There is more to Jamaica than reggae, Rastafarians and honeymooners. Fringed with white-sand beaches, the island has year-round sunshine, misty mountains, a lush rainforest, and superb coffee. In the west, lazy Negril showcases its long beach, coconut groves, and clear waters. Partygoers gravitate to Montego Bay with its colonial architecture, bars and nightclubs. Cruise ships dock at Ocho Rios for its golf courses and water park, while Port Antonio’s proximity to the lush Blue Mountains appeals to eco-lovers. The capital, Kingston, is an edgy contrast.
Things to Do
Head to the north and west coasts for diving and snorkelling in clear waters with reefs, garden grottoes, and deep drop-offs. Laze in the sun at Doctor’s Cave Beach, where placid water invites leisurely swimming. Inland, Rose Hall Great House, perched on a hilltop overlooking Montego Bay, gives a glimpse of the heyday of plantation living and even has a resident ghost. Reggae legend Bob Marley’s spirit is kept alive at his birthplace, the mountain village of Nine Miles.
Take a taste of Jamaica home with Blue Mountain coffee or Jamaican rum. Buy colorful art from the Contemporary Art Centre in Kingston or go to the Craft Market in Negril for carvings, beads and straw items. Arts and crafts range from alabaster and woodcarvings to weavings, and any outlet of Things Jamaican, sells a reliable assortment, including locations in Montego Bay and Harmony Hall outside Ocho Rios on the North Coast.
Nightlife and Entertainment
Beach bars abound in Jamaica, and one of the most popular is the raffish Time ‘n’ Place in Falmouth, built of driftwood. The setting is so authentic that many fashion magazines, including Vogue, have used it for photo shoots. Dance on the sand at parties in Negril and Montego Bay’s Hip Strip, and hear soca, calypso, and reggae in hotels, roadside bars and clubs. Serious reggae fans flock to one of Kingston’s sound system discos for the real deal.
Restaurants and Dining
Jamaican flavors are often unexpected, zesty, and refreshing, and Jamaicans are increasingly proud of their island’s culinary offerings. Try specialties such as jerk chicken, chowder with crabmeat, or conch in one of the many casual restaurants in Montego Bay or Negril. Taste island favorites ackee and salt fish at roadside stalls. Beachfront restaurants around the island serve fresh seafood and escoveitch (pickled fish fried with peppers and onions). Finally, cool off with a cold bottle Red Stripe beer or a rum punch.