Where to Go in Jamaica: 5 Destinations You Can’t Miss

Jamaica is by far one of the most attractive destinations in the Caribbean. And it's not hard to see why. While this island nation is best-known for its beautiful beaches and vibrant reggae and dancehall music scene, it also has plenty of plenty of gorgeous waterfalls, historic colonial houses, and interesting museums. So whether your idea of a perfect holiday involves zip-lining through the jungle, immersing yourself in local culture, or sipping cocktails on the beach, here are a few Jamaican hot spots you won't want to miss.

 

1. Negril


Arguably one of Jamaica’s most beautiful (and laid-back) beach destinations, Negril is popular among honeymooning couples. However, it also gets its fair share of families and groups of friends (watch out during spring break). The town is best known for its seven-mile stretch of sandy beach that gives way to an expanse of spectacular sea-facing cliffs in the southern part of town (called the West End). The sunsets here are considered some of the country’s most stunning and easy to spot, thanks to local regulations that prohibit builders from constructing over a certain height.

Check out our full travel guide for Negril.

Where to Stay: The Caves

With its upscale boutique vibe, and dramatic cliffside setting, The Caves is considered one of Jamaica’s most romantic escapes. The 12 unique, private cottages and suites at this upscale all-inclusive property unfold along lush garden paths and dramatic seaside cliffs carved with steep stairways down to the water and into incredible grottos.

2. Montego Bay


Affectionately known as MoBay, Montego Bay is a good point of entry to Jamaica. It’s home to the second-largest airport in Jamaica after Kingston and has plenty of direct flights from the U.S. MoBay, home to top golf courses, luxurious retreats, and a narrow coastline backed by lush green hills, is also Jamaica’s second-largest city. Check out the small but busy downtown, which gives visitors a good glimpse into urban Jamaican life. Along with a decent number of beaches, MoBay and the surrounding area also offer several interesting attractions, including a bioluminescent lagoon in nearby Falmouth and the purportedly haunted Rose Hall Great House, which dates back to 1770.

Check out our full travel guide for Montego Bay.

Where to Stay: Half Moon

Half Moon is a four-and-a half-pearl oceanfront property with two beautiful beaches outside of Montego Bay. Its 388 air-conditioned rooms are a mix of modern and traditionally-decorated units with living areas, extensive minibars, and flat-screen TVs. Private balconies have ocean, pool, or garden views, and multi-bedroom villas include perks like cooks and butlers.

3. Kingston


If you really want a taste of Jamaican culture, a visit to the capital city of Kingston is essential. The busy city is home to a variety of attractions, including the Bob Marley Museum, which is housed in the former home of the well-known reggae artist. Other attractions include the expansive Emancipation Park, which hosts regular free concerts throughout the year, as well as the National Gallery of Jamaica, the country’s foremost art museum. Just know that crime is an issue in Kingston, so it’s a good idea to avoid walking around after dark. Kingston is also a good starting off point for visiting some of the region’s hot springs or nearby Blue Mountains. The latter is considered to be one of the world’s top coffee-growing spots.

Where to Stay: Strawberry Hill

This former coffee plantation nestled among the steep and winding hills of Jamaica’s famous Blue Mountain is a little oasis above the very un-resort-like city of Kingston. The resort offers plenty of intimacy and privacy, with just 12 cottages on more than 26 acres. It also has the features of a larger property: an expansive spa, a breezy restaurant and bar, a hilltop pool with panoramic vistas, lush gardens, and ample relaxation space.

4. Port Antonio


A quiet, charming alternative to the more popular — and consequently crowded — beach resorts along Jamaica’s north coast, Port Antonio is a lovely spot to swim, sunbathe, and soak in the local culture without having to deal with scores of touts. Its best-known attraction is the gorgeous Blue Lagoon, a small swimming hole and one of the filming locations of a 1980 Brook Shields film of the same name. Other popular swimming spots in the area include the tiny beach at Frenchman’s Cove and the spectacular Somerset Falls (en route to Ocho Rios).

Check out our full travel guide on Port Antonio.

Where to Stay: Geejam

Arguably Jamaica’s most luxurious hotel, the tiny Geejam (pronounced G’-jom), is an exclusive hideaway with seven private villas and a loyal celebrity following. Though it doesn’t have a spa or communal pool, Geejam is usually most appreciated for what it lacks: crowds. The hotel’s ultra-private rooms feature minimalist decor with vibrant island accents and eclectic touches, like original Banksy wall murals or private hot tubs.

5. Ocho Rios


A sleepy fisherman’s village until the 1960s, Ocho Rios features lovely white-sand beaches and plenty of activities — many of which are family friendly. Popular points of interest include more than 600-foot Dunn’s River Falls, the gorgeous Island Gully Falls, and a variety of adventurous activities, including tubing, zip-lining, and river rafting.

Ocho Rios proper is a tiny town, often filled with cruise-ship passengers buzzing throughout the day at Island Village, an outdoor mall with a few decent restaurants, a 200-seat movie theater, and several jewelry and souvenir shops. But nightlife is more scarce here than in Montego Bay or Negril. Most shops close by 6 p.m., when the ships take to sea.

Check out our full travel guide for Ocho Rios.

Oyster Hotel Pick: Hermosa Cove – Jamaica’s Villa Hotel

Hermosa Cove is a four-pearl, nine-room resort with an eco-friendly vibe on the beach in Ocho Rios. There is a personal, homey atmosphere here, from cooked-to-order meals made with locally sourced ingredients (some of which are grown in the resort’s gardens) to the artful wooden carvings throughout the property.

What to Bring to Jamaica: Pom Pom Mini Dress

When in Jamaica, you’re going to need a quick wet to dry cover-up when getting off the beach. This pom pom frilled mini dress is both casual yet cute, which is perfect for that chill Caribbean vibe.

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