JAMAICA TRAVEL GUIDE
Jamaica, a Caribbean island nation, has a lush topography of mountains, rainforests and reef-lined beaches. Many of its all-inclusive resorts are clustered in Montego Bay, with its British-colonial architecture, and Negril, known for its diving and snorkelling sites. Jamaica is famed as the birthplace of reggae music, and its capital Kingston is home to the Bob Marley Museum, dedicated to the famous singer.
Bob Marley and the Blue Mountains, reggae and Rastafarian, soft sands and strong sun – this is what the paradise island called Jamaica is all about. But the real charm of Jamaica lies in its people: warm and friendly. Vibrant and vivacious with ready smiles, the Jamaicans will welcome you with the warm hospitality that is characteristic of the Caribbean islands.
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JAMAICA QUICK FACTS
- Capital: Kingston
- Currency: Jamaican Dollar (JMD)
- Area: 10,991km²
- Population: 2,935 million (2018)
- Language: English (official), Jamaican Creole
- Religion: 92.3% Protestant, 12.1% Roman Catholic, 8.6% Hindu, 4.2% Jewish, 2.7% Muslim, 0.8% Athiest
- Electricity: 110V, 50Hz (USA Plug)
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JAMAICA PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
- 23 May, Labor Day*
- 1 August, Emancipation Day**
- 6 August, Independence Day**
- 3rd Monday in October, National Heroes’ Day
- 26 December, Boxing Day
* Observed on the following Monday if it falls on a Saturday or Sunday.
** Observed on the following Monday if it falls on a Sunday
Also, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Easter, and Easter Monday.
FESTIVALS IN JAMAICA
JAMAICA WEATHER SYNOPSIS
In Jamaica, peak temperatures occur during summer months of June to September while the coolest temperatures occur during winter between December through March. The Northern portions of the island tend to be exposed to colder temperatures from occasional surges of cool air from continental North America during fall and winter months. There exists a dry season between December through March and a rainy season between April through November which are divided into early rainfall and late rainfall seasons. There exists a mid-summer minimum around July that separates early and late wet seasons. Most of Jamaica’s rainfall occurs during the wet season (May and October) and experiences its driest conditions in February and March.
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
HIKING & CYCLING IN JAMAICA
Outdoor activities in Jamaica are best enjoyed during the drier months from December to April, with February and March having the best weather. It is best to avoid the wettest months of May to June and September to October.
BEACH OPTIONS IN JAMAICA
Although you can visit the stunning beaches of Jamaica at any time of the year, the dry season from December to April is by far better. June to November can be rather wet, with heavy storms and hurricanes.
SURFING IN JAMAICA
Jamaica has some great and consistent surf all year round. The best surf is usually from December to March and then again from July to September.
KITESURF IN JAMAICA
The windy kitesurfing season in Jamaica is from November to May. Although you can get favourable conditions during July and August, this is hurricane season and can be rather dangerous.
HEALTH RISKS IN JAMAICA
Be aware of possible health risks in
Zika Virus - Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
Dengue - Dengue is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For people who get sick with dengue, symptoms can be mild or severe.
JAMAICA TRAVEL TIPS
Buses, coasters and route taxis run between Kingston and every point on the island. They arrive and depart from the bus station (Beckford St).
Comfortable Knutsford Express buses run from its own bus terminal in New Kingston to Ocho Rios and Montego Bay).
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF JAMAICA
- Hike up the Blue Mountain Peak through the rainforest above Kingston for epic views to Cuba.
- Visit the National Gallery of Jamaica for an inspiring art collection in the heart of downtown Kingston.
- Take the heritage walking tour of the historic town of Falmouth.
- Time your visit with the Reggae Sumfest in Montego in July for the island’s greatest music festival.
- Make your way to Dunn’s River Falls and enjoy the cascading pools of Jamaica’s most beautiful waterfall.
Montego Bay - The gateway to Jamaica for about 80% of international travellers. Visit Doctor’s Cave Beach for water sports or head downtown to take in the architecture and the hustle of a real Jamaican city.
Rose Hall and Greenwood - For an insight into how Jamaica came to be, a trip to these colonial great houses will take you back to the days of sugar plantations and slavery.
Falmouth -Take a foodie walking tour around this historic town that’s an open-air museum of colonial architecture and wait until dark to swim in the luminescent Glistening Waters.
Ocho Rios - Stay overnight in this modern tourist hub, with its great bars and restaurants and don't miss out on the beautiful Dunn’s River Falls, deservedly Jamaica’s most popular waterfalls.
Nine Mile - Reggae fans can take the bumpy ride to this tiny village where Bob Marley was born (and is now buried), to visit his childhood home and mausoleum.
Firefly - Follow the dramatic coast east to take in the views at Firefly, the beautiful house once home to Noel Coward, for a glimpse on when Jamaica was a hub for the jet set in the golden age of Hollywood.
Dive in to the excitement of Jamaica’s lively capital of Kingston where you will find some of the best restaurants on the island, a reggae heritage that lives on in the live-music scene as well as the Bob Marley Museum and Trench Town Culture Yard, plus the extraordinary collection of the National Gallery of Jamaica.
Get out of the city and into the cool air of the thickly forested Blue Mountains that overlook Kingston. Sample some locally grown coffee, then get up early to hike to the peak.
Visit the old banana centre of Port Antonio, set amid the rugged greenery of Portland Parish. Make sure to eat some jerk in its spiritual home in nearby Boston Bay, and explore the wilds of gorgeous Reach Falls.
Treasure Beach is where those in the know go to escape the crowds, a laid-back hideaway tucked into a sweet southern corner of the island.
Jamaica tourism first made it big in Negril, and you’ll understand why when you sit with drink in hand on a seven-mile beach and take in the most famous sunset into the sea in the whole Caribbean. When you’re done, finish up in Montego Bay.
(more location details are available in the above map)
Whether you approach by air or by land, KINGSTON will impresses you with its setting and overwhelms you with its sheer size, noise and traffic. Kingston is the island’s cultural and economic heart, where political deals are made, musicians come to follow in the footsteps of the greats, and you can be exposed to squalor and luxury within footsteps of each other.
Cupping an unruffled bay and backing into the sleepy Rio Grande valley, PORT ANTONIO is the perfect capital for Portland. The parish’s only sizable town is largely untarnished by the duty-free, tourist-overfriendliness of Ocho Rios or Montego Bay and makes for a great base to explore the Rio Grande Valley.
Although cruise ships constantly disgorge hordes of passengers here, the area around OCHO RIOS, third-largest town in Jamaica, features some of the most beautiful natural attractions on the island. Along the north coast you will find pleasant white-sand beaches, clear waters, spectacular waterfalls and lush mountainous terrain.
WHAT TO EAT IN JAMAICA
- Jerk - Jamaica’s most well-known dish, jerk is actually a cooking method: smother food in a tongue-searing marinade, then smoke over a wood fire!
- Seafood - Snapper and parrotfish are popular. A favourite dish is "escoveitched fish" - pickled in vinegar then fried and simmered with peppers and onions.
- Breadkinds - A catchall term for all starchy sides, from plantains and yam to pancake-shaped cassava bread and johnnycakes (fried dumplings).
- Saltfish & Ackee - Jamaica’s national dish, and a completely delicious breakfast. Ackee is a fleshy, somewhat bland fruit; saltfish is, well, salted fish. When mixed together they’re delicious, somewhat resembling scrambled eggs.
- Brown Stew - Not a soup, brown stew is another popular method of cooking that involves simmering meat, fish or vegetables in a savoury-sweet sauce.
- Patties - Baked pastry shells filled with spicy beef, chicken, vegetables or fish.
- Rum - Clear and light white rums, flavoured rums, deep dark rums, and the rare amber nectar of the finest premium rums. Don't forget the brain-bashing overproof rums . These are called 151 proof and contain more than 75.5% alcohol by volume. This is much higher than typical rum at 35%–40%.
WHERE TO STAY IN JAMAICA