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Jamaica Travel Guide: White sandy beaches, laid back vibes, reggae sounds and rum!

Jamaica is a way of life! We can promise you one thing: All the clichés that are floating around in your head will become reality on a trip to Jamaica. Or to put it in the words of the locals, “Ya mon, no problem mon!” Jamaicans are what make a trip to the Caribbean island nation so special.

Jamaican Reggae Music Drums

What can I expect in Jamaica?

Fantastic natural scenery: Waterfalls, jungles, Caribbean beaches and an impressive mountain landscape. The nature in Jamaica is really beautiful.

Caribbean flair & relaxed vibes: A coconut in your hand, reggae music in your ear & the view of the beautiful turquoise sea. Jamaica is the center of Caribbean vibes. The Jamaicans‘ zest for life is infectious.

Jamaica, Boars on the Oceanside, Negril, Montego Bay

The best time to travel to Jamaica

You can travel to Jamaica all year round. The temperatures are warm all year round with an average high of 89 degrees F (32 degrees C) and an average low of 73 degrees F (23 degrees C).

The European and North American winter is ideal for a trip to Jamaica, because the Caribbean island has a dry season from December to April. There tends to be little rain at this time – though the occasional shower is not excluded.

The rainy season is from May until June and from September to November. There is usually more precipitation during this period. Often it will rain heavily for one or two hours before the sun comes out again. The hurricane season is also worth mentioning, which runs in the Caribbean roughly from July to November. The probability of hurricanes is highest in August and September.

We would personally leave out Christmas as well as other peaks like Easter or Spring Break. Not only is it a lot busier, but hotel prices usually skyrocket as well.

Safety: Is Jamaica a safe destination?

There are many myths circulating around the question of whether Jamaica is a safe or unsafe destination. Here is what we know.

The risk of being a victim of robbery is low – but can of course happen, as with all other places in the world. Pickpocketing is more likely, which can happen from time to time.

Be vigilant and act accordingly and responsibly you will not have any problem, just use common sense. Try to be cautious when withdrawing money in the ATM take a look around, avoid walking around at night and take a taxi instead.

What you should always keep in mind: Tourism is an important economic factor in Jamaica. Therefore, the locals have a great interest in making sure that you can travel through the country with a good feeling. I personally have never felt unsafe in Jamaica.

Currency and payment in Jamaica

The national currency of Jamaica is the Jamaican dollar (abbreviated J$ or JMD). One US Dollar is equivalent to about 140 J$.

Due to the geographical proximity and the many tourists from the USA, the US Dollar (USD) is also widely used. Many prices are often written in USD in the well-developed tourist regions.

We found it worked well to have a combination of US and Jamaican dollars. For example, we paid for tours with USD and used J$ for smaller purchases. You can get Jays either directly at the ATM or you can change them in an exchange office. I personally would exchange it here in the US at my bank before travel. Note: Do not change your money at the airport, because there the exchange rate is very high.

Where to Eat in Jamaica: Tips for Restaurants

Firstly, the most important tip is that in most cases, if you really want to eat well, you should venture out of the resort. This is because the real, authentic Jamaican food is served primarily in the many small street eateries.

Outside the country’s borders, Jamaican cuisine is best known for its “jerk”. Here, meat or seafood is marinated with a spicy-sweet spice mixture and then prepared using a special grilling technique.

You should not miss the exotic fruits, which enjoy the best growing conditions in the tropical climate. You can buy fresh fruit, juices or chilled coconuts (locally known as jellies) on practically every street corner.

I personally suggest you try the Ackee and Saltfish, which is the national dish in Jamaica. Ackee is the national fruit in Jamaica and cooked with saltfish boiled with onions, tomatoes, pepper and more species. Ackee and Saltfish is usually served for breakfast but you can eat anytime of the day in Jamaica.

Jamaica Map, Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Port Antonio, Kingston, Negril

Where to go and what to see?

The most most popular touristy parts of Jamaica are in the West and Northwest area of the island. The east and south are more quiet and relaxed. In general, the tourist main area's are as follows:

Negril in the far west of Jamaica: a pure Caribbean feeling! Here you can find the paradise of the world famous Seven Mile White Sand Beach. Negril is also the party place in Jamaica where you will find Reggae’s Bars. During the day you can enjoy beach life one of the best in the Caribbean with beautiful sunsets. At night time the nightlife will be all over the place in Negril

Montego Bay (also called “MoBay”) Montego Bay has a much more urban feel. You will find everything from nightclubs to bars and restaurants. There are a lot of luxury resorts ideal for families traveling with kids but also a few places if you go on a budget and you prefer staying calm and relax in Jamaica.

Ocho Rios (also called by the locals - Ochi) Ocho Rios is full of entertainment, outdoor activities and also has an active nightlife. In Ocho Rios nightlife is all about reggae and the beach. You will find a relaxed atmosphere where you can enjoy music, have great food and drinks. During the day there are many activities in Ocho Rios swimming, surfing, scuba diving and sailing.

Kingston is the capital of Jamaica. Kingston can be busy if we compare to relaxed areas like Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. You will find a lot of bars, restaurants to try local food, museums to learn about history and reggae in Jamaica. Also you will find great nightlife in Kingston.

Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park is one of the most popular places to visit in Jamaica. 4. Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park is a UNESCO Site where you can explore hiking the mountains, waterfalls and visiting coffee plantations. If you like wildlife there are plenty of birds and butterflies.

Port Antonio is a relaxed fishing village. Port Antonio is great place for hiking, rafting and swimming in waterfalls. You can also stay at the white sand beach, practicing snorkeling and even scuba diving.

Awesome Things To Do

Jamaica really is the heartbeat of the Caribbean with a whole host of attractions! Below are my top recommendations for this Jamaica travel guide.

Climb the world famous Dunn’s River Falls (Ocho Rios)

Swim in Island Gully Falls (The Blue Hole) (Ocho Rios)

River raft down the Martha Brae River (Falmouth)

Visit the Blue Mountains (East end)

Try caving at Green Grotto Caves (Ocho Rios)

Cliff jump at Rick’s Cafe (Negril)

Boat on the Luminous Lagoon (Falmouth)

Snorkel at the many beaches of Jamaica (Many Locations)

Enjoy the endless white sand beaches in Negril

Horseback riding along the beach (Many Locations)

Take a boat to Booby Cay island for Fresh Grilled Lobster (Negril)

Visit the Bob Marley Museum (Kingston)

Tour the historical Rose Hall Plantation House (Montego Bay)

Swim at one of the many waterfalls on the island (Multiple Locations)

Somerset Falls (Port Antonio)

Reach Falls (Port Antonio)

Konoko Falls & Park (Ocho Rios)

Mayfield Falls (Westmoreland)

Turtle River Falls (Saint Ann)

Last Minute, Things to know!

Jamaica run on Island Time. It’s an island so this should go without saying. If you aren’t used to is though, know that restaurant's and bars might be a bit slower than what you are used to.

Sunscreen is expensive on the island so bring your own.

Take the time to meet some of the locals. It personally kills me when people travel and completely wall themselves off from the country they are visiting.

Route taxis and buses are cheap but you may find them uncomfortable. Not only am I talking about no ac but they will jam pack you in there.

Be prepared for intense driving, they also drive really aggressively. I’m talking about passing around corners, ignoring speed limits, and feeling like you’re going to hit oncoming traffic. I honestly wouldn't feel comfortable driving in Jamaica.

Get used to very assertive salesman. People will try to sell you things, everywhere you go. I usually responded with a friendly no thank you, I’m good, I’m not hungry, or I’ve already got everything we need. People respect that.

Leave the Camo clothes at home. The Parliament in Jamaica has passed a law banning all camouflage clothing except for uniforms worn by the police. They don’t want civilians mistaken for police officers..

So, Why Visit Jamaica?

Jamaica is the perfect place to escape safely, with breathtakingly beautiful beaches, rivers, botanical parks, and hillsides to explore. Where you can enjoy refreshing river rafting, tantalizing eats and treats, chasing gently cascading waterfalls, and immersing yourself in the culture of the island of rhythm and spice.

Contact us to start planning your ultimate Jamaican Vacation now!

Irie Vacations by Nichole Jamaica

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