Jamaica, the third largest Island in the Caribbean behind Cuba and Hispaniola, is a vacation destination that demands to be on the short list of all people who want to experience the best the Caribbean has to offer. The unique mixture of African culture with those of the Spanish colonizers, the English who took over the Island in 1655, the Chinese and Indian immigrants who came over as laborers after the abolishment of slavery, can’t be found anywhere else in the Caribbean. more...
Jamaica, the third largest Island in the Caribbean behind Cuba and Hispaniola, is a vacation destination that demands to be on the short list of all people who want to experience the best the Caribbean has to offer. The unique mixture of African culture with those of the Spanish colonizers, the English who took over the Island in 1655, the Chinese and Indian immigrants who came over as laborers after the abolishment of slavery, can’t be found anywhere else in the Caribbean.
The island is located 90 miles south of Cuba and 550 miles south of Miami. The official language of Jamaica is English but Jamaican Patois, known locally as Patois or Jamaican is widely spoken. When convenient, try to visit Jamaica during carnival or one of the many music or food festivals. The beaches are fantastic year round and finding a place to dance, eat or party won’t be a problem anywhere on the island. Jamaica also is a paradise for practicing outdoor activities. No matter if you like water sports such as fishing, scuba diving and sailing or prefer to keep your feet dry while going for a hike, mountain bike ride or a round of golf, Jamaica is the place to be.
Although in some parts of Jamaica, especially Kingston crime rates are high compared to other Caribbean destinations, visiting this island is still relatively save. Just use your common sense and remember to take taxis after dark.
The main tourist destinations are Montego Bay, Negril, Ocho Rios, Runaway Bay and to a much lesser extend Kingston, the Capital.
Montego Bay the capital of the Parish of St. James and the second city in Jamaica is situated on the northwest coast. This port city is made up of two distinct parts: the main tourist strip Gloucester Avenue, also known as the "Hip Strip", which offers some of the best restaurants you’ll find in Jamaica and the actual city or "downtown". Montego Bay has some very beautiful white sand beaches namely Cornwall Beach and Doctor’s Cave Beach, which helped to establish Montego Bay as a resort town. Visit Belvedere Estate, one of the first sugar cane plantations in Jamaica, which is now a working citrus, banana, and coconut plantation. Montego Bay also boast the Aquasol theme park which features a giant water slide, go-kart track, a sports bar and one of the town’s many happening nightclubs.
For a more laid back and authentic Jamaican vacation try Negril, or the "Capital of Casual”. Negril is a fabulous place to witness some of Jamaica’s finest sunsets. The combination of dramatic rugged cliffs on the West End and the island’s finest beach known as the "7-Mile Beach" is what makes Negril absolutely unique. Negril is still the ideal place to meet and make friends with the Jamaicans, especially during the day. T-shirts, flip-flops and a swimsuit are all that you'll need to enjoy this tropical oasis. Go snorkeling diving or try scuba diving at the offshore coral reef, watch a spectacular sunset, listen to reggae music and dance until dawn. The Rock House in Negril offers amazing views of the ocean and nearby cliff divers. When traveling with kids I recommend that you stay at Negril’s beach section because the high cliffs are often not fenced off and therefore dangerous for the little ones. Guide your kids when it comes to for example soft drugs, which is frequently being offered despite the presence of the police.
Ocho Rios, still one of the favorite cruise ship ports in the Caribbean is the first town in Jamaica that was developed specifically as a resort. The former fishing town features many duty-free stores, fast-food chains, bars, clubs and restaurants. Ocho Rios may lack the authenticity that you will find in for example Negril but does offer fabulous shopping, great diving sites and an exiting nightlife. You can stay in one of many all-inclusive resorts with private beaches or opt for a budget hotel. The 183-meter Dunn's River Falls is one of the very few waterfalls in the world that actually empties directly into the sea. Despite the overload of tourists who arrive on any given day, Dunn's River Falls remains one of Jamaica’s highlights to visit. Many tourists come from near and far to visit the Bob Marley Mausoleum located in the tranquil village of Nine Mile, situated 1.5 hour from Ocho Rios. Nine Mile house is both the birth and burial place of Jamaica’s most celebrated artist, Bob Marley. You can visit his childhood home and a cottage with two rooms where Bob Marley family keepsakes are on exhibit.
Just 16 km west of Ocho Rios you find Runaway Bay, an emerging Jamaican destination. Runaway Bay was the first part of the island seen by Columbus, the site of the first Spanish settlement on the island, and the point of departure of the last Spaniards leaving Jamaica following their defeat by the British.
The waters around Runaway Bay are home to millions of tropical fish that feed near the coral reefs just off shore. This makes Runaway bay a paradise for diving and snorkeling enthusiasts. When possible, bring your own snorkeling gear because renting snorkeling equipment often is expensive. Horseback riding is another popular activity while golfers can play a round of golf at the Superclubs Runaway Golf Course. Runaway Bay is blessed with captivating natural features such as the Pear Tree River and the Green Grotto Caves; the largest and most accessible caves on the island. Runaway Bay may not be as happening as Ocho Rios or Montego Bay, it definitely is a great choice if you like to relax under the Jamaican sun and there are plenty of charming all-inclusive resorts to choose from.
I saved the Jamaican capital, Kingston for last since many tourists choose to ignore this fascinating but rather violent town. Without a doubt there are areas you should avoid. Travel only by taxi at night and always keep an eye on your belongings. The fact remains that Kingston is the political, cultural and commercial capital of Jamaica. Uptown, also known as New Kingston, you will find some of the finest restaurants and luxury hotels of Jamaica. Definitely worth visiting is the National Gallery that features a world-class collection of work by the island’s Jamaica’s best artists, including John Dunkley, Edna Manley, and Kapo. The Bob Marley Museum is housed in the same building where Bob Marley lived and recorded until his death in 1981 and is Kingston’s most visited attraction.
When Kingston get’s too much you can quickly escape to the Blue Mountains which foothills start about 15 kilometers north of town and reach eastward towards the Caribbean Sea. The Blue Mountains are much more humid and cooler than the rest of Jamaica. More than 500 flowering plant species can be found in this area, about 240 of which are indigenous to the island. The highest point in the range is Blue Mountain Peak (2,256 meters). The Blue Mountains are covered with tree ferns and coffee fields, producing top quality coffee beans that are considered to be among the best that money can buy. For Nature enthusiast, the mountains reveal an astonishingly complex series of ecosystems that change radically as you climb from sea level to the fog-shrouded peaks.
With so many unique and distinctly different destinations, choosing where to go in Jamaica might turn out to be the hardest part of your vacation.