There's no shortage of spectacular restaurants to visit in Jamaica. Whether you're in the mood for fresh seafood or hearty staples of West Indies cuisine (think: jerk chicken, rice and peas, beef patties, and coco bread), we've rounded up the best institutions to visit during your next Jamaican getaway. From Negril to Ocho Rios, Montego Bay to Kingston, read on for the best restaurants in Jamaica and start preparing for your next trip.
Nestled within the 400-acre beachfront property of the historic Half Moon Resort in Montego Bay, The Sugar Mill is a can’t-miss destination for foodies and history-lovers alike. The award-winning restaurant is located in the former Running Gut Estate on the Rose Hall Sugar Plantation, boasting breathtaking views of the Caribbean Sea. The menu puts a modern spin on traditional Jamaican recipes; we recommend the Crayfish Bisque as well as the meat and seafood brochette flamed with aged rum.
This cliffside restaurant is perfect for a night out with friends or a romantic dinner al fresco. Adventurous travelers should jump off the cliffs into the Caribbean Sea below, and enjoy a swim pre-dinner (and, to be responsible, pre-cocktails as well). Head to Rick’s Café in the late afternoon to witness the legendary sunset as it lights up the tropical sky. Though the restaurant’s name may have become famous because of its appearance in the movie "Casablanca," one visit to this Jamaican institution will have you convinced the Caribbean edition of Rick’s Café is just as legendary as its fictional counterpart in North Africa.
Why be satisfied dining beside the Caribbean when you can enjoy your meal floating atop its shimmering, turquoise waters? This establishment in Montego Bay is historic: Built in the late 1970s, the HouseBoat originally operated as a nightclub. While Rick’s Café may remind Old Hollywood-aficionados of "Casablanca," The HouseBoat Grill does its predecessor one better, as it's the place where Steve McQueen stayed while filming "Papillon." Would-be travelers be warned: This restaurant is so popular that it’s imperative to make a reservation beforehand—especially in the busy season. Trust us, though, it’s worth it.
This establishment is perfect for the traveler with the discerning palate—and even more discerning eye for detail, as the ambiance at the restaurant is unparalleled. Winning the Wine Spectator’s “Award of Excellence” in 2014, the restaurant also boasts the expertise of its James Beard award-winning Executive Chef, Martin Maginley. The upstairs dining terrace is gloriously elegant, situated among the picturesque grounds of Round Hill Resort. There is a maximum seating limit of six people per table, so book a table in advance and be prepared to enjoy an intimate evening beneath the tropical stars.
A trip to Jamaica wouldn’t be complete without sampling the local varieties of "jerk"—jerk chicken, of course, but also jerk pork, jerk sauce, etc. The jerk shacks at the Boston Jerk Center are the premier place to sample Jamaica’s native cuisine. The jerk technique has strong roots in Boston Beach in northeast Jamaica, where the Center is located, and the variety of offerings emanating from the half dozen smoky jerk pits is sure to satisfy. This destination isn’t just for foodies, but for music-lovers as well. Stay later on in the evening, as DJ Sheppy is known to play some tunes from his musical shack. Other popular destinations for jerk include Scotchie’s in Montego Bay, or Lilliput Jerk Centre, located between Montego Bay and Falmouth.
- Expect the lush environs of the surrounding rainforest to be reflected in the colorful garden-style ambiance of Miss T's Kitchen. This restaurant advertises itself as “Nice Jamaican Country Cooking,” and the institution’s self-taught chef, Anna-Kay Tomlinson, certainly delivers on this account. We recommend Miss T’s Famous Oxtail or the Curried Goat, though you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. You won't be disappointed when it comes to sampling the (quite strong) selection of cocktails, either. Listen to the reggae music playing from within the tin-roofed establishment while sipping on a rum concoction of your choosing. We suggest arriving early, or staying late, to kick back and thoroughly enjoy the experience.
The historic Strawberry Hill resort was a favorite of such luminaries as Bob Marley, Mick Jagger, and Willie Nelson—and their photographs are on display in the Bar, alongside many other celebrities, musicians, and royals. The musical tradition continues to this day, as you can often hear tunes playing on the vintage piano during after-dinner aperitifs. For travelers who prefer a leisurely morning to a late night, the Sunday Brunch is a famous tradition for visitors and locals alike. The restaurant takes advantage of its prime location among the Blue Mountains by serving Blue Mountain Coffee, which is brewed less than a mile away.
Though Usain Bolt may be best known as the world-record holder in the 100- and 200-meter relay, the Jamaican sprinter can add another superlative to his list of accomplishments: nightlife entrepreneur. With the tagline “Taste Real Jamaican Vibe,” Tracks and Records features karaoke nights and reggae shows, as well as favorite local dishes like jerk chicken and cassava flatbread. Though there are now additional establishments in Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, and an overseas outpost in London, we recommend visiting the original Kingston location for the most truly authentic vibe.