White sandy beaches, 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 man, no problem man!” Jamaicans are what make a trip to the Caribbean island nation so special.
In this blog article, we reveal our personal tips for your trip to Jamaica. We show you the most beautiful sights and beaches and tell you about our experiences, so that you can perfectly prepare your trip to Jamaica.
- 1. Before you head to Jamaica: Tips for your first Time, Experiences & FAQs
- 2. Travel Guide: What you can Experience in Jamaica (Beaches, Sights & Tips)
- 3. Where to Eat in Jamaica: Tips for Restaurants
- 4. Hotel Tips for Jamaica: Info & Experiences
- 5. Travel Expenses Jamaica: How much Money you will need
- 6. Further Travel Tips for Jamaica: Arrival, Safety & Co.
- 7. Map: Sights & Highlights at a glance
1. Before you head to Jamaica: Tips for your first Time, Experiences & FAQs
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 turquoise sea. Jamaica is the epitome of Caribbean vibes. The Jamaicans‘ zest for life is infectious.
- Package tourism: Jamaica is an incredibly popular destination for package holidaying. However, it is entirely possible to travel the country without booking a vacation package.
Is it true that Jamaica is overrun by package tourism?
Jamaica is an insanely popular destination for package tourism (mainly from the USA). This is due to the fact that it takes just under four hours to fly to the Caribbean island from the south of the USA.
In Jamaica, you mainly meet families with children and young couples who spend their honeymoon here. Then when you see the large all-inclusive hotels on Jamaica’s most famous beaches, it becomes clear what kind of tourism has taken hold here in recent decades.
From our own experience, however, we can confirm that not all package tourism is the same. For example, we really enjoyed our time at the RIU Palace Hotel in Montego Bay. (You can read more about this and our detailed hotel recommendations later in the blog article).
Jamaica is also frequented by cruise ships. Therefore, sights and beaches near the port are often overrun by crowds within a very short time. You just have to know that and it’s best to show up as early as possible.
Getting around in Jamaica: What is there to see?
The most touristy part of Jamaica is clearly the west. The east and south are more quiet and relaxed. In general, the tourist regions of interest can be divided as follows (we will get into the specifics of the sights later on):
- Negril in the far west of Jamaica: a pure Caribbean feeling! Here you can find the paradise of Seven Mile Beach.
- Montego Bay (also called “MoBay”) & surroundings: a tourist hot-spot with countless hotels. (Among other reasons, cruise ships dock here and most international flights land here).
- South Coast: More pristine beaches, e.g. Treasure Beach on the western south coast.
- Blue Mountains: Jamaica’s most famous and longest mountain range in the far east. The highest point (Blue Mountain Peak) is 2,256 meters high.
- Kingston: The capital of Jamaica, located near the Blue Mountains. There aren’t actually that many sights in Kingston, and some travelers skip the island capital altogether on a round trip.
Round trip or excursions from a home base?
If you want to visit the west as well as the east, then you can’t go past taking a round trip. (To provide an indication: it takes about four to five hours to get from Negril to Kingston). You see much more of the country this way.
However, it is also possible to just concentrate on the well-developed, touristy part of western Jamaica. From here it’s possible to stay in one place and do short excursions. If you decide to do this, then we can recommend (from our own experience) to book the trip through TUI.
You can book your trip here: TUI (official website)
Extra tip: Jamaica round trip on your own accord
It’s certainly not the norm to tour Jamaica independently, but definitely possible. In principle, there are three options:
- private driver: convenient & comfortable.
- public buses and minibuses: inexpensive
- rental car: the most flexible and adventurous option
We ourselves travelled with a private driver at times. For our next trip, we can definitely imagine booking our own rental car. But be careful: The road conditions are sometimes very adventurous (hello gigantic potholes!) and the driving style of the locals is also anything but defensive. So we would really only recommend this option if you are an experienced driver.
Itinerary through the west of Jamaica (approx. 10 to 14 days)
Maybe you are wondering what would be the best route for a round trip through Jamaica? If you are interested in experiencing the (more touristy) west, we can recommend the following route.
A little tip: Our hotel recommendations for the individual stops are provided further down in the blog article. Information about the sights and highlights at the individual places are contained in the next chapter.
- 1st stop: Negril (= THE beach in Jamaica)
- 2nd stop: Treasure Beach (quiet, relaxed, away from the crowds)
- 3rd stop (optional): Blue Mountains (mountainous region, off the east of the island).
- 4th stop: Montego Bay (touristy, but cool places to visit)
2. Travel Guide: What you can Experience in Jamaica (Beaches, Sights & Tips)
Seven Mile Beach in Negril
Welcome to Jamaica’s supposedly most beautiful beach! Seven Mile Beach makes island dreams come true. Here, the finest, light-colored sand and turquoise-blue water await you.
To avoid confusion, Seven Mile Beach consists of two beach sections, a small bay called Bloody Bay and a much longer beach to the south called Long Bay. Bloody Bay tends to be quieter, while Long Bay is home to more bars, hotels and the like.
Despite all the infrastructure, you can really look forward to the dreamy Caribbean flair. The hotels are all located behind palm trees and are (supposedly) not allowed to exceed them in height.
The Seven Mile Beach is basically open to the public, but some sections (especially in front of the big hotels) are private. This has the advantage that there are comparatively few souvenir sellers. If you like it more secluded, you should walk towards the south. Here the beach is similarly beautiful, but you are almost alone.
Our tip: Seven Mile Beach faces west. Therefore, you can admire beautiful sunsets here. Not to be missed!
Top Sight: Rick’s Café
Unwritten rule: You can’t leave Jamaica without having been here once. Rick’s Café is something of an institution in Jamaica and enjoys a cult status. Built on a cliff edge, the restaurant is definitely one of the country’s most legendary attractions.
Rick’s Café is famous for its cliff jumpers. From a good 20 meters above the ground, locals in particular plunge into the depths, performing daring dives and flips.
We ourselves got weak kneed just looking at them, but if you still want to get an adrenaline rush, you should take the plunge. You don’t have to start at the top, there are several platforms to jump from that are much lower.
The prices are high by Jamaican standards, but the atmosphere is really great. What could be better than toasting to the sunset with a cool Red Stripe beer and live reggae music? Speaking of live music, it is said that Bob Marley even performed here once. At the very least, his old hits are still played here today.
Our tip: Catamaran tour to Rick’s Café
You can of course visit Rick’s Cafe on your own. But we also recommend a catamaran tour along the coast of Negril.
Our tour started in the early afternoon. First, we went to a snorkeling spot. To be honest: The underwater world was quite nice to look at, but not quite a highlight. However, it is quite an experience to get to know Jamaica from a boat. Snorkeling equipment can be hired, so you should definitely take your bathing suit with you. We docked in front of Rick’s Café right before sunset.
You can book the tour here: By catamaran to Rick’s Café
We present: One of our highlights on our Jamaica trip! The river walk along the Mayfield Falls is a pure jungle feeling.
Along the river there are two waterfalls (the larger one is called “The Washing Machine”) and countless pools where you can swim. The trail leads upstream along cascades for about an hour.
It’s best to bring swimwear and shoes to get in the water. A guide is not essential but is recommended. They will make sure nothing happens and show you an underground cave or two to dive through.
You can book a tour here: Mayfield Falls
Info about Mayfield Falls
Address: Hertford to Flower Hill Main Road, Pennycooke (we’ve put the address on the map for you).
Opening hours: daily from 8 am to 4:30 pm
Admission: 20 USD per person
More info: There is a small restaurant by the entrance, lockers and you can borrow waterproof shoes if you don’t have your own.
Other famous waterfalls in Jamaica
There are many other beautiful waterfalls in Jamaica. The most beautiful, and therefore most famous, are Dunn’s River Falls and YS Falls.
The problem with the Dunn’s River Falls is that they are within walking distance of a ferry port and therefore usually extremely crowded. YS Falls is a little quieter. So if you have a choice, we would go for the latter. Both waterfalls cost about 20 USD entrance fee.
Bamboo rafting on the Martha Brae River
A gorgeous natural setting awaits you on a raft trip down the Martha Brae River. “Rafting” is probably the wrong term. It’s more of a leisurely ride than an adventurous whitewater experience. However, we highly recommend this trip.
The raft is about 6 meters long and you sit slightly elevated at the end of the raft, while the captain stands in front and gives the direction with a bamboo stick. The trip takes one to one and a half hours, depending on the water level. There are some souvenir sellers on the shore – but you only stop if you ask them to.
Info about the raft trip
Start and end point: The rafting starts at Martha Brae Rafting Village (we have marked the address on the map), about 45 minutes by car from Montego Bay. If you are traveling with your own car, you will need to arrange for a driver to take you back to the starting point at the end point. If you have booked a tour, you don’t need to worry about that.
Equipment: You won’t get wet if you don’t want to. A bathing suit is advisable, but not a must. You can take your camera without any problems.
Price: 70 USD per raft (2 persons).
You can book your tour in advance here: Bamboo Rafting
Roaring River and Cave
Another Jamaica sight we can recommend is the Roaring River. The river flows underground for most of its journey until it bubbles to the surface in Petersfield. The scenery around the springs is really beautiful to look at.
But the main attraction is Roaring River Cave, a limestone cave that you can even swim in. Since the cave is relatively dark, you are only allowed to enter it with a guide.
Unfortunately, it says on the internet that so-called tour guides like to rip you off here, so we recommend you to be careful if you come with your own car. If you organise the tour through your hotel, the drivers usually know which tour guides are trustworthy.
Info about Roaring River Cave
Address: Petersfield (we have marked the spot on the map for you).
Price: You can visit the springs for free, the cave entrance fee costs about 10 dollars. The cost of a guide is additional.
Greenwood Great House
Numerous magnificent mansions in Jamaica pay reminder to the former colonial era. One of the most famous and best-preserved mansions in Jamaica is the Greenwood Great House, which is over 200 years old.
The family of Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, the famous English peot, once lived here. The house is one of the few plantation homes that survived the 1931 slave revolt unscathed. Therefore, the interior furnishings date back to the 19th century.
A 45-minute tour gives you great insight into the history of the family and Jamaica. The house is still inhabited today.
Info about the Greenwood Great House
Address: 435 Belgrade Avenue St. James, Jamaica
Opening hours: daily from 9 am to 6 pm (last tour at 5 pm)
Price: 20 USD per person
Other mansions in Jamaica
Very close to the Greenwood Great House, just a 15 minute drive away, is another important building, which we unfortunately did not visit: the Rose Hall Great House. The old mansion is said to be haunted. A tour costs 20 USD per person.
3. 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 get out of the high hotel walls. 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. It’s worth trying, but unfortunately there are no vegetarian options for the national dish.
Vegetarians and vegans should look for the term “Ital”. Ital is the name for the diet of the Rastafarians (i.e. the followers of the Rastafarian movement). Here, animal products are avoided as much as possible. Ital food is therefore often (not always!) vegetarian or vegan.
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 on practically every street corner.
Our restaurant tips for Jamaica
Zimbali’s Mountain Cooking Studio (30 minutes from Negril): Quite the insider tip, one of the hottest restaurants in Jamaica is Zimbali’s Mountain Cooking Studio. The restaurant (which belongs to the retreat of the same name) is hidden in the Jamaican countryside, about 30 minutes by car from Negril. You can expect a 4-course (lunch) or 5-course (dinner) menu of the finest dishes. Most of the ingredients are home grown. Our conclusion: Simply the best, don’t miss it!
Murphy’s West End Restaurant (Negril): If you are staying at Negril Beach, you should definitely pay Murphy’s a visit. We went here twice because we liked it so much. The place is best known for its fish and seafood. But there are a few vegetarian options as well. You sit outside here, but it’s covered – the staff is super nice and helpful.
Just Natural (Negril): Just Natural has been a Negril institution for many years. It serves vegetarian dishes, seafood and Italian food. You should definitely try the freshly squeezed juices! The atmosphere in the restaurant, which is more like a tropical garden, is very special. A bit quirky, but absolutely lovely.
Scotchies (Montego Bay): This Jamaican eatery is THE spot for jerk. Supposedly the best jerk in Jamaica is served here. We can’t confirm that, but it’s a good meal. The ambience at Scotchies is rustic and cozy – you sit here in a kind of courtyard or garden.
4. Hotel Tips for Jamaica: Info & Experiences
First thing to note: If you expect small boutique hotels, unfortunately you will have a rather hard time. In Jamaica, large hotel facilities are the rule, not the exception. The prime beach locations especially are mainly occupied by well-known hotel chains.
Package tourism in Jamaica is strong, especially due to the many guests from the United States. Therefore, many hotels therefore also specialise in honeymooners and offer special packages.
This means: you really have to look with a magnifying glass for alternatives to large all-inclusive facilities in Jamaica. Nevertheless, we have some hotel recommendations for you. So, if you are planning a Jamaica round trip through the west, here are our hotel tips.
Jamaica round trip: Our hotel recommendations
1st stop: Negril
Let’s start at the snowy-white, paradise Seven Mile Beach. There you will find this small hotel jewel called Idle Awhile Beach. In contrast to large hotel complexes, the atmosphere here is pleasantly personal and familiar. Simply gorgeous!
The rooms are traditional and tastefully decorated. You even get a direct view of the turquoise sea from some of them. Our conclusion: This is a great place to stay. The perfect hotel for your first days in Jamaica!
You can book the hotel here: Idle Awhile Beach
2nd stop: Treasure Beach
Secluded, sleepy and away from the crowds – that’s how Treasure Beach in the south of Jamaica can be described. The ideal accommodation for your time there is Jakes.
You will stay in simple, natural and very colorful bungalows or rooms. Very unique! You have to like the hippie flair, but one thing is certain: Jakes definitely stands out among the all-inclusive hotels.
You can book the hotel here: Jakes
3rd stop (optional): Blue Mountains
In the east of Jamaica are the Blue Mountains, Jamaica’s most famous mountain region. If you want to visit this part of Jamaica as well, we can highly recommend the Strawberry Hill Hotel. The location in the middle of the jungle and the view towards Kingston are fantastic.
You can book the hotel here: Strawberry Hill
4th stop: Montego Bay
Although we usually prefer small, family-run boutique hotels, we made an exception in Jamaica and stayed at the RIU Palace Hotel in Montego Bay. And what can we say: Good decision!
The hotel (adults only) is located directly on the beach. Our conclusion: You can really switch off in this exclusive all-inclusive hotel – simply wonderful! The ideal hotel for your final days in Jamaica.
You can book the hotel here: RIU Palace Hotel in Montego Bay
5. Travel Expenses Jamaica: How much Money you will need
Currency and payment in Jamaica
The national currency of Jamaica is the Jamaican dollar (abbreviated J$ or JMD). Locally, the currency is usually called “Jay”. One US Dollar is equivalent to about 140 J$.
Due to the geographical proximity and the many tourists from the USA, the US Dollar (USD) is also widely used. Many prices are often written in USD in the well-developed tourist regions.
We found it worked well to have a combination of US and Jamaican dollars. For example, we paid for tours with USD and used Jays (J$) for smaller purchases with Jays. You can get Jays either directly at the ATM or you can change them in an exchange office. Note: Do not change your money at the airport, because there the exchange rate is usually extremely bad.
Travel costs in Jamaica: price levels and examples
What does … cost in Jamaica?
- Double room in a nice hotel in Negril: 120 to 250 USD per night (or more)
- Entrance fee to the famous Dunn’s River Falls: 20 USD
- Catamaran tour to Rick’s Cafe: about 80 USD
- Cocktail at Rick’s Cafe: 7-9 USD
- Meal in a rather simple restaurant for two persons, drink included: 25-35 USD
As you can probably already tell: Jamaica is definitely not a cheap travel destination. The prices for nice hotels and tour entrance fees to the sights in are especially quite expensive.
Restaurant prices can also be steep (although you can also eat cheaply at street stalls). This is partly due to the fact that many things have to be imported. And then, of course, there is the long flight, which also costs a few hundred dollars.
6. Further Travel Tips for Jamaica: Arrival, Safety & Co.
Arrival and entry into Jamaica
From Europe there are direct flights to Jamica. (For example with Condor from Frankfurt or with British Airways from London.) The flight time is about 11 hours. Flight connections via the USA or Canada (e.g. Toronto) are popular too. Important: Remember that you have to apply for an ESTA (USA) or eTA (Canada)!
From the US, there are plenty of direct flights to Jamaica. No matter where your departure airport is, you will most likely not land in the capital Kingston, but in Montego Bay in the west of the island.
The entry into Jamaica is straight forward and free of charge. There is no visa requirement for tourist trips that last less than 90 days. You just need to fill out an entry form and make sure that your passport is valid for at least six months.
The best time to travel to Jamaica
You can travel to Jamaica all year round. The temperatures are warm all year round and range between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius. At night, the temperatures drop a little.
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. We would like to clarify this briefly and describe our personal experiences.
The fact is: Of course Jamaica is more unsafe than, say, Europe. The reason is quite simple: gang crime. Jamaica has one of the highest murder rates in the world! As bad as this is for the local people, as a tourist you usually don’t come into contact with it.
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.
Here’s what we can recommend to make your Jamaica trip as safe as possible:
- Carry valuables close to your body or leave them at home in the first place.
- Most robberies happen in the dark. Therefore, avoid dark, secluded alleys at night (especially in the capital Kingston) or ask (e.g. at the hotel) which areas you should better avoid.
- Last but not least: Listen to your common sense. If you have a bad gut feeling somewhere, take it seriously.
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. We ourselves never felt unsafe in Jamaica.
For current assessments of the security situation, we would like to refer you to the official website of the UK government: Jamaica Travel Advice.
7. Map: Sights & Highlights at a glance
To give you a better overview of the location of each landmark in Jamaica, we’ve marked our highlights on this map.
Disclaimer: Invitation & Affiliate Links
We were invited by TUI to travel to beautiful Jamaica – thank you! Our opinions and experiences are of course not influenced by this. This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, we receive a small commission. This does not change the price for you at all. A million thanks from the both of us!
And now tell us: Have you already been to Jamaica? What experiences did you have? Which sights did you like the most? Do you have any other travel tips you would like to share with us? We look forward to your comments!