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.
July is the hottest month in Jamaica with an average temperature of 83°F and the coldest is January at 76°F with the most daily sunshine hours at 11 in July. The wettest month is October with an average of 130 mm of rain. The best month to swim in the sea is in July when the average sea temperature is 84°F. 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.
Getting To Jamaica
There are three international airports in Jamaica: Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston, Jamaica’s capital city and the Ian Fleming International Airport in picturesque Ocho Rios.
Getting Around in Jamaica
Passports valid for at least six months from the date of entry are required for all visits to Jamaica. For stays of six months or less, no visas are required for citizens of the EU, the US, Commonwealth countries, Mexico, Japan and Israel. Nationals of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Greece and Japan don’t need a visa for stays of up to 90 days. All other nationals require visas (nationals of most countries can obtain a visa on arrival, provided they are holding valid onward or return tickets and evidence of sufficient funds). Those who need a visa, can obtain one on arrival.
By Cruise Ship
While cruise lines’ optional land tours are conveniently packaged to take in many of the island’s sightseeing highlights, they also move quickly and tend to shield visitors from interaction with locals. In addition, a fair percentage of the money paid for these tours stays with the organizers rather than going into the local economy. If you venture out on your own, you’re likely to enjoy a richer cultural experience. If you want to tour the island, consider hiring a local taxi driver, who will likely shed light on local issues and give you a more colorful tour. Wander the streets of the main town, poke into little shops, eat at local restaurants and buy mementos from street vendors, or veer off the beaten track. Visit small businesses and chat with the owners, buy local rums and other souvenirs in small shops instead of on board – you’ll help fuel the local economy (and save money in the process).
Top Places In Jamaica
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.
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.
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.
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. You won’t find many hipsters here, but in among the hustlers and smoky jerk restaurants there’s a detectable Jamaican rhythm to the action on the street.
The capital of St Elizabeth, Black River is a busy little place that was the most prosperous port in Jamaica in the late 19th century. The namesake river slow-moving, patrolled by crocodiles, and boats full of curious tourists. Most visitors opt to stay in nearby Treasure Beach, but Black River makes a good jumping-off point for visiting attractions like YS Falls and the Appleton Rum Estate, and there’s a charm to its historic core that’s well worth exploring.
Top Things To Do In Jamaica
Dunn’s River Falls & Park (Ocho Rios)
Dunn’s River Falls is one of Jamaica’s national treasures, a famous waterfall near Ocho Rios, Jamaica. It is a major Caribbean tourist attraction that attracts thousands of visitors each year. Being rebuilt continuously from deposits of travertine rock and sodium from the river water, geologists often describe the Dunn’s River Falls as “a living phenomenon”. Thermal spring activity in the limestone caves usually associates the small dome-shaped cataracts. These characteristics, together with the fact that the waterfall actually empties directly into the sea (which is a trait found in only a very few waterfalls around the world), are the features that make the Dunn’s River Falls the only one of its kind in the Caribbean, if not the world.
Seven Mile Beach (Negril)
Check your calendar before taking your tots to the cumin-colored sands of this northwest Jamaica beach. Like its name suggests, Seven Mile has plenty of space for you to find a spot, but you’ll share the area with a few adults-only resorts as well as those who like to sunbathe in the nude. The most family-friendly day at Seven Mile is Sunday. When the sun goes down, the sandy spread becomes a popular nightlife hot spot. Like a lot of Jamaican beaches, Seven Mile sometimes has vendors who can often be persistent in hopes of selling everything from crafts to beer to fresh lobster. A simple “no thank you” will often suffice, but don’t be surprised if a vendor is unrelenting. You’ll also find water sports operators offering rentals like kayaks or sailboats. For those in search of relaxation, soaking up the sun is another popular way to spend the day at the expansive Seven Mile Beach. The beach is free for visitors to access at any time, and there are also public picnic tables, showers and restrooms available for use.
Boston Beach (Port Antonio)
Sitting 9 miles east of Port Antonio’s town center, Boston Beach is known for its clear waters’ surfer-friendly waves and the shore’s soft, powder-white sands. But even more prominently, Boston Beach is renowned for its delicious, authentically Jamaican eats. This beach claims to be the birthplace of jerk seasoning, so come hungry and ready to taste-test. You’ll find shacks peppered throughout the beach serving up smoked meats like pork and chicken. The water here can get a bit rough, so this is not the best beach for young children. “There are lots of small rocks and sea urchins in the water, so be careful where you step. The beach offers free entry, parking and access to restrooms.
Doctor’s Cave Beach (Montego Bay)
Doctor’s Cave is one of the most visited beaches in Montego Bay. But it does charge an entry fee, which can serve as a deterrent for some. Many, however, are willing to fork over the dollars to enter Doctor’s Cave, play in the quiet waves and have ready access to the available water sports, changing rooms and beach bars. The spot’s popularity means that you’re likely to encounter crowds (especially on days when cruise ships are in Montego Bay’s port) and high food prices. A trip to Doctor’s Cave means you’ll have the opportunity to rent equipment for snorkeling, kayaking, riding water scooters and other aquatic activities. Umbrellas, towels and beach chairs are also available for rent. And for those who are seeking out the beach for a little surf side retail, “You can shop just outside the entrance … make sure you bargain because the prices are high. Admission to the beach costs $6 per day ($3 per day for children). Chairs, umbrellas and floats can be rented for an additional $6 per day per item. Doctor’s Cave beach is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to sunset.
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$$ 100 Hope Road, Kingston
100 provides you with a modern, top of the line gaming lounge, an action-packed sports bar, an elegant grill and bar and a quaint lounge tucked away on the rooftop with an amazing view. All in one location! A true 100 experience guaranteed! For more information call 876-665-3238, or visit them on the web at 100 Hope Road.
$$ Alexander’s Restaurant, Kingston
Alexander’s is great for a relaxing lunch or dinner. Located in the charming Courtleigh Hotel and Suites, the menu is an intriguing combination of tender beef, succulent pork, poultry, fresh seafood and pasta in specialty sauces geared to please the most discerning palate. For more information call 876-929-9000, or visit them on the web at Alexander’s Restaurant.
$$ Ciao Jamaica, Negril
Ciao Jamaica offers a unique fusion of Italian and Jamaican Cuisine. Together with their celebrated Chef, they’ve created an innovative and delicious menu with daily specials featuring only the best USDA Grade A Steaks, sumptuous Seafood, al dente Pasta, authentic Pizza, and tantalizing Appetizers. The love of food is evident in every dish featured on the Ciao Jamaica menu – carefully prepared for your enjoyment, not only a feast for the mouth but also the eyes! The delightful setting of a hand-crafted Caribbean sea view terrace adorned with cedar paneling and intricate fretwork combined with soft reggae and jazz in the background creates an inviting atmosphere to savor original and traditional dishes such as stone fired Thin Crust Pizza, New York Sirloin Steaks, Caribbean Calzones, Fettuccine Thermador, Shrimp Scampi Spaghetti, West Indies Seafood Linguine, Scotch Bonnet Snapper, Jerk Chicken Alfredo and many more. For more information call 876-393-1400, or visit them on the web at Ciao Jamaica.
$$$ Mille Fleurs, Port Antonio
Restaurant Mille Fleurs offers romantic dining on the verandah with magnificent views overlooking Port Antonio, the Blue Mountains and the Caribbean Sea. Enjoy the spectacular setting and savor the calm and serenity while enjoying culinary delights, beautiful sunsets and candlelit dining. Discover creative Caribbean cuisine breakfast, a light lunch or romantic dinner. Mille Fleurs is also a perfect location for small weddings and celebrations. For more information call 876-993-7267, or visit them on the web at Mille Fleurs.
$$ Lyming at Walkerswood, Saint Ann
Located in the garden parish of Saint Ann, Lyming at Walkerswood serves up mouthwatering local dishes in a relaxed and scenic atmosphere. Known for Jerk products – it offers pork, chicken, fish, sausage, popular side dishes and the best local curried goat and mannish water available on the island. Lyming at Waklerswood is the perfect stop to experience authentic Jamaican cuisine, always with great service from its warm and friendly staff. For more information call 876-917-2812, or visit them on the web at Lyming at Walkerswood.
$$ Pier 1 on the Waterfront, Montego Bay
Pier 1 on the Waterfront is an open-air Restaurant and Bar that offers guests an inclusive list of seafood options. One can enjoy its scenic view overlooking the bay while being entertained at its unique entertainment center which has been in operation since 1986. Along with its wide array of seafood dishes, Pier 1 gives persons tasty Jamaican dishes ranging from Jerked Chicken to Curried Goat and Salads. For more information call 876-952-2452, or visit them on the web at Pier 1 on the Waterfront.
$$ Sharkies Seafood Restaurant, Ocho Rios
Sharkies is an exquisite seafood restaurant that is located on the beach of Salem, Runaway Bay. We offer tantalizing entrees and platters such as fish, conch, shrimp, lobster among others done in a variety of ways. For more information call 876-973-5472, or visit them on the web at Sharkies Seafood Restaurant.
$$ La Factoría, Old San Juan
La Factoría, a Spanglish-ized translation of “the factory,” is the cocktail bar that helped usher in a new era of Puerto Rican mixology. Come nightfall, hordes of revellers descend upon this modern-day speakeasy to order favorites like the Spiced Old Fashioned or the Lavender Mule. A nondescript door behind the main bar leads to four back rooms, providing a sequence of different experiences and ambiances as you go further down the rabbit hole. Each has its own decor, feeling, and specialized bar: there’s the cocktail bar, the wine bar, the restaurant, and the dance floor. The menu at Vino @ Factoria has become a late-night fave. For more information call 787-412-4251, or visit them on the web at La Factoria.
Bars & Nightlife
Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Montego Bay
Jimmy Buffet’s empire extends to Jamaica and with Margaritaville Sports Bar & Grill which epitomizes beach nightlife. With live music, bikini contests, a 110-foot waterslide, and frosty tropical drinks, these is a tourist trap in its own right, but a fun one! Sports fans flock here to watch big games on the bar’s 15 televisions, and margarita lovers won’t have to search far to get to one of four open-air bars. At night, Club Ville comes alive as perhaps the hottest nightclub in Western Jamaica and swings to the sounds of its in-house deejays. Theme nights include glow, “bare as you Dare,” and ladies’ night. For more information call 876-952-4777, or visit them on the web At Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville.
Runaway Sports Bar & Grill, Runaway Bay
With six flat panel screen televisions and one giant screen showing major sporting events. Runaway Bay is one of the best places in Jamaica to watch the game. The bar also offers two pool tables, nightly entertainment, darts, casino-style game boxes and even a swimming pool! The full restaurant serves local and international dishes on the third floor rooftop featuring sweeping views. The menu includes Asian and Jamaica fusion dishes, jerk and curried chicken, and fresh seafood as well as classic appetizers like chicken wings, shrimp dip, and onion rings. The lower level is the Runaway Suites hotel with affordable rates, making it easy to stumble back and forth. For more information call 876-408-2101, or visit them on the web at Runaway Sports Bar & Grill.
Floyd’s Pelican Bar
Getting to this rickety shack is half the fun, and even though it attracts the tourist crowd, it is a novelty that shouldn’t be missed! The bar is built into the sea and only accessible by boat, and once you get there stay for a while and forget about life. Although this falls in the “nightlife” category, most people visit during the day, and you can even snorkel around a bit in the shallow waters. The driftwood bar also offers fresh fish dishes and other menu items if you stay long enough to work up an appetite. Bring cards or dominoes and let the day pass away with a cold Red Stripe or two. For more information call 876-354-4218, or visit them on TripAdvisor at Floyd’s Pelican Bar.
Collette’s Bar, Negril
Collette, the owner, is sweet as pie and makes her guests feel at home. She is the heart and soul of the place and her energy keeps people returning again and again. The drinks she serves are cheap, cold, and strong and there always seems to be a crowd of happy people laughing and carrying on in the bar. Reggae music is always playing and there are plenty of locals lingering around chatting with the tourists. The vibes here demonstrate the “one love” Jamaican lifestyle and no one is treated like a stranger. The positivism found here will stay with you long after your vacation is over. For more information call 876-429-3636, or visit them on the web at Collette’s Bar.
Rick’s Café, West End Negril
Rick’s Cafe was the first public bar and restaurant of its type on the West End Cliffs, offering an alternative to Negril’s majestic seven-mile beach. From the beginning, Rick’s Cafe boasted an unrivaled view of the sunset from its naturally formed cliffs. Over the years, visitors and locals alike have designated Rick’s Cafe as Negril’s premier gathering spot and our sunsets have become a Jamaican tradition. Rick’s Cafe’s world-famous sunsets and breathtaking views have made it an international must-see since 1974. Join them daily for lunch, dinner, happy hour, cliff diving and life-long memories. Their menu features Caribbean and international cuisine are served from the best vantage point on the island to watch the sunset. For more information call 876-957-0380, or visit them on the web at Rick’s Cafe.
Pier 1, Montego Bay
Pier 1 hosts the most happening party in Montego Bay on Friday night. Patrons await the horde of locals who come ready to dance the night away, when the club gets cranked up around 10 pm. A club DJ goes wild and turns the seafood restaurant with stunning sunset views into a thumping dance hall. Tropical drinks are the bar’s specialty, and several musical events that take place here draw more than 1,000 people. With an affinity for accomplished musicians and an admirable view of the bay, Pier 1 tops the list for exuberant nightlife. Special events include fashion shows, Appleton-sponsored parties, and open-mic night. For more information call 876-952-2452, or visit them on the web at Pier 1.
Top 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. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit The Cliff Hotel.
The Spa Retreat Boutique Hotel
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. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit The Spa Retreat Boutique Hotel.
Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall – All Inclusive, Montego Bay
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. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Hyatt Ziza Rose Hall – All Inclusive.
Sandals Royal Caribbean All Inclusive Resort & Private Island – Couples Only
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. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Sandals Royal Caribbean All Inclusive Resort & Private Island.
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. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Round Hill Hotel & Villas.
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