What does ‘Jamaica’ bring to mind for you? Is it sun, sea, and beautiful beaches, all soundtracked by the lilting reggae of Bob Marley or Jimmy Cliff? Well, you’re not wrong, and if you’re looking to escape to a relaxing beach paradise, then Jamaica offers all this and more. Settle yourself into the spacious luxury of the Cliffhouse Villa in Jamaica and you will have the perfect base from which to venture out.
It’s hard to tire of pristine beaches, clear blue waters and ever-present golden sunshine, but if the mood should take you, you’re free to explore the other treasures that this enchanting island has to offer: wonderful cities, majestic mountains, and enchanting cultural locations. Whatever kind of trip you’re looking for, let us give you a brief taste of what Jamaica has in store for you.
Jamaica is a beautiful island that sits south of Cuba and west of Haiti in the Caribbean Sea. It’s only 144 miles long and 52 miles wide, but even within such a small area, you’ll find a wide variety of natural landscapes: beaches of course, but also tropical forests with exuberant vegetation and magnificent mountains. You can hike to the top of the highest of these, Blue Mountain Peak, which rises to 7402 feet. You can even see Cuba from the summit!
Year-Round Tropical Weather
Ever had a vacation where the weather lets you down? Jamaica enjoys a lush tropical climate year-round thanks to its closeness to the equator. There are two rainy seasons, running from May to June and September to December, and two dry seasons from July to August and December to April. Probably the best time to visit is November to mid-December but whatever time of year you step off the plane you’ll find temperatures no lower than 70° and more likely closer to 90°F.
A Rich History
After Christopher Columbus arrived in 1494, Jamaica became a Spanish colony, and two centuries later, it was conquered by England. It wasn’t until 1938 that the slaves were finally emancipated, and the island didn’t gain its full independence until 1962. This turbulent history has left its mark, and if you’re keen to walk in the footsteps of those who endured so much hardship, we encourage you to visit Cockpit Country, which was a place of refuge for slaves escaping their English captors.
Things to do at Jamaica during your vacations
We could go on all day about the extraordinary places you can visit, but we only have room for a handful here, so let’s start on the coast and then move inland.
Negril and Seven Mile Beach (West Coast)
Negril’s Seven Mile Beach features (you guessed it!) nearly seven miles of pristine sands lapped by idyllic turquoise waters, and words can’t do it justice. It’s simply beautiful. So beautiful in fact that as you sip your cocktail and watch the setting sun paint the ocean with fiery gold you may have to pinch yourself to prove that this is real. In the Long Bay section of Negril, you’ll find plenty of bars and restaurants and should the fancy take you, you can snorkel and scuba dive among the coral reefs of Long Bay’s lagoon and marvel at these oases of colorful life.
Let’s take a look at the north of the island.
Montegy bay and Runaway Bay (North Coast)
Jamaica’s third-most populous city is a port and a bustling cultural melting pot with a vibrant nightlife. Here you can try everything from paintballing in the woods to cavern exploring in Cockpit Country.
Located in Runaway Bay (the name of the area derived from the slaves using the cave to run away from their slavemasters), we recommend visiting the Green Grotto Caves, a large labyrinthe limestone cave with various rock formations.
In Montego Bay, you can also see if you can spot the ghost of Annie Palmer, a reputed practitioner of witchcraft at Rose Hall, the Georgian mansion she once owned and now haunts! The tours can now be done at night which heightens the thrill of the experience. In the day, golf aficionados can explore the White Witch Golf Course and Cinnamon Hill Golf Course, both of which are pga-level courses.
The Rock Wharf Glistening Waters in Falmouth (North Coast)
If you find yourself in Falmouth and in no hurry to sleep, you must take a night tour to catch the Glistening Waters Lagoon. Millions of phosphorescent microorganisms light up the water, giving it a beautiful, eerie glow when they’re disturbed. It’s more enchanting still by the light of the moon, and if you swim in these waters every splash you make becomes a magical light show all around you. In Falmouth, you can also float down the Martha Brae River on a handcrafted bamboo raft.
Dunn’s River Falls (North Coast)
With a good pair of nonslip shoes, you can safely hike up these famous waterfalls that follow one after another for a distance of 650 yards. The scenery is beautiful and the music of the cool water as you splash your way forwards feels like some kind of woodland baptism.
Kingston, the Jamaican Capital (South Coast)
Kingston is a vibrant, culturally rich destination with lots to see, but if you do only one thing while you’re there, make sure it’s a visit to the former home of Bob Marley, now a museum preserving and celebrating his incredible musical and cultural legacy. You can then continue your journey to Downtown Kingston art district and enjoy lunch at F&B Downtown, a fusion restaurant highly rated by patrons on TripAdvisor, it serves local and international dishes with a fine selection of wines and rums. It’s not just a place to eat. It’s also the host for all things cultural and artisan. From wall murals done by popular Jamaican artists, the popular ‘Art Walk’ on the last Sunday of the month where local artisans showcase and sell their unique creations, to the music festivals.
For the most relaxing of excursions, try the Hope Botanical Gardens, where you can see the Jamaican national tree (Hibiscus elatus). The Jamaican National Tree is locally known as the Blue Mahoe (Hibiscus Elatus) due to the dark hue of the wood. The tree is indigenous to Jamaica.
As we move inland from the coastal cities the climate cools and the terrain changes, sometimes dramatically!
Cockpit Country —Ideal for History and Adventure Lovers
Towards the center-west of the island, Cockpit Country is a region almost untouched by human occupation. It’s full of steep-sided hills that make it difficult to access by land. There are no roads, so a helicopter is the best option.
If you like nature and caving, go for it! We won’t go into detail here about the geological phenomena that have shaped the many caves and faults of Cockpit Country, but know that the results are breathtaking, memorable, and well worth a visit.
In the 18th century, slaves fleeing the English colonists hid here. The few traces of a trail that still exist date back to that time, but make no mistake, these trails are no longer passable! You will need at least a machete to clear them, so we’d advise you not to try!
The Blue Mountains
These mountains take their poetic name from the blue tinge that the fog gives to them. The Blue Mountain National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A hike in this wonderful landscape with its lush flora is a unique experience. If you’re athletic and looking for adventure, you can climb to the top and enjoy spectacular views of the whole island on a clear day.
As we’ve seen, Jamaica isn’t just another island. It’s packed with unique geography that lends itself to many different experiences, from basking on the beach to real exploration, and pulse-raising adventure.
But what about Jamaican culture? It may be a little different to what you’re used to, so for your comfort, let’s look at what can be expected.
Language, History and Religion
As we mentioned already, the island has come under multiple cultural influences: it was first populated by indigenous peoples, then successively colonized by the Spanish and the English. Today’s Jamaica is a real melting point of many people from China, India, Africa and much more.European and African cultures are interwoven into today’s rich and varied Jamaican culture. That’s why although the island’s official language is English, the majority of the population speaks Jamaican Creole.
As far as religion is concerned, Christianity is the dominant faith, as you will see from the numerous beautiful churches dotted around.
Feed Me Now!
Jamaica is famous for its local dishes, which are notoriously spicy!
On the savory side, we recommend three dishes:
- the “Patty”, a spicy fried doughnut filled with…anything really, mostly meat.
- “ackee and saltfish”, which mixes dried and salted cod, tomatoes, scallions, garlic and ackee, a local fruit.
- the “Jamaican Jerk”, whether it is chicken, pork is a weekend staple or if you are out late and need food. Jamaicans go to the local ‘pan chicken’ vendor for this spicy treat.
You will also love the ‘bammies’, fried cassava cakes, and you must try washing these treats down with real Jamaican ginger beer.
You’ll find food tours in the major cities (Ochos Rios, Montego Bay, Kingston, Falmouth…), so introduce your tastebuds to a whole new world!
Our fantastic chef Yogi is a culinary magician! As much as your mouth may be watering by now, the cooking you will find on the island can’t beat the food you’ll experience at the Cliffhouse-Jamaica villa.
Art and Music
Music is the heartbeat of Jamaica. It’s everywhere and it pulsates constantly, a soundtrack to the lives of its inhabitants. The reggae of Bob Marley is perhaps the country’s most famous export, and when you hear it in the land where it was born, you won’t be able to resist its infectious rhythm.
For a deeper understanding of Jamaican culture, we recommend the “Ahhh Ras Natango” located in the hills near Montego Bay. It’s a unique destination that includes an art gallery and a botanical garden. Local and self-taught artists exhibit their latest works here amidst beautiful surroundings.
Some Practical Tips to travel in Jamaica
Getting Around the Island
Roads are pretty decent in Jamaica. If you need freedom of movement, renting a two-wheeler is an excellent option, as is renting a car, although this is more expensive. We do recommend renting a car with a GPS, as a lot of places in Jamaica do not have a street address. You will need it to enter the location and find your place. Please do note, we drive on the left in Jamaica, but you shouldn’t struggle too much as most of the roads are a two-way single lane.
Do You Need a Visa?
You only need a visa if you intend to stay for more than 30 days.