The 10 Top Things To See And Do In Kingston, Jamaica
Home to half of Jamaica’s 2.7 million people, Kingston is a growing metropolis surrounded by mountains in the north and coastline to the south. Like any major city, its neighborhoods vacillate between socio-economic extremes, and while some areas have earned a reputation for violence, Kingston is well worth a visit. While you’re there, you’ll notice that the sometimes tough environment still provides a major source of inspiration to many Jamaican artists, musicians, writers, and athletes.
Built in 1881, Devon House remains one of Kingston’s greatest landmarks and historic heritage sites. It is a representation of Jamaica’s rich cultural diversity, with its Georgian Jamaican architecture, typical of plantation homes built by British colonists at the height of the slave trade. The house is decorated with 19th–century furniture, recreating a view of the past. Tours of both the house and the property are available, on which you’ll learn more about the house’s history and what it represents for Jamaicans today. On the grounds of the estate, there are many shops, restaurants, and cafes.
‘Negro Aroused’ by Edna Manley | ©Wikimedia
The National Gallery of Jamaica is the largest and oldest public art gallery in the English-speaking Caribbean. Started in 1974, it showcases modern, contemporary, and early art from Jamaica, the Caribbean, and other countries in the surrounding regions. With five permanent galleries, you’ll be able to see everything from Pre-Colombian art created by the island’s indigenous communities to some of Jamaica’s most celebrated artists like Edna Manley and Mallica ‘Kapo’ Reynolds. The gallery also features several temporary exhibitions every year.
Though Jamaica is surrounded by some of the warmest, bluest water in the Caribbean, Jamaicans don’t make it to the beach as often as you might imagine. Beach days are usually reserved for the weekends, and for some Kingston residents, that means taking the ‘canoe’, or ferry, out to Lime Cay. The small cay is located just off the coast of the mainland, close to Norman Manley International Airport. Hired boats shuttle visitors to and from at either Morgan’s Harbour or Y-Knot. We recommend taking your own food, water, and supplies, as there aren’t any vendors on the cay. With a beautiful white sand beach and calm surrounding water, it’s the perfect escape for anyone looking for a break from city.
The bar at Usain Bolt’s Tracks and Records | Courtesy of Usain Bolt’s Tracks and Records
Jamaica is one of the rum capitals of the world and Kingston is one of the best places to explore the country’s bar scene. Our list of the top ten bars in the city is a great place to start your night. Get to know a few of the friendly locals for more information on the most current events happening in the city, as special parties tend to be seasonal in Jamaica.
Blue Mountain Range | ©Flickr
The Blue Mountains loom over the northern areas of Kingston, shading the region from the harsh Caribbean sun. The Blue Mountain National Park is a wonderful escape for anyone hoping to enjoy a bit of wilderness and untouched beauty while visiting Jamaica. Hiking to the peak can take anywhere from four to eight hours depending on where you start and your experience. On clear days, the southern coast of Cuba can be seen from the top. If you’re looking for something less challenging, head to Hollywell National Park for a outdoor picnic.
The view from the pool deck at Strawberry Hill | © Flickr
Strawberry Hill is a hotel and estate located in the hills of the lush Blue Mountain Range. The main house and surrounding cottages are typical of Jamaican colonial homes with simple, wooden antique furnishings. It is the perfect mountain escape for anyone who hopes they won’t have to compromise luxury for wilderness. Along with it’s luxurious accommodations, the property also has an incredible spa open to anyone looking for some R&R. They provide a wide range of services, but we recommend going for one of their massages. Treat yourself to their coconut hydro-scrub massage – it is pure decadence for body and mind.
Bob Marley Museum | © Flickr
Jamaicans often say their greatest export is reggae music, and the genre would be nothing without Bob Marley. Seen in many ways as a cultural hero, he remains one of Jamaica’s most honored and influential people. The museum is located at the musician’s old home. Still owned by his family, it showcases his incredible life from humble beginnings in one of Jamaica’s poorest communities to worldwide recognition for his contribution to music and society. He is seen by many as a national hero for hoisting Jamaica’s culture and people onto the world stage.
Costume and makeup for Carnival | © Wikimedia
Nightlife in Kingston seems never ending, and there is always a party, ‘fete’, or ‘session’ happening. Major parties and events tend to be seasonal, so the best way to find out what’s going on is to talk to a few locals. Perhaps the best time of year to visit Kingston is between February and April, when the celebrations for Carnival are in full swing. There is a party every week where patrons dance, wave and sing to soca, dance hall, and reggae music. The carnival season ends with the island’s biggest party of the year, where people take to the streets to celebrate in some of the most colorful, intricate, and revealing costumes you’ve ever seen.
Cricket at Sabina Park | © Flickr
Jamaicans love sports, especially football, cricket, and track and field. With local athletes dominating internationally in all these disciplines, it’s no wonder some offices are known to close early so their employees can go watch major matches or meets. Any sporting event in Jamaica is going to have the most lively and exciting fans you’ve ever seen – it will be a party no matter who wins. The national football team, called The Reggae Boyz, play home games at the National Stadium, while the national cricket team, The Jamaica Tallawahs, usually play at Sabina Park.
Giddy House in Port Royal | ©Flickr
Tour Port Royal
Once known as the “wickedest city in the world,” Port Royal is famed for being the pirate and shipping capital of the Caribbean during the 17th and 18th centuries. Famous plunderers like Captain Henry Morgan, Blackbeard, and Calico Jack all visited the city on numerous occasions, seeking refuge from law enforcement and gathering supplies for upcoming journeys. In 1692, half of the city sank after a devastating earthquake, but the remnants of pirates, Admirals, and battles still remain in the architecture and rusty canons that still keep watch at Fort Charles.
Port Royal, Jamaica