Skip to content

Jamaica Visitors Guide

How to Get There, Things to Do & More

Updated April 2024 ⋅ Written by Laura Schulthies ⋅ Edited by Daniel Mode

Jamaica Visitors Guide: How To Get There & The Best Things To Do In Jamaica
Jamaica Travel Guide: The Best Things To Do In Jamaica

Welcome to Jamaica

Jamaica is a vibrant and picturesque island country located in the Caribbean Sea, known for its stunning beaches, delicious cuisine, and vibrant music scene. From the lively capital city of Kingston to the lush rainforests and waterfalls of Ocho Rios, there is no shortage of exciting destinations to explore. Whether you’re interested in soaking up the sun on the beach, immersing yourself in Jamaican culture, or trying new and delicious foods, Jamaica is the perfect destination for travelers of all interests. In this Jamaica guide, we’ll explore the best that Jamaica has to offer and help you plan your perfect trip.

Jamaica is a vibrant and picturesque island country located in the Caribbean Sea, known for its stunning beaches, delicious cuisine, and vibrant music scene. From the lively capital city of Kingston to the lush rainforests and waterfalls of Ocho Rios, there is no shortage of exciting destinations to explore. Whether you’re interested in soaking up the sun on the beach, immersing yourself in Jamaican culture, or trying new and delicious foods, Jamaica is the perfect destination for travelers of all interests. In this Jamaica guide, we’ll explore the best that Jamaica has to offer and help you plan your perfect trip.

Jamaica Map

Jamaica Map

Contents

Jamaica Travel Guide: The Best Things To Do In Jamaica
Jamaica Travel Guide: The Best Things To Do In Jamaica

A Bit Of History

The first inhabitants of Jamaica were the Taino people who likely came from South America and practiced farming and fishing on the island for hundreds of years. When Columbus arrived in 1494, he tried to rename the island Santiago, but it never caught on and the island kept its Taino name of Xaymaca.

Soon after Columbus’ visit, the Spanish settled the island, and by 1665 the indigenous population had largely been replaced by African slaves. Over the next 200 years, the island was taken over by the British while sugar, cocoa, and coffee became the primary industries on the island.

Jamaica was also a popular hideout for pirates at this time. Then, in 1834 the slaves were freed and Jamaica was placed under Crown rule until 1944. On August 6, 1962, Jamaica was finally granted its independence from England.

Jamaica Travel Guide: The Best Things To Do In Jamaica

Jamaica Today

Jamaica has been a tourist destination since the 1890s. However, it was not until the 1980s that Jamaica’s tourism really started booming.

Today travelers can camp in the Blue Mountains, rent small beach houses in Negril, or get pampered at all-inclusive hotels in Montego Bay and Ocho Rios.

Is Jamaica Safe?

Is Jamaica Safe?

Jamaica is a safe place to visit, generally speaking, as long as you travel smart and pay attention to what is happening around you. The island nation is very popular with tourists for its stunning beaches and natural beauty, but it has gotten a bad reputation when it comes to occasional crime and drug related violence.

To better assure your time in Jamacia is safe, take necessary precautions and do research about the area you are staying in advance to minimize your risk of something bad occurring.

Where is Jamaica?

Jamaica Caribbean Map

click map to enlarge

Jamaica is the third largest island in the Caribbean and is a 1-hour 40-minute flight from Miami. It is located to the east of the Cayman Islands, to the south of Cuba and to the west of Haiti. There are several smaller islands and keys off the shore of the main island.

Jamaica Visitors Guide: Blue Hole
Jamaica Travel Guide: The Best Things To Do In Jamaica

The Best Time to Visit Jamaica?

Looking for the best time to go to Jamaica? In Jamaica, the temperatures range from the mid-70s to the high 80s year round. While the weather is mostly perfect, guests can choose certain months that are better for the weather and crowds.

Looking for the best time to go to Jamaica? In Jamaica, the temperatures range from the mid-70s to the high 80s year round. While the weather is mostly perfect, guests can choose certain months that are better for the weather and crowds.

November to December

November to mid-December is the best time to visit Jamaica. During this time, travelers can find some great deals on flights and hotels as it is outside of the tourist season. In addition, the crowds are usually low during this time and the weather is perfect in the 70s and 80s.

January to March

January to March is the peak tourist season, which means more crowds and more expensive flights and hotels. While the weather will be nice, the beaches and attractions may be crowded.

April to November

While you may be able to find a great deal during the months of April to November, you do risk having your trip canceled or cut short due to hurricane season. While you can still get days or even weeks with beautiful weather, you should be aware that the island can get more storms during these months, which may cut your vacation short or cause an excursion to be canceled.

November to December

November to mid-December is the best time to visit Jamaica. During this time, travelers can find some great deals on flights and hotels as it is outside of the tourist season. In addition, the crowds are usually low during this time and the weather is perfect in the 70s and 80s.

January to March

January to March is the peak tourist season, which means more crowds and more expensive flights and hotels. While the weather will be nice, the beaches and attractions may be crowded.

April to November

While you may be able to find a great deal during the months of April to November, you do risk having your trip canceled or cut short due to hurricane season. While you can still get days or even weeks with beautiful weather, you should be aware that the island can get more storms during these months, which may cut your vacation short or cause an excursion to be canceled.

  When Is Jamaica Hurricane Season?

Jamaica’s hurricane season begins June 1 and runs through the end of November, with peak risk being August through early September. The chances of a hurricane hitting Jamaica directly during the season is very slim. Instead, during hurricane season in Jamaica, most travelers experience nothing worse than a few brief but heavy rain showers and higher levels of humidity. This is also Jamaica’s low tourist season, and many hotels operate with less staff and rates will often be lower. Be sure to check weather reports before your trip, and we always recommend getting travel insurance during these months just in case of inclement weather.

Jamaica Travel Guide: The Best Things To Do In Jamaica
Jamaica Travel Guide: The Best Things To Do In Jamaica

How to Get to Jamaica & Around

There are a few ways to get to and around Jamaica.

Arrival by Air

There are three airports in Jamaica, which make it easy to travel from anywhere. Norman Manley International Airport (KIN) is in Kingston and is a great option if you plan to visit Port Antonio or the Blue Mountains.

Sangster International Airport (MBJ) is in Montego Bay, which makes this the most popular airport for tourists. This airport has a domestic terminal with local flights that depart regularly to Kingston, Negril, Port Antonio and Ocho Rios.

Ian Fleming International Airport (OCJ) is Jamaica’s newest airport and is located in the Ocho Rios resort area. Many of the islands’ most world-renowned resorts are just minutes away.

  Search for great deals on flights here.

Arrival by Cruise

Carnival Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Marella Cruises are three of the top cruise lines that stop in Jamaica.

The most famous ports are Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, and Falmouth, which are all equipped to handle colossal cruise ships and boutique yachts. Other cruise ports include the beautiful Port Antonio and Kingston.

The largest cruise port in Jamaica is Ocho Rios, and it sits among some of the island’s most popular attractions.

  Search for great deals on cruises here.

Shuttles in Jamaica

  Shuttles or private transport can be pre-arranged to pick you up and take you from the airport to your accommodation. You can easily book ground transportation from the airport to your hotel here.

Rental Cars in Jamaica

You can also choose to rent a car while on the island, but many tourists dislike driving on their own because of the poor road conditions, erratic drivers, and the fact that Jamaicans drive on the left side of the road. Driving defensively may be necessary on highways. 

Renting a car in Jamaica is easy and fairly affordable as intermediate cars are around $42 per day while intermediate SUVS are about $66. You’ll find the best selection of rental car companies in places such as Kingston, Montego Bay, and Ocho Rios.

To rent a car in Jamaica you’ll need a valid driver’s license. Most companies have a policy of not renting to anyone under the age of 21, but some do not rent a car to anyone under the age of 25.

  Search for great deals on rental cars here.

Taxis in Jamaica

The best way to get around Jamaica is by taxi. This is both the safest and the most hassle-free way to travel around the island. However, be sure to take taxis operated by JUTA or JCAL only, which should be indicated on the vehicle.

In Jamaica, many taxi meters are broken, so it’s a good idea to agree on a price before accepting a ride. As for tipping, you should budget 10% to 15% of the fare – more if you’re traveling late at night.

You can also hire a local taxi driver for an entire day (or more); this generally costs about $180 per day.

Jamaica Travel Guide: The Best Things To Do In Jamaica
Jamaica Visitors Guide: Negril

Things to Do in Jamaica

Jamaica's Top Highlights

Jamaica has so much to offer from water sports to waterfalls, and from exploring the great outdoors to relaxing with a glass of rum. There is sure to be something for everyone in your party!

The Best Things To Do In Jamaica: See Waterfalls
The Best Things To Do In Jamaica: See Waterfalls

Visit Some of Jamaica’s Breath taking Waterfalls

While Dunn’s River Falls (pictured above) may have earned some international fame, there are so many other great waterfalls on the island that are just as beautiful and less crowded. Blue Hole is near Ocho Rios and gets its name from the beautiful blue pool of water at the bottom. Visitors can swim or dive in the watering hole that surrounds Blue Hole.

YS Falls is another great place that is near Saint Elizabeth Parish. There are seven waterfalls that make up YS Falls, and all are on a local estate that also homes a cattle and horse farm. If you really want to get away from the touristy area, then head over to Mayfield Falls in Westmorland.

The Mayfield Falls has many waterfalls of different sizes and twenty-one natural swimming pools surrounding the falls. And last, Turtle Falls is fourteen waterfalls that are located in a 15-acre tropical garden in Ocho Rios.

Visitors can explore these waterfalls on their own or can seek out tours like the Blue Hole, Secret Falls, and Dunn’s River Combo Day-Trip from Montego Bay.

  Take a look at this Blue Hole Private Tour.

  For more, check out our Jamaica Waterfalls Guide.

The Best Things To Do In Jamaica: Explore Nature
Jamaica Travel Guide: The Best Things To Do In Jamaica

Explore Nature

There are other great ways to explore nature besides waterfalls. In Negril, visitors can explore the Royal Palm Reserve, a six-thousand acre protected area of wetland and flora. Or if you want more of a relaxing day, then you can go floating down the Rio Grande.

Those wanting to see more rare tropical plants can walk around the Hope Botanical Gardens, also called the Royal Botanical Gardens. Finally, those wanting even more of a rugged adventure can head out to the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park in south-east Jamaica.

  Enjoy a private tour of the Royal Palm Preserve.

  Check out this fun River Tubing Tour from Ocho Rios.

  ISLAND LIFE TRAVEL TIP : GET TRAVEL INSURANCE

Travel Insurance is a must in our opinion. Standard health insurance likely doesn’t cover you while outside of the country so travel insurance will cover any emergency medical needs as well as trip cancellation, lost or stolen luggage (it happens), flight delays, missed connections and more. You can easily compare the top-rated travel insurance plans here.

The Best Things To Do In Jamaica: Hit Beach
Jamaica Travel Guide: The Best Things To Do In Jamaica

Hit The Beach!

As Jamaica is an island, there are numerous beaches to claim as your new favorite. Seven Mile Beach in the Negril area is probably Jamaica’s most popular beach. It is claimed as the longest and most beautiful in the area.

If you staying in the Montego Bay Area, Sandal’s private beach is known to be the best in that area with the white sand and turquoise water. Another popular beach is Bamboo Beach (pictured above) or Reggae Beach in Ocho Rios area. Here you can snorkel in the clear waters or relax on the cool sand while listening to Reggae tunes playing all day from one of the three beach bars close by.

  Check out this great tour of Seven Mile Beach or this Private Sightseeing Tour Of Seven Mile Beach.

  Be sure to check out our Best Jamaica Beaches Guide!

The Best Things To Do In Jamaica: Diving Or Snorkeling
Jamaica Travel Guide: The Best Things To Do In Jamaica

Go Diving or Snorkeling

With Jamaica’s crystal blue water and popular marine life, it is no wonder snorkeling and diving are a go-to pastime on the island. One of the best places to snorkel or dive is in Negril. The top place here is Negril Coral Reef (pictured above), which is about two miles offshore. Here you will see jellyfish, urchins, conch shells, and so much more.

Montego Bay Marine Park also has some great snorkeling since efforts were made to protect this area’s coral reefs and marine life. You will find numerous colorful fish from angelfish to stingrays.

There are many areas right off the beach to explore the waters, but if you would rather a tour you can check out Reggae and Snorkeling Catamaran Cruise from Montego Bay.

  Scuba diving options abound in Jamaica thanks to the crystal blue water. Check out these scuba diving tour options.

The Best Things To Do In Jamaica: Experience Culture
Jamaica Travel Guide: The Best Things To Do In Jamaica

Take in Some Culture and Reggae Music

Reggae music and culture in Jamaica is one of its most important institutions. Explore neighborhoods and find local watering holes for music, drinks and lively conversation. Tourists can also learn more about reggae music and the king of reggae at the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston where you can visit Marley’s home and recording studio.

Take a look at this Bob Marley Experience tour. Afterward, head over to Coronation Market, one of the biggest local markets in the Caribbean. Last, you can visit the Rastafari Indigenous Village to meet Jamaica’s Rastafari people and maybe learn a little about their culture and values.

  Check out this Jamaican Music History Tour that explored Kingston the birthplace of reggae.

The Best Things To Do In Jamaica: Luminous Lagoon
Jamaica Travel Guide: The Best Things To Do In Jamaica

Get Your Glow on at Luminous Lagoon

The bioluminescent Luminous Lagoon near Montego Bay is famous for its millions of dinoflagellates, or microscopic organisms, that glow blue when disturbed. Be sure to check this bioluminescent phenomenon at night, either on your own or on one of the many boat tours. There are many boat tours that you can find once on the island, but if you would like a suggestion you can check out Mystic Luminescent Lagoon Night Cruise and Swim in Jamaica.

The Best Things To Do In Jamaica: Eat Jerk
Jamaica Travel Guide: The Best Things To Do In Jamaica

Eat Some Jerk

Jamaica is known for its Jerk seasoning. Be it chicken, fish, shrimp or pork, no visit to the island is complete without a taste. While you can find some amazing jerk all over the island, Boston Bay is said to be the home of the illustrious spice mix.

Here are a few places that are known to have some of the best; Sweetwood Jerk Joint, Ocho Rios Jerk Center, Boston Jerk Center, or Pepper’s Jerk Center, just to name a few. If you are in Jamaica during the first weekend of July, you can also check out the Portland Jerk Festival.

  Take a look at this Taste Of Jamaica Food Tour.

The Best Things To Do In Jamaica: Visit Morant Point Lighthouse
Jamaica Travel Guide: The Best Things To Do In Jamaica

Visit Morant Point Lighthouse

Built in 1841, the Morant Point Lighthouse is named as a National Monument by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust. Visitors can climb to the top to get some breathtaking views.

The Best Things To Do In Jamaica: Drink Rum
Jamaica Travel Guide: The Best Things To Do In Jamaica

Sample Rum!

People from all over the world come to Jamaica to enjoy the rum. There are so many great rum tours to choose from but we recommend the famous Appleton Estate Rum Tour or the Hampden Estate Rum Tour. You are in paradise, cheers!

Where to Stay in Jamaica

There are all types of accommodations in jamaica. From all inclusive resorts to boutique hotels and more. Location and amenities are the two top things to look for. For great hotel info and recommendations, check out our Jamaica Hotel Guide or our Jamaica All Inclusive Resort Guide.

Jamaica All Inclusive Resorts

For hotel recommendations for every budget, check out our Jamaica Hotel Guide

What to Eat in Jamaica

You can find a wide range of wonderful bites to eat in Jamaica. If you’re looking for a culinary adventure, check out our Jamaica Restaurant Guide.

The Best Jamaica Restaurants: Rockhouse, Negril

For great restaurant recommendations, check out our Jamaica Restaurant Guide

What To Pack For Your Trip!

The Caribbean is an enchanting wonderland of relaxation and adventure, one can easily have the trip of a lifetime here. Packing for such a vacation shouldn’t be hard, so we’ve put together a checklist to help you pack and included some of our favorites as well. Check out our What To Pack For Your Trip Guide.

What to Pack For Your Mexican Vacation

Check out our guide for what to bring on your Caribbean vacation!

More

CARIBBEAN

Islands, Beaches, Cuisine and More

Much More To Explore...

Share This Post

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Christine says:

    I highly recommend the Hope Botanical Gardens. It was one of our families favorite places!

  2. Julia says:

    I have yet to find a more inclusive guide about Jamaica. So wonderful. Thank you for your help.

  3. Jack & Erica says:

    We have always wanted to visit the Luminous Lagoon. We decided to go with the tour company your guide suggested and we couldn’t have been happier with our experience, thanks!

  4. Henderson James says:

    The royal palm reserve is excellent. I’ll have to check out a few of these other places next time I’m in Jamaica.

  5. Samantha says:

    Do you recommend solo travelers stay in Kingston or Montego Bay?

    1. Daniel says:

      Montego Bay.

  6. Hughes Family says:

    The Royal Palm is superb and has excellent services and amenities, it is by far our favorite place to stay in Jamaica!

  7. Metlzer Family says:

    We listened to your advice and went on the Appleton Estate Rum Tour. It was the best time, highly recommended.

  8. Daniella R. says:

    The waterfalls in Jamaica are out of this world! It was one of my favorite things on my trip, thank you for the suggestion!

  9. Sarah Lynn K. says:

    This is one of the best in-depth guides to Jamaica online! Thank you so much for all the great information!

    1. Daniel says:

      Happy to help!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Top