Sandy beaches at Ocho Rios © Paul Micallef
Jamaica Travel Guide
The Caribbean's most famous island, Jamaica is a world heavyweight tourist destination, offering visitors a heady cocktail of sublime weather, pristine beaches, fun cities and interesting cultural attractions. Although Jamaica is an incredibly popular place to visit - and retains very few 'off the beaten track' areas to explore - mass tourism has not spoiled the island's considerable charms, and it remains a great bet for a relaxing, fun-filled beach holiday.
Jamaica's northern and western shores - and particularly, the areas around Montego Bay - are lined with upmarket beach resorts, offering 'all-inclusive' holiday packages in the very lap of luxury. Jamaica is also a (predictably) popular cruise destination, and offers a wealth of excellent watersport activities, such as diving, snorkelling, surfing, jet-skiing and kite-surfing.
However, even though some of the island's beaches are legendary (such as Negril's Seven-Mile Beach), it would be a mistake to assume that warm, clear waters and golden sands are all that Jamaica has to offer. The cities of Kingston and Montego Bay are dynamic, exciting, and full of interesting cultural sights such as the National Gallery and an array of plantation-era mansions known as Great Houses. Furthermore, Jamaica's Blue Mountains do not only produce some of the world's best coffee, but offer plenty of excellent hiking trails for adventure-seekers.
Best time to visit Jamaica
Jamaica's climate is tropical, with warm temperatures all year round. The wet season runs from June to November, with most rain falling in September and October. The best time to visit Jamaica is between December and April, making it an ideal winter sun vacation destination for tourists from the northern hemisphere. Those travelling on a budget should think about braving the elements a little and travelling in the rainy season, as airfares and accommodation prices fall dramatically at this time. Read more on Jamaica's Climate and Weather.
What to see in Jamaica
-Tour the Appleton Rum Estate, and indulge in a richly-deserved rum cocktail.
What to do in Jamaica
-Make the pilgrimage to Nine Mile Village, and visit the final resting-place of reggae legend Bob Marley.
-Head to Montego Bay's Hip Strip and join a late-night party at one of the area's vibrant nightclubs.
-Head to the Blue Mountains, and enjoy a hike through coffee plantations and the outstanding natural scenery of Strawberry Hill.
Getting to Jamaica
There are direct cheap flights to Jamaica available from airports throughout the US and UK. Tour operators such as Thomas Cook and Thomson Airways have charter flights to Jamaica available at certain times of the year. Get more information on Jamaica Airports.
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys and Pao by Kerry Young.
Cool Runnings (1993), Rockers (1978), and Shottas (2002).
Jamaica is famous for its jerk seasoning, which is a spicy barbecue marinade that some travellers find totally addictive. Be sure to try the island's national dish of ackee (a local fruit with a very distinctive flavour) and saltfish.
Rum cocktails, and Red Stripe beer - one of the island's most celebrated exports.
What to buy
Go see a live reggae act and pick up a CD as a keepsake of your time on Jamaica.
What to pack
Pack plenty of sunscreen and some effective insect repellent for a holiday in Jamaica. A lightweight rain slicker is a good idea, just in case you get in a downpour. After-sun lotion is also a good idea, as it can relieve the worst effects of sunburn and prevent your skin from peeling.
What's on in Jamaica
Every year in the first week of February, reggae devotees gather in Kingston for Bob Marley Week to celebrate the life of the island's favourite son. Join the crowds at the annual Reggae Marathon, which takes place along the glorious white sands of Negril's beaches. The Boston Jerk Festival is the place to go to sample Jamaica's famous jerk seasoning. More information on Jamaica Events.
Did you know?
-Ian Fleming wrote 10 James Bond novels while living in Jamaica.
-Jamaica was the first tropical country to enter the Winter Olympics.
-Jamaica is home to the oldest railway in the 'new world'.
A final word
Jamaica is the jewel in the glittering crown that is the West Indian archipelago, and tourists looking for a relaxing holiday full of sun and excitement will find that the unassuming island exceeds all their expectations.