One of the largest islands in the Caribbean, Jamaica is renowned for its rich cultural history and diverse natural beauty. The island is the homeland of jerk chicken, Blue Mountains, and Bob Marley, and it is an unrivaled destination for visitors looking to experience Caribbean culture. There’s no shortage of activities for the adventurous traveler when visiting Jamaica, and navigating where to visit during your trip can be overwhelming. From the beaches of Montego Bay to the waterfalls of Ocho Rios, read on for the eight best places to visit during your next vacation to Jamaica.
Whether you’re interested in sunbathing, snorkeling, or scuba diving, there’s no better place to appreciate Jamaica’s famous coastline than Negril in western Jamaica. For active travelers, we suggest exploring the town by going horseback riding, a popular activity on the island that allows equestrians to trot or gallop along the coastline. For travelers of all stripes, consider a visit to Rick’s Café for cocktails at sunset—and perhaps a refreshing cliffside dip—to commemorate your Jamaican vacation.
During the sugar rush of the 1700s, the "Paris of the Indies" was considered the most cosmopolitan city in the west. Though the sugar rush is over, the historic and ornate architecture remains, earning Falmouth its designation as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations, as well as a Jamaican National Monument. Sign up for a walking tour of the historic city, and opt for a Falmouth Swamp Safari to acquaint yourself with the wilder environs of the region—which you may recognize as the setting for the classic James Bond film “Live and Let Die.”
There's more to Montego Bay than gloriously picturesque beaches. Visit the Montego Bay Cultural Center (home of the National Museum West and the National Gallery West) in Sam Sharpe Square for a taste of the region’s history. When it comes to the beach, consider seaside horseback riding with Chukka Caribbean Adventures or dining at sea on the HouseBoat Grill. Travelers looking for luxury have come to the right place, as Half Moon Resort—located on the former Rose Hall Sugar Plantation—and Round Hill Hotel and Villas are sure to satisfy even the most discerning of travelers. Visitors should spend an evening dining al fresco at The Sugar Mill.
Spreading across three parishes in Jamaica, Cockpit Country was an 18th-century Maroon stronghold; due to its hilly, inhospitable environs, Africans who escaped slavery were able to successfully evade capture by the British. The establishments they settled, including Accompong Village, are rich with history and open to tours. Explore Rockspring Cave with Cockpit Country Adventure Tours, drink rum at Appleton Estate, and order jerk chicken at Good Hope. A sugar estate established in 1774, Good Hope has since been turned into a luxury attraction, complete with an infinity pool overlooking a breathtaking vista of the Jamaican countryside.
The Jamaican capital of Kingston is one of the most well-known destinations on the island, though it’s less frequently visited than Montego Bay. Pay your respects to Jamaican legends by dining at Usain Bolt’s Tracks and Records (the city houses the first outpost of the popular chain) and touring the Bob Marley Museum. Spend an afternoon exploring the celebrated heritage site of Devon House before heading to the historic Strawberry Hill resort in the Blue Mountains. Speaking of those iconic Blue Mountains, the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park is located eight miles north of Kingston and is a majestic site just waiting to be explored. Whether you are into drinking coffee, biking, or hiking, the view from the top of the Blue Mountain range is not to be missed.
Because Port Antonio is the birthplace of river rafting in Jamaica, we recommend signing up for a traditional bamboo rafting tour. The city also offers a lot for travelers looking to laze beside the country’s abundant ocean and rivers. Frenchman’s Cove Beach is routinely considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Active vacationers can go snorkeling at the Blue Lagoon, or search for rare fossils in Nonsuch Caves, home to ancient stalagmites and Taino relics. Additionally, travelers should also do a Port Antonio Walking Tour to explore such historic landmarks as the 18th-century British cannons of Fort George and the still-majestic Folly Ruins, the site of a turn-of-the-century 60-room mansion.
Only nine miles away from Port Antonio is one of the most beautiful beaches in the entire nation: Boston Beach. Boston has more to offer than just sandy coastline, though: The region is considered to be the birthplace of the jerk cooking technique that is so popular throughout the country. Pay a visit to Boston Jerk Center to sample jerk in all of its forms (including chicken, of course) and sign up for a Country-Style Community Tour. These tours, which include farm visits, homestays, and other culturally immersive programs, are offered in small villages throughout Jamaica.
Head to Ocho Rios to visit such lush and spectacular natural environs as the Dunn’s River Falls. Adventurous travelers will enjoy climbing these breathtaking waterfalls, as well as bobsledding at Mystic Mountain. Opt for some delicious, home-style cooking at Miss T’s Kitchen before boarding your return flight home.