Every tourist dreams of visiting Jamaica, and you are bound to have the time of your life if you go. Even before you leave the island paradise, you’ll already be making plans to return! Read on for the ultimate guide to visiting Jamaica.
What’s Jamaica Famous for?
For such a small island, Jamaica has really made its presence felt on the world stage in a big way. Jamaica is famous for being the birthplace of reggae, the legendary Bob Marley and the fastest sprinters in the world.
The island nation is also known for:
- Jamaican Rum
- Blue Mountain Coffee
- Red Stripe Beer
- Jerk Meat
- Cannabis/ Marijuana/ Ganja
- Beautiful Beaches
- Majestic Waterfalls
- Luxurious All-Inclusive Resorts
How Many Days Do I Need in Jamaica?
It depends. If you don’t plan on leaving your all-inclusive resort, then one week in Jamaica will be enough. However, if you plan to get off the hotel grounds, you will need about 10-12 days to be able to get a taste of Jamaica and enjoy some excursions.
Jamaica has both beautiful beaches and dramatic mountain landscapes. If you spend your entire vacation on the beach, you will miss out on the beautiful waterfalls and mountain areas that make Jamaica unique. Instead, spend a day or two away from the ocean and go hiking in the forest.
As an itinerary guide, you could do 2-3 days (or more) in Negril, 2-3 days in Kingston, 2-3 days in Ocho Rios, 2-3 days in the Blue Mountains, and 2-3 days in Montego Bay. This will give you plenty of time to really explore the island, meet the locals, chat with them and have fun.
The mistake most visitors do is overbook themselves, when the whole point of Jamaica is to relax, explore and feel the vibes. Many others visit Jamaica as part of a cruise, and end up missing out on large areas of the island as they only get to spend a day in one area.
What Are the Major Tourist Resort Areas in Jamaica?
Jamaica has 6 major tourist resort areas. These are:
- Kingston: The Kingston resort area hosts the cultural hub and capital city of Jamaica. In fact, Kingston is the birthplace of legendary reggae musician Bob Marley. Visitors to Kingston can enjoy the tranquil scenery along the south eastern coast.
- Montego Bay: The Montego Bay resort area stretches along the western end of Jamaica’s north coast and is famous for its sprawling resorts and great nightlife. Adventure travelers can go spelunking in caves hidden within the hills of Trelawny.
- Negril: The Negril resort area is centered on Jamaica’s most westerly town. Negril boasts the best beaches in Jamaica including the world-famous Seven Mile Beach. Visitors flock to Negril to enjoy spectacular sunsets and the laid-back vibe.
- Ocho Rios: The Ocho Rios resort area is home to many of Jamaica’s most iconic attractions, as well as beautiful gardens. Ocho Rios is also famous for hosting the quiet town of Oracabessa, once home to “James Bond” creator Ian Fleming.
- Port Antonio: The Port Antonio resort area is the most beautiful area in Jamaica. Famous for its distinct natural beauty, Port Antonio is characterized by majestic waterfalls, sheltered coves and winding rivers, nestled in the surroundings of lush, dense flora.
- South Coast: The Southern Coast resort areas are known for their dark sandy beaches, and off-the-beaten path experiences among wetlands, rivers and ponds. This region offers a true escape into the Jamaican countryside with idyllic stays at seaside cottages.
What is the Most Beautiful Part of Jamaica?
Portland is the most beautiful part of Jamaica. Specifically, the Portland side of the Blue Mountains is one of the lushest, waterfall filled places in the world. The main hub of Portland, Port Antonio is a lush, tropical town nestled at the foot of the Blue Mountains, and bordered by gorgeous beaches and cliffs along the Caribbean Sea.
Port Antonio is really off the beaten path, and perfect for it. More of an ecotourism destination, Port Antonio is quaint and undeveloped, without being too remote. In fact, Port Antonio has no traditional all-inclusive resorts whatsoever. And this is part of the charm of the area – that although it’s a tourist destination, it’s still quite removed from tourism.
But for beach connoisseurs who are attracted by white sands, clear, calm waters, soft ocean breezes and amazing snorkeling, then Negril would be the most beautiful part of Jamaica. A beach-lovers’ paradise, Negril is home to one of the world’s best beaches, which boasts 5 miles of soft white sands lined by dramatic cliffs.
Where Do Celebrities Stay in Jamaica?
Many celebrities visiting Jamaica stay in Negril, which is one of the most popular celebrity vacation hotspots for music and film stars. In particular, The Caves in Negril is a small, private and exclusive hotel that boasts a huge celebrity clientele.
Outside of Negril, celebrities often frequent the Golden Eye in Oracabessa, as well as the Blue Lagoon Villas in Portland. Other celebrity favorites include the Grand Lido and the Rock House, both in Negril.
Where Should I Stay When Visiting Jamaica?
The main tourist areas to stay in Jamaica are Montego Bay, Negril and Ocho Rios. Below is an overview of each destination.
Boasting the largest concentration of resorts on the island, the city of Montego Bay is the tourist capital of Jamaica. Below are the pros of Montego Bay:
- It is closest to the airport, with most hotels being a 15 minute drive away.
- It’s ideal for golfing enthusiasts as it has a large number of golf courses.
- Its location halfway between Ocho Rios and Negril provides easy access to most attractions across the island.
- Travelers can easily take day trips to Negril, Ocho Rios and the South Coast.
- It’s close to attractions such as Luminous Lagoon, Rose Hall Great House, Martha Brae and Ras Natango Gallery.
- It has a large number of all-inclusive resorts, from budget to luxury hotel options.
- It has a large number of restaurants.
- The nightlife is good.
- It hosts popular reggae events such as Reggae Sumfest.
Negril is a small town famous for its long, white sand beaches and carefree, easy-going atmosphere. Below are the pros of Negril:
- It boasts the most beautiful beaches in the whole of Jamaica, including the world-famous Seven Mile Beach. For travelers looking to maximize their beach time during a trip to Jamaica, Negril is the best place to stay.It has a large number of restaurants and bars, especially along the beach.
- Most of the entertainment revolves around the beach.
- It has lots of beach activities.
- It has good diving sites.
- It has many bed and breakfast hotels, villas, and non-all-inclusive hotels. But keep in mind that if you choose to stay at a hotel on the West End, you won’t have beach access.
- Because few attractions are located close to Negril, most will require a day trip.
- The nearest airport to Negril is the Sangster International Airport located in Montego Bay. The drive to Negril from Montego Bay airport is around 90 minutes.
Known locally as “Ochi”, Ocho Rios is a sleepy fishing village that has morphed into one of the main tourist regions in Jamaica. Below are the pros of Ocho Rios:
- It has a large number of attractions.
- Most attractions are around 15-20 minutes from your hotel.
- It has a large number of all-inclusive hotels.
- It is a great location for a family vacation or family reunion, with lots of fun activities for the whole family.
- It has several major tourist attractions in close proximity to each other, including Dunn’s River Falls, Mystic Mountain, Dolphin Cove, Prospect Outback Adventures and the Blue Hole.
- It also has 2 golf courses nearby.
- Ocho Rios is located approximately 2 hours from the airport in Montego Bay, and 1.5 hours from the airport in Kingston.
Where Should You Not Stay in Jamaica?
Although tourists in Jamaica are rarely victims or targets of crime, there are certain areas in Montego Bay, Negril and Kingston that are regarded as Jamaican high risk crime hotspots.
While it is highly unlikely that tourists would visit these communities, its best to avoid them anyway as they are not safe.
- Kingston: In Kingston, avoid staying at Downtown, Cassava Piece, Trench Town, Tivoli Gardens, Denham Town, Arnett Gardens and Mountain View.
- Montego Bay: In Montego Bay, avoid staying in areas like Norwood, Flankers, Canterbury, Rose Heights, Hart Street and Clavers Street.
- Negril: In Negril, stick to the well-traveled areas such as the West End, which are generally safe. If possible, avoid staying outside the West End.
How much is a Trip to Jamaica for a Week?
For a week-long trip to Jamaica, plan to spend around J$107,313 (US $767) per person. Tourists in Jamaica spend an average of J$15,330 (US $110) per day. This includes J$3,051 (US $22) on meals and J$1,413 (US $10) on transportation. The average hotel cost in Jamaica for a couple is J$21,361 (US $149).
What if I Am Staying at an All Inclusive Resort?
If you will be staying at an all-inclusive resort, you will not need a lot of money for a week in Jamaica. You may simply bring about US $400 in US $1 or US $5 bills, which you can use to give tips and buy souvenirs. Also bring a credit card or debit card just in case of additional spending.