Beyond Bob Marley, Jamaica is a popular destination in the Caribbean best known for its lively music scene, larger-than-life colorful vibe, friendly locals and beautiful beaches. Visitors return here again and again for the warm hospitality, funky flavors (travel tip: some of the best Jerk chicken is found in unassuming roadside shacks), and laid-back island vibe.
For island explorers looking to sight see beyond their hotel or resort, there are several popular (and not so popular) areas to visit. Choose from resort-laden Ocho Rios, beach-favorite Negril, upscale Montego Bay and up-and-coming Kingston.
On the northern coast of Jamaica, you’ll find Ocho Rios. A popular port-of-call for cruise lines, this area is popular among island-hopping tourists. If you’re intention is to check in to a luxury beach resort for the entirety of your stay—this is the area for you. An abundant amount of resorts are located here, including Beaches Ocho Rios and Franklyn D. Resort & Spa.
The culture in Ocho Rios is a blend of Spanish and British influences. You’ll notice this at the area’s top-rated restaurants, which include Toscanini Restaurant (Italian fare), Miss T’s Kitchen (Caribbean fare), and Juici-Beef Patties (Caribbean fare). If you’re looking for extra excursions outside of the resort, we highly recommend visiting Dunns River Falls, a 180-foot waterfall, or visiting the underground lake at the Green Grotto Caves.
Head to Negril for beach time. A smaller town on the west side of the island, this area is home to one of the best beaches in the Caribbean, Seven Mile Beach. Negril’s delightful come-as-you-are vibe makes for laid-back beach days (including some clothing-optional spots), wild parties and off-the-grid dining options.
For a romantic vacation, stay at the adults-only Spa Retreat Boutique Hotel, or opt for the trendy Rockhouse Hotel, which perches above Pristine Cove. For the most authentic Caribbean cuisine, head to Fireman’s Lobster Pit or Ivan’s Bar and Restaurant—both of which put their own twist on classic favorites.
Montego Bay, is the capital of Saint James Parish on Jamaica’s north coast, easily one of the most popular destinations on the island. Vacationers flock to the area’s ritzy beach all-inclusive resorts, including Secrets St. James (adults-only) and family-friendly Royalton White Sands, where kids enjoy the on-property water park. If that doesn’t cut it, the beaches definitely will. Montego Bay’s shores offer some of the most famous beaches in the region like Doctor’s Cave Beach and Walter Fletcher Beach. Top up that tan, then try Scotchies, Pork Pit or Juici Patties for a taste of the Caribbean’s spicy favorites. Other must-do activities include strolling through the open-air Harbour Street market and visiting Widowmaker’s Cave to dive or float down the Martha Brae River on a bamboo raft.
Kingston is the only city in Jamaica where it’s more convenient to fly into Norman Manley International Airport. It’s divided into a historic, quaint downtown, and a trendier uptown with restaurants and hotels including Spanish Court Hotel, which celebrates the city’s Reggae history, and the Strawberry Hill Hotel, offering a romantic setting on the hillside.
Because mountains surround Kingston, it’s the perfect place to explore the outdoors, especially at the Hope Botanical Gardens. Swim, snorkel or lounge at Hellshire or Fairy Hill Beaches, or visit the Bob Marley Museum to learn more about this iconic musician. Work up an appetite, then head to Gloria’s Rendezvous for some mouthwatering seafood.