Top 10 Things to See and Do
1. Receiving high acclaim as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world, the Dunns River Falls are one of the Jamaica’s top tourist attractions, and they certainly do not disappoint. Scramble up tiers of limestone beneath refreshingly cool cascades of water and admire truly astonishing views; aim to arrive before 10am, and remember to bring swimwear.
2. The godfather of Reggae and Jamaica’s most famous son, no visit to Jamaica would be complete without a visit to the Bob Marley Museum. Located in the colonial era house where Marley lived and recorded from 1975 until his death in 1981, it contains comprehensive exhibitions and displays depicting his entire life, encompassing artefacts, photographs, original records, statues and film clips.
3. Enjoy verifying Jamaica’s world-class reputation for snorkelling and diving for yourselves along the north coast at Negril and Montenego bay. Be sure to explore what is considered one of the most important underwater archaeological sites in the Western Hemisphere: Port Royal (aka the ‘City that Sank’) was almost totally destroyed in an earthquake, with two thirds of its settlement descending to the seabed when its was struck in the late seventeenth century. Other popular dive sites boast mysterious caves, diverse marine life and explosively colourful coral reefs.
4. Canoe Valley Wetland (also nicknamed ‘Alligator Hole’) is perhaps the best place in the country to see alligators, manatees, herons, grebes, jacanas and a whole host of other wildlife. Visit on Tuesday and Friday afternoons to witness the being fed, and tour the wetlands in a canoe with a friendly, knowledgeable guide.
5. Hike through the Blue Mountains, Jamaica’s longest and most majestic mountain range along the country’s eastern coast. Explore the quaint villages that nestle between them, pass numerous picturesque waterfalls, enjoy awe-inspiring views and visit the famous Blue Mountain Coffee plantations, where what is arguably the worlds best coffee is grown!
6. Splash around with playful bottlenose dolphins at Dolphin Cove, where packages for encounters with the majestic creatures begin at £55. More adventurous visitors to the cove are also offered opportunities to touch and feed nurse sharks, while those who would prefer to stay dry can still enjoy the diverse marine life in the aquarium, which is home to a variety of tropical fish, sharks, eels and stingrays, in addition to a mini zoo.
7. The National Gallery of Jamaica enjoys an undisputed reputation as the best on the island, with vibrant collections and displays from Jamaica’s most esteemed historical and contemporary artists. Excellent guided tours are available, which provide enlightening background information and fascinating anecdotes about many of the works on show; these tours are in high demand, so advance reservations are recommended.
8. From east to west and back again, Jamaica is fringed by some of the most stunning stretches of white sandy beach to be found anywhere in the Caribbean - and their impossibly clear waters and lively atmospheres tend to seal the deal. Whether you want a day of action-packed water sports, to enjoy mouth-watering jerk grills and bubbly beachside bars or simply kick back and work on your tan in a more secluded coves, Jamaica will have a beach (or several) to suit your needs.
9. Climb aboard a raft and drift down the Rio Grand, a timeworn and achingly picturesque route from Grant’s Level to Rafters Rest at St Margaret’s Bay. If your trip coincides with the full moon, take an unforgettable night time trip, gliding beneath the orb of the moon with an ice chest full of beer.
10. Visit the regal Devon House, a restored colonial home located in the manicured grounds on the northwest side of Hope Road. Built in the late nineteenth century by George Stibel, Jamaica’s first black millionaire, it contains an impressive array of priceless antiques and ornate period furniture, as well as a gambling room discreetly hidden away in the attic.
Top 10 Family Experiences
1. For a wet and wild day out that is sure to be enjoyed by all the family, head to the Aquasol Theme Park near Fletcher Beach, which offers more water sports than you can shake as stick at, as well as a top-notch go-kart racing facility and sublime stretch of white sandy beach.
2. Take a family horseback tour for one of the best ways to combine an exploration of Jamaica’s stunning countryside with a brisk gallop through the warm ocean shallows! Several companies in Jamaica offer these packages, with Hooves Tours and Chukka Tours generally touted as the most highly recommended.
3. The Mystic Mountain Theme Park features what is potentially the best canopy tour in Jamaica: a series of zip lines that crisscross the forest and a Sky Explorer chairlift, aboard which you ascend through the canopy to the top of the mountain, enjoying some truly astonishing views. In addition to this, the park boasts a thrilling bobsled ride through the dense foliage of the forest, an experience truly unlike any other!
4. The charming Apple Valley Park is a sprawling, green space encompassing a grand 18th-century home, a large lake, an artificial pool and a lush forest reserve that extends past the waterfalls and swimming lagoons of the Black River Gorge. Kayak up the lake together, hike through the woods or simply kick back in the park and enjoy a picnic.
5. Located at the southern end of East Street in Kingston, the Institute of Jamaica houses a Natural History Museum, the National Library, an excellent Museum of Music on the top floor, and a whole host of exhibitions that really get under the skin of Jamaican history and culture.
6. Hire mountain bikes and explore Jamaica’s resplendent tropical countryside, or take on the challenge of one of the many trails through the rugged Blue Mountains
7. A series of eight breathtaking waterfalls cascading down limestone cliffs and encircled by forest, many consider the YS Falls Cascades to be the most beautiful in the whole of Jamaica. Float lazily down a bamboo shaded stretch of river in an inner tube, or if you’re in the mood for something more adrenaline-filled, soar above the nearby canopy on a zip line!
8. Do not leave Jamaica until you have all sampled at least one mouth-watering jerk dish, if not the full complement of Jamaican cuisine! Scotchies in Ochos Rios is famed for producing some of the tastiest Jerk chicken and pork on the island, expertly cooked but not too spicy – ideal even for the little ones!
9. Float downstream on a Black River Safari tour, a one and a half hour tour of Jamaica’s largest navigable river and wetland area. Keep your eyes peeled for the endangered American crocodiles that reside in its glassy waters, as well as bird species that include herons, egrets and osprey.
10. Embark on a spooky adventure at Rose Hall in Montego Bay, where colourful, ghostly tales play out against the backdrop of plantation life. A tour of Annie Palmer’s rooms, secret passageways and eventually her tomb will send shivers down your spine, while simultaneously bringing history to life in a particularly vivid way.
Top 10 Honeymoon Experiences
1. For thrill-seeking duos that can’t resist the pull of adventure, experience a treetop canopy tour of Jamaica’s wild swathes of tropical rainforest. Climb, scramble and glide from platform to platform via a series of harnesses and pulleys, enjoying unparalleled views across Jamaica’s exotic jungle.
2. Explore the ethereal Green Grotto Caves together, weaving between stalactites and stalagmites and admiring the primitive artwork left by the first inhabitants of Jamaica, the Taino. We recommend a cruise down the eerily beautiful Grotto Lake, which is underground and only accessible by boat.
3. Don your scuba diving gear and explore the kaleidoscopically colourful marine life that teems beneath the sapphire surface of the Caribbean Sea; Montenego Bay Marine Park has several particularly excellent coral reefs, having recently been created to preserve and protect them.
4. Undoubtedly Jamaica’s most romantic spot, the Blue Lagoon near Port Antonio was the filming location for the 1980 movie Blue Lagoon, starring none other than Brooke Shields. Rumour has it that the water has an aphrodisiac effect… what better way to confirm whether its true or not than by testing it out for yourselves?
5. Make a pilgrimage to Nine Mile, the childhood home of the legendary Bob Marley in St. Ann. Set amidst beautiful mountain scenery, Marley’s memorial is also nearby, and both are a must-visit for any true fans of reggae.
6. If you wish to explore Jamaica’s world-famous coral reef without getting wet, take a glass bottom boat trip out to the reef to view it in elegant (and dry!) style! Absorb the beauty of the Jamaican coast, enjoy exceptional onboard service, and take a trip at sunset for that extra dash of romance.
7. Float down the Ocho Rios’ tranquil White River in an inner tube, absorbing the scenery from two of Jamaica’s most beautiful parishes that lie on either side. Drift for three miles past bamboo groves, coconut plantations and sleepy villages in one of the most relaxing honeymoon experiences to be found on the island.
8. Golf enthusiasts have come to the right country, with 12 stunning courses across the island geared up to cater for every player and ability level. Tee off for a full 18, practice your swing or simply relax and enjoy the view – there’s a course for everyone!
9. Take a trip to the historical coastal town of Falmouth. Awash with ornate architecture, it contains the largest collection of Georgian style buildings anywhere in the country, as well as a rich historical legacy that has facilitated its status as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
10. A serenely beautiful and ecologically rich property on Jamaica’s north coast, the Green Castle Estate was once a prominent plantation, and is today home to a diverse array of eco-experiences for visitors: tour one of the largest orchid and organic farms in the Caribbean, take a relaxing dip in the sea, or even stay for a few days at the regal Estate House, immersing yourselves in the land and its rich history.
Culture in Jamaica
Boasting one of the most dynamic and colourful cultures in the world, Jamaica’s population is a diverse melting pot of all the ethnicities and nationalities who have landed on the island over the past several centuries. Spirituality and religion play a significant role in life in Jamaica, with more churches per square mile than anywhere else on the planet, while Rastafari (which was founded on the island in the 1930s) is the most prominent non-Christian religion. Music and dance are also integral parts of the fabric of life in the country – reggae (which was founded here) is the best known, while derivatives of the genre such as dancehall and ragga are also enormously popular.