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Jamaica is the reggae heartbeat of the Caribbean, and you'll feel it as you walk throughout the island. The air is slightly humid with warm sand beneath your feet. The smell of Jerk chicken and curried goat wafts across your path. An afternoon drink might include some locally produced rum mixed with sweet fruit juices. Before you is the beautiful Caribbean, with gentle waves lapping the shore. In so many ways, Jamaica is a feast for your senses.
Jamaica’s capita, Kingston, is the largest city on the island and most famously known for its many reggae nightclubs and the Bob Marley Museum. Montego Bay in Cornwall County is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean, with it all-inclusive resorts, duty-free shopping and the hip Gloucester Avenue. Negril is known for its seven miles of white sand beaches and laid-back atmosphere. Ocho Rios, on Jamaica’s northern coast is home to both large resorts and smaller family-run hotels, with natural falls and world-class scuba diving. And Falmouth and Port Antonio have become popular cruise port destinations.
Islanders take a lot of pride in Bob Marley, possibly the most famous resident of Jamaica. . The Bob Marley Museum (876-978-2929) in Kingston was the famous reggae musician's recording studio and home, where he lived until his death in 1981, and it is filled with memorabilia and personal belongings. Tours last approximately one hour and run from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
This destination in Ocho Rios offers visitors a different view of the Jamaican rainforest. At Mystic Mountain (876-974-3900), you can zip line, take a chairlift with the Sky Explorer or, most famously, bobsled through the jungle. Either way, you are sure to get a spectacular glimpse of the greenery and rivers in the region.
A destination probably most famous for its coffee, this mountain range outside of Kingston is breathtaking for its natural scenery, complete with waterfalls, wildlife and lush flora. Arrange a bike tour, take in a local sunrise, or arrange to taste the coffee, which is harvested for a variety of different coffee companies all over the world. Part of the range is protected as Blue & John Crow National Park.
This plantation house near Montego Bay was built in 1770 and is now surrounded by a variety of beachside golf resorts. However, the original Rose Hall plantation house (888-767-3425) is a great visit for ghost-story lovers. Here, the legend is about Annee Palmer, the once-mistress of the plantation, who is referred to as the "White Witch of Rose Hall." For an extra-spooky experience, arrange for a candlelit visit at night.
Jamaican cuisine is a vibrant blend of spices and fresh, sustainable products. With a countless array of fine dining establishment and roadside jerk huts, the gastronomy of Jamaica offers much more than the national dishes of ackee and salt fish.
For a truly Caribbean dining experience in Ocho Rios, check out the Almond Tree Restaurant (876-974-2676), which has an actual tree growing through the roof, for the lobster thermidor or roast suckling pig. For an upscale restaurant with international flair, try the Palm Court in the Kingston Hilton (876-926-5430). For famous Jamaican jerk chicken and pork right on the beach, head over to the Pork Pit in Montego Bay (876-940-3008). This casual lunchtime favorite of both locals and tourists is the perfect spot to settle down with a Red Stripe and plate of island-spiced meats.
Jamaica’s Blue Mountains have just been declared the island’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.
With little seasonal variation, Jamaica has a tropical climate that produces warm weather year-round. Rainy season can occur any time between June and November, though the wettest months tends to be September and October. Peak season is during the winter months (December to April), as this is when the temperature drops a bit.
Jamaica has three cruise ports which all lie along the northern coast. Ocho Rios is the busiest of the ports and is only a five-minute walk into town. Montego Bay’s port, known as Freeport, is just outside the city and is teeming with shuttles, taxis and buses to take tourists on the five-minute ride into the heart of the city. Though Port Antonio can only accommodate smaller ships, it’s the ideal cruise stop to explore the nearby Blue Mountains.
For navigating around the island, local buses are the best bet, as they are cheaper and require less negotiating than taxis. If you do choose taxis, avoid expensive "tourist taxis" and stick to the local ones, which have red license plates as opposed to the white ones for private cars. They can be flagged down almost anywhere. If you do choose to rent a car, note that the roads can be very difficult to traverse, as there hasn't been a lot of upkeep, and drivers drive on the left side of the road.
Documents: U.S. and Canadian citizens will need a valid passport.
Currency: The Jamaican dollar (J$)
Language: Although English is spoken by the majority of residents, accents are thick are sometimes local slang can be hard to understand. However, Jamaicans tend to be friendly and patient with visitors.
Safety: As always, use caution at night and/or when exploring beyond the tourist areas. Do not do business with or travel with strangers who approach you, and avoid frequenting ATM machines after dark. In case of emergency, dial 119 to get the police.
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“Within 30 minutes of Port Antonio are the birthplace of jerk (Boston Bay), a natural shower (Reach Falls) and a bay as calm as the vibe (Winnifred Beach).”
“Fringed with white-sand beaches, misty mountains, and lush forests, Jamaica is dramatic and diverse, with a vibrant nightlife scene and an array of sensuous sights, from world-class diving reefs to pristine waterfalls and, of course, unforgettable sunsets. When it's time to explore, go shopping in luxury plazas, swim with dolphins, or party it up to live reggae in local dance halls.”
“If Montego Bay is your port of call, feel the i-ray-tions at the Indigenous Rastafarian Village. For a local bite, scarf down the best in fusion Jamaican cuisine at the Native Restaurant.”
“Eat like an Olympic legend at Usain Bolt’s restaurant Tracks & Records, or get all things jerk at the latest hot spot Chateau 7 Gourmet Jerk Centre in Kingston.”
“If Ocho Rios is your port of call, head to Mystic Mountain for what is possibly the best canopy tour in Jamaica. Plus, try their signature ‘bobsled’ ride through the dense foliage.”