What are the best things to see and do in Jamaica?

Christopher Reckord

Jamaica offers something for everyone, whether you’re interested in exploring the rich culture, natural beauty, exotic food or Rastafarian music of the island. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s picks for the best things to see and do in Jamaica:
 
1. Hit the beach. Jamaica’s original inhabitants named the island Xaymaca, meaning “land of wood and water," and no visitor should without enjoying the white sand beaches along the entire north coast. Negril, on the western tip of the island, is home to a seven-mile beach and the famous cliff jump at Rick’s Café  — a must for adventure-seekers. Stick around for gorgeous sunsets.  

2. See how rum is made. If you enjoy the honeyed rum served everywhere on the island, head to a local distillery to learn how the best is made. The Appleton Estate has been making rum for 260 years and offers good tours.

3. Go for a hike. Just outside of Ocho Rios, head into the Blue Mountain foothills for a family-friendly hike up to Dunn’s River Falls. It’s a famous Jamaican attraction and takes two to four hours to complete, depending on your hiking speed.

4. Tour Port Royal. If you’re wandering near the capital city of Kingston on the south side of the island, visit the notorious 17th-Century pirate haven of Port Royal. A former shipping center and bawdy port city, it was once known as the "richest and wickedest” city in the world.

5. Visit the Bob Marley Museum. A must for music buffs, the museum is set in Marley’s former residence at 56 Hope Road. The museum portrays the life and achievements of the history-making Rastafarian.

  • On September 5, 2012
    Christopher Reckord answered the question: Christopher Reckord

    Where are the best beaches in Jamaica?

    Jamaica is dotted with wonderful beaches, some private and some public. But if you’re looking for the best beaches on the island, Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend you try these:
     
    1. Seven Mile Beach in Negril. Once inhabited by pirates, Seven Mile Beach is now home to a number of high-end hotels and a few small bars and restaurants through which you can access the beach.
     
    2. Doctor’s Cave Beach in Montego Bay. This small beach (it’s only 300 yards long) is stocked with changing rooms, showers and lavatories. There is also a bar called Groovy Grouper where you can get quick meals and drinks.
     
    3. Silver Sands Beach in Duncan’s. Some say that the Silver Sands Beach, which is about 40 minutes east of Montego Bay, is the best in Jamaica. It is the home of some of the finest villas on the north coast of the island.
     
    4. Turtle Beach in Ocho Rios. This public beach is swarming with activity. Head here to rent a sailboat or pick up a game of volleyball.
     
    5. Lime Cay in Kingston. A 15-minute boat ride from the world-famous Port Royal takes you to the tiny island of Lime Cay, where you’ll find clear waters, white sands and little else. It is the perfect spot for a day of swimming, snorkeling and yachting near the big city. This public beach is open to anyone who can get there.
  • On September 5, 2012
    Christopher Reckord answered the question: Christopher Reckord

    What is the best thing to bring home from Jamaica?

    They are many local souvenirs to choose from, and visitors can take their pick of wood carvings, oil paintings or Jamaican CDs. Gourmets will definitely come home with Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, grown and roasted in Jamaica. It’s a tasty coffee considered one of the best in the world that’s certified by the Jamaica Coffee Board. Some great Blue Mountain brands include: Café Blue, Coffee Traders, Country Traders, Jablum, Marley Coffee and Wallenford Blue. It’s also a good idea to pick up extra Appleton Estate rum for future summer evenings back home. Foodies can bring home a box of frozen Jamaican beef patties — a popular local snack of pastry shell filled with meat and spices. Jerk seasonings and Jamaican cookbooks also make great souvenirs.
  • On September 5, 2012
    Christopher Reckord answered the question: Christopher Reckord

    What are the best Jamaican food experiences?

    You’ll find every part of Jamaica to be rich in local foods that capture the flavor of the island. Here are local food experiences that Forbes Travel Guide editors say shouldn’t be missed in Jamaica:
     
    1. Jerk cuisine. Visit The Boston Jerk Centre, ground zero for tasting the island’s famous jerk cuisine. A collection of fire pits and open-air food stalls near Boston Beach sells seafood, chicken and meats that have been spiced with a combo of Scotch bonnet pepper, pimento and cinnamon.  
     
    2. Faith’s Pen. A collection of tiny cooking huts about 30 minutes outside of Ocho Rios you’ll find the full range of Jamaica’s best comfort foods such as roast corn, curry goat, escoveitch fish and patties.
     
    3. Ackee and saltfish. For this classic breakfast dish made from the golden ackee fruit paired with salted fish, head to Little Ochi in Alligator Pond on the southern coast. You’ll also find local favorites like steamed fish with festival (corn bread fritters) and bammy (cassava root flatbread).
     
    4. Floyd’s Pelican Bar. Located just about a mile off shore, Floyd's Pelican Bar is one of the coolest places to enjoy a libation like roots wine, Red Stripe Beer or the Pelican Perfection, a cocktail of rum, ginger beer and lime. The rustic cafe is built in the middle of the Caribbean Sea from driftwood and tree trunks, and is only reached by boat.
     
    5. Coconut anything. The sight of coconut palms is ubiquitous around the island and cooks use the fruit heavily. Drink coconut water – often known as nature’s Gatorade — out of a green coconut, or enjoy a dessert like the coconut tart called gizada, grater cake, or the chewy coconut candy called shamshuku.
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  • On September 5, 2012
    Christopher Reckord answered the question: Christopher Reckord

    Where is the best nightlife in Jamaica?

    Some of the best nightlife in Jamaica can be found in Kingston, where most places are a five- or 10-minute drive away from the hotel areas. Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest heading to The Fiction Night Club to dance (Wednesday and Friday night are popular times to go) or to Red Bones Blues Café to listen to live music. Head to Devon House to grab some drinks at The Mahogany Tree Bar or have a laid-back night at Jamaica’s only wine bar, Bin 26. If you’re staying anywhere between Negril, Montego Bay or Ocho Rios, all the major hotels provide nightly live entertainment onsite (check with the concierge if you would like to venture off the property to see what is happening close by). If you’re in the party mood while in Montego Bay, head over to Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville on the “Hip Strip.”
  • On September 5, 2012
    Christopher Reckord answered the question: Christopher Reckord

    What is the best way to see Jamaica in one day?

    It’s challenging to see all of Jamaica in one day — the island’s rugged mountainous terrain means that it can take four or five hours to get from one side to the other — so it’s best to focus on just one part of Jamaica. Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend exploring the North Coast of Jamaica.
     
    Start the day in Ocho Rios with an authentic Jamaican breakfast at Miss T’s Kitchen. Next, head to Dunn’s River Falls for a climb and have lunch 700 feet high atop Mystic Mountain (you could also grab a quick bobsled ride through the forest while there). Stop in Montego Bay and grab a delicious jumbo malt from The Pelican Grill Restaurant, which has been open since 1964. Then, take a scenic drive to Negril (it’s just over an hour away) and choose your last adventure of the day. We suggest either doing a cliff dive at the world famous Rick’s Café or sitting down for a relaxing dinner at the Rockhouse Restaurant & Bar on the cliffs in Negril to watch the sun go down.
  • On September 5, 2012
    Christopher Reckord answered the question: Christopher Reckord

    Where is the best shopping in Jamaica?

    While Jamaica might not be known as a shopping destination when compared to its Caribbean cousin St. Barts, for example, it still boasts a healthy collection of designer retailers. The airports and main tourist areas of Negril, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios have duty-free shopping centers with jewelry boutiques from Patek Philippe, David Yurman, Chopard, Chanel, Cartier, Rolex, Breitling, Bulgari and TAG Heuer. For one-stop shopping, head to Time Square Mall in Negril; Shoppes at Rose Hall or Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay; and Taj Mahal Mall, Soni’s Plaza and Harbour Shops Plaza in Ocho Rios.
     
    Each of these resort areas also features craft markets where you can buy a range of souvenirs, including shot glasses, wood carvings, and that sunhat you suddenly need after a long beach day. Many craftsmen will also personalize handmade items for you, engraving your name into carvings or sewing initials into a Jipijapa hat — a lightweight style that’s similar to a Panama hat. Buyers be warned — vendors might enthusiastically and sometimes aggressively pursue you in craft areas.
  • On September 5, 2012
    Christopher Reckord answered the question: Christopher Reckord

    What are the best things to do with kids in Jamaica?

    In addition to family-friendly beaches and restaurants, Jamaica offers tons of fun activities for kids to enjoy. These are the best things to do with kids as suggested by Forbes Travel Guide:
     
    1. Hike Dunn’s River Falls. A top attraction for water-loving hikers, the guided climb up the cascading, 600-foot waterfall is easy enough for the entire family. Bring a snack, bathing suit and dry socks, as the round-trip hike will take between two and four hours and you will definitely get wet. Guides are available to lead groups up the hike, which helps you avoid sharp rocks. The trailhead is just outside of the resort town of Ocho Rios, but it’s about a two-hour drive each way from Kingston or Montego Bay.  Be prepared for the usual tourist experience at the end of these types of trips — requests for tips and eager vendors trying to sell their wares.
     
    2. Visit Dolphin Cove. These attractions in both Ocho Rios and Negril are popular spots where you can interact with dolphins and mellow Caribbean sharks in their natural environment. The truly brave can even hold and feed the sharks. You can even pilot a mini boat, ride in a glass-bottom kayak or snorkel among stingrays.
     
    3. See Rocklands Bird Sanctuary. A local woman nicknamed the Bird Lady created this habitat for birds back in 1962 in the town of Anchovy. Feed tame long-tailed hummingbirds as they light on your finger and see other wild local fowl including finches, quits, nightingales and kingbirds.
     
    4. Explore Kool Runnings Adventure Park. A big draw in Negril, this park offers a wide range of slides and rides. The largest one is called the Jamaica Bobsled Ride — so-named as a tribute to the world famous Jamaican bobsled team. The park also includes a sport park where kids and adults can race go-carts, kayak, and play paintballing and laser tag.
     
    5. Go on an adventure. Want a break from the beaches and water sports? A local organization called Chukka offers a range of nature-adventure packages for families with kids over 6 years old. Choose from the Dune Buggy Adventure, Horseback Ride ‘n' Swim along Papillion Cove, the River Tubing Safari on the White River, or the Zipline Canopy Tour (the minimum age is 8 years for this one, however) over the Laughlands River Gorge. From your bird's-eye view, you'll see the flora and fauna of this magnificent landscape.
  • On September 5, 2012
    Christopher Reckord answered the question: Christopher Reckord

    What are the best things to see and do in Jamaica?

    Jamaica offers something for everyone, whether you’re interested in exploring the rich culture, natural beauty, exotic food or Rastafarian music of the island. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s picks for the best things to see and do in Jamaica:
     
    1. Hit the beach. Jamaica’s original inhabitants named the island Xaymaca, meaning “land of wood and water," and no visitor should without enjoying the white sand beaches along the entire north coast. Negril, on the western tip of the island, is home to a seven-mile beach and the famous cliff jump at Rick’s Café  — a must for adventure-seekers. Stick around for gorgeous sunsets.  

    2. See how rum is made. If you enjoy the honeyed rum served everywhere on the island, head to a local distillery to learn how the best is made. The Appleton Estate has been making rum for 260 years and offers good tours.

    3. Go for a hike. Just outside of Ocho Rios, head into the Blue Mountain foothills for a family-friendly hike up to Dunn’s River Falls. It’s a famous Jamaican attraction and takes two to four hours to complete, depending on your hiking speed.

    4. Tour Port Royal. If you’re wandering near the capital city of Kingston on the south side of the island, visit the notorious 17th-Century pirate haven of Port Royal. A former shipping center and bawdy port city, it was once known as the "richest and wickedest” city in the world.

    5. Visit the Bob Marley Museum. A must for music buffs, the museum is set in Marley’s former residence at 56 Hope Road. The museum portrays the life and achievements of the history-making Rastafarian.
  • On September 5, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best places to eat in Jamaica?

    Great fare can be found all over Jamaica, as locals love their cuisine crafted from great local seafood with both Caribbean and British influences. Here are Forbes Travel Guide editors’ top places to eat in Jamaica:  
     
    1. The Rockhouse Restaurant. Located in the West End of Negril, The Rockhouse features chef Kevin Broderick’s creative New Jamaican cuisine. It’s lighter fare influenced by the traditions of the island. Look for signatures such as blackened mahi mahi with mango chutney, crab turnovers and coconut chicken paired with international wines.
     
    2. Norma’s on the Terrace. Norma Shirley is a local culinary celebrity and her original restaurant in Kingston’s Devon House is considered the most famous place to dine on the island. People flock there for elegant and exotic variations on classic island cuisine, making reservations essential.     
     
    3. Toscanini Restaurant. Located just outside of Ocho Rios at Harmony Hall, this is one of the finest Italian restaurants in Jamaica. It often tops the list for foodies travelling to the island, including Bill and Hillary Clinton. Head to the award-winning restaurant to nosh on dishes like gnocchi and spaghetti with lobster.  
     
    4. Round Hill Hotel & Villas Restaurant. This posh dining room in the Round Hill Hotel in Montego Bay features organic produce grown on the property. Chef Martin Maginley creates themed meals each evening. The most popular is the Friday Jamaica night buffet, which also features entertainment, so Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest that you make advance reservations.
     
    5. Houseboat Grill. This actual houseboat is moored in the calm waters of the Montego Bay Marine Park Fish Sanctuary. Patrons must take a short boat ride across a moat to get here, but once they arrive they’ll be treated to an international menu that includes muscles in Thai coconut curry sauce and lobster fresh from the tank.
  • On September 5, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best places to stay in Jamaica?

    Jamaica has more than 4,000 square miles of real estate, and with that, a number of high-end places to stay. Here are five that Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend:
     
    1. The Caves (Negril). There are few spots in Jamaica more picturesque than this hotel built atop a cliff. And though it’s an all-inclusive resort, The Caves is quite unique. It’s made up of 12 stand-alone cottages resembling tropical huts, all with ocean views. In the shared areas, guests are treated to sundecks, grottoes, a saltwater pool and plenty of opportunities for kayaking, biking or jumping into the ocean.
     
    2. Goldeneye (St. Mary). Tap into your inner 007 at this luxe resort where author Ian Fleming penned most of the James Bond novels. Located in a quiet village 20 minutes from Ocho Rios and a short drive from the Ian Fleming International Airport, this colonial-style resort features four villas, 11 beachfront cottages and six lagoon suites, along with the three-bedroom house where Fleming once lived. No matter where you stay, you’ll get a laidback vibe from the lagoon views and soft pastel décor.
     
    3. Ritz-Carlton Golf & Spa Resort, Rose Hall, Jamaica (Montego Bay). This sprawling 427-room resort in that was once part of the Rose Hall sugar plantation offers the level of luxury you’d expect at a Ritz-Carlton. With its world-class White Witch golf course, opulent rooms with Frette linens, five restaurants on site and nearby luxury shopping, there’s little reason to leave the resort.
     
    4. Jamaica Inn (St. Ann). A traditional resort that gives a heavy nod to the 1950s (both in its vibe and décor), Jamaica Inn is the ultimate spot for relaxation — you won’t even find alarm clocks or TVs in the guest rooms. Instead, guests are invited to get a spa treatment, take a yoga class or just take in the ocean views.
     
    5. Geejam (Port Antonio). Music lovers won’t be able to resist this lively resort, which once served as a recording studio for artists like Gorillaz and Björk. Despite its deeply cool history, Geejam feels both low-key and intimate. In fact, there are just seven guest rooms (three pine cottages, a three-bedroom villa and a deluxe suite), each outfitted in contemporary décor and tucked away in the tropical hillside.