A bit about Jamaica
Jamaica, known as "the land of wood and water", is covered in varied topography, from mountains, to rainforests, down to reef-lined beaches. It is an island situated in the Caribbean Sea. At 10,990 sq. km (4,240 sq. miles) it is the third-largest island of the Greater Antilles and the fourth-largest island country in the Caribbean.
Many of the all-inclusive resorts are clustered in Montego Bay. Negril is an area known for its diving and snorkeling sites.
Jamaica is rich with culture, delicious food, and unique music and sounds. The country is famed as the birthplace of reggae music, and its capital Kingston is home to the Bob Marley Museum, dedicated to the famous singer.
Jamaica's unique culture is kept alive by the vibrant people that live there. It has one of the most dynamic cultures mostly due to its people being a mixture of the many ethnicities that have landed on the island's shores over the past several centuries.
Use the books and maps below to inform your trip planning and guide you while in Jamaica!
Despite the varying answers, Jamaica is considered to be part of the North American Continent. It sits on the Caribbean plate which is part of the North American entity, rather than South America.
How about the weather?
According to U.S. Travel and News, 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.
You may find cheaper hotel rates in the summer months, but you'll be risking it as that is hurricane season.
January to March is peak travel season in Jamaica, and sometimes rooms can spike $700+ in price!
What is the local currency?
The official currency of Jamaica is the Jamaican dollar. Jamaican bills (banknotes) come in denominations of 50, 100, 500, 1000, and 5000 dollars. Jamaican coins come in 1, 5, 10, and 20 dollar denominations. For more on Jamaican bills click here. For more on Jamaican coins click here.
Many places in Jamaica will accept both the Jamaican dollar and US dollars. While this may be convenient for some, you may not always get the best exchange rate paying the vendors in US dollars.
For the most up-to-date exchange rates, head to XE.com.
Money exchanges can be made at the airport when you arrive or at local banks and currency exchange centers. Remember that Travellers Cheques are only accepted at dedicated foreign exchange shops or banks. There are some ATMs around Jamaica, especially on the larger resorts, so you can always get cash once you are in the country, just be aware of your own bank’s fees, ATM withdrawal fees and credit card foreign transaction fees.
There are three international airports in Jamaica:
- Norman Manley International Airport (KIN) in Kingston
- Sangster International Airport (MBJ) in Montego Bay
- Ian Fleming International Airport (OCJ) Ochos Rios/Boscobel
There are also domestic and private airports. For a full list of airports, click here.
The best way to get around Jamaica is by taxi, whether you're coming from one of the airports — Montego Bay's Sangster International Airport (MBJ) is the most accessible to the tourist areas — or making your way around town.
When taking a taxi, make sure you look for a vehicle that has the following:
- a red license plate with two white letters, one of which is 'P', and four white digits (for example 'PA1234')
- the words 'Route Taxi' painted on the doors along the route description
- a yellow sign on the roof of the vehicle with the word 'taxi' on it
- a band of alternating black and colored squares, much like a checker board, on each side of the vehicle just below the windows
Always make sure that you check the fee with locals before you get into the route taxi. Route taxi fares, like bus fares, are fixed by government and are non negotiable.
If you do decide to rent a car and drive yourself, driving is on the left hand side of the road and Jamaican drivers can be very aggressive and there are plenty of narrow winding roads.
Food in Jamaica is flavorful and unique. The country is known for jerk chicken, ackee & saltfish, oxtail, curry goat, and more.
One of the top jerk chicken joints is Scotchies in Montego Bay.
Peanut Porridge is a common breakfast in Jamaica. If you do look for it, make sure you go early as its usually sold out before 9am!
What to do once in Jamaica...
1. Head to Negril for snorkeling, diving and even some cliff jumping
Many travelers prefer Negril to Montego Bay as it is slightly quieter with less tourists. The beaches of Negril are top destinations for snorkeling and diving. There are glass bottom boats you can take out for snorkeling as well.
After a delicious lobster lunch on the island, a "must-do" in Negril is visit Rick's Cafe. While it can feel a bit touristy during the peak season, it still is worth checking out. This cafe is built into the shore line up on the cliffs. Enjoy a cold beer, watch the sunset, listen to reggae music, and if you're up for it, go ahead and jump off the cliff into the crystal blue waters below.
2. Treat yourself to an all-inclusive resort in Montego Bay
Montego Bay, also referred to as "Mobay", is where the majority of Jamaica's all-inclusive resorts are located. While this does make it slightly more touristy, it is still a beautiful area to visit. And hey, there's nothing wrong with treating yourself with a resort vacation while still getting out and exploring the surrounding areas and local culture.
Still be cautious when venturing off your resort. Some areas locals and seasoned travelers say to avoid in Montego bay:
- Rose Heights
- Clavers Street and
- Hart Street
If you're looking for the best authentic jerk chicken in Montego Bay, stop by Jerk Pit (The Pork Pit) and you won't be disappointed.
3. Relax and explore 7 Mile Beach in Negril
Seven Mile Beach is 20 acres of Negril's finest beaches, where the scent of jasmine fills the air and the horizon line blurs from sea to sky. 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.
4. Hike up Dunn's River Falls
At a height of approximately 1,000 feet, Dunn's River Falls is one of Jamaica's national treasures. It is a famous waterfall near Ocho Rios. The waterfalls are terraced like giant stair steps, and while some are man-made improvements, it still allows for a unique experience hiking straight up the falls. Several small lagoons are interspersed among the vertical sections of the falls. Book a tour to check out Chuck Norris' secret lagoon areas and cliff jumping spots with your team!
5. Visit the Luminous Lagoon and view the magical bioluminescent phytoplankton
The Luminous Lagoon stretches along the marshlands of Trelawny from the small community of Rock to the town of Falmouth. The Lagoon is famous for being home to millions of dinoflagellates. At night, the lagoon sparkles and glistens when disturbed, as these microscopic organisms produce an eerie glow, reflecting the outlines of fish and other objects in the water. The Luminous Lagoon is said to be the largest and most brilliant of four in the world, a fact that continually attracts and awes visitors and scientists from around the world.
6. Bob Marley fans cannot miss a tour of Nine Mile
Visit the birthplace, hometown, and final resting place of the legendary Bob Marley, the father of Reggae, situated in Nine Mile St. Ann. Begin your tour with a close view of the house where Bob was born and then a walk through the house he lived in from a toddler of 6 months until he became a teenager. After learning about this rich history of Jamaica's musical Legend head off to enjoy delicious Jamaican cuisine at Scotchie's for authentic jerk chicken.
If you choose an authentic Jamaican bamboo raft, your captain will steer from the rear while you use teamwork to navigate the beautiful Martha Brae River. You'll enjoy passing over multiple rapids and stopping for a swim or a swing on the jungle rope by the river side.
For those that like a little more speed, take off on an exciting river tube ride along the White River where you'll be surrounded by beautiful scenery. You'll pass through coconut plantations, bamboo groves and see the locals in their riverside homes! Enjoy the challenging rapids as well as the enchanting and peaceful lagoons!
The Blue Hole is a series of secret falls located in St. Ann and known for its gorgeous icy blue water and a small waterfall, for your swimming pleasure.
After you finish splashing in the crystal blue waters end your day enjoying some of Jamaica's traditional dishes at the nearby markets.
Lonely Planet calls Treasure Beach "a gem for travelers in search of the off-beat. You won't find a more authentically charming and relaxing place in Jamaica."
Treasure Beach is "a string of sleepy fishing villages located off the beaten track on Jamaica's desert south coast...a community-based tourism destination involved and active in sustainable local development."
You can explore six miles of sandy beaches, private coves and rocky shorelines, while learning about the country's vibrant culture and rich history.
Bluefields Bay is a five star resort just an hour northwest of Treasure Beach. It is full of lush, private villas, sparkling pools, and beachside sunsets. Treat yourself and spend a little bit of time here during your visit.
The Green Grotto is among Jamaica's most prominent natural attractions. It is an unexplored labyrinth of mystical underground caverns called Green Grotto Caves which is surrounded by thick vegetation and supplied with pristine waters flowing from secret depths. The central feature of this natural attraction is the large labyrinthine limestone cave with its unique rock formations, its stalactites, stalagmites and abundance of overhead ceiling pockets, and bats.
10. Snap a photo at Bamboo Avenue
11. Grab a meal at Hellshire Beach
Famed for it's fried fish and safe swimming, Hellshire Beach is worth a stop to cool off from the hot Jamaican sun and to grab a quick bite with a view.
12. Take a Dreamer Catamaran Cruise
From snorkeling cruises to sunset cruises, sunshine and delicious drinks, aboard a catamaran is a great way to view Jamaica. Check out the photos below from a recent trip our Director of Events Summer Weirich treated herself to!
No matter why you come to Jamaica, we know you'll leave feeling All Right 😉 🇯🇲
I hope you've enjoyed reading some of my recommendations for traveling through Jamaica! If you check them out yourself, leave your favorites in the comments! If I didn't mention a place or experience that you think needs to be included, let me know at Rachel@RebelandConnect.co. Start booking your travels below!
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