- 3rd largest island in the Caribbean
- Luxury all-inclusive resorts found across the nation
- Famous for beautiful beaches and other natural wonders
- Homeland of reggae music which was popularized by Bob Marley
Population: 2.9 million (#141 in the world)
Area: 4,240 sq. miles (#160 in the world)
Largest city & capital: Kingston (metro population: 1 million)
Jamaica is a Caribbean island nation with a rich culture and lush hills and beaches that are a delight to experience. Jamaica’s culture has been shaped heavily by the Rastafarian religion, and the cuisine is full of flavor and teeming with unique vegetarian options. Jamaicans speak English, but with a very strong accent that is delightfully unique and can be difficult to understand.
Click here to read my Jamaica blog and follow my adventures living it up at the all-inclusive Sandals Resort in Montego Bay and traveling to Ocho Rios, Kingston, the Blue Mountains, and Port Antonio to get the real Jamaica experience.
Getting To Jamaica
There are direct flights from many airports in the U.S. to Montego Bay on the north shore and Kingston in the south. There is no visa required to enter Jamaica.
Jamaica Travel Tips
Jamaica’s public transportation and taxi system is quite widespread and affordable.
- Buses: There are public buses that depart from each city’s train station and take you to all the major cities and towns for only $5-$10 (USD). You will have to purchase an extra seat for luggage that doesn’t fit on your lap. Within cities, buses are typically not much cheaper than route taxis.
- Taxis: Shared route taxis in most areas run frequently along major streets – just hail one on the side of the road in the direction you’re going. You’ll pay about $1 USD for an average ride. For longer rides, research ahead of time or ask locals what the cost should be and be sure to negotiate or just say no if the price seems too high.
- Lodging: Jamaica has just about every type of lodging – all-inclusive resorts, hotels, hostels, AirBnbs, and Couchsurfing. When booking, keep in mind that the weather is hot and humid year-round and having AC is a very helpful luxury that could be worth a higher cost for you.
Where To Go in Jamaica
Emancipation Park: A lovely park that is excellent for relaxing and people watching, Emancipation is filled with palm trees and tropical trees with bright orange flowers. Don’t miss the huge stunning nude statue in the southeast corner. Free. Oxford Road. (876) 926-6312
Holy Trinity Cathedral: A gorgeous Catholic church with a unique round dome that hosts many of Jamaica’s important political and religious ceremonies. Free. George Headley Drive. (876) 922-3335
Devon House: Literally world-famous ice cream is the main draw to this historic mansion that is a popular outdoor hangout spot for locals and tourists alike. There’s also mansion tours (for $10) and coffee, food, and picnic areas on the grounds. Free. Hope Road. (876) 926-0815
Heroes Park: One of Kingston’s largest parks. Parts of it are quite unkempt so be sure to find the nice part of the park which features stunning memorials to influential Jamaican leaders and even two guards standing in small guard posts who do a “changing of the guard”-esque ceremony every few minutes. Free. (876) 656-8031
What To Eat: Rockstonez: A wonderful and simple artsy all-vegan restaurant that also is a shop and AirBnb. It’s conveniently located off Hope Road on tiny Maven Road between the Bob Marley Museum and Devon House.
Blue Mountain Peak Hike: A stunning hike that takes you to Jamaica’s highest point and has panoramic views of rainforest, beaches, and the city of Kingston. You’ll get to walk through lush forest and alongside coffee plantations. From Kingston, you can hire a driver at hostels such as Kingsworth Hostel to take you (estimated cost: $30 USD). 3.5 miles round trip, out & back, 3-4 hours, moderately strenuous.
Coffee Plantations: The Blue Mountains are famous for their coffee – as you drive through the mountains, you’ll get great views of coffee plantations – some of which offer tours. Hostels and shops in the area sell Blue Mountain coffee.
Sandals Resort: Stay at one of three price-tiered Sandals resorts in Montego Bay (Sandals Inn, Sandals Montego Bay, or Sandals Royal Caribbean) and enjoy access to all three – including water sports, all you can eat, and all you can drink. 1-888-SANDALS
Glistening Waters: Just after dark, take a boat ride out onto Jamaica’s Luminous Lagoon and dip in it. This amazing place where mountain water meets ocean water has a unique form of algae that creates a glowing light blue color when you swim in it. Falmouth. (876) 954-3229
Downtown Montego Bay: The contrast between the Montego Bay resorts and its Downtown is striking – this area which hosts the city’s main bus station is primarily frequented by locals and you’re sure to meet plenty of panhandlers and vendors. It’s a taste of “real Jamaica”. Free.
Hip Strip: The epicenter of nightlife, shopping, and restaurants in Montego Bay, this tourist section of the city is a cute area to explore. Free.
Bennett River Swimming Hole: A popular local spot to cool off and enjoy a dip in a rushing river. Free. Fairfield Road.
Dunn’s River Falls: An incredible must-see waterfall that you can climb up for over a thousand feet! Your climb begins at a lovely beach and takes you through lush rainforest. $20 + $10 for water shoes (optional). (876) 974-4767
Downtown Ocho Rios: Ocho Rios’ Downtown is marked by a central square with a small clock tower – it’s a bustling center of activity and a great place to people watch. Free.
Ocho Rios Craft Market: Just a couple blocks north of Downtown, this market hosts hundreds of vendors and is the perfect place to souvenir shop. Don’t forget to haggle! Free.
What To Eat: The Reflection Natural Food Restaurant: An all-vegan cafe located on the 2nd floor of a shopping plaza that serves sweet fruit juices. Try the chef’s combo of all of her dishes. 2 Market Square, Shop #1. (876) 398-3810
Blue Lagoon: A delightful bay where mountain water meets ocean water. There’s a natural spring, rope swings, and some clothing vendors. You can take a dip in the water on your own or bamboo raft tours are available ($10-$20 USD). Free admission.
San Sky Public Beach: Just around the corner from the popular $10 USD Frenchman’s Cove beach is this small but free public beach that is a wonderful spot to dip in the water and see colorful fish. Free.
Downtown Port Antonio: Port Antonio’s bustling downtown is full of restaurants, bars, and shops to explore. It’s beautifully located right on the bay. Free.
Bamboo Rafting On The Rio Grande River: Take a ride on a bamboo raft down Port Antonio’s Rio Grande River and get immersed in the rainforest. Price Varies.
What To Eat: Woody’s: This cute burger hut has been hailed as having the best veggie burger in the Caribbean and the best burger in Jamaica – and I concur! This special burger consists of a mix of spinach and other vegetables. Enjoy a game of ping pong on their patio while you wait for your freshly-made burger. Located on the main highway in the Drapers area near the Jamaica Palace Hotel. (876) 993-7888.
Click here to read a blog recounting 5 days of fun in Ocho Rios and Montego Bay.