Jamaica is a top Caribbean destination for many reasons. Miles of unspoiled beaches, tropical rainforests, and verdant mountains make for a perfect getaway. Plus there’s so much to do. Sure you can relax on the beach and enjoy the warm, crystal clear waters, and laid back reggae vibe, but there’s also a host of active adventures to keep you busy for days.The Jamaican Groove
The island of Jamaica is huge, boasting more than 635 miles of shoreline. Secret coves, calm bays and vast stretches of white sand abound, beckoning the winter-weary traveler to this tropical paradise. In addition, the multitude of accommodation options on offer, from luxe all-inclusive resorts to rustic beach cabanas means there’s something for every budget – families, honeymooners, and solo travelers alike.
Regardless of where you decide to stay, you’ll discover that easy-going, Jamaican ambiance. After a day lolling on the beach, lazy afternoons can be spent sipping rum punch or a cold Red Stripe. Or you can opt for a poolside massage, releasing all your worries while the sea breeze wafts through the air.
Sample the delicious Jamaican cuisine, with influences from all over the world. Try popular local dishes such as curry goat, peas, and rice or ackee and saltfish, the national staple made with a distinctively creamy fruit and salted codfish. Also, stop by one of the many “jerk” stands for the best barbecue you’ve ever tasted.
A vacation in Jamaica isn’t complete without a night or two of dancing. Wherever you are, you’re sure to hear those ubiquitous reggae rhythms that go on until the wee hours of the night.
If, on the other hand, your idea of a fun vacation means more than just relaxing on a beach, sipping afternoon cocktails and dancing the night away, well, you’re in luck. Jamaica has a wealth of activities for adrenaline junkies and you’ll find an exciting array of heart-pumping excursions, most of which are highly affordable and easily accessible.Montego Bay and Negril
Montego Bay, generally the gateway into Jamaica for most, is a lively town with a vibrant nightlife scene popular among spring breakers and the cruise ship crowd. Yet, a variety of resorts just outside of town offer a more low-key vacation that tends to attract families. Montego Bay also offers excellent duty-free shopping and is a good base from which to explore other parts of the island.
On the west coast lies Negril, a resort area long known by Bob Marley fans as the cool place to chill out. Along with its famous seven-mile beach, you’ll discover a golden strip of sand strewn with cabanas, all -inclusive jungle retreats, countless bars and food stands, and music galore. Sunbathing and people watching are the favorite pastimes and the stretch is endlessly traversed by locals selling homemade jewelry and crafts. While not always serene, Negril is endlessly entertaining and authentically Jamaican.
One of our favorite action-packed adventures is to Mystic Mountain
. Ride the Sky Explorer chairlift up into the tropical rainforest, then enjoy an exhilarating plunge down the mountain on a private bobsled. After a tramway back up the mountain, zip line through the lush canopy forest.
Or opt for a scenic mountain biking excursion
. Start up high atop beautiful Blue Mountain peak, meander downhill through the lush tropical rainforest, noting the varied plant and bird life. Stop for a tasting of world renowned Blue Mountain coffee and end off with a cool dip in a cascading waterfall.
Another option is to test your skills rafting down the Rio Bueno River
. Ride the rapids on a thrilling journey through the tropical jungle, stop for a dip in the calmer waters, then end the day on a private stretch of beach.
For a more low-keyed day, take a guided food tour
of historic Falmouth. Learn about sugar plantation life and how it shaped the lives of the locals in terms of both food and culture.
Further afield, about an hour-and-a-half drive east of Montego Bay, you’ll land in Ocho Rios, home to some of the most luxurious resorts and spas on the island. Best known for expensive all-inclusive packages, Ocho Rios is a great spot to recharge your batteries. It’s also a terrific base for active adventures as well as scenic excursions.
One of our most popular trips is Dolphin Cove
because there’s something for all energy levels. Take a glass bottomed kayak to explore the fascinating underworld, Interact with wildlife on a jungle walk, relax on a white, sandy beach, and of course, swim with the dolphins, one of the sea world’s most friendly creatures.
Dunn’s River Falls is an oft visited attraction in the area, and rightly so. With your trained guide, hike to this beautiful cascading waterfall
. Enjoy swimming, sunbathing, and just simply relaxing.
For a true adrenaline rush, prepare to get down and dirty on our off road ATV tour
. After some initial training, set off to explore acres of Jamaican countryside and breathtaking views of the Caribbean Sea 1000 feet below.
Another less active option is our Jamaican beach cookout
. Travel through scenic countryside, visit a few local communities, stop at a coffee plantation, and finally descend to the beach for a scrumptious jerk chicken barbecue.
For a truly cultural experience, you’ll need to delve into Kingston, Jamaica’s capital. Nestled between the Blue Mountains and a natural harbor, Kingston is the country’s economic and artistic hub and a city of sharp contrasts. The rich uptown is home to some of the most affluent neighborhoods while many in the poorer downtown area lack basic needs. Though chaotic and bustling, Kingston has a spirit all of its own.
To experience the true flavor of this sprawling city, we suggest starting with a historical Kingston tour
. Visit buildings, monuments, landmarks, and districts, such as old Spanish Town and the Ward Theatre. Stop at the Bob Marley Museum and learn how this iconic legend influenced the country and the world through music. Finally, visit the Tracks and Records Lounge, housing memorabilia and awards of its owner and native, Usain Bolt.
A trip to Kingston is not complete without a visit to Devon House
, the mansion of Jamaica’s first black millionaire George Stiebel. Explore the luxe interior and lavish grounds on this guided two-hour tour. Also, visit the many shops and restaurants now housed in the mansion’s courtyard.
Written by: Cheryl Peress