Jamaica is famous for being the birthplace of reggae and jerk, but there are so many more sides to the island. The country is home to some of the best beaches in the Caribbean, has eye-widening natural sites including waterfalls and lagoons, and produces one of the rarest coffees in the world. Here’s our list of reasons why it should feature on your bucket list.
Jamaica is home to some of the Caribbean’s most famous beaches. Seven Mile Beach in Negril and James Bond Beach near Ocho Rios are two of the best known. The former consists of a highway-long strip of platinum sand backed by palm trees and five-star hotels, while the latter formed the backdrop of Dr No. Other notable spots include celebrity favourite Frenchman’s Cove and the lively Doctor’s Cave Beach in Montego Bay.
Both reggae and dancehall were born in Jamaica. The music is ever-present on the island – you’ll hear it by the pool, on the beach, at street food stalls and in bars and restaurants. Head to the Hip Strip in Montego Bay to drink and dance to live performances until the early hours. For something a little more laid-back, visit Rick’s Café in Negril, and watch the sunset to a rocksteady beat.
Jamaica is the birthplace of jerk – a style of cooking that involves slathering cuts of meat and seafood in an allspice and scotch bonnet marinade, and smoking them over hot coals. Jerk dishes are sold in restaurants and street food stalls all over the island. However, if you want to make a jerk pilgrimage, head to the Boston Beach area, where the first jerk stalls in Jamaica are said to have been established.
The Martha Brae River is a 20mi (32km) stretch of fern-green water that runs through Cockpit Country in the centre of Jamaica. The best way to explore the river is on a rafting tour. Board a 30ft (9m) bamboo raft and a captain – Jamaica’s equivalent of the Venetian gondolier – will punt you along the waterway. Take some cash with you and you’ll be able to buy fresh coconuts from locals on the riverbank mid-float.
There’s a Sea Life Centre’s worth of tropical fish to discover in the seas surrounding Jamaica. Parrot fish, foureye butterfly fish and eagle rays are all part of the collection. If you’re keen to take a look, dozens of dive schools around Montego Bay, Negril and Ocho Rios cater to beginners. Top sites for more experienced divers, meanwhile, include the Throne Room, where you can sometimes spot six-foot vegetarian nurse sharks, and the wreck of World War II minesweeper the SS Kathryn.
Just off the coast of Falmouth, the Luminous Lagoon is filled with a rare form of algae called dinoflagellate. It’s virtually undetectable during the day, but when disturbed at night, it starts to glow in blue strobes. The best way to experience the phenomenon is on a boat tour from Glistening Waters hotel. Watch the water light up like the Vegas strip as you cruise through it, then jump in for a swim.
The Blue Mountains raise out of the ground like bloated green bellies 24mi (40km) north of Kingston. The area is covered with walking trails – one of the most rewarding hikes takes you to the top of Jamaica’s highest point, Blue Mountain Peak, 7,402ft (2,256m) above sea level. This part of the island is a coffee heartland, too. Coffee farms are dotted all over and many of them welcome visitors for guided tours and tastings.
White water cascades down a 180ft (55m) flight of natural rock stairs at Dunn’s River Falls, near Ocho Rios. Visitors can climb these stairs, stopping to soak in natural pools and shower in the falls’ foamy water along the way. If scaling the falls isn’t adventurous enough for you, there’s also a zip-line circuit that features seven zip-lines and four hanging bridges.
Book one of the best resorts or one of the best budget hotels in Jamaica now via Culture Trip. Fill your itinerary by seeing the best things to do in Kingston and the best spots for surfing, then check out the best restaurants in Montego Bay.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
This is an updated rewrite of an article originally by Sheri-Kae McLeod.
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