Best things to do in Jamaica: A quick guide to the island

Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Ocho Rios. Supplied

This article was originally published in May 2013, and updated in April 2018

With long stretches of beautiful, sun-soaked white sand beaches, vibrant turquoise water and its famous reggae-vibe, it’s easy to see why Jamaica is one of the most popular Caribbean islands for travellers. With easy access from the airport to resorts, this West Indies island is the perfect spot to enjoy some R&R and great food, head inland to explore the capital of Kingston, or soak in views of the majestic Blue Mountains. Here’s a quick guide to the best things to do in Jamaica, including what to see and where to stay.

Rose Hall, Jamaica

Rose Hall. Supplied

Where to stay in Jamaica

Jamaica has a few main tourist areas where most of the resorts are located.

Montego Bay: A good option for a first time trip to Jamaica, as this is where most of the action is and the most popular resort area.

Ocho Rios: Close to attractions like Dunn’s River Falls, this spot also serves as the island’s shopping hub.

Runaway Bay: Close to the airport which means you’ll make it from the conveyor belt to the beach in no time, but keep in mind the serene sound of waves lapping at the shoreline will be interupted by jets flying overhead.

Negril: This area boasts the country’s most stunning coastlines, and hotel prices reflect this.

negril jamaica beach

Negril. Courtesy of Shutterstock.

Things to do in Jamaica

One of the most popular ways to spend a day in Jamaica is enjoying a Dunn’s River Falls tour. There, 55 metre high waterfalls are terraced through natural stairs in the rock, and include little lagoon-like pools. Thousands of visitors head there every year to climb up—and it’s not as hard as it sounds. There are also guides on hand to help those who find themselves off-balance. Entrance costs $20 for those age 11 and up.

Dunn's River Falls. Shutterstock.

Dunn’s River Falls. Shutterstock.

Another option is to book an excursion to the capital of Kingston. You’ll likely have to get up really early since it takes a few hours to drive there, but this will give you a great overview of the country. The scenic route passes by the beautiful Blue Mountains, which are home to some of the world’s most expensive coffee.

The Blue Mountains in Jamaica

The Blue Mountains. Supplied.

It’s worth nothing that the drive can be a bit dicey though: think hairpin turns on cliffs with no barriers, along roads so narrow that you can just barely fit two vehicles. This makes for an interesting scenario when someone inevitably breaks down halfway up the mountain!

Kingston is an exercise in contrasts, where slanted shanty houses are built just down the hill from grand estate homes overlooking the entire city.

A shanty in Kingston, Jamaica.

A shanty in Jamaica.

Many tour groups start off with a visit to Devon House, a charming property that dates back over a century. The heritage site features a beautiful plantation house that visitors can walk through, lush lawns and gardens and a few shops. Stop and grab an ice cream cone, then wander around to learn more about the home that was built by Jamaican millionaire George Stiebel.

Fuel up with some traditional Jamaican food, then continue the Kingston city tour by heading to the Bob Marley Museum. Visitors can wander around the property for free, or pony up $20 a head for the hour-long guided excursion. It will take you through the site, which is Marley’s home that was converted into a museum after his death. There is also a theatre where a 20-minute film is screened, along with a gallery and gift shop. The museum is open Monday through Saturday, from 9:30 am-4 pm.

Best resorts in Jamaica

Jamaica has hundreds of resorts to choose from, and that doesn’t take into account the smaller B&Bs and hotels, so there’s truly no shortage of accommodation on the island. Some great picks include:

  • The SPA Retreat Hotel: Guests adore this quiet, immaculate property which is the perfect spot for a week of pampering. Click here to book
  • Hotel Riu Palace: This swanky spot in Montego Bay boasts easy beach access and huge rooms. Click here to book
  • Sandals South Coast: This resort is a favourite with honeymooners, thanks to its luxe overwater villas arranged in the shape of a heart. Click here to book
Montego Bay. Shutterstock.

Montego Bay. Shutterstock.

Best time to go to Jamaica

November and December are a great time to go to Jamaica, since the weather is pleasant and it’s still considered shoulder season so flight and accommodation prices are a bit lower. The most popular time (read: busy and expensive) is January through March, and those eyeing a visit between June and October should be aware that it’s hurricane season.

All in all, Jamaica is a fantastic choice for those looking for a fun island vibe, great beaches, plenty of activities with a dose of culture and beautiful scenery.

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With long stretches of sun-soaked white sand beaches, vibrant turquoise water and its famous reggae-vibe, it's easy to see why #Jamaica is one of the most popular #Caribbean islands for travellers. Here's a quick guide to the best things to do in Jamaica, including what to see and where to stay.

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4 Responses

  1. David says:

    Great guide, did you get a SP board or a surf board into the water on your visit? Although the Caribbean island of Jamaica is best known for its calm seas, laid back atmosphere, white sand beaches and all inclusive jamaica resorts, the island of Jamaica is becoming known as one of the premier surfing location in the Caribbean.

  2. ed wetschler says:

    In the first section, “Where to Stay,” it says that Runaway Bay is close to the airport. Closer than Montego Bay? I’ve never been able to make it to the airport in less than one hour.

  1. September 4, 2013

    […] is somewhat off the beaten track (at least compared with more mainstream islands like Barbados and Jamaica) but has just as much to offer travellers. Part of the Grenadines, the neighbouring islands of […]

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