To many, Jamaica is the heart of the Caribbean. The birthplace of reggae music, the Rastafari movement and all-inclusive resorts, Jamaica symbolizes many of the things most loved and, perhaps, most misunderstood about the region. A simple remedy to clear the confusion? Come to the land of sugar cane, coffee and limestone, and form your own opinion. Your new ideas are bound to be swathed in cream-colored beaches, bordered by rugged Blue Mountains, anchored in ... continue»
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The best time to visit Jamaica is October to mid-December. That's when the island's already beautiful weather (ranging from mid-70s to the high 80s all year-round) is the most plesant and the hotel and flight deals are the easiest to find. Rates are also cheap during the summer, but you'll risk the wrath of hurricane season. January to March is the peak travel season to the island — room rates can spike to more than $700 USD per night at some hotels.Best Times to Visit Jamaica»
Jamaica is divided into 14 parishes, each of which is home to respective towns, neighborhoods and often beaches. Within these provinces, some popular areas of the island for tourists are Negril, Montego Bay (often referred to as "MoBay") and Ocho Rios. These areas are home to most of the popular resorts, many of which offer all-inclusive packages. But the island is much more diverse than other Caribbean destinations, so visitors should also check out the jungles, plains, rivers and towns of Jamaica, too.
Sitting on the southwest coast is Jamaica's capital city, Kingston, which is one of the most populated cities on the island. But you wouldn't come here for the beaches; rather, Kingston is where the core of Jamaica's culture lies. Art galleries, theaters and music venues rub elbows with lively clubs, shopping spots and restaurants. Business travelers usually stay here, but leisure visitors shouldn't miss out on this city's offerings either. Visitors should be aware of their surroundings and avoid the area after dark; like many cities, Kingston can be prone to crime.
In the Blue Mountains, which sit north of Kingston on the island's east coast, you'll find hikers, bird-watchers and nature lovers. The area can be confusing, so take a guided tour or hire a taxi to make the most of your outing. The mountain range is also famous for its coffee: The Mavis Bank Coffee Factory sits southwest of the peak at an elevation of about 3,000 feet and offers tours of the facilities, where 1.4 million pounds of beans are processed annually.
On Jamaica's northeast coast, Port Antonio offers a welcome change of pace from the more laid-back resort towns. Instead, Port Antonio has more of a community-oriented feel to it, boasting serene natural landscapes and a sense of culture that's harder to find at the island's all-inclusive resort hubs. This town offers some of the most attractive natural settings in the country — including San San Beach, Boston Beach and the Blue Lagoon — as well as access to the Rio Grande river. The town itself is popular for its picturesque Victorian and Caribbean architecture.
Sitting northwest of Kingston near the center of the island, Mandeville is the island's highest-altitude town and the center of Jamaica's coffee cultivation. Established by the British in 1816, Mandeville maintains a strong sense of colonial charm, but is not particularly popular among tourists.
Dry with limited accommodations, Jamaica's south coast is also its least visited. But you might want to check out the region's Treasure Beach, where you'll find more rocks, darker sand and a clearer sense of everyday Jamaican life.
Negril, on the island's westernmost tip, is popular as one of the most easygoing areas on an already laid-back island, despite the addition of big resorts over the last decade or so. You can soak in the relaxing vibes at Negril's resorts along the popular Seven Mile Beach, some of which are the best hotels in Jamaica. Attracting a slightly younger crowd, Negril beaches are clean and relaxing.
Located northeast of Negril along the island's northern coast is Montego Bay. Beaches in "MoBay" run parallel to busy Gloucester Avenue, a street lined with flashy hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops. The Museum of St. James, which offers exhibits regarding the country's history, is also nearby. If you're a golfer, you'll find some alluring greens in Montego Bay. Go for par at White Witch Golf Course or Tryall Club Golf Course.
Ocho Rios, east of Montego Bay along Jamaica's northern shore, is a very popular cruise port region that attracts honeymooners and couples tying the knot — in part because of the area's luxury hotels. Close to Ocho Rios you'll find Dunn's River Falls & Park, a 600-foot staggered waterfall you can climb with the assistance of a guide. If you have the time, experts and recent visitors recommend heading west to the tiny town of St. Ann's Bay, the birthplace of Bob Marley and now the site of the Bob Marley Centre and Mausoleum. The musician's former home — where the walls are scribbled with messages from fans — is open daily for tours.
Keep in mind that some parts of Jamaica are safer than others. Exercise caution when moving around at night and travel in groups when possible. Petty theft has been reported in the past, so make sure to keep your valuables near you at all times. Areas of Kingston and Montego Bay are particularly prone to violence. Visit the U.S. State Department's website for more details.
The best way to get around Jamaica is by taxi, whether you're coming from one of the airports — Montego Bay's Sangster International Airport (MBJ) is the most accessible to the tourist areas — or making your way around town. Renting a car is also an option, but driving on the left side of the road can be confusing, road signs are unhelpful, drivers can be aggressive and potholes are rampant. Minibuses are another popular and affordable means of getting to and from the key attractions. Many cruise lines, including Carnival, Celebrity and Holland America, make stops in Jamaica. They usually head for Montego Bay on the northwestern side or Ocho Rios in the northeast.Getting Around Jamaica»