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Endlessly fascinating, Jamaica is a powerhouse of culture and natural beauty. An island country in the West Indies, it is probably best known for being the birthplace of reggae – and the indomitable Bob Marley – as well as ‘jerk’ foods, made with aromatic African spice rubs. However, that is barely even the tip of the proverbial iceberg. This stunning Caribbean country boasts crystalline waters, verdant rolling hills of banana trees, rich stews made with plantain, spectacular snorkeling, and diving sites, and an ethnically diverse and rich culture. Book your Jamaica car rental in advance with Enjoy Travel for a seamless trip.
Guide to Jamaica
The best time to visit this tropical paradise is at the start of winter from November to mid-December. During this time, the weather is at its most pleasant, and average temperatures hover around 80°F. From June to November, Jamaica experiences moderate to severe hurricanes so do take caution when visiting during this time. The upside is that flight and hotel prices generally tend to be quite low.
Jamaica is an island country that lies 630 km northeast of mainland Central America. It is the third-largest island in the Caribbean Sea, after Cuba and Hispaniola, and its closest neighbors are Haiti and Cuba. Jamaica has a lush topography consisting of mountains, coastal plains, a limestone plateau, and sandy beaches. The capital of Jamaica, Kingston, is located on the southeastern coast and is most travelers’ first entry point into the country. It is also the birthplace of Bob Marley, the King of Reggae.
Culture in Jamaica
Jamaica is an ethnically diverse country with African, British, Spanish, Indian, Chinese, and indigenous Taino influences evident in the cuisine, music, dance, traditions, and major festivals. The religious diversity of the people is a prime example of this. Aside from Christianity, the other prominent faiths practiced by the Jamaican people include Rastafarianism, ancient African religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Baha’i. Music and dance are an integral part of the Jamaican identity, the most popular of which include dancehall, reggae, soca, daggering, and bruckins.
Beaches in Jamaica
Negril Beach, also known as Seven Mile Beach is one of the best beaches in the Caribbean. It is Jamaica’s most picturesque stretch of pristine white sands and emerald sea. The beach is actually about 4 miles long, extending from Bloody Bay to Long Bay. Dotted with coconut palms, the shore offers all-inclusive large resorts as well as smaller boutique properties. Adventure seekers will be delighted to find water sports operators renting kayaks and sailboats. Snorkeling among schools of fish or even gentle sharks is an adrenaline rush like no other. South of the beach, the Negril Cliffs jut out above the coral-fringed coast, providing a scenic spot for viewing glorious sunsets. Jumping off these cliffs is also a popular sport in Negril. You will find unrelenting vendors here offering everything from handicrafts to beer to fresh lobster.
Boston Beach, located less than 10 miles east of Port Antonio town center is the popular choice for people who wish to indulge in some clear water surfing. The water here can get a bit rough which is why pro surfers prefer this beach for riding the biggest waves in Jamaica. This private beach is renowned for its delicious and authentic Jamaican jerk foods served at the nearby Boston Jerk Center. The fee to enter the beach premises is 200 Jamaican dollars or about 1.50$ and this provides access to restrooms and parking facilities as well.
Things To Do in Jamaica
Hike to waterfalls
One of the primary tourist attractions in Jamaica is the spectacular Dunn’s River Falls and Park near Ocho Rios. It consists of multiple waterfalls where the cold mountain water cascades 300 meters over naturally terraced limestone ledges and pours into the sea. It is amazing how the falls renew themselves via regular deposits of calcium carbonate and sodium. You can go for a hike to the top of the falls with the help of a guide or even opt to relax in the refreshing pools at the base. You may get splashed by the gurgling water during the ascent. It is advisable to wear water shoes to resist slipping. Movie buffs will recognize this waterfall from films such as Dr. No and Cocktail.
Explore Jamaica’s only national park
The magnificent Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park run along Jamaica’s eastern edge. It is home to its namesake coffee, the famous aromatic Blue Mountain Coffee. You can take a 45 minutes tour of the Mavis Bank Coffee Factory located at an altitude of 3000 feet. Jamaica’s only national park, it has been named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2015 for its rich and diverse natural and cultural heritage. The area used to be a refuge for the indigenous Taino who fled here to escape slavery. Today, this unspoiled reserve hosts more than 800 species of endemic plants, 200 species of birds, and the world’s second-largest butterfly. Moving around inside the rough terrain of the park can be an adventure by itself so getting a four-wheel-drive vehicle and a guide is recommended. If you hike up Jamaica’s highest peak, the 7402-feet high Blue Mountain Peak, you would be able to actually see all the way to Cuba on a clear day. Alternatively, you can also do a bicycle tour. Most sightseeing tours depart from Kingston.
Swim in the Blue Lagoon
About 6 miles east of Port Antonio lies the enchanting cobalt color Blue Lagoon, made more famous by the movie of the same name starring Brooke Shields. The water is cool and approximately 200 feet deep and is a mix of salt and freshwater fed by a mineral spring nearby. As the angle of the sun’s rays changes throughout the day, so does the color of the water here. It is the perfect place for swimming and taking some splendid photos. If you prefer not to get in the water, you can still experience the Blue Lagoon by opting for a boat or raft tour. It is safer to visit in a group because of the lagoon’s depth and seclusion. Tours depart from Port Antonio, Montego Bay, and Ocho Rios.
Visit the Bob Marley Museum
Your Jamaica trip will remain incomplete without a visit to the Bob Marley Museum. Housed in the legendary musician’s former home and recording studio, this museum is a top attraction among music aficionados. Fans can choose between the ‘One Love’, ‘Bob Marley Home’, and ‘Making of the Music’ tours. You can see his personal artifacts, gold and platinum records, his favorite guitar resting beside his bed, and reminders of an assassination attempt in 1976. The museum is open every day between 9.30 am to 4 pm. Tours are provided every half hour. There is also a café and a souvenir shop inside the museum.
Eating Out in Jamaica
The Caribbean island nation is a melting pot of ethnic groups including the British, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Chinese, Indian, and various African nations. As such, Jamaican cuisine reflects the unique culinary fusion of traditional cooking methods of these countries mixed with local produce, flavors, and spices.
Jamaican jerk chicken is incredibly popular all over the Caribbean and beyond. There is a particular style in which the meat is dry-rubbed or marinated with a hot spice mixture called jerk spice which includes ginger, garlic, cloves, cinnamon, scotch bonnet pepper, and pimento. Jerk meals are served at some of the most luxurious restaurants as well as in street-side cafes. Ackee and saltfish is the national dish prepared with the ackee fruit and salted codfish. The ackee was originally brought over from Ghana by slaves but it now grows here abundantly. It is served with stewed salted codfish sautéed with vegetables, herbs, and spices. The dish is a staple and can be had at any time of the day but is usually served at breakfast.
Other interesting food items to try in Jamaica include Curry Goat, Mannish Water, Escoveitch Fish, Brown Stew Chicken, Coconut Drops, Run Down, Gazzada, Callaloo, and Jamaican Patty. Some of the top-rated restaurants across the country are Zimbali’s Mountain Cooking Studio, Fireman’s Lobster Pit, Scotchies, Murphy’s West End Restaurant, Rockhouse Negril, Tamarind Indian Cuisine, Little Ochie, Kool Vybes Bar and Jerk Centre and Toscanine.
There are three international airports in Jamaica: the Norman Manley International Airport (KIN) in Kingston, the Sangster International Airport (MBJ) in Montego Bay, and the Ian Fleming International Airport (OCJ) in Ocho Rios.
Roadways dominate the internal transport system. Buses, minibusses, and taxis run between Kingston and all other places on the island. Bus travel is cheap but they are overcrowded and dangerously driven. Scheduled coaches are more expensive but safer and they link bigger towns. There are also taxis with fixed routes that ply internally between towns and cities.
Driving in Jamaica
Cars are driven on the left and can be rented in every major city or town.