Jamaica holidays

Experience Jamaica

Best Places to Visit

Kingston is the first experience of Jamaica for most visitors, and is an introduction to the island's history, culture and laid-back lifestyle. It's surprisingly large and home to historic sites like Emancipation Park, Coronation Market and Kingston Craft Market. Its museums, including the world-renowned Bob Marley Museum, are must-sees, as is the city's Port Royal - a haven for Caribbean pirates in the 17th century.

The small town of Bath hides a little-known Jamaican secret, a sulphur-rich natural healing spring. Discovered over 300 years ago by a runaway slave, the waters are credited with restorative and therapeutic powers. The soaring cliffs at Lovers' Leap are another example of Jamaica's natural beauty, plunging over 1700 feet into the ocean below.

Font Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in St. Elizabeth is a haven for birdlife, loggerhead and hawksbill turtles, crocodiles and many of the island's protected and indigenous species. Set in the forests backing several serene beaches, the reserve is a peaceful place, with visitors unable to enter unless accompanied by a local guide. The charming, historic town of Black River is a short drive away.

Bamboo rafting is a favourite pastime on the Rio Grande and Martha Brae rivers, while the FireFly estate at Port Maria is a favourite among travellers who want to see the home of the late Noel Coward. For adventure-lovers, quad biking in the jungles of the foothills or zip-lining through the treetops is easily arranged.

St. Elizabeth sits on the south-west of the island and is one of Jamaica's largest parishes. Black River is the capital, developed as a port around the mouth of the river itself. Visitors to this area can enjoy trips along the Black River, complete with crocodile-spotting and scenic views. St. Elizabeth is home to another site of natural beauty, YS Falls. Here, visitors will find a collection of seven natural waterfalls and spring pools that are available to swim in. Day trips to YS Falls and Black River can easily be organised in the hotels and tourist areas of St. Elizabeth, or in advance online.

St. Elizabeth is well-known for its beach bars, some of which, including the Floyd's Pelican Bar, are set on stilts in the shallow waters. Fans of the island's rum will enjoy a tour of the Appleton Estate on the south coast.

Top Landmarks

Jamaica's colourful history has given rise to a plethora of historic attractions across the island. For anyone who enjoyed the movie series 'Pirates of the Caribbean', a visit to the Port Royal is like visiting the real thing. The port was the unofficial home of buccaneers such as Sir Henry Morgan and the infamous Blackbeard. Fort Charles and Saint Peter's Church tell a visual history of those lawless days.

The buzzing tourist town of Ocho Rios is home to the breath-taking Green Grotto Caves, and is a short drive to one of Jamaica's most stunning natural landmarks, the Dunns River Falls. A combination of rapids and waterfalls, it's a watery climb from the base of the falls to its head, with the less adventurous able to follow a jungle path to the top.

Port Antonio has plenty of important landmarks: from the tranquil Blue Lagoon to the historic DeMontevin Lodge, where Queen Elizabeth twice stayed. The most famous village on the island is Nine Miles, the birthplace and site of the childhood home of Jamaica's best loved son, Bob Marley.

The Bob Marley Museum in Kingston is set in the star's home and recording studio, where tour guides reaccount the life of this amazing man. The capital of St. Catherine, Spanish Town, gives visitors a peek into Jamaica's colonial past, while the National Gallery (Kingston) exhibits Jamaican art over the centuries.

Entertainment

Entertainment in Jamaica is like no other. Here, visitors can party until the earlier hours - especially in and around Montego Bay. The Hip Strip is where the noisiest and hottest clubs are found, with many set in hotels. Clubs open late, closing when the sun comes up.

A speciality of Jamaica nightlife is the free, outdoor sound-system party, held wherever there's a reliable electrical outlet. Burlington Avenue, in Kingston, is popular with those seeking some late night partying, while Spanish Town Road/Beeston Street also stays awake until dawn.

Montego Bay has a good number of friendly, buzzing bars, that are welcoming to tourists. Beach bars are ever-popular, although, for a quieter evening, you'll need to find a place away from the ever-present outdoor sound systems. Sports bars with karaoke nights are popular and plentiful, as are dance clubs and reggae bars - the latter an iconic Jamaican experience.

Ocho Rios is good for riotous nightlife as well, but it also has alternatives in the form of small, local bars where visitors can get a chance to meet the locals. Nightlife at the all-inclusive resorts are on a quieter scale, but boast some impressive open-air hot tubs and luxurious cocktail bars.

Dining Out

Jamaican food is a tasty mix of classic Caribbean tastes and local cuisine, with a reputation for being spicy. Rice and peas cooked in coconut milk is a staple, as are meat or vegetable-filled patties. The national dish of ackee and saltfish is a must-try. Ackee is a local fruit with a distinct flavour, and saltfish is dried and salted cod, which is tastier than it sounds.

Jamaica's jerk-flavour is world famous, with locals often eating jerk chicken, jerk conch and jerk pork. Jerk seasoning is a mix of spices spread on meat or seafood before barbecuing. It's also found on curries across the island, with curried goat, and fish, the best dishes worth searching for.

In Kingston, Montego Bay and the rest of the tourist areas, there's a great selection of restaurants serving Jamaican cuisine. Seafood, grills, Chinese, Indian, Italian and Spanish food are prominent across Jamaica, along with jerk eateries and the occassional vegetarian bistro. While Montego Bay has some of the best choices of food, Kingston boasts fine dining at the Four Seasons Hotel and several other luxury resorts. For a taste of the real Jamaica, look out for places where the locals eat.

Beach

Caribbean beaches are legendary for their soft sands and azure-blue waters, with Jamaica's beaches no exception to the rule. One of the best Kingston beaches, Lime Cay Beach, lies on a small island just a short boat ride from Port Royal and is perfect for sunbathing and water sports. Turtle Beach and Mallard Beach are popular destinations in Ocho Rios, and both have excellent water sports facilities. Seven Mile Beach at Negril is laid-back and carefree, with nude bathing allowed.

Romance

Romantic spots abound in Jamaica, whether they're remote, private areas of natural beauty or man-made retreats. The Blue Lagoon near Port Antonio is an exquisite beauty spot with serene waters, while Reach Falls and its deep pool are surrounded by dense, secluded jungle. GoldenEye is a collection of the best romantic retreats, just a nine minute walk from where Ian Fleming created James Bond. Also, Bloomfield Great House in Mandeville is perfect for dinner a deux.

Family

For a fun family holiday, Jamaica's all-inclusive resort hotels offer the perfect gateway to paradise. Jamaicans are very family-friendly and adore children, and the resorts offer children's facilities, pools, day clubs and activities such as glass-bottomed boat rides. Families can also find climbing walls, bubble discos, a trapeze and trampoline lessons here. Nightly baby-sitting services mean parents can have time to themselves once children are asleep.

Adventure

Jamaica is well-known for its great dive sites and exciting water sports, but there's even more for adrenaline-fuelled holidays in the sun here. For animal-lovers, dog-sledding (believe it or not) on the sands in specially-adapted sleds is available, as is horse riding bareback into the ocean. For hardcore adventure, there's learning to fly, bungee jumping, caving, potholing, cliff-jumping and whitewater rafting.

Our best deals in Jamaica

Need to know

Language

Although English is the official language of this former British colony, Jamaicans also speak Jamaican Creole (known locally as Patois). The vocabulary and pronunciation of Patois is distinctly different from English, despite heavy use of English words. The Creole language was born in the 17th century, when slaves from West and Central Africa picked up on English dialects spoken by the slaveholders. Billboards and signs also occasionally use Jamaican Creole.

Currency

The official currency of Jamaica is the Jamaican dollar (JA), with 50, 100, 500, 1,000 and 5,000 banknotes in circulation. The US dollar (US) is widely accepted, although some outlets offer less than the official exchange rate. However. this is often still more than in exchange booths. Many outlets in rural areas only accept the Jamaican dollar and, in the main tourist areas and towns, most credit and debit cards are accepted. Many petrol stations are cash-only and ATMs are easily found across the island.

Visas

British nationals don't need a visa to enter Jamaica, but require a current passport which is valid for six months. Visitors can stay for 90 days, but must also give evidence of sufficient funds and a return ticket. US and Canadian citizens may enter visa-free with a passport for a stay of up to 90 days.

Climate

Jamaica has a tropical climate featuring humid, hot weather along its coastlines and more temperate weather around its mountainous interior. Parts of the southern coast are in the rain shadow of the mountains and are relatively dry as a result. The island lies in the Atlantic hurricane belt, with intense storms a frequent feature of the overall climate. The hottest months are June, July, August and September, with daytime temperatures as high as 29°C. The coldest month is February at around 25°C.

The hurricane season runs from July to October, while trade winds bring rainfall throughout the year from the east and the northeast.

Main Airports

There are three airports on Jamaica. Located on Montego Bay, Sangster International Airport is the main hub for arrivals. It has links to many US, Canadian, UK and European cities, including London and Manchester. Norman Manley International Airport is located outside Kingston, with 130 international routes to the US, Canada and the UK. Ian Fleming International Airport is situated in picturesque Ocho Rios.

Flight Options

UK travellers can travel to Sangster International Airport from London-Gatwick and Manchester, with regualr flights from the United States. Many European air hubs, including Brussels, are also served. Typical flight times between London and Kingston average 10 hours.

Travel Advice

Often, the cheapest way to travel from the UK is to fly with charter airlines. Although, one option is taking the Eurostar from London to Paris and picking up a French charter flight to Sangster International Airport. It may also be more economical to take a cheap flight to Amsterdam, Brussels, Frankfurt or Milan and connect with a flight to Jamaica.

Other Transport Options

Jamaica is a popular cruise ship destination for Caribbean cruises. These cruises often depart from US ports, such as Miami, before making a stop at Jamaica's Montego Bay.

Getting Around

Visitors can travel across the island by bus, hire car, taxi or boat. Buses are the cheapest means of public transport, and taxis come in two forms - route taxis, locally owned cars whose owners give the service at a negotiated price, and licensed taxis with red number plates.

Bus

New, long-distance express buses are extremely comfortable but can be more expensive than flights, while basic, air-conditioned buses are very affordable. For local journeys, Kingston has an extensive bus network, as well as minibuses. Montego Bay has few public buses, with hotel shuttles and taxis offering means of transport.

Air

Domestic flights are a practical and relatively inexpensive way to travel between Kingston, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, with flights from Kingston's small Tinson Pen Airport. The expensive option is a private flight from one of Kingston's general aviation hubs to anywhere you want to go, with several Kingston companies offering this service.

Car

Car hire is expensive in Caribbean terms, but easily arranged with trusted international companies, ensuring your rented vehicle is well-maintained and properly insured. City roads can be congested, while rural roads are often narrow and underdeveloped. North-south roads through the mountains are steep with hairpin bends, but driving here allows for an intimate view of the island.

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JAMAICA`S WEATHER TODAY

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AVERAGE RAINFALL (mm)

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FACTS

  1. In the late 19th century, Jamaica had an issue with rats destroying crops in the cane fields. Thus, the mongoose was imported to get rid of the problem, and subsequently killed off almost the entire population of snakes on the island, too.
  2. James Bond writer Ian Fleming famously had a great love for Jamaica, writing a number of his thrillers on the island and even building his dream home in Oracabessa Bay.
  3. The plotline of the film Cool Runnings may seem like an unlikely scenario, but it's based on true events. The 1988 Jamaican bobsleigh team were the first tropical country to be part of a Winter Olympics.

FACTS

  1. In the late 19th century, Jamaica had an issue with rats destroying crops in the cane fields. Thus, the mongoose was imported to get rid of the problem, and subsequently killed off almost the entire population of snakes on the island, too.
  2. James Bond writer Ian Fleming famously had a great love for Jamaica, writing a number of his thrillers on the island and even building his dream home in Oracabessa Bay.
  3. The plotline of the film Cool Runnings may seem like an unlikely scenario, but it's based on true events. The 1988 Jamaican bobsleigh team were the first tropical country to be part of a Winter Olympics.

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