Jamaica Travel Guide

Jamaica Summary

Pros

  • 80-90-degrees F (27-32-degrees C) beach weather, year-round
  • Warm locals and some of the most attentive service anywhere in the Caribbean
  • Live reggae performances across the island
  • World-class golf courses in Montego Bay
  • Cliff diving in Negril
  • Roadside jerk shacks, serving some of the Caribbean's best -- and cheapest -- grub
  • Money-saving all-inclusive packages offered virtually everywhere (even at the Ritz-Carlton)
  • Wild party scene in Negril during Spring Break (March through April)
  • Tap water is safe to drink
  • Direct flights to Montego Bay and Kingston from most major U.S. cities
  • Easy, though illegal, access to marijuana
  • Excellent, affordable restaurants

Cons

Areas of Jamaica

  • Montego Bay: Sprawling, well-developed city with the Caribbean's best golf courses and most luxurious resorts
  • Negril: Once a hippie hideaway, the laid-back small town of Negril can be an intimate -- or illicit -- haven
  • Ocho Rios: Cruise-ship center with a massive beach, large-scale theme parks, and endless, affordable all-inclusives
  • Port Antonio: The lushest, least developed part of the island; popular with eco-tourists
  • South Coast: The sleepy, relatively undeveloped South Coast is also known as "Treasure Beach," after the region's most popular black-sand beach
  • Runaway Bay: Less attractive megaresort destination between Montego Bay and Ocho Rios

What It's Like

Beyond the nonstop all-inclusive booze-fest -- which is fun, really -- there's a different Jamaica: brilliant reggae, jerk chicken from an oil-drum pan, rugged cliffs, blue lagoons, and overwhelmingly pleasant, typically flirty, locals.

True, women might encounter some aggressive romantic advances, and at most hotels you'll spot drug dealers slinging illegal ganja from Jet-Skis, taxi cabs, parasailing harnesses ... well, pretty much everywhere. But a polite "no thank you" should always suffice, and despite inland Kingston's high crime statistics, the resort areas are well policed and violence very rarely befalls tourists.

Where to Stay

Montego Bay, the island's only tourist destination with an international airport, balances some of Jamaica's classic luxury escapes -- Round Hill and Half Moon -- with more affordable all-inclusives, like the Iberostar and Riu Montego Bay. Also popular in Ocho Rios (about two hours east of the airport), these massive resorts come with colossal buffets, lively pools, and, in the case of Beaches Boscobel, even their own water parks.

For smaller-scale relaxation -- and better beaches -- drive two hours west of the airport to Negril, where no building can be taller than a palm tree. Mellow all-inclusives like Couples Swept Away and Beaches peacefully coexist with budget independents like Negril Treehouse along Seven Mile Beach. Off the beach, bohemian bungalows like the Rockhouse Hotel, Tensing Pen, and the Caves are tucked among lush vines on limestone cliffs about 30 feet above the profoundly clear water.

On the remote black sands of the South Coast, there's Jake's hippie-chic boutique. In Port Antonio -- the lushest (and rainiest) region -- there's the posh Geejam boutique, which provides a free personal driver to take you to Frenchman's Cove, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

Jamaica Hotel Guides

Jamaica's Best Hotels

We compiled lists of the best value hotels, best luxury hotels, best family-friendly hotels, most romantic hotels, best hotel rooms, best hotel restaurants, best all-inclusive cuisine, super clean hotels, best hotel service, best nude beaches, best hotel beaches, best pools, best terraces, iconic hotels, and best cliff-diving hotels in Jamaica, and selected one hotel from each list that bests its competitors (if only slightly).

Jamaica's Best Luxury Hotels

In Jamaica, luxury comes from a colonial-style canopied bed frame, or an outdoor shower; over-the-top pampering, or warm hospitality; a champagne flute garnished with sugar cane, or a private driver to a roadside jerk chicken shack. We've searched the island for the best hotels and slept beneath their high thread-count linens, and these are the few hotels that truly live up to their promised elegance, or refined, natural beauty.

Jamaica's Best Family-Friendly Hotels

Most resorts in Jamaica say that they're "family friendly," and many are. But below are the few hotels that ofter the basics -- an incredible pool, calm waves at the beach, kids' entertainment, babysitting, cribs, and large rooms -- but also go above and beyond with everything from Sesame Street sing-a-longs, to private nannies, to pirate-ship water parks.

Jamaica's Best Romantic Hotels

Jamaica is undeniably beautiful, but the coast is littered with booze-addled all-inclusives that kill any attempt at romance. Here's our list of quiet, secluded resorts with beautiful, comfortable rooms, obliging staff, and great pools and spas for extra pampering. The type of places we'd definitely bring someone back to!

Jamaica's Best Honeymoon Hotels

Jamaica has great honeymoon destinations for every taste, from the classic, luxurious accommodations at Half Moon in Montego Bay to the private cottages at The Caves along Negril's rugged West End cliffs.

Jamaica's Best Hotel Rooms

These rooms delivered on their promise with comfortable beds, incredible views, great bathrooms and good design. These are the places that made us feel so secure and pampered that writing our reviews felt like being on vacation!

Jamaica's Best Hotel Restaurants

We can forgive lukewarm food and uninteresting dishes at all-you-can-eat buffets. But when we're paying for each entree out of pocket? ... Not so much. Here's a list of hotels where the food is fresh, well-cooked, and inventively prepared, with additional points for service and ambiance.

Jamaica's Celebrity Getaway Hotels

Numerous Jamaican resorts have played host to famous guests from Gwen Stefani -- who loves the island so much she named her child Kingston -- to 50 Cent to Sharon Stone.

Jamaica's Best All Inclusive Cuisine

Here's a list of resorts that prize both quality and quantity -- where there's enough variety at the buffet to keep things from getting monotonous, and the food is fresh and tasty. Add some themed a la carte restaurants (somewhat more formal affairs that are included in the all-inclusive fee but have to be reserved in advance), and even the fussiest eater will turn foodie.

Jamaica's Super-Clean Hotels

A few mosquitoes here and there are unavoidable -- even at the poshest of places -- but there's no excuse for dirty linens, dusty counters, sandy pools and bottle-strewn beaches. The following is a list of places we've found to be the cleanest, but don't just take our word for it -- click through our albums and see for yourself!

Jamaica's Best Service

Resorts in Jamaica all claim to offer top-notch service, but here's our list of hotels that offer the best concierges, room service, freebies and thoughtful features to ease even the most temperamental traveler.

 

View all Jamaica Hotels

Facts

Languages: English
Airports: Sangster Int'l (MBJ)
Negril Airport (NEG) (domestic only)
Norman Manley Int'l (KIN)
Time Zone: View Current Time
Peak: Dec. 15-April 15
Off-Peak: Sept. 15-Dec. 15
Hurricanes: June 1-Nov. 30
Vaccines: No
Currency: Jamaican Dollars
Electricity: 110 V, 50 Hz
Tipping: 15-20% at restaurants

Oyster Travel Guides

Montego Bay Travel Guide
Montego Bay Travel Guide
With top golf courses, some of Jamaica's most luxurious retreats, and a narrow coastline backed… Read More
Negril Travel Guide
Negril Travel Guide
Jamaica's "capital of casual," Negril can be an intimate -- or illicit -- haven. Locals… Read More
Ocho Rios Travel Guide
Ocho Rios Travel Guide
Located two hours east of Montego Bay International Airport -- the closest international airport -… Read More
Port Antonio Travel Guide
Port Antonio Travel Guide
Once an upscale haven for movie stars like Errol Flynn and Ginger Rogers, the remote… Read More
Runaway Bay Travel Guide
Runaway Bay Travel Guide
Most travelers to Jamaica want to stay at one of two types of destinations: a… Read More
South Coast Travel Guide
South Coast Travel Guide
The South Coast, also known as "Treasure Beach," is one of Jamaica's least developed areas… Read More

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