Jamaica is an incredibly beautiful country, with picturesque beaches, stunning waterfalls, and lush green vegetation. Unfortunately, most people only experience Jamaica on day excursions from the cruise ship or their all-inclusive resort. Plan a perfect trip to Jamaica independently is not only easy, but it’s the best way to truly experience the island life and culture of the Caribbean.
Planning a to Jamaica, most travelers will start in either Kingston or Montego Bay, which is where international flights arrive. From those two major centers, the island is completely open for any kind of exploration.
Visit Jamaica’s Beaches
Sticking to the sea, the beaches of Portland are rocky and rugged, with striking coastlines, pitching surf waves, and quiet country towns.
The deserted sandy beaches of the South Coast in Treasure Beach are perfect destinations for a non-commercialized retreat from the rush. No big resorts here, Treasure Beach is striving for community-based, sustainable tourism that not only respects the environment but the community of eclectic residents who mix freely with visitors.
Beaches along the North Coast and in Negril are classic white sand beaches as seen on the Jamaica postcards; and despite the numerous resorts and private beaches, some beautiful getaways can still be found.
Active Adventure in Jamaica
For the active and adventurous, Jamaica does not disappoint! Climb the island’s tallest peak, the Blue Mountain Summit before a high-adrenaline mountain bike trip through the coffee plantations of St. Andrew.
Jamaica’s numerous waterfalls are not only beautiful, but many offer zip lining, cliff jumping, and extreme swimming. Check out YS Falls in St. Elizabeth or Dunn’s River Falls in Montego Bay, though the latter will often be very busy with day-trippers.
A Black River Safari may bring you face to face with crocodiles as the boat meanders one of the most natural settings in Jamaica. Afterward, enjoy a rum punch at the Pelican Bar, a ramshackle wooden bar built on stilts over the water a mile into the Caribbean Sea.
Bamboo rafts can be hired for trips up the Martha Brae or the Rio Grande rivers to slow down the pace and take in the Jamaican jungle.
Experience Jamaica’s Culture
No trip to Jamaica is complete without some real Jamaican culture in the form of reggae music and jerk chicken. Reggae music, made internationally popular by Bob Marley, is deeply connected to Jamaican culture and identity. Taking in a reggae show, or even better, a festival like the yearly Sumfest, will not only deepen any experience in Jamaica but also surely make for some truly unique memories.
Equally important in Jamaica: jerk! Jerk is the style of cooking any kind of meat, most frequently chicken, pork, or fish, over an open fire with the perfect blend of seasonings. Most Jamaicans will tell you the best jerk on the island can be found in Portland, particularly during the Portland Jerk Festival in Frenchman’s Cove every July.
How to Get Around Jamaica
Thankfully for independent travelers, plan a perfect trip to Jamaica is fairly easy. Every corner of Jamaica is accessible by some form of public transportation, be it large coaches, coaster buses, mini-vans, or long distance taxis.
The Knutsford Express is the only major bus company in the country with large air-conditioned coaches that run between major hubs and tourist hotspots on various schedules. Online ticketing is available, for prior planning purposes.
For the budget conscious, Jamaican public transport may not always be comfortable but it will get the job done. Coasters and taxis ply specific routes, and vehicles leave when their seats are full. These rides are often overcrowded and passengers with large bags may have to pay for another seat, but they are economical and will go off of the typical tourist trail into rural Jamaica.
Where to Stay in Jamaica
Jamaica has many options for accommodation all across the country. AirBnB’s to budget hostels, luxury hotels, boutique hotels, and mid-range guesthouses can be found in almost every town and spotted along even the most remote parts of the coast.
Major tourist hubs are Montego Bay, Negril, and Ocho Rios, but with potentially long road travel times, it definitely makes sense to move throughout the country and explore smaller communities.
Safety in Jamaica
Safety in Jamaica is a major issue on most traveler’s minds. Jamaica currently has a very high crime rate, though for most travelers a basic sense of personal security and avoiding particular areas will prevent many high-risk situations. Foreigners rarely experience violent crime, though petty theft and scams have been reported. For solo female travelers, street harassment is an unfortunate problem experienced by many.
All in all, most places that independent travelers will visit in Jamaica are fairly safe, and questions of safety definitely should not dissuade exploration beyond the resorts!
Plan a perfect trip to Jamaica: Explore the Real Jamaica!
Jamaica is one of the most visited countries in the Caribbean, and for good reason. Tourist amenities, excellent attractions, and physical beauty rank high for this tropical gem, while the Jamaican people are friendly and accommodating to visitors. Planning a perfect trip to Jamaica is so easy. By visiting Jamaica’s less beaten track and at a slow pace, travelers can experience Jamaica in ways day trips and excursions just do not allow. Truly, nothing beats sipping a cold Red Stripe beer on a secluded beach while listening to reggae music, enjoying the sunset, and chewing on some jerk chicken!
About Our Guest Blogger
Emily Kydd is a Canadian solo female nomad and editor of the blog See Her Travel. Exploring this world in diverse countries such as Kyrgyzstan, St. Lucia, Nepal, Myanmar, and Fiji, Emily loves discovering new cultures, meeting wonderful people and having a laugh while on the latest crazy adventure. Emily is currently based in Jamaica.