The Best Annual Food Festivals in Jamaica

Food is an important part of Jamaican culture | © Damien D./Flickr
Food is an important part of Jamaican culture | © Damien D./Flickr
Photo of Sheri-kae McLeod
Freelance Caribbean Writer6 November 2017

Food is one of the most important parts of Jamaican culture and food festivals are a celebration of culinary mastery, with great spirits and fine people, tasty foods and live entertainment. Here’s the scoop on where to find the best-tasting festivals in Jamaica during the year.

The Jamaica Food & Drink Festival

Every November, the Jamaica Food & Drink Festival is a celebration that draws every foodie in Kingston, as well as from other parts of Jamaica. The festival offers five individual, themed nights, with contributions from some of the island’s best restaurants and chefs, featuring everything from exquisite meals paired with wines, to a pork extravaganza and ‘all things fried’ evenings, culminating in a weekend of numerous events – including the very inexpensive food truck specialty event. Be sure to save room in your stomach for Jamaica’s annual Restaurant Week, which usually kicks off one week later.

Pork Palooza at JFDF2017 | Courtesy of Ja Food and Drink

Portland Jerk Festival

It is often said that jerk chicken is one of Jamaica’s most popular exports. The Portland Jerk Festival is the largest annual jerk and food festival in Jamaica, which has been a major calendar event held in July for the past 14 years. This food and music juncture is staged at the heritage site at Folly Estate in Portland, the home of jerk chicken. The event includes live, wholesome, family entertainment, jerked food and other tasty delights.

Jerk chicken | © sean_hickin/Flickr

Clarendon Seafood Festival

Children enter free before 2pm at this seafood festival held in Clarendon, deep in the heart of the island, with Jamaican artistes performing later in the night. If it comes from the sea, it’s yours to sample – shrimp lobster, conch, fish, crab, and some Jamaican favourites. Occurring every March in Woodleigh, Clarendon, avoid the main tourist centres and sample another taste of Jamaica.

Seafood | © Maxim Krayushkin/Flickr

Port Royal Seafood Festival

Staged in one of the most historic communities in Jamaica, this family fun-day and food festival is held each year on National Heroes Day, the third Monday in October. This festival serves up more than just delicious seafood. The scent of the cooking draws you, as does the variety of entertainment on hand. The musical performances are one of the most varied lineups of any festival in Jamaica, with popular reggae and dancehall artistes, as well as gospel acts, from contemporary to older crowd favourites. If you’re in Jamaica in October, check it out.

Seafood | © Bob B. Brown/Flickr

Montego Bay Jerk Festival

The Montego Bay Jerk Fest is Jamaica’s largest jerk festival on the western side of the island. This is an outdoor family event at the end of July, starting in the daytime and going on through the night. All are welcome to join in the one-day community event, which includes jerk meats, treats, activities for the entire family, a celebrity cook-off and a stage show.

Cooking jerk chicken | © Andrew Girdwood/Flickr

Milk River Seafood and Jerk Festival

The second annual Milk River Seafood and Jerk Festival is on in December at Farquhar’s Beach in Milk River. The community festival welcomes visitors to the area with succulent fare, delicious dishes and mouth-watering treats. This is an ideal chance for those looking to experience a local food festival, although you’ll find a strong community turnout for pretty much any festival surrounding food on the island!

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