Jamaica Vacation Guide

[y] Jamaica Travel Guide

Found 145 km (90 mi) south of Cuba in the Caribbean Sea, Jamaica is an island paradise that defines the spirit of the Caribbean. Known for its tropical beauty, leisurely pace and lively music scene, Jamaica is best described as a cultural melting pot influenced by a diverse population and thriving tourism industry.

The crystal waters of the Caribbean Sea, lush tropical beauty and centuries of history lend themselves to a vacation destination favored by leisure travelers and honeymooners. Warm and humid all year round, the weather is fairly stable with only the occasional storm. As can be expected from an island destination, water sports are popular, with miles of powdery beaches, reefs and many sunken ships to explore. Land-based activities are equally popular, and Jamaica offers some of the most spectacular and challenging golf courses, mountain hikes and tennis courts in the Caribbean. During the off-season there are fewer tourists and life on the island is even more relaxed and leisurely.

Things To Do In Jamaica

There are many things to do in Jamaica, but chances are you’re not aware of many of them. When you think of visiting this tropical paradise you would expect sea, sand, and sun. (And you’d surely get that in Jamaica.) But Jamaica has so much more to offer… and you’re about to find out right here, right now. In the next few minutes, you’ll get an idea of how you can fill your Jamaica dream vacation with fun, excitement, and adventure.

  • Cruises, Sailing & Water Tours
  • Cultural & Theme Tours
  • Day Trips & Excursions
  • Luxury & Special Occasions
  • Outdoor Activities Shopping
  • Tours & Sightseeing
  • Walking & Biking Tours
  • Water Sports
  • Sea, Sand & Sun

Kingston

The capital of Jamaica is Kingston. Kingston may not look too appealing, but it has many hidden charms; the city is bustling during festival time. The National Gallery houses a valuable art collection and is home to a famous statue of Bob Marley. Devon House, built in 1881, has been restored to its original glory. The Bob Marley Museum is the most-visited site in Jamaica. Hope Botanical Gardens and Zoo is a beautifully landscaped and charming zoo. The Blue Mountains offer some fantastic scenery and excellent trekking. This area, with its rivers and waterfalls, is thought to one of the most beautiful in the Caribbean.

Facing a natural harbor and protected by a stretch of sand connecting Port Royal and the international airport, the city of Kingston is the largest city south of the United States with a predominantly English-speaking population. The streets are rich in history and culture, with a thriving arts scene, several unique art galleries, and the Bob Marley Museum. In addition, the National Gallery explores the complexities of Jamaican history. The district of Spanish Town features notable architecture and a bustling market, while New Kingston is a modern cluster of office towers, a strip of hotels and restaurants with cosmopolitan flair. Reggae culture has deep roots in the city, with many famous singers hailing from the area, including Sean Paul and Buju Banton. The Devon House, once home to Jamaica’s first black millionaire, is worth a visit. Hellshire Beach is nearby and is an idyllic vacation oasis with a lively nightlife. The wet season lasts from May to November, with a strong chance of hurricanes. The best time to visit is from December to April, with balmy breezes blowing in from the sparkling blue waters.

Things To Do In Jamaica – Kingston

If you’re visiting Jamaica’s capital city Kingston, you should tour the historic town of Port Royal. It was an infamous home of pirates. Port Royal was destroyed by an earthquake in 1692 after which it became a British military base. Be sure to visit the museum and “Giddy House” (a structure that was tilted by the earthquake but is still standing).

Picture of Kingston, Jamaica
Kingston, Jamaica

While in Kingston, you should pay a visit to Devon House. It was the home of Jamaica’s first millionaire and was built in 1881. Devon House is a Gregorian style mansion and houses a fine collection of antique, mahogany furniture. There are a number of shops on the premises offering crafts/souvenirs and you must try Devon House “I-Scream” — simply the best ice cream in town!

If you love art, a visit to The National Art Gallery of Jamaica will be on your list. The Gallery displays sculptures, paintings, and other Jamaican art forms. You’ll definitely get a glimpse into the history and culture of the island. Not far from the Gallery is the Money Museum which documents the history of Jamaican currency… and has a fine collection of notes, coins, and tokens.

Well, there you have it, an idea of things to do in Jamaica. It was Christopher Columbus, the famous European jet-setter who described Jamaica as “the fairest isle that eyes have beheld”. He said this in 1492 and not very much has changed since. May your Jamaica vacation be filled with many happy memories as you discover the culture, warmth, and beauty of our tropical paradise.

Montego Bay

Montego Bay (or MoBay) is more laid-back; it’s the main market town for most of western Jamaica. West of Montego Bay in Negril, a fast-growing resort. This seven-mile strip of resorts and bars has a pleasant atmosphere and is very relaxed. There are many small shops and stalls run by locals, and it’s an excellent place to mix with local Jamaicans.

Montego Bay
Montego Bay

The tourism capital of Jamaica and the second-largest city behind Kingston, Montego Bay has a variety of popular destinations and attractions. Widely dubbed the Friendly City, the locals strive to create an atmosphere of community and belonging amid the tropical scenery. The spectacular beaches draw visitors from around the world. Dead End Beach is a quiet refuge while Walter Fletcher Beach is a popular and pristine stretch of white sand with sparkling blue waters. The laid back atmosphere and distinct culinary offerings, including jerk chicken, have earned the area a stellar reputation as a truly relaxing vacation destination. Several stately homes still remain some dating back to the 1700s. Rose Hall Great House is rumored to be haunted by its original maniacal owner Annie Palmer, and the Belvedere Estate documents the area’s rich and diverse history. The wettest months are from May to November with hurricane advisories often issued during that time.

Things To Do In Jamaica – Montego Bay

If you get the chance while in Montego Bay, pay a visit to the world-famous Doctor’s Cave Beach. Enjoy the very clean, aquamarine water and therapeutic mineral springs,  although the beach can get a bit crowded at times. You also can enjoy a wide array of water sports including but not limited to kayaking, snorkeling, and windsurfing.

You should also try the Mo-Bay Under Sea Tours. Go aboard the semi-submersible Coral See and view the marine life of the Montego Bay Marine Park.

You can also visit the famous Rose Hall Great House, home of Annie Palmer, the “White Witch of Rose Hall”. Her scandalous deeds brought her notoriety. Take a guided tour of this restored Georgian mansion and get a glimpse into early 18th century Jamaican sugar plantation life.

Another great house worth visiting is the Greenwood Great House. It was formerly owned by the family of Elisabeth Barrett Browning, the renowned English poet.

>> More things to do in Montego Bay

Ocho Rios

Ocho Rios is a scenic town and has a beautiful setting with a mountainous back-drop fronted by Turtle Beach and a stunning harbor. Fern Gully is a little inland and is very relaxing. Dunn River Falls was featured in the James Bond movie Dr. No, and are a trendy destination.

Dolphin Cove Ocho Rios
Dolphin Cove, Ocho Rios

There is a variety of hotels, guest houses, and resorts on offer to suit every budget. Restaurants and cafés are widely available and offer the right choice of cuisine.

Things To Do In Jamaica – Ocho Rios

Ocho Rios has some of the finest white sand beaches in the world (no wonder tourists love visiting “Ochi”, as the locals call it). If you do get tired of the beach, visiting Dunn’s River Falls is a must. Water cascades naturally from a height of 600 feet into the Caribbean Sea… but you’re still able to climb the waterfall.

Other attractions in Ocho Rios, Jamaica are rafting or river tubing down the White River, hiking, and horseback riding. For the nature lovers, there is also Shaw Park Gardens housing rare tropical plants and birds with streams running through the property. Magnificent views of Ocho Rios and the Caribbean Sea are included.

Not very far from Ocho Rios is Firefly, the home of Noël Coward, the late British playwright. It’s now preserved as a museum. The home was built in 1956 and sits on five acres of land. He was buried there overlooking the Caribbean Sea.

>> more interesting things to do in Ocho Rios

Port Antonio

The northeastern town of Port Antonio is the capital of the Parish of Portland and gets the most rainfall in the island. It’s also the place to go if you want to go rafting down the Rio Grande river. Glide along the river with an experienced raftsman as you take a leisurely two-hour cruise on a bamboo raft… taking in the sights and sounds of the rainforest.

Scene in Port Antonio, Jamaica
Port Antonio, Jamaica

Things To Do In Jamaica – Port Antonio

Other water-themed attractions around Port Antonio are Reach Falls, Boston Beach, Blue Lagoon, Winnifred Rest Beach, Frenchman’s Cove Beach, San San Beach, and Somerset Falls.

When in Port Antonio you should also visit Caves of Nonsuch and Folly Great House. The Caves of Nonsuch contains fossilized sea sponge and a frozen waterfall within the caves. Folly Great House was built by an American millionaire (or an American mining engineer, depending on which story you believe) in 1905 in a neo-classical Greek and Roman style. This, of course, seems a bit out of place in the tropical Jamaican countryside. However, it’s worth visiting because it’s an amazing sight.

Negril

Interestingly, Negril, Jamaica is listed as one of the thousand places one should visit or things to be done before you die. I visited Negril years ago and stayed at the Negril Treehouse Hotel, surely one of the most delightful spots in Jamaica, very natural, right on the beach, and far from the madding crowds. So much to do but, at that time, no tour buses — just perfect. The beaches of Negril are incredible and, after visiting Montego Bay on a later trip, I would choose Negril every time.

Things To Do In Jamaica – Negril

Negril lies on the westernmost coast of the island and is a major tourist resort. However, it’s very laid back so at first glance it may seem that there is not much to do except lazing at the beach all day.

Besides the wide array of water sports available, Negril boasts a wide assortment of things to do while vacationing there. If you want cultural tours, nature tours or high energy activities, you’ll get them all in Negril.

Tourist Information – Facts about Jamaica

The Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) operates information booths within the arrival halls of both major international airports. The contact number for the booth at Sir Donald Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay is (876) 952-2462,  while you may contact the Norman Manley International Airport, Kingston booth at (876) 924-8024.

Montego Bay Kingston Port Antonio
Cornwall Beach
P.O. Box 67
Montego Bay
Jamaica, West Indies
Tel: (876) 952-4425
Fax: (876) 952-3587
64 Knutsford Boulevard
Kingston 5
Jamaica, West Indies
Tel: (876) 929-9200/19
Fax: (876) 929-9375
City Centre Plaza
P.O. Box 151
Port Antonio
Jamaica, West Indies
Tel: (876) 993-3051
Fax: (876) 993-2117

Airports in Jamaica

Which Jamaica Airport Should You Fly Into?

Jamaica is well connected with many major cities around the world, and it is possible to arrive both by sea and by air. Those people who are arriving by air may find the following information on airports in Jamaica useful.

There are now three international airports on the island, and these are Sangster International Airport which is located in Montego Bay… Norman Manley International Airport which is in Kingston… and the newly opened Ian Fleming International Airport in Ocho Rios. Together, they serve nearly 6 million passengers every year and have the capacity to handle almost twice that.

Sangster International Airport (MBJ)  – Montego Bay

This Jamaica airport is the main point of entry for most tourists taking a vacation on the island. It is an extremely modern complex that acts as a hub not only to Jamaica but also for the smaller Caribbean islands. It is the busiest out of all the airports in Jamaica and is ideal for anyone taking a holiday in the north of the island. Dozens of different airlines fly in and out of here on a daily basis, including Virgin Atlantic Airways, Delta Air Lines, Air Canada, and Caribbean Airlines to name just a few. The airport is well connected by road to the rest of the island, and whilst taxis and car rental are available on arrival, most people on package vacations in Jamaica will have a coach waiting for them.

Norman Manley International Airport (KIN) – Kingston

You would fly into this airport in Jamaica if you are heading to Kingston, the capital of Jamaica as it is located close by. It is also perhaps the best place to arrive for anyone visiting or staying in the Blue Mountains. A number of airlines and charter flights from around the world land here on a daily basis. Like Sangster International Airport, it is well connected with the rest of the island, and car rental and taxis can be arranged in the Transportation Hall.

Ian Fleming International Airport (OCJ) – Ocho Rios

This is the newest of the international airports in Jamaica and was built to serve the Ocho Rios area. It takes its name from the famous author of the James Bond novels, who owned an estate on the island called the Goldeneye Estate (later the name for a film). The purpose of this Jamaica airport is to handle small, private international planes, the majority of which fly over from the USA. Currently catering for this high-end tourism market, some flexibility has been built in for further expansion if required over the next few decades.

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In addition to these international airport complexes, there are also a number of smaller airports in Jamaica. These serve the different regions on the island via internal flights, as well as being home to companies that offer services such as scenic flights and skydiving. Anyone interested in flying to one of the smaller Caribbean islands may also need to leave from these smaller facilities. The Jamaican Defence Force (JDF) also operates a number of airports and has recently taken on Vernam Field, where it is being adapted to take larger aircraft.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Jamaica is probably January or February – the weather is excellent, and the crowds aren’t present that might be in December. During the summer months, the climate can be hotter and a little muggier, and as it is peak tourist season, the beaches and hotels can be more crowded. On the whole, the weather and climate are one of the major attractions for visitors – it is sunny all year round, and when it rains it is not normal for an extended period of time.