Jamaica Travel Guide

Jamaica is the heart of the Caribbean. The birthplace of reggae music and all-inclusive resorts.  Visit the land of sugar cane, coffee and limestone, and enjoy Jamaica. Here you will find cream-colored beaches, bordered by rugged Blue Mountains, and foamy waterfalls.

Most who travel here don’t leave the comforts of their all-inclusive resort; those who do typically don’t venture too far outside their immediate area. As the third-largest island of the Caribbean, Jamaica is hard to cover in one trip. Rather, it’s best to choose your activities and vacation priorities, then make your hotel plans accordingly. There are three main tourist locations on the island, Negril, which is popular for its beaches and upscale accommodations; Montego Bay which is well-liked by golfers; and Ocho Rios which appeals most to adventurous types. Some (but not many) visitors choose the eastern area of Port Antonio to try the top-notch surfing at Boston Bay Beach, the hiking along the Blue Mountains and the river rafting along the Rio Grande.

While Jamaica’s beaches are certainly alluring, this is a country to dive into, literally and figuratively. Beneath the waves there’s great scuba diving and snorkeling, and you can float on the water too with lazy bamboo-raft trips (let someone else pole). The adventurous can go caving, or get their hiking boots on to explore the remote crags and forests of this crumpled landscape.  Our Jamaica Travel Guide provides everything you need to plan your next beach vacation to Jamaica!  For more information on Jamaica’s beautiful beaches, visit our Greater Antilles Travel page.

Jamaica Weather – When to Visit

The best time to visit Jamaica is November to mid-December. That’s when the island’s already beautiful weather (ranging from mid-70s to the high 80s all year-round) is the most pleasant and the hotel and flight deals are the easiest to find. Rates are also cheap during the summer, but you’ll risk the wrath of hurricane season. January to March is the peak travel season to the island – room rates can spike to more than $700 per night at some hotels.

Entry & Exit Requirements

All United States citizens will need a passport for entry into and exit out of Jamaica. Customs officials may ask you to provide evidence of sufficient funds for your stay plus evidence of a return trip to the U.S. or an onward journey. A departure tax is generally included in the cost of your airfare; you won’t be charged an additional fee upon leaving Jamaica. For more information on entry and exit requirements, visit the U.S. State Department’s website .

Jamaica Attractions

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Ocho Rios is a former fishing village on a wide bay that was developed for tourism in the mid-1980s. The frequent docking of cruise ships (sometimes three in a day) at the central pier that commands the town’s focus gives Ocho Rios a slightly ‘packaged’ feel. The town has a relaxed vibe when there’s no ship in dock.  Tourism has endowed the town with a great eating scene, lively nightlife, and a plethora of guiding companies offering everything from scuba diving to zip-line tours. Throw in some of Jamaica’s best waterfalls on its doorstep, and Ocho Rios makes an excellent base for exploring the north coast.  Planning a vacation to Ocho Rios?  Visit our Ocho Rios Vacations guide and start planning your vacation to Ocho Rios.

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Stuck out on the island’s western tip and graced with its finest and longest natural beach, Negril was first colonized by hippies in the early 1970s.  Negril is renowned for its hustlers, but it’s not all hassle. A strong local business community, fueled by a desire to safeguard Negril’s precious ecology, has kept the area from becoming a full-on circus. Consequently Negril remains a laid-back place of impromptu reggae concerts and psychedelic sunsets.  In both geography and character, Negril can be split neatly in two. To the north is  Seven Mile Beach (which is really a little more than 4 miles long). Further south, the West End is the original Negril of hippy-era legend. Here you’ll find cliffs, up to 50ft high in places, plunged into the azure ocean. Negril ‘town’ is sandwiched between the two, on the edge of the West End.  Planning a vacation to Negril?  Visit our Negril Jamaica Vacations and start planning your vacation to Negril.

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Squeezed between the Blue Mountains and the world’s seventh-largest natural harbor, Kingston is beautiful, but can overwhelm some with its noise and hustle. This is the island’s cultural and economic heart. Like a plate of spicy jerk washed down with a cold Red Stripe beer, a visit to Kingston is essential to taste the rich excitement of modern Jamaica.  Kingston is a city of two halves. Downtown is home to historic buildings, the courts, banks, street markets and one of the Caribbean’s greatest art museums. By contrast, Uptown holds the city’s best hotels and restaurants, largely confined to New Kingston, with its cluster of tall buildings around Emancipation Park.  Visit our Kingston Jamaica Vacation Guide and start planning your vacation to Kingston.

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Montego Bay has two distinct sides: there’s the smooth tourist side, the one you see in a thousand glossy Caribbean brochures; and there’s MoBay proper, a pretty gritty city, second only to Kingston in terms of status and chaos. Most of the big all-inclusive resorts are located well outside the urban core in the fancy suburb of Ironshore. Stay in the city, however, and you’re faced with an entirely different feel – a riot of car horns blaring and bustling people that offers a slice of Jamaican life.  The Hip Strip (aka Gloucester Ave), with its mid range hotels and souvenir shops flogging Bob Marley T-shirts, acts as a kind of buffer between MoBay’s two halves.  Planning a vacation to Montego Bay?  Visit our Montego Bay Vacations guide and start planning your vacation to Montego Bay.

Port Antonio

Port Antonio is a city on Jamaica’s northeast coast and the capital of Portland Parish. It’s known as a gateway to nearby tropical jungles, mountains and waterfalls. In the John Crow Mountains, Reach Falls flows into a river pool. Near Hope Bay, Somerset Falls flows on the grounds of a former plantation. In the east, the Blue Lagoon is known for its blue waters, fed by the Caribbean Sea and underground springs.  Planning a vacation to Port Antonio?  Visit our Port Antonio Travel Guide and start planning your vacation to Port Antonio.

How to Save Money in Jamaica

Haggle the price as bargaining for a better price is expected and encouraged in many souvenir shops.  When visiting the craft vendors or taking a cab ride, don’t accept the first amount quoted to you.  Also pay for it all up front.  Jamaica is the nerve center of the all-inclusive. Many of the resorts include more than just food and drinks in their packages.  Also, it’s best to skip spring break.  Throughout March and early April, prices skyrocket at resorts because of the huge influx of spring breakers.

What to Eat

Jamaica is known for unique cuisine that fuses flavors and ingredients from different cultures. Seafood is a staple, and no Jamaican vacation is complete without sampling some of the island’s fresh produce or main courses enhanced with some zesty jerk seasoning. Where to dine largely depends on where you’re staying, but many area restaurants serve traditional dishes like ackee and saltfish, callaloo (a stew-like soup commonly made with okra and spinach) or fried plantains. To try some spicy jerk seasoning, look for the nearest roadside stand and order a jerk chicken skewer or jerk pork with rice and peas.  Visit our top places in Jamaica for the best restaurants.

Safety

Keep in mind that some parts of Jamaica are safer than others. Exercise caution when moving around at night, avoid traveling in buses and stay in groups when at all possible. Petty theft has been reported in the past, so make sure to keep your valuables near you at all times. According to the U.S. State Department, violent crime can occur too, even at all-inclusive resorts. Areas of Kingston, Montego Bay and Spanish Town are particularly prone to violence. Visit the state department’s website  for more details.

Best Jamaica Beaches

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Seven-Mile-Beach-300x183.jpgSeven Mile Beach (Negril)

The first thing that strikes you about the Seven Mile Beach is the panoramic ocean view and the bright blue, normally cloudless sky. The serene blue waters and silky white sand then combine with the warm sunshine to make your visit an unforgettable one.  Whether you are seeking to jet ski, kayak, snorkel, scuba dive, go on a catamaran cruise, banana boat or glass-bottom boat ride, Seven Miles Beach has it all. You can even travel along the beach on horseback if you like.The major advantage of this beach is that the huge variety of options leads to less traffic at each individual attraction or activity.  For more information on Jamaica’s beautiful beaches, visit our Greater Antilles Travel page.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Doctors-Cove-Beach-300x200.jpgDoctor’s Cove Beach (Montego Bay)

Doctor’s Cave Beach was named for a physician who donated his beach property to form a swim club; the property was once accessible via a cave that was later destroyed by a hurricane. It’s a place full of history, not the least because this is the strip of sand that helped put Montego Bay on the international tourist map. It’s a great beach that’s right off Gloucester Avenue with a clubhouse with changing facilities, the Groovy Grouper beach bar, and other amenities.  For more information on Jamaica’s beautiful beaches, visit our Greater Antilles Travel page.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Cornwall-Beach-300x191.jpgCornwall Beach (Montego Bay)

Right down the road from Doctor’s Cave, is Cornwall Beach.  It’s a great secluded beach with way fewer tourists and a great locale for taking a swim. For $5 (same as Doctor’s Cave), visitors can enjoy a relaxing day on the sand with small crowds and a delightful ocean breeze. And on “Cornwall Sundays,” legal beach-goers can partake in a “bottomless” Appleton Rum mug – yum!  For more information on Jamaica’s beautiful beaches, visit our Greater Antilles Travel page.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Treasure-Beach-300x183.jpgTreasure Beach (South Coast)

If it’s a deserted beach you have in mind for your Jamaican vacation, Treasure Beach is the place to go. This south coast beach community, known as much for fishing and farming than tourism, offers a great opportunity to mingle with ‘real’ Jamaicans far from the tourist hordes. Expect to find uncrowded sands, private coves, and laid-back resorts, dining, and nightclubs.  For more information on Jamaica’s beautiful beaches, visit our Greater Antilles Travel page.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Rose-Hall-Beach-300x198.jpgRose Hall Beach (Montego Bay)

If you’re in Montego Bay and looking for a more sedate beach experience than you’ll find downtown, head east to Rose Hall Beach. You can access this beach at the Rose Hall Beach Club, which has a restaurant, beach bar, and live entertainment, among other amenities.  For more information on Jamaica’s beautiful beaches, visit our Greater Antilles Travel page.

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Best Jamaica Hotels

The Cliff Hotel, Negril


Featuring free WiFi, a spa centre and an outdoor pool, The Cliff Hotel offers accommodation in Negril. The hotel has a year-round outdoor pool and sun terrace, and guests can enjoy a meal at the restaurant. Free private parking is available on site.  All Suites have pristine views of the Caribbean Sea and have private balconies with hammocks.  Guests can enjoy a variety of dishes at Zest restaurant and enjoy relaxing treatments at KiYara Spa.  This hotel has water sports facilities and car hire is available. You can play billiards and darts at the hotel. The nearest airport is Montego Bay Airport, 53.4 miles from The Cliff Hotel.

The Spa Retreat Boutique Hotel, Negril


This property is a 12-minute walk from the beach. Featuring spa treatments, a terrace with swimming pool and massage service, The SPA Retreat Boutique Hotel is 2 miles from Coral Beach and 2.5 miles from the Negril Lighthouse.  The on-site restaurant Blue Mahoe serves Jamaican cuisine and international food. The property has daily yoga lessons and meeting facilities as well.

Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall – All Inclusive


Offering an outdoor pool and 8 restaurants, Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall – All Inclusive is located in Montego Bay. Free WiFi access is available in this resort.  Guests will enjoy international buffet, Italian cuisine, Asian fusion, seafood grill, Brazilian and a variety of sandwiches and ice cream at the 8 restaurants on site. There are also 4 bars including piano bar, swim-up bar, sports bar and a roof-top bar.  At Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall – All Inclusive you will find a tennis court and a fitness center. Other facilities offered at the property include water sports facilities. The property offers free parking and daily activities for children and teens from 3 to 16 years old include eco-adventures, pool and beach activities. Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall features meeting space and Wedding facilities.

Sandals Royal Caribbean All Inclusive Resort & Private Island – Couples Only, Montego Bay


Showcasing a year-round outdoor pool and water sports facilities, Sandals Royal Caribbean All Inclusive Resort & Private Island – Couples Only is located in Montego Bay. The resort has a sun terrace and spa center, and guests can enjoy a meal at the restaurant or a drink at the bar.  You can play tennis and ping-pong at the resort. Alma is 24 miles from Sandals Royal Caribbean, and Rose Hall is 8 miles away. Sangster Airport is 0.6 miles from the property.

Round Hill Hotel & Villas, Montego Bay


Featuring a golden sand beach and a beautiful pool overlooking Montego Bay, this resort is less than 20 minutes from Sangster International Airport. Free Wi-Fi and a choice of dining options are available.  Guests of Round Hill can enjoy traditional Caribbean meals made with on-site ingredients. The Seaside Terrace, The Grill at Round Hill and pool and beach bars are open daily. Afternoon tea is also served.


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26 Comments

  1. Alex

    This was quite a tantalizing article to read. From start to finish, you made me want to venture there. One Christmas, I traveled with my Dad to St. Thomas in the Eastern Caribbean, so I know how relaxing the islands can be there.

    I do have a question though. When I travel, I always try to maximize my safety. Are there any special precautions I should take to protect myself from robbery along with areas to avoid? I look forward to reading your answer.

    Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I do have to tell you that recently Jamaica has had it’s share of crime. Most crimes target visitors in tourist areas like Montego Bay, Negril, and Ocho Rios; pickpocketing and petty theft. Armed robberies do occasionally involve tourists, and can turn violent if victims resist. Special tourist police have been employed in these areas in an attempt to control crime and you can spot them by their uniform of white hats, white shirts, and black pants. Tourists in Jamaica have been robbed as they slept in their hotel rooms, so be sure to lock all doors and windows at night and keep valuables in a safe and secure location, such as the in-room safe. If you are staying at an all-inclusive, you are a lot safer at the current time. Thanks for reading and for your concerns.

      Reply
  2. Jessica

    Jamaica looks like a wonderful place to go to! I think I would love to go in January because I love 70s weather! Anything hotter is not my cup of tea. I few of my friends are from Jamaica and they love it there. I have been looking into making it there, and found this information very helpful for planning.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      It is a wonderful place to go! I love hot weather, which kind of opens it up for me as to when I can visit 🙂 Anything under 60 is pretty cold for me….guess I am a Floridian at heart. I am glad my Jamaica Travel Guide was helpful so that you can start your planning. Please let me know if you have any questions.

      Reply
  3. Jaden Ho

    Hi Mattysmom.

    Thank you for the great information about Jamaica. I don’t have to worry about travel using cruise or land to reach the place because I can get such great information from your sites. Thanks for your travel guide, I would like to travel to Jamaica with my family and friends with guide you provide. The introduction of yours makes me want to visit Jamaica right away. Hahaha~!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I know the feeling….. I always want to be traveling to these beautiful destinations after constantly writing about them! Glad the information will come in good use for you. Thank you so much for visiting my Jamaica Travel Guide.

      Reply
  4. W Tucker

    I love your reviews.
    Unfortunately, my only experience in Jamaica is when I was on a cruise. I completely understand that a cruise day trip is a bad way to experience an island. I do remember poking around downtown Ocho Rios while most everyone else went to the Falls.
    I’m going to go back someday and give it a fair shot. It looks like it has a wide variety of things to do. Thanks again for your thorough and useful reviews.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are very welcome and thank you for reading my Jamaica Travel guide!

      Reply
  5. Helen

    It is so funny that I came across your blog. I am coming up on my 2 year wedding anniversary since we got married in Montego Bay. I absolutely loved our time there, and I can’t wait to go back!

    I definitely want to venture out to either Negril or Ocho Rios next time we go. We pretty much stayed in Montego Bay the whole time we were there for our wedding, and we didn’t have the finances or time to have a honeymoon at that time.

    It is true that you say to pick a few places, even though the island seems small, there is so much to see! And traveling from one city to the other is not a short drive either!

    I had no idea about some of the places you mentioned, so I will definitely keep them in mind for our next trip to Jamaica! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Wow, how nice to get married in Montego Bay!  Thats like a wedding and a honeymoon all in one!  Heck I got married by the river in my backyard, which at the time seemed romantic….NOT.  LOL  Anyway, I am glad you enjoyed reading and can find the information useful for your next trip to Jamaica.  Thanks for visiting my Jamaica Travel Guide!

      Reply
  6. Veronica

    Greetings, Leahrae,

    Just yesterday, I was talking about a cruise I had taken with friends, several years ago, and I said that I wanted to take another cruise soon. Now I’m reading this today…perhaps the Universe is sending me a message!

    Interestingly enough, the cruise I went on was supposed to stop at Jamaica, but it was re-routed due to a major storm, so I have yet to visit this beautiful island.

    You made a great point: although the tours the cruise ships offer are wonderful, you’re more likely to have a more “flavorful” experience mixing in with the natives. And what you said about being able to give back directly to the country’s economy is one that I overlooked and will definitely keep in mind when I visit Jamaica.

    Dunn’s River Falls here I come!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I am so glad you enjoyed reading and will make Jamaica a stop on an upcoming vacation.  You will love it for sure.  Thank you so much for visiting my Jamaica Travel Guide!

      Reply
  7. Randene

    This post is SO helpful! Thank you! Going to Jamaica has been my dream but I have only recently started to research it in order to book a trip. I had no idea about when the best season(s) to go was/is. I also had no idea about the best places to go. You have given me lots of things to think about as I prepare. Thanks again! I’m sure it’s not just helpful to me!!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I am glad it is helpful.  If you have any other questions or need any help with your planning, please don’t hesitate to ask!

      Reply
  8. Alyssa

    I’ve been to Jamaica as part of cruise ship excursions several times. Admittedly, the time in port is very brief which limits how far we can go and what we can see. Jamaica has beautiful beaches for sure. For us, we’ve always felt more comfortable in Jamaica sticking to very populated streets with plenty of tourists. Twice we’ve hired local taxis to take us to beaches. One experience was good, the other I wouldn’t repeat. The next time we go to Jamaica, I want to go to an all-inclusive resort, out of hurricane season and not during the rainy months. Compared to south east coast living, even summer months when the average high temp in Jamaica is 83 it sounds like heaven! Have you been to Jamaica?

    Alyssa

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Jamaica is on my bucket list, so have not been yet but this next summer I plan to include it in my cruise.  I know it will be a short time in port, but I will get a taste of it and can then visit.  I agree that the only way to go is staying at an all-inclusive resort.  Thanks for visiting BeachTravelDestinations.com

      Reply
  9. Linda

    Looking at those images I am itching to go to Jamaica! I would love to see more of the country than just the tourist hubs and maybe hire a car and travel on my own.

    However I have heard many times that it’s not safe to do this in Jamaica. Do you know anything about that?

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      It is not that it is not safe, it is safe to drive.  You just have to be very comfortable driving on the left side of the roads, and not all of their roads in super good shape.  Taking taxis is really pretty reasonable there.  For that reason, I would take taxis everywhere.  Just my personal feeling on it.  Thanks for visiting beachtraveldestinations.com

      Reply
  10. Dave M.

    This is an excellent post on Jamaica! I have yet to read better or more detailed information on this wonderful travel destination. you have really given an enormous amount of information and I will have to read it a few more times to absorb all the good stuff you have included! I have been to Jamaica by cruise ship, but plan to go again when we have more time to explore. Thanks for all the great insight!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are very welcome Dave and I am glad you enjoyed reading!  If you have any questions or need help with planning your trip to Jamaica, please don’t hesitate to contact me.  I would be more than happy to help any way I can.  Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  11. Vee

    WOW! It’s sooo beautiful! I had no idea there was so much to do there as well! It looks like so much fun. It looks like paradise. I hope I get to travel there some day!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, I have to agree that Jamaica is paradise and the list of things to do goes on and on for sure. So many wonderful beaches, such great food and so many things to see and do. Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  12. Vince

    This is on my dream places to go. Doctors cave beach looks amazing.
    Thanks for sharing this info.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are welcome, and yes Doctor’s Cave Beach is probably one of the most popular places to visit while in Jamaica. Then, everything here is amazing for sure. Thanks for visiting the Jamaica Travel Guide!

      Reply
  13. Phildora Perez

    Hi Mattysmom. Excellent portrayal of Jamaica. You are correct in that it is the heart of the caribbean. I have visited Ochos Rios, Negril, Montego Bay, and Kingston. The food is awesome and the people are great. Really enjoyed the nightlife and joining the natives in “Fish Fries”.

    I plan to revisit this beautiful island where the sea is absolutely breathtaking!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you Phildora, wow you are lucky to have visited all these wonderful places in Jamaica 🙂 I don’t think people realize just how beautiful it is here, and so many amazing places to see. I had to really narrow down my list to keep it semi short. I could have went on for a lot longer. Yes, I agree amazing food, people, and nightlife. Great beach destination for sure. Thanks for reading!

      Reply

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