Jamaica is surely one of the Caribbean’s most iconic destinations. The scenery offers everything from fish-filled coral reefs and white-sand beaches to breathtaking waterfalls and cloud-shrouded rainforests. The music is infectious, and the people represent one of the most diverse populations in the Caribbean, drawing from African, Chinese, Indian, British and German heritage.
Jamaica is the Caribbean’s third largest island with six main tourist regions – Montego Bay, Negril, Mandeville and The South Coast, Kingston, Port Antonio and Ocho Rios. There are numerous tranquil places to visit: The 7,402 foot Blue Mountain Peak is a challenge to all serious island trekkers, and bird watching is increasingly popular with more than 200 native species, including at least 25 species that are endemic. Jamaica is also reputedly home to more than 3,000 species of flowering plants, some 720 of which are found nowhere else. Jamaica is rich with formal gardens, too, such as Hope Botanical Gardens, Shaw Park Gardens, Coyaba River Garden and the Cranbrook Flower Forest.
Ocho Rios is a prime port for cruise ships but also boasts a succession of bays and beaches. Most notable are Runaway Bay, and Discovery Bay. Just inland lies Dunn’s River Falls – a much photographed attraction. Montego Bay is a mecca for watersports lovers including sailing, scuba diving, jet skiing, parasailing, sport fishing and glass-bottom boat excursions. For shoppers, Gloucester Avenue (dubbed the “Hip Strip”) is lined with duty-free shops, souvenir arcades, restaurants and bars. Negril became known in the 1960’s and 1970’s as an idyllic escape for the backpack crowd, and still enjoys a low-key demeanor. Perched on limestone bluffs, Negril’s West End is home to numerous small resorts snuggled into the craggy cliffs.
Visit the many plantation great houses such as Rose Hall and Greenwood Great House. Tour the rum distillery at Hampden Great House. Like many Caribbean islands with a sugar plantation heritage, Jamaica showcases numerous fine rums, including Appleton, which offers a top-shelf label of aged rums. Another favorite treat is Tia Maria, a coffee-flavored rum liqueur.
Airports: Norman Manley International Airport (KIN), 13 miles from Kingston. Sangster International Airport (MBJ), 2 miles from downtown Montego Bay. Sangster to: Ocho Rios 1.5 hours, Negril 1.5 hours. Manley to: Port Antonio 2 hours, South Coast 2.0 hours.
Gateways/Flying Times: British Airways fly from Gatwick to Kingston (Norman Manley International Airport, KIN), and Virgin Atlantic from Gatwick to Kingston and Montego Bay (Sangster International, MBJ). There are also charter flights with First Choice and Thomsonfly. London: 10 hours.
Temperatures high/low-Summer 80/70-80 degrees F. Winter 80/70 degrees F. In the hills it’s cooler with an average temperature around 70 degrees F. In Kingston, humidity ranges from 63% in February to 75% in October. In Montego Bay, humidity ranges from 71 to 77%. Average rainfall is 77inches annually. Approximate sunrise/sunset 0600/1900. For every 1000 feet in altitude the temperature drops 3.5 degrees F., so that the Blue Mountain Peak has an average annual temperature of 56 degrees F.
Local. Fast food. Gourmet. International. Tipping: 10-15%.
The official language spoken is English. Patois, a mix of English and African, is also spoken.
Discos. Nightclubs. Dinner/Dances. Theatres. Live music. Cinemas.
Kingston: Bob Marley Museum. Bank of Jamaica Money Museum. Caymanas Park. Devon House. Emancipation Park. Fort Charles & The Maritime Museum, Port Royal. Hollywell. Hope Botanical Gardens. Institute of Jamaica. Liberty Hall. National Gallery of Art. National Heroes Park. Putt n’ Play. Rockfort Mineral Bat. Serenity Wildlife Park. Spanish Town’s Historic District.
Mandeville/South Coast: Appleton Rum Tour. Black River Safari Boat Tour. Cashoo Ostrich Park. Irie Safari. Lover’s Leap. Milk River Mineral Spa. YS Falls.
Montego Bay: Animal Farm. Aquasol Theme Park. Bob Marley Experience. Braco Stables. Chukka Blue Adventure Tours. Craydon in the Mountains. Doctor’s Cave Bathing Club. John’s Hall Adventure Tour. Half Moon Equestrian Centre. Hilton High Day Tour. Luminous Lagoon/Glistening Waters. MoBay Undersea Tours. Outameni Experience. Rafting on the Martha Brae. Jamaica White Water Expedition. Rose Hall Great House.
Negril: Royal Palm Reserve. Mayfield Falls. Rick’s Café.
Ocho Rios and Runaway Bay: Blue Mountain Bicycle Tour. Chukka Cove Adventure Tours. Coyaba River Gardens. Cranbrook Flower Forest. Dolphin Cove. Dunn’s River Falls. Firefly. Five Star Watersports. Green Grotto Caves. Harmony Hall. Heave-Ho Charters/Fun Cruises. Hooves Limited. Island Village. James Bond Beach. Ocho Rios Marine Park. Prospect Plantation. Reggae eXplosion. Shaw Park Gardens. Sting Ray City. Trails Plantation Rides. Walderswood Jerk Country Tour. White River Valley.
Port Antonio: Blue Lagoon. Frenchman’s Cove. Castleton Gardens. Nonsuch Caves. Rio Grande Tours. Sommerset Falls. Reich Falls.