The warm Caribbean winds of Jamaica are infused with more than just sunshine and reggae. Jamaica consists of a colorful mosaic made up of sugary beaches, friendly faces, natural wonders and diverse cuisine. Whether seeking serene relaxation or unbridled adventure, this is an island destination worth taking the time to explore.
Jamaica is divided into three historic counties — Middlesex, Surrey and Cornwall. Fourteen parishes are divided between these three counties, which have no real administrative relevance. Jamaica’s capital city Kingston, as well as Montego Bay, Negril and Ocho Rios, are the most-visited destinations on the island. Located on the southeastern coast, Kingston is a bustling city (the largest on the island) most famously known for its many reggae nightclubs and the Bob Marley Museum. Loaded with all-inclusive resorts, duty-free shopping and the seaside hip strip, Gloucester Avenue, Montego Bay in Cornwall County is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean. Negril is known for its seven miles of white sand beaches and laidback atmosphere. Ocho Rios, sitting on Jamaica’s northern coast, is home to both large resorts and smaller family-run hotels. Vacationers come here for the natural falls and world-class scuba diving.
With borrowed ingredients from the far reaches of the world, Jamaican cuisine is a vibrant blend of spices and fresh, sustainable products. With a countless array of fine dining establishment and roadside jerk huts, the gastronomy of Jamaica offers much more than the national dish of ackee and salt fish. For a truly Caribbean dining experience in Ocho Rios, check out the Almond Tree Restaurant (there’s an actual tree growing through the roof) for the lobster thermidor or roast suckling pig. For an upscale restaurant with international flair, try the Palm Court in the Kingston Hilton. For famous Jamaican jerk chicken and pork right on the beach, head over to the Pork Pit in Montego Bay. This casual lunchtime favorite of both locals and tourists is the perfect spot to settle down with a Red Stripe and plate of island-spiced meats.
Jamaica’s two largest airports are Norman Manley International Airport (KIN) in Kingston, and Donald Sangster International Airport (MBJ) in Montego Bay. Both of these airports serve major airlines and connect to smaller airports in other parts of the island, such as Negril and Ocho Rios. As one of the most popular cruise ship destinations in the Caribbean, Jamaica has three cruise ports which all lie along the northern coast. Montego Bay’s port, known as Freeport, is just outside the city and is teeming with shuttles, taxis and buses to take tourists on the five-minute ride into the heart of the city. Ocho Rios is the busiest of the ports and is only a five-minute walk into town. Though Port Antonio can only accommodate smaller ships, it’s the ideal cruise stop to explore the nearby Blue Mountains. For navigating around the island, local buses and licensed taxis are the best bet.
With little seasonal variation, Jamaica has a tropical climate that produces warm weather year-round. Though temperatures are slightly cooler in areas with higher elevations, the majority of the island has an annual average temperature of around 82° F (though it can easily reach well into the 90s). Rainy season can occur any time between June and November, though the wettest months tends to be September and October. Although Jamaica has a notoriously humid climate, relief comes in the form of trade winds that can cool off the sometimes oppressive heat. Peak season is during the winter months (December to April), as this is when the temperature drops a few degrees and crowds (and prices) tend to swell in most tourist-friendly areas of the island.