Jamaica

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Population: 2.8 million residents
Size: 4,300 square miles
Language: English (primary)

Destination
Distinctively its own and located in the greater Antilles region of the Caribbean, Jamaica’s culture and style is a unique blend of the West Indies with the roots of Africa. Claimed by Christopher Columbus in 1494 for Spain, it was the British that later forcibly evicted the Spanish from control. Jamaica later gained full independence in 1962. Today, Jamaica’s population is nearly 2.8 million residents and is the third largest island in the Caribbean. When most people think of the festive Caribbean style, Jamaica is typically at the top of that list. With warm rays, sugary sand beaches, reggae rhymes, and the spicy-sweet smell of jerk chicken in the salty air, Jamaica has a truly unique culture and history that sets it apart. Jamaica’s history runs deep as Kingston, Jamaica’s capital, was a major hub in the New World’s barbaric trade that exchanged sugar, spices, slaves, and treasures to and from Europe.  Jamaica’s diverse landscape brings with it a wide range of experiences for the interested traveler. From the misty Blue Mountains to the fertile flat lands speckled with the once thriving sugar plantations to the palm tree fringed beaches full of life and local flavor, you will find that Jamaica has something to offer to most any traveler. The beauty of Jamaica does not stop at the shores, inland you can find beautiful waterfalls and gorgeous botanical gardens full of exotic plants and wildlife.

Jamaica embraces its African heritage like no other island in the Caribbean, and you will find apparent in it style, color, and people. As the birth place for the likes of Bob Marley and the Rasta movement, movement of the people is apparent in both sound and attitude. Reggae music continues to be the islands heartbeat. Not many other islands have developed its tourism facilities to the level that you will find in Jamaica.

When to go
Jamaica is a tropical destination that welcomes travelers year round, however there are seasonal periods in Jamaica to consider when visiting. You will find that temperatures are fairly consistent throughout the year in Jamaica but they do experience a rainy season that starts in June and continues through November. Rainfall varies considerably in Jamaica with the Blue Mountains and east coast receiving a majority of the rainfall. The southern coast receives far less rain. While rain can fall at any time, it is common for it to arrive in short, heavy showers which is typically followed by sun.

For tourism, the peak season typically runs from early December to mid-April and you will find resort pricing is at its highest. Like many other Caribbean destinations the highest rates will be found around the weeks of Christmas and Easter (spring break).

Jamaica does lie in the hurricane belt so be prepared for possible trip interruptions during the season from June through December. See our ICS Hurricane Season Planning Strategies.

Sun, Sand, Sea & Shopping
“Sun always shinning in Jamaica ‘mon”… says one local islander to me. It would have appeared he is usually right and what better place to soak it up than on one of Jamaica’s beautiful white-sand beaches. Jamaica is a popular destination in the Caribbean for a multitude of reasons but most often thought of is the quality of the resorts, great beaches, and the party paced culture. With an endless choice of activities that include inland adventures to the Blue Mountains and lush rainforests, night-time entertainment across the island, and lazy days under waterfalls you will not be disappointed with Jamaica’s paradise style.

There are a number of cities you will find in Jamaica, and each offers a unique experience onto it own. To the west you will discover Negril, which offers what has been rated as having one of the top ten beaches of the world by many travel magazines. Here you find to the north some of the most modern, large all-inclusive resorts and to the south are the smaller family run operations. Montego Bay, or MoBay as the locals call it, is the place for action and home to 7 Mile Beach. Lined with colonial architecture, Montego Bay has numerous funky beach bars, restaurants, and nightclubs to keep its visitors repeating the mantra – “no problem mon”. Ocho Rios (“Ochi’) is a favorite of cruise ships and is known for its beautiful bay, duty free shopping, golf courses, and the nearby Dunn’s River Falls. A little less festive but rich with culture and heritage sites to be seen is Kingston. This city is nestled between a large natural harbor and the foot of the majestic Blue Mountains.

If snorkeling or scuba diving is one your list of “must” things to do, then head to the north or west coast were you will find clear blue waters protected by the off shore reefs. It is here you find one of our favorite beach spots at Doctor’s Cave Beach, great for swimming. This is the main beach in Montego Bay and is plentiful with lively restaurants and bars…there is an entry fee. The beaches to the north and those to the south are distinctively different.  To the north, the beaches you will find are sheltered by the reefs are offer a powdery white sand place to take it all in. In contrast to the south you will discover beaches that offer a brown to black sand that is the result of the past volcanic activity.


jamaica_dunns_river_fallsOn land, one of Jamaica’s most popular attractions is that of Dunn’s River Falls and Dolphin Cove. If climbing up the tiers of a clear stream water fall that winds itself out of the lush tropical forests is your idea of fun in paradise, then Dunn’s River Falls is your calling. With energetic guides that will walk you up the long slopping falls, bordered by tropical foliage you will find the experience is one that you will never forget. After climb up to the top of the falls, drive on down to the Dolphin Cove to refresh and swim with the dolphins. Watch a short video of the falls.

 

For the adventurous types, try one of Jamaica’s signature excursions and fly through the rainforest canopy along an intricate system of cables, pulleys, and harnesses. Zip line canopy tours are a favorite of both resort goers as well as cruise ship passengers. See the mountain side is a way the local wildlife do…high above the tree tops. Other inland adventures include river tubing, caving, ATV’s, hiking, and golfing.
 


In nearly every corner of Jamaica you will find an opportunity to exercise your shopping skills. You will find shops that will offer everything for wood carvings, pottery, hand-made goods, jewelry, cigars, spices, Blue Mountain coffee, and of course Jamaican rum. Haggling in the markets is a must do AFTER you have greeted the shop owner with a friendly greeting. Not much for haggling in the retail shops and stores. Montego Bay is the shopper’s paradise in paradise.

Dining & Nightlife
One can party on the beach in Negril or Montego Bay to the warm sounds of reggae or some steel pan calypso music. The nightlife and clubs in Jamaica are not just for show of the tourist, Jamaica’s music heritage is an extensive one and to this day place a significant role in the influence of today’s modern club music around the world. There is no shortage of bars and clubs to keep the Jamaican beat go on early into the morning. One of the most authentic beach bars can be found in Falmouth. Built of driftwood, Time -n- Place has been showcased in several travel and style magazines, and is a photo favorite of tourists. Regardless if you desire an authentic Jamaican roots experience or a modern city club venue, you’ll find no shortage of choices in Jamaica. It can be easy to get caught up in the festivities and feeling of paradise in Jamaica, but beware when having one of the local drink “specials”…commonly made of over proof rum you will want to enjoy with CAUTION. Some recommended choices for bars and clubs are:

Margaritaville, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay.
Asylum, Kingston
Pier One, Montego Bay

Dining in Jamaica is a special treat and the locals are very proud of their specialties and style of cuisine. Jamaica offers a wide array of dining experiences for classy high end restaurants at some of the islands top hotels to the intimate roadside barbeques frequented by the locals serving some of the islands best kept secrets. Be sure to keep yourself cool with the local’s best Red Stripe. To get you pointed in the right direction look for these favorites:

Boston Jerk Center, along the main road of Boston Bay.
Rockhouse, Negril
The Native, Montego Bay.