The Best Time to Visit Jamaica

Jamaica

Getty / DU BOISBERRANGER Jean / hemis.fr

The best time to visit Jamaica is in November and early December, after the hurricane season has subsided and before the tourists arrive for the winter holidays. While prices rise in Jamaica during the busy season between January through March, rainfall increases from May to June, and the hurricane season is at its peak from August to October. Late fall to early winter is an ideal time to visit Jamaica, as the climate is dry and sunny, and the cost of travel has yet to spike alongside the annual arrival of snowbirds fleeing the wintry environments up north. From monthly temperatures to key holidays and events, read on for your ultimate guide to planning your next trip to Jamaica.

Weather in Jamaica

The weather in Jamaica is famously sunny, with an average annual high temperature of 85 degrees F (29 degrees C) and an average low of 73 degrees F (23 degrees C). The winter is the dry season, and the picture-perfect weather for sunbathing is ideal for snowbirds looking to flee the polar vortex for the island's famous beaches. As one of the largest islands in the Caribbean, the weather in Jamaica varies by region, and it is rainier in mountainous areas such as Ocho Rios and Port Antonio and milder in destinations including Montego Bay and Negril. There is an average of 53 inches of annual rainfall in Jamaica. Although the latter destinations only feature one rainy season in the fall, destinations such as the capital of Kingston experience two rainy seasons, in both the spring and fall. The hurricane season in Jamaica begins in June and is at its peak from August to October before officially subsiding in November. Cautious visitors traveling to Jamaica during the height of the hurricane season should consider purchasing travel insurance in advance.

Peak Tourist Season in Jamaica

The peak tourist season in Jamaica officially begins in tandem with the holiday season in mid-December, when the island comes alive with Christmas, Boxing Day, and New Year celebrations. Travel prices rise at this time and the increased cost of airfare and pricey hotel bookings continue in the busiest months of January through March. Cost-conscious travelers should consider visiting in spring, summer, or fall; we recommend traveling to Jamaica in November and early December before the holiday crowds arrive. Travelers looking to visit Jamaica during peak season should plan in advance to book flights and accommodation as early as possible to avoid spending more later.

Key Holidays & Events

From reggae to dance hall, Jamaica has a rich musical history and was home to not only Bob Marley, but Johnny Cash and Keith Richards at different points of their careers as well. Visitors are encouraged to partake in the island's musical history via reggae festivals and concerts that are routinely held on the island. Many events and festivals in Jamaica that take place throughout the year, but highlights include Bob Marley Week in January and Jazz Week in June. During the months of February through April, the Bacchanal Carnival, featuring reggae performances, parades, and costumes, is not to be missed.

January

January marks the height of the tourist season in Jamaica, which begins midway through December in conjunction with the holiday season. The weather is ideal for visitors as this is the driest season of the year, and the weather is not too hot, with an average high of 86 degrees F (30 degrees C) and an average low of 70 degrees F (21 degrees C). Travelers should pack lightweight clothing and a light sweater for the evenings.

Events to check out: The Maroons were African slaves who escaped into the mountains of Western Jamaica to win their freedom, and they are feted every Jan. 6 with the Accompong Maroon Festival in Accompong Village. The festival commemorates the signing of the peace treaty between the Maroons and the British government and has been held for over 200 years. The festivities include traditional music and dancing (cow horns and Maroon drums are signature instruments)

February

February is peak season in Jamaica, so travelers should plan in advance if they’re looking to acquire travel deals or reasonable rates on hotel bookings. Airfare is markedly higher during this time period, but visitors will be rewarded with balmy weather and a plethora of celebrations in honor of the birth of Bob Marley during Bob Marley week. February is also the coldest month of the year, though temperatures remain in the mid-80s F.

Events to check out: The birthday of Bob Marley is Feb. 6, and if you think this Jamaican legend is not thoroughly feted in his home country, you’re very misguided. Forget a birthday; how about a birth week? Visitors in February should pay a visit to the ​Bob Marley Museum in the nation's capital of Kingston, or his mausoleum in Ocho Rios. The entire week consists of events, lectures, and celebrations in honor of Jamaica’s most legendary singer and poet.

March

The beginning of spring boasts the driest month of the year, and this balmy weather continues into April with rainfall beginning in May. There are eight hours of sunshine per day in March and April. March and April are also considered windy months; however, the beaches in Negril and Kingston are sufficiently sheltered.

Events to check out: The Bacchanal Carnival in Jamaica begins in mid-February and runs through to April, featuring colorful costumes and even more colorful reggae performances, as well as local DJs and a spectacular array of local food. The carnival officially concludes with the Bacchanal Road March parade, which is held in the capital of Kingston.

April

April is a momentous month for visitors to arrive in Jamaica, as the Carnival Week occurs around the Easter celebrations, and there is also a famed sailing regatta in the famous beach destination of Montego Bay. The average monthly high in August is the same as March, at 88 degrees F (31 degrees C), with an average low of 73 degrees F (23 degrees C).

Events to check out:

  • The Montego Bay Yacht Club's Easter Regatta is a four-day regatta held in the picturesque town of Montego Bay around Easter and reliably draws an excitable crowd of sailors and sailing-enthusiasts alike.
  • Jamaican Carnival Week kicks off on Easter Sunday and marks the end of the carnival season which began in mid-February.

May

For literary travelers visiting in May, there is the Calabash International Literary Festival. This festival will appeal to party-lovers and book-lovers alike. May is the rainiest month in the mountainous regions of Ocho Rios, Kingston, and Port Antonio, though Negril and Montego Bay are largely unaffected by precipitation during this time period.

Events to check out: The Calabash International Literary Festival is held in Treasure Beach in May every year, drawing an international crowd of authors and literary enthusiasts to the festivities.

June

The first month of summer sees the rains continuing in the more mountainous destinations (Ocho Rios, Port Antonio), but the weather is still slightly sunnier than the month prior. This is also the start of the hurricane season. Travelers should not be discouraged by a bit of rain, as peak hurricane season is in the fall. The average high in June is 90 degrees F (32 degrees C) and the average low is 75 degrees F (24 degrees C)

Events to check out: Jazz Week in June is not to be missed and considered one of the best jazz festivals in the entire Caribbean. Check out the Ocho Rio Jazz Festival for upcoming artists and events, though there are other free jazz events during this week throughout Jamaica. 

July

July is the hottest month of the year, boasting nine hours of sunshine and an average high of 91 degrees F (33 degrees C) and an average low of 75 degrees F (24 degrees C). July marks the last month before the peak hurricane season begins, so it is a safe bet for cautious visitors worried about inclement weather.

Events to check out: Not to be outdone by Jazz Week in June, July plays host to the Reggae Sumfest. This festival in Montego Bay is an annual delight for visitors and locals alike on the island. Expect a big party on Friday night, followed by three nights of fun and celebrations.

August

August is a wonderful month for foodies to visit Jamaica, as it is the time of year when the Montego Bay Jerk Festival is held. It is also notably the month in which Independence Day is celebrated with nationwide festivities held all across Jamaica. The temperature continues to be high in August, with an average high is 91 degrees F (33 degrees C) and an average low of 75 degrees F (24 degrees C). August kicks off the beginning of peak hurricane season, so travelers should be prepared.

Events to check out:

  • Get into the local culinary spirit at the Montego Bay Jerk Festival, held every year in Montego Bay.
  • Jamaica celebrates Independence Day on Aug. 6 to commemorate the first Independence Day for the nation, which occurred on Aug. 6, 1962. Expect a plethora of celebrations and Jamaican pride.

September

With the fall comes the rainy season throughout Jamaica, though the famously sunny island still boasts eight hours of sunshine per day. September is the beginning of peak hurricane season, so travelers should pack raincoats and lightweight clothing to beat the water and the heat. The average high in September is 90 degrees F (32 degrees C) and the average low is 75 degrees F (24 degrees C).

Events to check out: The Falmouth Blue Marlin Tournament is held annually in late September and is a very big deal to locals, as marlin sport-fishing was invented in Jamaica. We suggest you get into the local spirit at one of the celebrations or receptions.

October

Travelers visiting Jamaica in October should consider packing a raincoat, and maybe ordering travel insurance, as this is the wettest month of the year in Jamaica. October is also in peak hurricane season (a continuation from September), and even though hurricanes are rare on the island, Jamaica does fall within the Atlantic hurricane belt, so visitors should be prepared for tropical storms.

Events to check out: October is for the fish, or the fishermen (and women) to be precise. Check out the international marlin tournaments held in Port Antonio and Montego Bay, the former of which is the home of marlin sport-fishing. There are also parties held throughout the tournament that will appeal to all visitors, even those who won't be fishing.

November

November is the perfect month to visit for foodies, and cost-conscious travelers, who can take advantage of fine dining at gloriously reduced prices during Kingston Restaurant Week. This month is also notable in that it marks the end of hurricane season, ushering in a return to balmier days. The average high is 88 degrees F (31 degrees C) and the average low is 73 degrees F (23 degrees C).

Events to check out: From catching fish to eating fish: Kingston Restaurant Week is held every November, offering steep discounts on restaurants throughout Kingston. Bon appetit!

December

December is a wonderful time to visit for the Christmas holidays, but travelers looking to save money should consider booking their flights in the earlier weeks of the month before peak tourist season begins (alongside the pricier airfare and hotel bookings). December is also a beautiful time to visit for sun-worshippers, boasting seven hours of sunshine per day. The rains will have usually stopped by this first month of winter, but consider packing a raincoat just in case.

Events to check out: Boxing Day is a public holiday in Jamaica and includes an 'Open House' celebration, in which friends of friends, and of course friends, are welcomed into local homes to drink and celebrate.

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