With beaches, rainforests, and the majestic Blue Mountains, Jamaica is an island replete with natural beauty—and that's not to mention the nation's rich cultural heritage. As the third largest island in the Caribbean, Jamaica’s ecological diversity is mirrored in its equally diverse array of activities and adventures for would-be travelers.
As a result, deciding on how precisely you will spend your time on the island can be slightly overwhelming. Even if you’ve visited a dozen times, we guarantee there is even more you’ve yet to see. In the words of Jamaican legend Bob Marley, though: Don’t worry, be happy. We've got you covered. Read on for your ultimate resource for the best things to do while visiting Jamaica, and go ahead and plan your next trip.
Dance at a Reggae Festival
Not only was Jamaica the birthplace of legends Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley, it was also the adopted homeland of rock stars like Johnny Cash and Keith Richards. From ska to reggae, hip hop to dancehall, Jamaica’s musical legacy has asserted itself worldwide. We recommend attending one of the local reggae festivals held on the island every year, such as the Ocho Rio Jazz Festival in June or the Reggae Sumfest in August.
Indulge in a Jerk Chicken Feast
Jamaica is widely believed to be the homeland of the famously delicious jerk chicken—and if the Caribbean island didn’t invent the dish, it certainly perfected it. Jerk, in all its variations, is immensely popular in Jamaica. Visitors traveling in August should check out the Montego Bay Jerk Festival, held every year in Montego Bay. Travelers any time of year can sample the local goods at Scotchie’s, also in Montego Bay, or Lilliput Jerk Centre, located between Montego Bay and Falmouth.
Go Horseback Riding in the Caribbean Sea
Horseback riding in the Caribbean water is an iconic Jamaican excursion, and one that is not to be missed (your Instagram will thank you later). We recommend Chukka Caribbean Adventures for seaside excursions in Montego Bay, or opt for a sunset horseback riding adventure in Negril with Reggae Horseback Riding & Tours. You can even combine the excursion with a jaunt to Rick's Cafe.
Go Bamboo Rafting along the Rio Grande
River rafting—another iconic Jamaican activity—was invented in the lush, mountainous city of Port Antonio, the capital of Portland parish. Bamboo rafts were originally used to transport bananas from the inland plantations to the Port Antonio harbor, though now they are enjoyed as a unique leisure activity on the island. Rafting adventures are available seven days a week, so there's no excuse to miss this outing, regardless of what time of year you visit.
Bobsled at Mystic Mountain in Ocho Rios
If you're a fan of "Cool Runnings" (and who isn't), then bobsledding at Mystic Mountain in Ocho Rios is a must-do while you're visiting Jamaica. The bobsled course was inspired by the famed Jamaican Olympic team, as well as it should be. You can combine your bobsledding adventure with zip lining via Rainforest Adventure Tours.
Sail Along the Coast of Montego Bay During Sunset
The Beach Boys commemorated Montego Bay in their addicting and inescapable song, "Kokomo" (truly, played everywhere in the islands). Find out what that tropical contact high is all about on a sunset sail along the gorgeous coastline. You can opt for Sunset Catamaran Cruise Montego Bay or Dreamer Catamaran Cruises, the latter of which also offers snorkeling tours for the more aquatically-inclined. Either way, you will be sure to enjoy your time at sea.
Can you really visit an island in the Caribbean without sampling the local rum? Nestled in the countryside, also known as Cockpit Country, Appleton Estate serves up a rum with a unique Nassau Valley terroir that is sure to satisfy any cocktail enthusiast. Plus, the landscape is simply divine.
It is simply sacrilegious to visit Jamaica and not pay respect to Bob Marley, the country's preeminent poet and musician. The Bob Marley Museum, located in the nation’s capital of Kingston, is a must-visit. Come at the beginning of February and you can partake in the annual Bob Marley Week festivities. By gaining a greater understanding of the musical legend, travelers attain a deeper knowledge of the country itself.
Hike in the Blue Mountains
The famed Blue Mountains in Jamaica are an impressive—nearly intimidating—presence, making themselves known immediately to visitors arriving in Kingston. The longest mountain range in the country, the peaks of the Blue Mountains are perpetually clouded by a mist that only adds to their otherworldly aura. Active travelers will enjoy hiking this glorious terrain, while caffeinated ones should not miss out on Blue Mountain coffee. If you don't feel like roughing it, book a stay at Strawberry Hills. The luxurious cliffside resort is as inspiring as it is restorative. Treat yourself: You deserve it.
If the name sounds familiar for lovers of Old Hollywood, let us clarify: Rick's Cafe isn't just a fictional Moroccan gin joint in the Humphrey Bogart film "Casablanca." Though located on different continents, the cliffside Rick's Cafe in Negril is a similarly established institution, drawing regular, loyal visitors as well as tourists to Jamaica.