in Jamaica.
March/ April: shake your booty to Calypso and reggae the week after Easter.
June: Ocho Rios Jazz Festival attracts some of the biggest names in jazz.
December: Jonkanoo takes dressing up as Santa to a whole new level with its Christmas masquerade parade.