Jamaica is a rebel country that grooves to its own reggae beat, unlike any other. It’s vibrant, lazy, and full of soul, just like a slow Sunday morning. Increeeedibly chill. Are you asking yourself (or the internet) “Is Jamaica worth visiting!?
Well, yes, it is. Jamaica has a bit of everything and is quite unique, versatile, and a bit weird.
If you picture Rastafarians with dreads, bright-colored beanies, and a rocking walk, that is part of it but far from all.
This is the island that gave the world reggae legends Peter Tosh and Bob Marley, after all. Yet Jamaica is a mountain full of all sorts of hidden sparkle for the ones that have the time to dig them out!
Here it’s time to move to a slower rhythm!
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Is Jamaica Worth Visiting Then?
Jamaica wants travelers to revel in its Caribbean gorgeousness.
Its people are known for their bright, welcoming spirituality (and occasional joint), so you can safely turn off the fast-driving beat of the city.
On a note slightly off point, it is truly remarkable how two Caribbean Islands so close to each other, like Cuba and Jamaica!
90 miles apart, have developed so incredibly different in absolutely all aspects.
What To Expect From Jamaica Holidays
Most people know Jamaica for its reggae and Rastafari religion. Or culture, it is probably more of a culture than a religion although there are quite a bit of ceremonies involved.
The island is more than its celebrity culture, though, and it doesn’t always present itself in the colors of the Rastafarian flag.
Its lush hills and lazy rivers offer a natural heritage that’s too often ignored. It has a developing economy with a strong upper-middle-class contingent.
In other words, travelers don’t need to give up their lush restaurants and air conditioning to enjoy Jamaica holidays 2022.
The island has all the luxury a sybarite could wish for. There’s no need to leave the hairdryers at home, but travelers should definitely leave their inhibitions back at home. Jamaica is best enjoyed with a free spirit.
The History | What Is Jamaica Known For?
The island was a colony of Spain for roughly 150 years until 1655, when England conquered it, renaming it Jamaica.
Under British colonial rule, Jamaica became a leading sugar exporter, with a plantation economy dependent on the African slaves, and later their descendants.
The island achieved independence from the United Kingdom in 1962, but politically it is a Commonwealth realm, with Elizabeth II as its queen.
As an upper-middle-income country with an economy heavily dependent on tourism; Jamaica has an average of 4.3 million tourists a year (more than its population!).
The country ranks high in measurements like press freedom and democratic governance and also ranked first in the Caribbean on the World Happiness Report for 2021.
There are almost three million people living on the island today, of which roughly half of them populate Kingston.
Why Go For A Jamaica Holidays!
Travelers on holidays in Jamaica 2022 can screech across rapids on ziplines, dip their toes into glowing blue lagoons, and travel between waterfalls in search of wild climbs and even wilder dives.
The island packs watery fun into every minute, whether that entails whitewater rafting in rainforests or leaping from impossible heights at Dunn’s River Falls.
Those who don’t have an inner water baby needn’t worry, though. There’s plenty to keep you entertained.
Jamaica is happy to occupy travelers with scenic horseback rides across the farmlands or domino games with the locals at the famous Pelican Bar built like a shack, a boat ride off the southern shore beach.
Be sure to pack the binoculars because dolphins often stop by to find out who’s winning the game.
Jamaica is more than its spicy nature and spicier foods (you MUST try the jerk chicken), it has an inner Picasso, too.
Cultural Events In Jamaica
The island’s artistic heritage is reflected through its intricate pottery and sculptures, which are displayed at The National Gallery of Jamaica.
The nation even gave birth to the famous poet Derek Walcott, who was just one of the many representatives of its powerful literary culture.
The National Dance Theatre Company is equally impressive, but casual travelers might enjoy the island’s steady lineup of festivals more.
Events In Jamaica Not To Miss!
There’s no better way to get that mento music groove on than during Bob Marley Week every year in February. The Caribbean lifestyle is punctuated by steel drums, bustling markets, and lively crafts.
Jamaica has enough soul to launch a thousand music genres, and it’s also one of the most beautiful islands in the world. If its world-class beaches and yummy jerk chicken aren’t convincing enough, its scuba dive sites are sure to impress.
Under the ocean, the Maize Reef shows off its Rasta side through its vivid reef colors and even brighter sea life. Yep, Peter Tosh’s spirit even haunts the deep.
Jamaica is truly an island of adventure, with enough rafting to satisfy the toughest adrenaline junkies.
However, if one asset rises above all the rest, it’s the island’s people. Travelling is after all supposed to immerse you in new cultures, and Jamaica’s is well worth the time.
Locals have their cultural heritage from Africa, Europe, and North America. That’s a veritable treasure trove of ethnographic complexity that straddles the divide between Afro-centered and Euro-centered.
That fascinating blend has resulted in a complex cultural inheritance that’s as flavorful as its spicy food.
Friendly, sociable habits have a way of immersing people in the Jamaican Patois. The islanders leap at new social opportunities, so this is one of the easiest vacation pursuits one can ever engage in.
Jamaica is primed for new friendships, even if they only last a few hours!
Jamaica Holidays Must Include Kingston
At first glance, Kingston appears to be a scruffy, rugged kind of place. Lots going on, lots of people, lots of cars, lots of everything, and hot. After a few days though, the picture is a bit more nuanced.
Kingston is perched on the planet’s seventh-biggest natural harbor, right on the cusp of the Blue Mountains super famous for its Blue Mountains branded coffee beans.
I booked a day tour in the Blue Mountains with Viator, and had the whole day and a private guide to myself, making it an amazing personal experience!
It’s the nation’s cultural and economic core, but most visitors celebrate it for its music. The region has been named a UNESCO Creative City of Music site, and it has all the bustle that goes with that title.
Downtown Kingston is a historic center crammed full of art museums and street markets. Trench Town Culture Yard dishes up green, red, and yellow murals and an authentic journey into Jamaican history.
The Olympia Gallery offers a thrilling dive into contemporary Caribbean art. It isn’t the Louvre, but that’s the entire point. This is the largest private gallery on the island, and its collection is as celebratory as the country itself.
Uptown Kingston is more concerned with history than art. It’s primed for historic walking tours and even has a canopy to protect visitors from rainy weather.
An important part of the history of Kingston is also the old Port Royal fort, located on a narrow peninsula partly protecting downtown Kingston from the Caribbean sea.
There is a road all the way out, so go there with your rental (Kingstoners drive, they don’t walk), or take a (registered) taxi.
The uptown and downtown districts present two very different sides of Jamaican history.
The former whispers tales of the immigrants and entrepreneurs who developed the maritime area. The latter represents New Kingston—a cultural and commercial capital that contrasts dramatically with Jamaica’s flamboyant, joyous nature.
Of course, Jamaica is nothing without its beaches.
Hellshire Beach about 20 minutes outside Kingston is one of its most popular coastlines, so find an umbrella and rent a ski boat.
Fort Clarence beach blends ragga rhythms with the thrum of the ocean. This is the spot for trying sweet fried dumplings.
What Is Negril Jamaica Known For?
Negril is Jamaica’s longest natural beach. It was a hippie colony in the Disco Era, but these days, it’s better known for its crafts than its tie-dye bellbottoms.
The beach stretches across four miles below precipitous cliffs, and every single meter has enough character to win an Oscar Award.
Negril has held onto some of its hippie roots. It’s the site of frequent impromptu reggae concerts, but those who don’t want to leave their musical experiences to chance can dance the night away at Miss Lily’s Beach Resort.
Pushcart Restaurant & Rum Bar also dishes up a long series of nightly performances that cover everything from Afrobeat to Reggae.
Negril’s scuba dives are as legendary as its resorts. The Throne Room, a fairly low but wide cave with openings on both ends, lies just off this stretch of coast and is named after its massive sponge “throne”.
The orange elephant ear sponges that flourish here are the largest in Jamaica,
This is one throne game that Bran can’t win, so put on those flippers and explore! The site carries divers to depths of up to 70 feet, where an artificial reef was created from a sunken plane.
Seven Mile Beach, though, tells tales of a different kind. Bloody Bay once hosted a real pirate battle, but today, people visit peacefully for its artificial reef.
Cruiser Paradise Ocho Rios Port Town
Ochos Rios is an Eighties fishing village-turned-tourist hotspot. It’s a renowned gastronomic destination that crams fun activities into every square foot for the active adventurer.
Ocho Rios Port is also where large cruise ships stop by regularly, letting myriads of cruisers onshore for a day to explore.
When you arrive, step right up for a soak in the famous Blue Hole, where paradise expresses itself through a series of artfully-rendered waterfalls. The area is accessed via an easy cave climb, which leads to a lush, overgrown forest.
Those who arrive by car can access Spanish Bridge — one of Ocho Rios’ most magical watery attractions. The giant bamboo and lazy river bends create the perfect scenery for a sedate day. Don’t forget to pack a picnic!
Dunn’s River Falls is a few kilometers from Ochos Rios’ town center. This didn’t become Jamaica’s top-grossing attraction without reason.
This is a natural wonder crafted from layers of limestone, which are gorgeously lined by lush rainforest canopies.
Montego Bay On The Northern Shore
Montego Bay is a lot like Tom Hardy. On the surface, it’s handsome and glossy, but if you dig beneath the skin of things, it has a fascinatingly resolute interior.
The grit of the city goes beyond its urban appearance.
Ironshore dishes up all the hipster class one could wish for, but its hustlers and musicians bring a certain ambiance to the streets.
Things To Do In Montego Bay
Sam Sharpe Square was the sight of the famous Christmas Rebellion of the 1800s—an event it salutes at its National Heroes Monument. Cage is now open to tourists in the form of a craft shop, but it used to hold vagrants, louts, and slaves.
The Marine Park and Bogue Lagoon offer plenty of watery entertainment, whether that means fishing, watersports, or a lazy stroll amongst the mangroves.
The park stretches towards Bogue Lagoon, where anglers can rent canoes for the day. Twitchers will love its feathered population more, of course, so grab some binoculars and see how many pelicans you can spot.
One can’t experience Jamaica without giving a nod toward Rastafarianism. Most cities do have a Rastafarian center where you can learn about the religion, or way of life as some prefer to call it.
Make sure to visit Montego Bay’s indigenous Rasta Village to know what it is all about.
Lonely Planet aptly called it “a living interpretive exhibit”. It’s always buzzing with dreadlocked craftsmen and piles of medicinal plants.
Finish the tour at the National Museum West, which explores Western Jamaica’s indigenous Tainos and Cohaba cultures beautifully.
Montego Bay has a side for foodies, too, so don’t leave without tasting some red snapper, ackee, and saltfish.
The city’s cuisine is dripping in homeliness. Its curry goat is endemic and delightfully tender. In between meals, Montego Bay residents snack on addictive Jamaican patties, best bought straight from the street vendors.
The Best Time For Jamaica Holidays
Even Mother Nature is generally laid back in Jamaica. She offers year-round tropical weather with no winter to speak of. So supposing winter is not your zen thing, any season goes, really.
Temperatures rarely rise above 81 degrees, so the island serves up comfortable, clear beach days all year. The two dry seasons fall between July and August, and December and April, so these months are primed for sporty travelers.
July also is the hottest, quietest month of the year.
Hotels and restaurants gear up for an influx of tourists in November and December, the island’s top tourism months. With hurricane season behind it, Jamaica offers clear-weather days for months on end.
The island’s festival circuit is as important as its weather, so music fans should plan for Jamaica’s finest fests.
The Reggae Sumfest brings Rasta rhythms to Montego Bay every July. The country gets together to celebrate its greatest musical export with February’s Bob Marley week, and the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival springs back to life in January.
Those who’d rather eat than boogie can break their diets with the Portland Jerk Festival in October. Delish!
What is the currency in Jamaica?
The Jamaican dollar (JMD) is the island’s monetary unit, and 1000 Jamaican dollars equals around US$ 6.45.
Most inclusive resorts and tourism hot spots also largely accept US dollars in cash, as well as credit, and debit cards.
The island is an emerging economy, so its prices will give backpackers a happy heart. Locals can expect to pay just US$20 for a meal and US$11 for public transport.
Jamaica does have its expensive areas, though. In some hotspots, prices are jacked up by as much as 40%, so budget carefully and do your research.
In Kingston’s up-town high-end areas, you can expect the prices to be higher in shops and malls, while street markets in the downtown area are a lot nicer to your wallet – but also a lot more crowded and busy.
In March 2022 Hostelworld offers accommodation down to $15 a night for dorms and $30 for privates for the vagabond low-budget end travelers.
On the other end of the spectrum, you can get a room at high-end hotels like the Courtyard by Marriot in Kingston for $146 a night.
I booked a one-bedroom apartment with a kitchen, access to a pool, patio, and parking in New Kingston through Airbnb for $78 a night.
This was an apartment complex with a security guard at the gate, which is normal in Kingston. Perfect for anyone wanting the privacy of an apartment, and who prefers to organize meals and such on their own.
Jamaica Holidays And Safety!
The very first few days ever, in Kingston, I was a bit taken aback by all the precautionary advice I got from people I met regarding safety and security.
Although considering myself a rather experienced solo female traveler, I think the only other place where the level of recommendations has been on this level, probably is cities in Columbia.
After a couple of weeks, the picture is a bit more nuanced though. My brilliant Kingston guide Marlon helped me understand the dos and don’ts, and then not to worry.
Still, Jamaica is not like a lazy village where you can walkabout 24/7 waving your phone.
Crime Rate In Kingston Jamaica & Hot Zones
Violent crime in Kinston is still mostly connected to gangs and internal fighting, and in this respect, the biggest danger for you as a traveler would be if you somehow happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
There have been some reports of violent criminal acts, particularly in Kingston.
Areas that you probably should avoid (on your own) are Tivoli Gardens, Whitfield Town, Payne Land, West Kingston, Grant’s Pen, Trench Town, August Town, Denham Town, and Hannah Town to mention a few.
A Few Safety Advice For Kingston
This is why it is clever to ask the hotel staff or your hosts for general advice for the area where you are staying, and for safety advice in general.
If you want to explore anyways, book a guide that knows the area thoroughly, and who will make sure you are safe while not missing out on any of the vibrant parts of the city.
ATM and credit card fraud is increasing in Kingston, so be vigilant when you are handling your card and money.
There are ATMs inside banks or in little booths, which is preferable to ATMs on the street. In any circumstance, stay vigilant of your surroundings.
In the daytime, you are ok to walk around if you prefer (although Kingstoners drive, they don’t walk a lot), but stick to open public areas.
While in the night you definitely should take a taxi or Uber, or drive your rental if you have one. Also, avoid taking public transport at night.
If you drive, use a GPS to find your way, in order to avoid finding yourself lost in parts of the city you don’t want to be, like Trench Town.
If you are a woman traveling alone, the particular rule is, do NOT walk alone anywhere at night. If you want to go out, take a taxi from door to door, in both directions.
Keep Your Pockets And Bags Closed
Pickpocketing and robberies are quite common, so don’t wear your bag on your back, keep your bags and pockets closed, and don’t carry a lot of money or valuables with you when you are exploring.
Minor thefts and robberies can also occur in hotels and resorts, so don’t make the mistake of dropping your guard there either. Use safe storage or the safe in your room.
If you, unfortunately, should be subject to Murphy’s Law and find yourself in a confrontational situation, the best thing you can do is stay calm, and just comply – don’t resist.
Is Jamaica Safe For Solo Female Travelers?
Walking around Kingston as a solo female, you are going to get comments on the streets in variable intervals, also in the daytime. A mixture of compliments, obscenities, or just “hey babe” from a passer-by or someone in a car.
Advice on handling that tends to vary a bit, but I normally just ignore them and keep on with my “walking confidently” attitude.
Violent crimes which include sexual assault and robbery are not uncommon, and they often happen after a person has taken ‘spiked’ food or drink.
You definitely should avoid responding to friendly strangers, and not accept anything from them. Stay alert to your surroundings, and keep a distance from anyone that gives off a bad vibe.
Work on your confident “bad bitch” attitude when you are on the move (although you normally prefer to be polite and inviting), using your posture to signal confidence and that you are not a lost tourist.
If you are out in bars or clubs, make sure to watch your drink, and don’t accept anyone offering to buy you one either.
16 best Kingston Safety Advice From The Locals!
Here is the best concrete advice the locals have given me to stay safe and minimize the risk of bad things happening to you in Jamaica!
- Carry a small bag with only what you need, and DON’T carry it facing the road (there are motorcycle snatchers)
- Keep your (closed) purse on your front, not on your back
- Remember that wearing a fanny pack screams tourist
- Remove valuable jewelry
- Don’t carry a lot of cash with you
- Bring several credit cards, and only carry one with you
- Keep your money in different places (even in your bra!)
- Avoid using your phone in crowded areas, and be vigilant (again, snatchers)
- Keep your phone in your waistband or a hidden pocket, not in your purse
- Be vigilant at ATMs and when handling money
- Don’t walk around alone at night
- Avoid public transport at night
- Use registered taxis that have red number plates with white numbers
- Stay in populated streets and avoid desolate areas 24/7
- Watch the locals, and do what they do
- Walk with confidence!
Getting Around Jamaica!
Jamaica is not really a huge island, and for getting around Jamaica you are only a few hours away from a different destination.
- Car rental in Jamaica
- Knutsford Express Bus Company
- Registered taxis
- Uber from Apple Store or Google Play
If you like your freedom and flexibility, renting a car is a great option for you. However, keep in mind they drive on “the wrong side” of the road in Jamaica (unless you are British or Australian), which might take some getting used to!
If that is not a problem, you’ll be fine, and remember to use your GPS in the cities in order to stay out of areas you don’t want to find yourself as a lost tourist.
If you don’t want to take on the driving challenge, there are great long-haul bus services readily available between the main destinations like the Knutsford Express.
You can make a Knutsford Express account real quick online, and do all your bookings from their home page.
Within city or parish limits, getting a taxi from place to place is a good and easy option.
Remember to use registered taxis only, you can recognize them by their red number plates with white writing. You can haul them on the streets, or call a taxi company for pick-up or drop-off.
You can also choose the super convenient luxury option to take a taxi between destinations, getting you from door to door, just make sure to agree on the price beforehand!
Traveling To Jamaica
Six major US airlines fly directly to Jamaica every day. American Airlines, JetBlue, Delta, Virgin Atlantic, KLM, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and Caribbean Airlines all fly non-stop to Jamaica.
There are also direct routes from New York City and The Windy City, Chicago.
Travelers can also fly in from Boston via Aruba. Those traveling from the South can take a direct flight from Hobby International to Belize—a trip of fewer than three hours.
There are also non-stop flights between Jamaica and Midway International Airport in Chicago.
Wrap-Up Is Jamaica Worth Visiting!
Jamaica is one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean, and there are numerous reasons to choose the Jamaica holidays!
More than a holiday destination, there is a particular lifestyle in Jamaica that seeps into every visitor’s bones.
The island has one of the world’s finest ports, so sea travel comes with top-notch facilities. There’s no better way to get into the Caribbean spirit than by toasting the ocean on a deck at sunset.
There are 334 miles between Miami and Jamaica, so a cruise trip usually lasts about 3 -7 days.
Read about the relationship between Jamaica and the US if you want to learn more!
The cultural buzz is indelible, and visitors often find their hearts still beating to a different “riddem” long after they have arrived home from their Jamaica holidays!
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