Known for being the birthplace of reggae music and one of the coolest Caribbean destinations to visit, Jamaica is a place where culture, beach fun, and nature reign supreme.
This insanely beautiful emerald island in the Caribbean has plenty to offer visitors, ranging from white sandy beaches that go on for miles to hidden waterfalls and secret blue lagoons inside tropical settings.
When it comes to travel, Jamaica is known for its robust all-inclusive resorts. You can find something for everyone. Whether it be couples, adults only, family friendly, luxury, foodie oriented, boutique – the options are endless.
Montego Bay is just a short hour and a half flight from Miami, proving that paradise is a lot closer than you think!
Tips for visiting Jamaica
One would argue you can visit all year, and that would be the best time. Specifically speaking on weather, December-April or May is the best. Price wise, November-mid December before the holiday season and high season pick up.
Spring break and summer are busy seasons to visit because that is when school is out and families like to travel. However, hurricane season does run June 1-November 30th. Typically there are not that many storms in a season, but just be aware that they can and do happen.
Pro tip – always buy travel insurance. Not just because of hurricane season but to protect the trip you spent money on. Anything could happen.
Currency – while the US dollar is accepted in some of the touristy areas in Jamaica, you will get in return, Jamaica currency. On resorts, you won’t have any issues using a credit card. But in general, if you are planning to venture out, get local currency to be safe. I usually get currency at the airport.
It is illegal to wear camouflage in Jamaica and only military personnel is allowed.
There are no rideshare app services in Jamaica currently. This includes both Uber and Lyft. If you are not staying at a resort that provides airport transportation, I highly recommend booking your transportation in advance. This way you already know up front what you are paying, someone will be at the airport waiting for you and it is a safer option.
Transportation options to book in advance:
- Budget friendly shared bus transfers to all hotels from Montego Bay Airport
- Private transfer from Montego Bay Airport to Ocho Rios
- Shared transfer from Montego Bay Airport to Runaway Bay and Ocho Rios
- Private transfer from Montego Bay Airport to Negril
- Montego Bay Airport transfer within Montego Bay
Alternatively, you can use taxis at the airport. I just want to throw caution to the wind that you can get overcharged or even hassled at the airport by people who aren’t legally allowed to provide driving services to you. Do not get into a taxi that doesn’t have a red numbered license plate. These taxis are licensed and insured.
Jamaican English is widely spoken in Jamaica .. but you may also hear the locals speaking in Jamaican Patois. I have never had any issues with communicating cross the country.
If you rent a car, please know that everyone drives on the left side of the road in Jamaica.
Make sure to always have insect repellent and a sunblock with you and on you. Trust me on this. I like these insect repellent sheets and reef safe sunscreen.
The water is safe, but a lot of resorts will tell you to drink mineral water (bottled), the choice is yours.
The outlets in Jamaica are the same as the USA, including voltage.
Book your tours in advance to guarantee your spot on them. Jamaica tourism has boomed from 1.9 million to over 4 million between 2019 and 2022 with that number expected to rise.
This last tip may be surprising but – marijuana is illegal in Jamaica and you can be arrested for it.
The Best Things to Do in Jamaica
Take a catamaran cruise over Negril Beach
Spend a day cruising over Negril’s famous 7-mile beach on a catamaran as you listen to live music, sip drinks from an open bar, and make multiple stops along the way to snorkel, watch cliff divers, and dance to reggae.
Listen to live reggae music at Roots Café
Roots Café is a quaint little coffee shop and bar where you can enjoy authentic Caribbean cuisine any time of the week. On Wednesday nights, the establishment bursts to life with live bands playing classic reggae tunes.
Have cocktails at Margaritaville
Another hotspot for drinks in Negril is Margaritaville, where you can enjoy fresh margaritas right on the beach as you listen to reggae music. You can easily spend half a day here as they rent out beach chairs and private cabanas and host activities for all ages.
Climb Dunn’s River Falls, visit Bob Marley’s Home, and end the day cruising over a glowing lagoon
Visit three of the most famous attractions near Negril for a super well-rounded itinerary that includes visiting the home of Bob Marley, climbing to the top of Dunn’s River Falls, and taking a night cruise over a bioluminescent lagoon all in one go.
Side note – you can only experience the bioluminescent in a few places in the entire world! This is a really unique experience.
Check out Roaring River Park and Cave
Located on what was once a sugar plantation, Roaring River Park and Cave is a place where you’ll find several underground caves you can swim in as well as a natural sinkhole that still remains a mystery to locals and visitors alike.
Visit Dolphin Cove
Spend a few hours getting close and personal with Jamaica’s wildlife at this attraction where you’ll get to swim with bottlenose dolphins, meet stingrays, interact with camels, and more.
Swim in a bioluminescent lagoon
Ride a boat over a lagoon that is known for being the home to microorganisms that glow at night when the water is agitated! This tour takes place right after the sun goes down and if you’re feeling brave, you can even take a swim in the water for the ultimate bioluminescent experience.
Visit a hidden gem: Mayfield Falls
Located about an hour away from Negril, Mayfield Falls is a wonderful alternative to the popular Dunn’s River Falls if you’d rather avoid crowds. Here, you will find several waterfalls and 30 natural pools in the middle of the forest.
Have a beach day at Bloody Bay
Bloody Bay is made up of crystal clear waters, white sand, and palm trees, but it is a lot quieter than the popular Seven Mile Beach, making it one of the best things to do in Jamaica if you’d rather avoid huge crowds.
Take a sunset tour to explore the best Negril has to offer
Take a relaxing walk over the beach at sunset as you visit some of the best spots Negril has to offer, which include Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville for drinks and music, a local crafts market to shop for original souvenirs to bring back home, and the world-famous Rick’s Café to swim or watch cliff divers do their thing.
Take a day trip to Booby Island
Located right between Seven Mile Beach and Bloody Bay, Booby Island is a great day trip to take if you want to snorkel or dive in crystal clear waters, do some serious birdwatching, or simply sunbathe at what feels like a beach straight out of paradise.
Explore Jamaica’s backcountry on an ATV Tour
Explore Jamaica’s backcountry on a four-wheel ATV tour that will take you 2,200 feet above sea level to explore small communities, observe wildlife, and enjoy the best the rural side of the island has to offer.
Visit the YS Falls and take a safari boat ride
YS Falls is a series of 7 different waterfalls that crash down into natural pools amid a lush landscape that visitors are welcome to swim in.
Aside from including a visit to the falls, this tour takes things to the next level by also taking guests on a boat ride over the longest river in Jamaica where you can see animals like various species of birds and crocodiles.
Go horseback riding
Ride a horse across some of the most beautiful spots in Jamaica, ranging from backcountry trails to cities and beaches where horses won’t shy away from getting in the water to wade!
Tour the Appleton Estate Rum Distillery
Take a tour of one of the oldest rum distilleries in Jamaica, where you’ll get to learn all about the fermentation process, tour the estate’s grounds, and sample 10 different rums before getting a bottle to bring back home.
Cliff dive from The Negril Cliffs
Rising almost 40 feet in height, the Negril Cliffs are a popular place for locals and tourists to dive into the ocean. If that doesn’t sound like your jam but you’d still like to enjoy observing cliff divers at the spot where James Bond’s movie Thunderball was filmed, you can get dinner at nearby Rick’s Café for great sunset views.
Kool Runnings Adventure Park
This is one of the best things to do in Jamaica for those traveling with kids. You will find plenty to do at this park, including themed waterslides, trampolines, lazy rivers, and plenty of other water attractions.
Half Moon Beach
Half Moon Beach is a private island and one of the calmest beaches you’ll find in Jamaica. There’s an entry fee that covers the use of the beach and facilities and also includes a short boat tour to a nearby island where you can enjoy snorkeling and drinks.
Visit 7 Mile Beach
Hailed as one of the best beaches – I would be doing you a disservice not to mention it!
Watch birds at Rockland Bird Sanctuary
Not far from Montego Bay, you’ll find a sanctuary where you can spend hours on end observing bird species that live in Jamaica, including red-billed steamer tail, hummingbirds, black-billed streamertail, and more.
Tour a haunted house tour of Rose Hall
Visit the home of Annie Palmer and take a guided candlelit tour through a house that is believed to be extremely haunted by Annie herself.
She was nicknamed the “White Witch of Rose Hall” after murdering three of her husbands and many more lovers before being killed herself.
Enjoy a day ziplining, horseback riding, and adventuring on an ATV
Spend a day in nature as you ride horses along the Caribbean sea, zipline for spectacular views of Jamaica’s rugged nature, and ride an ATV through the backcountry.
Sam Sharpe Square
Sam Sharpe Square is the most important square in Montego Bay as it was named after Sam Sharpe, an activist that began the uprising against slavery in Jamaica and a national hero to date.
Dead End Beach
Dead End Beach is a beautiful beach that is considered one of the best places in Jamaica to watch the sunset. It is also famous because, thanks to its location right by the airport, watching airplanes landing and taking off right over your head is possible here!
Enjoy a beach day at Doctor’s Cave
Doctor’s Cove is one of the most beautiful beaches in Jamaica thanks to its white sand and crystal-clear waters that are believed to contain healing properties. Spend a few days lounging at the beach, swimming, snorkeling, and simply relaxing.
Go rafting on the Martha Brae River
Go on a rafting adventure along 3 miles of one of the most beautiful rivers in Jamaica before arriving at Miss Martha’s Herb Garden to take a stroll through the property and learn all about Jamaica’s herbs and their medicinal properties.
Ride a bamboo raft along the Great River
This quintessential Jamaica experience will have you floating on a bamboo raft cruise along the Great River as you pass gorgeous landscapes and incredibly lush scenery.
Book a private yacht
One of the best things to do in Jamaica is to book a private yacht in order to have full control of where you stop and what you want to see. You will get to discover incredible snorkeling spots and see the best the Caribbean sea has to offer with this luxurious experience.
Take a day trip to the place where Bob Marley was born
Visit Bob Marley’s hometown in order to fully learn about the early life of this reggae icon. You’ll get to visit his childhood home, ride through the countryside as you listen to stories, see Mt Zion Rock referenced in his famous song, and visit his final resting place.
Cruise over a bioluminescent lagoon
Take a nighttime cruise in order to cruise over Jamaica’s famous glowing lagoon. You can observe the bioluminescence from the boat, but you can also hop in the water to get the full experience!
Bike through the Blue Mountains
Grab a bike and ride your way around the lush mountainsides and rolling hills of the Blue Mountains while you make stops at some of the best destinations in Jamaica like Ocho Rios and Trelawny.
Take a day trip to Blue Hole
Head out to Blue Hole, a series of sinkholes that were carved out of limestone and boast bright blue waters. Once here, you can go for a hike, enjoy a swim amid the lush landscape, or even get your Tarzan on and swing from a rope right into the river!
Ride a boat over the Black River
Black River is the longest river in the country and cruising over it is one of the best things to do in Jamaica, especially if you’re into nature and wildlife experience. You’ll get to hear stories about the region’s colonial past, all while you admire the beautiful landscape around you and run into crocodiles.
Have a drink over the sea at Floyd’s Pelican Bar
Floyd’s Pelican Bar is a small bar that was built on stilts over a sandbar about two miles out in the sea, giving visitors the unique chance to actually have drinks on the ocean!
Explore Green Grotto Caves
Explore a two-mile-long cave system that was once the hiding place for runaway slaves during the 17th century. These days, you can go inside the caves and admire their beauty (this is also where James Bond’s Live and Let Die was Filmed).
Stay in an overwater bungalow or villa!
Did you know Jamaica has overwater villas with private pools AND overwater bungalows? This is a great opportunity for someone who wants the experience but maybe does not want to travel to Bora Bora or Maldives, half way around the world.
Where to stay in Jamaica
Jamaica is broken up into different tourist regions with Montego Bay being the busiest and providing the most options.
Other popular regions include Negril, Kingston, Ocho Rios, Runaway Bay, and so on.
Here are my personal favorites:
Sandals South Coast – This property is about an hour to an hour and a half drive from the Montego Bay airport, but arguably one of my favorite properties. Adults only and all-inclusive.
During my stay I checked into two different rooms just to see what they were like. I did the overwater bungalow and the butler swim-out Rondoval. Both rooms were amazing with unique features.
Normally I would gravitate towards an overwater bungalow, however – I found the swim out Rondoval better because it had a private pool, a swim out feature to a bigger pool and it was in a great location relatively close to everything.
I don’t want to undersell the overwater bungalow though because it was amazing as well! The location was a bit further from everything, but you have a private stretch of beach, a really nice personal butler level in room dining menu (food was amazing), and the experience is wonderful.
Sandals Montego Bay – a quick 15 minutes from the airport and on a great stretch of beach. Adults only and all-inclusive.
What I loved about this property, and this was my first Sandals I ever stayed at, was that nothing was far away. Everything was an easy stroll away and the buildings all faced the beach.
Sandals Royal Caribbean – also a quick 15 minutes from the Montego Bay Airport. I loved this property because they have the overwater villas with the private pool and overwater bungalows. Adults only and all-inclusive.
What is unique about this bungalows compared to Sandals South Coast is that they require a 4 minute boat ride to access and are on a private island, making them that much more interesting. You still have access to everything and there is a restaurant and private beach there. As well as the specialized butler in room dining menu!
One thing I want to note about the Sandals in Montego Bay is that you can stay at one and play at all three. Maybe you stay at Sandals Montego Bay but want to use the beaches at Sandals Royal Caribbean and eat at their Indian restaurant, Bombay – that is ok!
That is a huge perk of staying with Sandals in Montego Bay.
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