20 Best Things to Do In Jamaica

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Swing on a tree over the sea in Jamaica

I had my reservations about Jamaica.

Despite being one of the most popular islands for visitors in the Caribbean, a quick search online told me that tourism in Jamaica has developed substantially since the glitterati jetted to the island in the 1950s. These days, all-inclusive resorts have become one of the major ways to visit. And, if you’ve read this blog before, you’ll know I hate all-inclusive resorts.

However, the alternative – taking myself around the island on an independent basis – came with those back-of-the-brain nagging concerns about safety, because Jamaica does have a bit of a reputation on that front.

Still, after some deliberation and a lot of great advice from the places where I stayed, I spent a wonderful 10 days exploring Jamaica. And, best of all, I didn’t have a single moment when I felt unsafe (see more on safety in Jamaica below).

What follows is my itinerary through the country that let me get up close with Jamaica. I’ll share with you what to see and do, where to stay, where to eat and how to get around.

1. Slow down in Ocho Rios

After weeks racing around the USA and a few party nights in Miami, the first order of business on my Jamaican travel itinerary was to adapt to the slowness of island time and Ocho Rios was the perfect place for me to take a long, slow release of breath.

2. Stay at a spice plantation

Front of Sussex House Spice plantation

Sussex Great House, which dates back to the 1790s, is by far one of the most beautiful, fascinating and unique places I’ve ever stayed. At the top of a winding hill in St Anne’s Bay (a short drive away from Ocho Rios) 600ft above the sea, this traditional Jamaican house still operates as a spice plantation that sprawls over 150 acres and the hosts couldn’t have been more welcoming.

View of Sussex House Pool from my room

Step out of your private room in this Airbnb rental and you’re within plunging distance of a pool that comes with views towards Ocho Rios and out to sea.

Sussex House Back of Pool

With an attached library room, complete with curl-up-and-loose-yourself-in-a-book sofas and various outdoor seating spaces, Sussex Great House is the ideal way to shake off jet-lag or ease yourself into Jamaica’s go-slow lifestyle.

Beautiful blue coloured Bedroom at Sussex House

But when you do want to stretch your legs, a stroll through the plantation grounds will take you past local exotic fruits as well as the native spices that are still harvested each year on the plantation.

View of the plantation elevation

How to get there:

Map of drive from Montego Bay to St Anne's Bay

Getting there: I flew into Montego Bay and took the Knutsford Express, a local bus from Montego Bay to Ocho Rios. From there, my Airbnb hosts collected me and drove to Sussex Great House in St Anne’s Bay. The bus journey takes 1hr 50min and costs $2,400 Jamaican Dollars (around £14/US$20) if you book in advance. The journey to Sussex Great House took under 30 minutes.

About the Knutsford Express: I’ve tried a lot of local bus companies around the world and I was very impressed with the public transport option in Jamaica. New buses with modern air conditioning, seat belts, a prompt service that ran to time and the politest drivers I’ve ever met, I truly looked forward to my bus journeys in Jamaica, which is not something I say often.

Staying at Sussex Great House: You can book a stay at Sussex Great House via Airbnb. The rate is £64 per night (around USD$95), including breakfast. If you’re more than two people, contact the owners as they have a self-contained apartment also available for rent within the same grounds.

Using Great Sussex House as your base, there are plenty of nearby activities if you want to do more than lay around reading and eating (which is pretty much what I did). Here are a few of the local activities on offer. Note: you’ll either need to hire a car or, better still, a local driver to take you around. The hosts of Sussex Great House can help you do this.

3. Visit Fern Gully

Fern Gulley road with fern trees at the side

As dramatic drives go, a road trip through this 5km (3 mile) canyon that’s overflowing with ferns, has got to be one of the best out there. The ferns were planted around 1800 and today they fill the gorge and offer an umbrella of sun cover overhead.

Fun fact: Fern Gully in Jamaica was, sadly, not the impetus for the 1990’s animated fantasy adventure film of the same name featuring Tim Curry. 

4. Explore Dunn’s River Falls

Flowing waterfalls at Dunn's River Falls

Dunn’s River Falls (a series of waterfalls in case the name didn’t give it away) is one of Jamaica’s biggest tourist attractions. Tumbling down over 55 metres (180 ft) and spanning 180 metres (600 ft) wide, the falls have become a popular spot for a bit of upward hiking. However, if you want to avoid the crowds or don’t fancy spending an hour and a half hiking, plan your upward waterfall adventure at Reach Falls in Port Antonio instead (more on that below).

Did you know: Dunns River Falls featured in 1980’s hit movie Cocktail, starring Tom Cruise, but that wasn’t the waterfall’s first movie debut – it was also used as a filming location for James Bond’s 1962 movie, Dr No

With a lot of relaxation under my belt, the next stop on my Jamaican adventure was Port Antonio, the birthplace of tourism on the island. And after being static for a few days, I was ready to get out and explore.

5. Stay ay Eco-boutique hotel in a jungle setting, Port Antonio

Mockingbird Hill Hotel pergola with white curtains

Think of Jamaica and most people think of soft sand and Caribbean Seas. Of course, Jamaica is riddled with beach opportunities and I spent my fair share of time at the beach but not everyone is a beach lover and even those of us who are still want a bit of diversity in our travel environment – and I found it at Hotel Mockingbird Hill.

Clear of the resorts and immersed in nature, a stay at Hotel Mockingbird Hill, which is sandwiched between the Blue Mountains and Caribbean Sea, offers boutique luxury in a natural setting. With only 10 rooms, you can tap into the exclusivity that drew the glitterati of Jamaica’s yesteryear to this part of the island’s shores. But, perhaps best of all, this eco hotel had myriad eco and environmental accolades, making your stay pure pleasure, no guilt.

Mockingbird Hill Hotel Round Pool

Tranquil, serene and promising a sanctuary from mass tourism, I really had to force myself out of my in-room hammock to explore the surrounding area. Fortunately, the hotel’s owners were on hand with more suggestions for local activities than I had time to squeeze in.

Mockingbird Hill Hotel Room with blue cushions and white net

When I wasn’t lounging on my bed, pretending I was Queen of the Jungle…

Garden at Mockingbird Hill Hotel

…I was wandering through the hotel’s expansive and meandering garden playing Indiana Jo.

And the food at the hotel’s restaurant was some of the best I ate in Jamaica. In fact, even Luca Gargano, one of the founders of the Slow Food Movement has complimented the restaurant. See my related article, What to Eat in Jamaica: Traditional Jamaican Food, for more information.

Hot to get there:

Map of drive from St Anne's Bay to Port Antonio in Jamaica

Getting there: I took the Knutsford Express from Ocho Rios to Port Antonio and Hotel Mockingbird Hill is a short drive or taxi ride away. The bus journey takes 2hrs and costs $1,800 Jamaican Dollars (around £11/US$15) if you book in advance.

Staying at Hotel Mockingbird Hill: You can book a stay at Hotel Mockingbird Hill. Rooms start at USD$248 (around £170) per night including taxes.

6. Raft down the Rio Grande

Man steering wooden raft on Rio Grande in Jamaica

By far my favourite activity in Jamaica was boarding a long, narrow wooden raft and slowly making my way down the Rio Grande. A world away from white water rafting, I sat back and watched life gently meander by.

Jamaican woman cooking on wood fire

After about an hour, we pulled up at the banks and after a leisurely swim, I sat down for lunch. Aside from the spectacular river-side location, Belinda, a local lady, carries the food and her cooking wares to this secluded spot each day. Cooked to traditional family recipes using stone and firewood, you’re unlikely to find a more authentic and original dining experience in Jamaica.

Plate of Jamaican food with plantain and meat

While I stayed at Hotel Mockingbird Hill, I spent each day enjoying a different activity, from rafting on the Rio Grande to all of the adventures below. Each was organised for me by the hotel, allowing me to take advantage of their local knowledge and decades of tourism experience in the area. You can find out more here.

7. Hike Up Reach Falls

Flowing water at Reach Falls

If the idea of hiking up a waterfall is something you’d like to try, I can highly recommend Reach Falls as the place to do it.

Waterfalls over rocks with greenery at Reach falls

Accompanied by a guide who navigates the series of cascades and stepped pools like a ballerina, you’ll spend around one hour swimming in the waterfall pools, enjoying the ‘natural massage’ that comes from bubbling and flowing water and gradually swimming and climbing up the series of rocks towards the waterfall.

Panorama of biggest waterfall at reach falls

Although the hike doesn’t deliver you to the foot of the waterfalls (that part of the falls is accessed by another route and a set of steps), swimming and hiking up the falls is certainly the more novel and exhilarating way to get there.

Afterwards, I was served fresh coconut while I dried off in the sun.

Good news: your guide takes a dry route alongside you and can therefore take all the photos you need along the way – all the photos above were taken by my guide on my iPhone

8. Explore the Coastal Road, Port Antonio

Coast and sea at Port Antonio

Jamaica is so much more than the resort-selected beaches that dot its perimeter – the rugged coastal road is an attraction all by itself. With the pace of island life on your side, spend an hour driving along the coast around Port Antonio taking in stops at Frenchman’s Cove and Winnifred Beach (see below).

Sign for Norse Point

9. Enjoy seclusion at Frenchman’s Cove

Beach at Frenchman's cove

There are very few public beaches in Jamaica and Frenchman’s Cove is no exception. Forming part of Frenchman’s Cove Resort (a historic hotel that can once hosted Queen Elizabeth), an afternoon at Frenchman’s Cove promises seclusion – something of a rare treat in Jamaica.

Fortunately, guests of Hotel Mockingbird Hill can gain access to this exclusive beach.

10. Swim and dine at Winnifred Beach

Winnfred beach

Unlike Frenchman’s Cover, Winnifred Beach is one of the island’s public beaches and is a great place to visit if you want to see what Jamaica is like beyond the resorts, and have a lazy sun day along with the locals.

Cynthia's beach restaurant at winnifred beach

Don’t miss Cynthia’s beach restaurant where you can truly experience Jamaica with a brimming plate of local food.

Plate of Jamaican food with bammy, plantain and chicken

Fun fact: Winnifred Beach was named one of the Top 10 Beaches You’ve Never Heard of by The Guardian.

Swing at the beach with people swimming

Top tip: for another beautiful public beach complete with rope swing, head to Boston beach (picture above) just a little around the coast from Winnifred Beach.

11. Drink Jamaican Coffee in the Blue Mountains

View of the Blue Mountains from coffee plantation

Leaving Port Antonio behind and heading Kingston bound, I opted for a route through the Blue Mountains (Hotel Mockingbird Hill arranged a driver and provided me with a packed lunch for the journey).

The drive was wonderfully windy and the altitude fierce enough to pop your ears, but it was the views that kept my line of sight glued to the window (and made me grateful that an experienced local was navigating the sheer-drop hair-pin bends rather than me).

Cup of coffee with mountain views

And just when I thought my day in the Blue Mountains couldn’t get any better, we pulled up at Alex Twyman’s Old Tavern Blue Mountain Coffee Estate.  Tasting locally grown coffee is one of my favourite activities in any coffee producing country but none of coffee estates I’ve visited have come with views this superlative.

It took a good three cups of coffee before I accepted the reality that I wasn’t going to be able to live on the estate and spend the rest of my days sipping freshly roasted coffee from the highest quality beans while staring off into the never-ending Blue Mountain distance. Sigh.

Still, it was time to move on – back down through more spectacular scenery and onto the city I’d been most excited, interested and, I’ll admit, a bit nervous to visit – Kingston.

12. Visit the Bob Marley Museum, Kingston

Street art in Kingston Jamaica

By far the highest item on most visitors’ must-see list when arriving in Kingston is going to be the Bob Marley Museum. Please don’t make my mistake and turn up on a Sunday when the museum is closed. Sadly, all I got to see was the exterior. Still, what better excuse to return to Jamaica?

13. Explore some history at Institute of Jamaica

Front of Institute of Jamaica

One of the most fascinating and important parts of visiting any country is understanding the history and culture of the place and if you’re after a slice of Jamaica, you’ll find it in spades at the Institute of Jamaica. From the Taino indigenous culture through to Rastafarianism, travel over the centuries to understand the thick and vivid history that makes up Jamaica.

14. Step back in time at Devon House

Colonial Deven House building

Whether you visit just to tuck into a rum and raisin ice cream (I might have to confess to that one) or so see the splendid interior of this historic home, you’ll have a great day out.

Devon House is “the architectural dream of Jamaica’s first black millionaire George Stiebel” and was built in the late 19th century. Meanwhile, the on-site ice cream parlour (i-scream) is good enough to attract Jamaicans from far and wide.

Rum and raisin ice cream at Devon house

15. Visit Life Yard

Life yard street art and bench

One of the best things you can do in Kingston is take a full-day tour organised by Amilcar Lewis, editor of Backayard Magazine.  As well as visiting the Institute of Jamaica (above), you’ll be taken to Life Yard and explore the Paint Jamaica project run by the Life Yard Family.

Life Yard is an urban garden that’s been set up in downtown Kingston and has a kitchen attached, serving home cooked vegetarian food with produce picked from the garden. Abiding by Rastafarian tradition, Life Yard is a chilled out space to explore and, if you happen to stop by on a kitchen day, to try the food.

Professional photographs: included in the price of your tour is a local photographer who will capture the day for you so you don’t have to worry about getting the perfect shot. This comes with advantage of having photographs within the Institute of Jamaica where tourist photos are not allowed.

16. Be impressed by the power of Paint Jamaica

Street art of Jamaican girl with glasses

Paint Jamaica is a phenomenal local project that has involved street artists from around the world and received Kickstarter funding. The artists have transformed a derelict outdoor space in an impoverished part of downtown Kingston into a space where locals now gather and kids go to play sport.

17. Get down at Rockers International Record Shop

Records at Rockers International Record Shop

Also part of the day-long tour with Amil is a trip to Rockers International Record Shop, one of the few remaining record shops on Orange Street, a.k.a “beat street” where many reggae and ska bands were born. From the 1960s to today, listen to records throughout the decades through amps that have the street shaking even to this day.

18. Pay your respects at National Heroes Park

Cross monument and guards at National Heroes Park

As the burial-place of many of Jamaica’s national heroes and prime ministers, you can take a walk through the country’s history at the National Heroes Park. Peaceful and dotted with several impressive monuments, make sure you time your visit for the changing of the guards. You can read more about Jamaica’s buried heroes here.

19. Experience China in Hope Botanical Garden

Chinese Pagoda at Hope Botanical Gardens

It’s hard to imagine a small corner of China tucked away in Kingston, but the Hope Botanical Garden features exactly that. From a small-scale replica of parts of the Forbidden City in Beijing to tree types from all over the world, the highlight of a visit to the gardens is the guide (included in your entry price) who will happily regale you with an impressive number of facts and details about the gardens.

20. Hit the beach in Montego Bay

Located on the north coast of Jamaica, Montego Bay is a huge tourist draw with a major cruise port, beautiful sandy beaches and mega resorts. I spent a couple of days chilling out in Mo’Bay and, honestly, could easily have spent two weeks here. But I’m glad I didn’t because there is so much more to Jamaica than what lies behind the manicured gated areas of the hotel resorts.

Where to stay in Kingston

Collage of Altamont Court Hotel in Kingston

I stayed at Altamont Court Hotel in New Kingston and if you’re looking for a bite of tranquility in an otherwise frenetic city, Altamont Court is a great choice. Tucked away in the new business district, the rooms are large and clean and the on-site restaurant offers a well-priced fixed-course dinner each night. Oh, and super helpful staff, which always pleases me.

How to get there:

Map of drive from Port Antonio to Kingston in Jamaica

From Port Antonio and driving via the Blue Mountains, a private driver arranged by Hotel Mockingbord Hill took me to Kingston. It is possible to take the Knutsford Express but you would need to return to Ocho Rios and, worst of all, you’d miss the beauty of the Blue Mountains.

My time in Jamaica didn’t feel long enough though it was sufficient time to give me a hankering to return. Outside the resorts and exploring independently, I was able to take time to explore the local side of Jamaica and I know one day I’ll be back to explore some more.

Is Jamaica Safe? 

This feels like a good juncture to discuss safety in Jamaica generally and Kingston specifically (Kingston is featured in the top 50 of cities with the highest murder rate per capita).

Despite being a five foot tall solo female traveler, I’ve visited several places featured on the above list and I’ve also written about the safety of several destinations that many people are nervous about visiting (Mexico, Naples, Colombia and Detroit to name a few).

What I’ve found in 99% of cases is that the media hype and the safety reality are often different matters. With sufficient street smarts (don’t walk down that dark alley alone at night, kids), you’re highly unlikely to meet any of the trouble that the statistics suggest.

Why? Because for the most part, crime is gang-related and mostly affects the local people. So, unless you’re unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time or get yourself embroiled in a gang-related problem, your stay is going to be trouble-free.

Jamaica, looking at the crime statistics, seems to be no different.

Did you know?

Most of the crime in Jamaica is gang related. Therefore, if you stay within the tourist areas and don’t try to do anything stupid like making friends (or trying to buy drugs) from gang members or new local friends, you’ll most likely be fine.

Most crime is Jamaican on Jamaican. Whether it is gang violence or domestic violence (which is, sadly, prevalent in the country), tourists are unlikely to get caught up in the fray.

One of the biggest risks to tourists is petty theft and pick-pocketing so leave your Rolex at home and don’t flash your cash. But you didn’t need me to tell you that, did you?

And, as always, make sure you have good travel insurance (see my related article: Travel Insurance – Don’t Get Screwed by the Small Print).

For recent crime statistics and details, see here.

Verdict on safety: Most of the time while I was in Kingston I was either part of a tour or accompanied by a guide so I didn’t spend much time alone. However, I travelled throughout Jamaica by public transport and never once felt unsafe. Even heading into the more impoverished parts of Kingston, I felt comfortable using my iPhone in public and a big smile went a long way in breaking down inquisitive looks.

In short, I have no hesitation recommending an independent visit to Jamaica.

Have you been to Jamaica? Is it on your travel wish list? Let me know in the comments below.

If you liked this, you might also like:

Hiking in Toppes de Collantes, Cuba

10 Essential Things to Know About Cuba Before You Go

La Boca: One of the Best Beaches in Cuba

A Rave in a Cave: Disco Ayala, Cuba

Varadero Resorts: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Cuba’s Hershey Train: The Slow Way to Varadero

Casa Particulares in Cuba

Photo Credits: Fern Gully: Derek Hatfield; Dunn’s River Falls: Jim Amorin. My trip to Jamaica was arranged by Hotel Mockingbird Hill. 

Author - Jo Fitzsimons

Hi, I'm Jo, the writer behind Indiana Jo. In 2010 I quit my job as a lawyer and booked an around the world ticket. As a solo female traveller, I hopped from South America to Central America, across Asia, the Middle East and Europe. It was supposed to be a one-year trip but over a decade later, it's yet to end. I've lived in a cave, climbed down a volcano barefoot, spent years as a digital nomad, worked as a freelance travel writer, and eaten deadly Fugu. Now I'm home, back in the UK, but still travelling far and wide. You can find out more About Me.

68 thoughts on “20 Best Things to Do In Jamaica”

  1. Thanks much for this write up about what is suppose to be my home. I work overseas and several coworkers have been hankering about going on a trip to Jamaica with me being a guide. Well, here I am perusing your blog for ideas, and by the way, this read as been very useful. Thank you so much…but thank you more for keeping the negative at bay.

    • Hi Major, how lovely to be able to take your friends and show them around your home country! I’m very happy my blog helped. Have an amazing time 🙂

  2. Hello Jo, we just found your blog site because we’re planning a Caribbean/Central America trip starting in November, with Jamaica as our likely starting point. We will probably spend about three weeks in Jamaica. We are already very experienced independent travellers (feel free to take a look at our blog site too – thehungrytravellers). We’ve just got back home to England after a California/Mexico/Belize trip and the Caribbean “bits” of this trip and an earlier trip to Costa Rica have really whetted our appetite for more Caribbean culture. And food. And rum. I think we’ll probably have a hire car the whole time so we can explore the island in full (though we never mind doing public transport) and probably stay in at least three centres, including Negril and Port Antonio – your itinerary looks great. If you take a quick peek at our site and see what kind of travellers we are, then you may have further suggestions for us. All suggestions would be very welcome! Thank you, Phil & Michaela.

    • Sounds like you have a fun trip planned! I definitely get the urge to go back to the Caribbean (every day it rains, ha ha). I’ll check out your site!

  3. very good read, I’ve been in ocho rios and didn’t knew all those places you posted beyond the beach; definitely will visit some the next time I get lucky to be there. I concur with you: kingston can be as dangerously as you let it be; even on new York walking through a dark alley by yourself at midnight full of cameras and cash in your hands will be a bad experience for sure.

  4. Can you mention again the route you have taken from Port Antonio to Kingston?
    The one you have marked red in the map, I cannot find any route /road going there via Google Maps 🙂

    Many thanks in advance

    • I had a driver who took me. I don’t know if the road route has changed. The important part was visiting the blue mountains which you can do using the route on Google maps I think. Have a great trip.

  5. Wonderful article! I’ve been to Jamaica several times, always stayed at an all-inclusive, but wanted to see more of Jamaica without the all of the tourist veneer, safely. Thank you for chronicling your visit, it gives me hope for a more fulfilling Jamaican experience, safely.

    • Hi Concetta, it’s a really beautiful country to explore and you can do it safely. You’ll have a great experience, I’m sure! Enjoy!!

  6. I envy how much you know about my island and enjoy it at the same time.
    I’ve been living in the USA for 15 years and I go home every year but I need to explore those places you visited. One thing you missed or did not tell us if you had the Dance hall experience.
    Thanks for sharing my island with the world ?and glad you enjoyed it.

    • Oooh, I did not have the dance hall experience – another reason to head back to Jamaica! If it makes you feel better, I know more about many overseas places than I do about my own country (England). It’s a good motivation to keep exploring 🙂

  7. My wife and I visited Jamaica for a few days last month, and we long to go back there. I loved it, I stayed at this all inclusive resort , we had a delightful time. Most of all, the all-inclusive resort gave us the opportunity to see the local tourist attractions in Jamaica.

  8. Jo.

    I am a born Jamaican living in the USA while residing there I would take a trips to aother parts of the Island almost once per month. But your article is like an eagles eye, even though I have gone every year since 2008. I am going to comb my Jamaica the way you have.
    Thank you for writing this article and for showcasing Jamaica as the Best in the Caribbean

  9. Hey Jo
    Really nice to here people are beginning to think about the culture of Jamaica and want to see more, the people are lovely friendly and as you said can cook good food. My wife was born Jamaican but British we used to come for holidays and decided to build a house in Mandeville, it is beautiful. I have been here now for 3 years and enjoyed every moment and been all over the island, moreover I won’t be returning to the UK ?

    • Hi Phil, I think you have the right idea. I’m in the UK at the moment and it’s flipping freezing. I’m also about to leave for warmer climes and I’m giving serious thought to not coming back. Glad you’ve found your adoptive new country. Enjoy Jamaica!

  10. I am Jamaican by birth and culture but live in US. I thoroughly enjoyed your article and obvious love for Jamaica. I go twice per year usually. You have made some great suggestions which I will exploit. I am sorry that you missed Boston in Portland. Boston is Jerk Central and The Home of Jerk. You will find the absolute best and most authentic Jerk Chicken and Jerk Pork in Boston, Portland. Thanks for a wonderfully informative and enjoyable article.

    • And now I need to go back to Jamaica to visit Jerk Central 🙂 Thanks for the tip, Don. Say hello to your beautiful country next time you visit!

  11. This was a well balanced article, particularly in regards to Kingston, safety, etc. There is a lot of misinformation and alarmist takes on both to be found on the internet. One small correction, regarding the James Bond film, Dr. No. It was not filmed at Dunns River, which is a common misconception. The famous beach/waterfall scene with Sean Connery and Ursula Andress was actually filmed at nearby Laughing Waters Beach, which is now a private beach. As an aside, for people looking for a less crowded, less touristy alternative to Dunns River, I would recommend Konoko Falls (also in Ocho Rios). A bit smaller and less grand, but still beautiful and more laid back.

  12. This is great and awesome blog. Hey, I am so glad to read your thoughts because I really enjoyed reading this. The way you explain your travel experience is truly awesome. Thanks for sharing a wonderful post.

  13. Jo,

    As a second generation Jamaican I throughly enjoyed experiencing your growing love for JA. I planning a trip this year to experience Port Antonio fur the first time. How long did you spend in the area? On the trip overall?

  14. Hi! I don’t know if Mockingbird Hill hotel changed dramatically since your visit but it seems we’re not talking about the same place…
    The bedrooms were in poor conditions, the garden too. It was the only place in Jamaica where we didn’t get any smile.
    Nobody was at the reception of the hotel to welcome us, we had to yell to get someone to pay attention to us.
    By email, we had prearranged an excursion, we had to discover that nothing was booked for us, unlike we were told it was. Moreover, the price was dramatically higher than the one that was announced to us less than a month prior. We were so digusted by the attitude of the receptionist that we decided to not do it in the end.
    We tried the restaurant at lunch, we waited an hour long for a burger! The steack within it had a taste so bad I’ve found myself dreaming of a Burger King steack, and it was poorly sided with only two or three salad leaves… It was a nightmare and the only cloud in the time we had in Jamaica, which is an amazing country.

    • Hi Pavan, I have received a couple of comments like yours since posting my article. Of course, hotels can change so thanks for your feedback. I have made a note in the content above with a link to TripAdvisor so people can check current reviews before booking and I’ve also included a link to a broader set of hotels in Port Antoni. I’m sorry you didn’t have a great experience at the hotel. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment here.

  15. Hi
    thank you for your great summary. I have been in Jamaica with my family for the first time this year in October 2018. October is still low season, so very few tourists were around.

    As newcomers to Jamaica we stayed at the Westender Inn in Negril for two weeks. As we also hate the All Inclusive Resorts we only booked an apartment (with kitchen) and no food at all. We wanted to explore the local food for sure and that was definitely the right choice.
    We also didn’t want to hand around in Negril for the whole two weeks, so we took the challenge to go by rental car. Looking back – absolutely the right choice. Yes, the streets can be pretty bad and when you get off the main coast roads your average speed will often drop to “walking speed” :-). But we explored so many beautiful places outside the main tourist places and met lot’s of local people.
    Our day trips got us to
    – Montego Bay
    – Mayfield Falls, YS Falls,
    – the Blue Hole in Negril,
    – Roaring River and Cave (a nice place to learn about the local village communities),
    – Grange Hill (where we attended a catholic mass – a really great experience to see how the locals welcomed us and needless to say the our blonde daughter was the main attraction for the local kids as rarely any tourists ever get there),
    – The Croydons Farm (we got a private tour – normally they offer tours from the hotels in Montego Bay only) and
    – finally Treasure Beach.

    In Treasure Beach we decided to stay a few days at the AirBnB from Peter Hammelfelt (a swedish guy who decided to stay in Jamaica after his retirement). From Treasure Beach we visited Lovers Leap and Alligator Pond and did two boat tours with a local guy Allan Daley Boat Tours.

    If you get into the Mountains over there, don’t miss the chance to get some Jerk Chicken at “Border Jerk” on the B8 at the border between Hanover Parish and Westmore Land Parish. Really great food.
    As we helped ourselves with food, we always bought fruits and vegetables from the locals – always a great opportunity to get in contact. And for dinner, stay away from the larger restaurant in the cities, we chose the smaller restaurants outside the mainstream or just grabbed some food from the locals selling Jerk Chicken and other stuff along the streets.

    As said, going by car is a bit of a challenge but you get used to it quickly. If you get lost – which happened to us a couple of times – there’re always some locals around to help you out. We used Google Maps which we downloaded to a tablet for navigation, which worked pretty well 90% of the time. Some people warn about driving by night, which is absolutely not a problem, just be careful with the many many pot-holes.

    Overall a really great trip and we definitely come back again. Then our goal is to explore the eastern part of the country, probably go around the island to finally meet Peter and Allan again.

  16. I was hoping to read some Tipps for backpackers, instead it’s all sponsored hotels sleeping for a minimum of 3 nights for 280$, right…
    I didn’t read further, sorry.

    • Don’t apologise. I didn’t pitch this as a backpacking article. You can find alternative, cheaper accommodation using sites like Hostelworld and visit the same spots. However, as with most of the Caribbean, prices are unfortunately not budget friendly, especially if you want to get out of Kingston. All the blog articles in the world (read or not read) are not going to change that. I hope you found something to your liking and budget elsewhere.

  17. I appreciate your overview of Jamaica. I have been visiting the island for almost 40 years.

    I must,however, warn you and your readers regarding Hotel Mockingbird Hill. I really doubt that you actually spent a night there. The owners are in my opinion poor representatives of the Jamaica tourist industry. In fact, they are not Jamaican. Were you asked to put your soiled napkin in a baggy to reuse at your next meal. Did you compare the food prices with nearby restaurants. Perhaps you should warn travelers that the hotel has no air conditioning nor screens to block the many mosquitoes and other bugs in tropical Jamaica. I could go on and on but travelers might want to read the negative trip reports on Trip Advisor. Not the reports written by or on behalf of the owners. Just a casual scan of the favorable reports will reveal the very similar writing patterns.

    You could have begun your description of Hotel Mockingbird Hill by including that of the rocky driveway up the steep hill. Travelers might also want to know how isolated they might be without a car.

    • Hi Jay, regardless of your doubts, I can assure you I did stay there. It was some time ago and I don’t know what the situation was like when you stated. Sorry you didn’t have a great experience. I personally liked the location and was able to arrange a car/taxi through the hotel.

  18. Aside from Dunn’s River I love everything you posted about. Like you, I HATE the resort life. I’ll do it if I’m hired to write about one but otherwise, no thank you. To me, Dunn’s River falls is just like a resort….overcrowded, touristy and blah. There are SO many more beautiful and less populated things to see on the island!

    Nice post! 🙂

  19. Thank you so much for this blog on Jamaica! I am going to keep referring back to this post for sure! I just got back from an all inclusive resort (I know…I know…), but it was a free trip so I was all in. I am so ready to go back and explore more of this beautiful island. Thank you for your detailed information from your trip. It is definitely appreciated.

  20. hi jo
    thank you for this super blogpost. Jamaica is my second home. I didn‘t get the chance to explore kingston yet. but for sure I will check out some of your recommandations. Only one thing, the photo of winniefred is actually boston bay (beach) where you can surf. other from that I agree with a lot of your experiences and travel tips.

  21. Hi Jo: Only one question. Did you consider or did you see any/many foreigners self driving. The country seems so compact that a car rental seems like it may be a good option (especially for the off the beaten track sites)

    • Hi David, TBH, I didn’t look. I’m sure tourists do self-drive. Just be a bit careful because the locals will happily drink and drive as well as smoke (marijuana) and drive so you’ll have to be alert for two! I didn’t once experience a ‘near miss’ as a passenger so that is a positive, at least. I hope you have a great trip. Come back and let me know if you do hire a car. I’d be interested to hear about your experience.

    • David, I’ve been driving on the island for nearly a decade. It’s quite fun and exhilarating, especially in the deep country and the mountain roads. Although Jamaican drivers are very aggressive they are also happy to mind their own business. If they want to pass you they just pass you, without being a jerk like North Americans lol.

      I’d say, more than the local drivers, the biggest thing to watch out for are the monstrous potholes and narrow roads. Both are PLENTY all over the island.

  22. Jo that Plantation mansion you stay in is gorgeousssss! While in Ocho Rios we visited a sustainable green adventure park. XO

  23. Oh, I’m so glad I’ve happened upon your website. This trip sounds amazing and I’m going to delve into your other travel stories soon too. My husband I are going to celebrate a big anniversary this December and have decided upon Jamaica. We’re both big music fans and foodies and like you, don’t enjoy all-inclusives. We’ve got 7 days. Can you recommend the route you’d do with 3-less days than you had?

    • Oooh, a big anniversary celebration – what a wonderful way to celebrate. With 7 days, I’d maybe spend 1 night in Montego Bay, 3 nights in Port Antonio, 1 night in the Blue mountains and 2 nights in Kingston. But, if you prefer beach time, go for 4 nights in Port Antonio and 1 night in Kingston. Hope that helps. Have an amazing trip!

  24. I totally enjoyed ur jurney through Jamaica am jellous ?would u believe me if t told u that i was in jamaica from December 2016 t0 April 20- 2017 and i went to the beach only once and i move around in the town of Montigo Bay but i went no where. I had the money to go anywhere i wanted to go and stay but didnt know where or how to go about arranging fun places to go. Trust me ur story i saved and i plan on traveling the same roots organizrd by the same people u used. But if i could travel with u it sound like a dream vacation am not afraid of taking care of my expenses on such a trop. I have going to Jamaica since 2006 Dec, I went for the first time for 3 weeks loved it and extended it for another 3 weeks and from that I have been leaving all my Canadian winters for Jamaica. I enjoy the locals and ur so right i have never had any problems, i found and still is finding the majority of Jamaican locals sooooo helpful, they have left their business to show me what and where am trying to find. I love them, they love it when u mind ur own business and ur not a show off or disrespectful to them, and who dosn’t like to b respected. Thank u, i truly fealt ur stay in beautiful Jamaica. If u can assist me with the numbers of the people that can help me to book my next Dec 2017 to May 2017 vacation i would appreciate it dearly. Yes that is the length of time i hang out in sweet sweet Jamaica. Am actually planning to start building in Bluefield on the west side of the island next visit.
    Thank u so much

  25. Hi Jo,

    I am Maura from Switzerland. I really love your post!
    How long took you to do this travel?
    What would you suggest for a 5 days trip? (maybe i get a couple more days, but I start with that..). I tought to travel between Montego Bay and Ochos Roios… I am also not a fan of all inclusive resorts, and really love wildlife and nature! Thank you in advance 🙂

    • Hi Maura, I did this trip in 10 days. For 5 days you’d be pushed to fit it in. I’d probably focus on Ocho Rios. Montego Bay was beautiful but a bit devoid of soul so I’d suggest combining it with Kingston instead. Hope that helps.

  26. Great post, did you get a surf board into the water when you visited? Although the Caribbean island of Jamaica is best known for its calm seas, laid back atmosphere, white sand beaches and all inclusive jamaica resorts, the island of Jamaica is becoming known as one of the premier surfing location in the Caribbean.

    • I didn’t go surfing, David 🙁 I didn’t realise it was becoming a thing in Jamaica. That said, my surfing skills require a lot more practice!

  27. Thank you for this post. I am planning a trip to Jamaica in the near future. Taking my Hubby there. I am Jamaican, but have not experience the country as I should. I plan on visiting various spots, even though the hubby is kind of hesitant. I will be visiting some of my relatives still living in St. Ann, and trust that they will take me around the areas.
    The pictures of the food, man, make my mouth water! lol, even though I cook like that at times. I cannot wait to get there, counting the days.


    • Hi Monica, oh, what an amazing trip you have coming up – happy to add to the excitement. I wish I could cook like the food in the pictures 🙂 Have an amazing time and say hello to Jamaica for me!

  28. As a citizen of Jamaica I’m fascinated by this piece, especially your views on our crime problem. You hit that right out the park, all of what you said is so true. It warms my heart to read what you wrote and tingles my feet to see your journey. I know you enjoyed every moment and comforts me in what I’ve always believed, Jamaica has some good people. We welcome visitors and takes good care of them, that’s what my granny taught me.
    Did you experience our night life and music?
    Did you visit Port Royal?
    Did you experience our language “the patois “?
    Than you for coming to Jamaica and feel alright.

    • Thanks, Mecheal. Jamaica has many, many good people and your granny and people like her have clearly taught people country wide how to be nice to visitors. I didn’t get to experience as much of the nightlife as I would have liked nor Port Royal (a return visit, I think!) but I loved the patois. I hope other travellers will read this post and make a visit to Jamaica.

  29. Hi Jo- This post has been a huge help. My husband and I are planning a trip to Jamaica soon, and we will follow most of your recommendations. Looks like you had a lovely trip. Question. Did you fly home from Kingston, or did you travel back to Montego Bay?

    • Hi Kori, so pleased to help. Hmmm….scrape my brain….yes, I did fly back from Montego bay. I took the Knutsford Express from Kingston back to Montego Bay, which takes about 4 hours with several services a day. Have a great trip and I’d love to hear how your adventure goes!

  30. Oh thank you so much!!!! I am trying to determine a new destination for myself (a single mom) and three tweens. I had been looking at Jamaica and this guide is helping me plan. Any tips to add for family/tweens along the way? Also, I am not a subscriber to twitter… do you do other social media.

    • Hi Bobbie, sorry for the slow reply. I’ve been inundated with comments recently and as I try to reply to them all, it can take some time. What did you decide in the end? I hope you had a great trip. I’m also on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram and you can find links to my social media sites on my home page.

  31. My husband and I visited Falmouth JM for just a day last month, and yearn to return there. Found ourselves there via a cruise ship(one of those things we never thought we’d do; it was gifted to us, but we DID have a great time). Above all else it gifted us with that day in Jamaica, where we did none of the “tourist” things, but just visiting and wandering among the local folks planted in us an overwhelming desire to return. Thank you for the post, Jo.


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