7 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Jamaica
Hailed as the most celebrated playground of the West Indies, Jamaica is a small, sunny island of ravishing beaches, rich history, and charming villages that invites the visitor to slow down and linger.
With three gorgeous bays in a natural horseshoe shape, Kingston, Jamaica's capital, is the island's center of commerce and attractions, home to many buildings and structures of historical and architectural importance.
The island's cultural treasures include the vaulted rock churches and former slave quarters in Spanish Town, a Moorish-inspired town built on the site of Jamaica's first Spanish settlement. There are also a handful of Jamaican towns with "old town" charm, like Shingleton, Scotland, built largely by freed slaves, and some splendid examples of Caribbean Colonial architecture, especially in the capital.
Surrounding the capital, the jagged outline of Dunn's River Falls and the unspoiled stretches of beach at Half Moon Bay are popular destinations for tourism, while skimming along the coast is another popular activity. On your travels, you'll encounter a colorful culture and fascinating history. Plan your trip to Jamaica with our list of the top attractions in Jamaica.
On Jamaica's north coast, 3 miles south of the Blue Mountains and 1 mile from the Montego Bay beach resorts, Ocho Rios is the largest of the Blue Mountains resort towns. Known locally as "the Queen of the Island," Ocho Rios is a clean, busy, and relaxed alternative to its more ritzy neighbor. It's home to some of Jamaica's most famous resorts, including Mayfield Park, the area's most luxurious and popular five-star destination. Jamaica's famed racetrack, The Bluefield Park Racecourse, is also located in the area. There is a wide range of restaurants, entertainment venues, and bars in Ocho Rios, from the trendy and trendy-slash-low-budget to the moderately priced. In addition to Mayfield Park, the town has several others to choose from: Four Seasons Resort Ocho Rios; Puss 'N Boots (under the Blue Mountain Tree); Canoe Bay; Golden Lion; Artisans Resort; Linden Hall; Sheraton Ocho Rios; the Waldorf-Astoria; the Overbrook and Margarita; the Delancy; the Cavell Hill; Dolphin Cove and Pool; and the Sandals Ocho Rios. A visit to Ocho Rios shouldn't be missed by any traveler to Jamaica.
Port Antonio is situated along the north coast of Jamaica, an area known as The Golden Vale. It has been a British holiday haven for almost a century, first as a sugar plantation then as a popular rural retreat. Highlights of a visit include wandering through the shaded lanes of Margarita Gardens and Village where shops selling all types of crafts, including those selling woodwork and bamboo furniture, wooden bowls and carvings of stags and other deer, are dotted around the area. Tobago is an appealing, very friendly town with an emphasis on family travel. A number of lively bars, located along the Caribbean side of town, can be found, each with its own character. The bars of Savonetta and the Castaway, near the ocean, attract a wide variety of drinkers, from young to old. One of the island's main tourist attractions is Lady's Mountain, which has a freshwater spring and a series of views over the nearby town of Port Antonio. Other highlights are the historical cemetery and archaeological remains of the island's pre-Columbian culture. There is an airport and the journey to Port Antonio takes less than an hour. Ships from Kingston leave twice daily, and from Montego Bay there are four times daily.
Once upon a time, you didn't have to travel all the way to the West Indies to visit Jamaica's breathtaking waterfalls. The Blue Mountains at the tip of the island's south coast hold some of the Caribbean's most stunning and breathtaking waterfalls. This top-notch natural setting is the country's biggest attraction. The dramatic site comprises 14 dramatic waterfalls on the Darley, Uphill and Fern Rivers, and you can hike down into the picturesque clear pools beneath each. Ditch the tour bus, step back in time, and explore the glorious waterfall gardens at Explore Jamaica, Jamaica's greatest attraction. Whether you're into sightseeing, shopping, beach, yoga, or horseback riding, Explore Jamaica has it all.
Port Royal is one of the best-preserved 18th-century colonial towns in the Caribbean. It also has the most authentic colonial atmosphere on the island. This quiet, laid-back colonial gem is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the fourth-largest town in Jamaica. In Port Royal, the city's quiet alleys, manicured gardens, and narrow streets entice visitors to wander. The Jamaican novelist Sam Selvon and the poet Derek Walcott, among many others, called Port Royal home. The Creole-style architecture, crafts, and food of this seafront town are also celebrated globally. At the top of Church Street, the sea breezes and the sound of the waves are a daily reminder of its rugged beauty and are a key ingredient in its folktale atmosphere. You'll find galleries and small art-filled boutiques and studios, some of which house artists in residence, along with cafés, restaurants, and a busy water's edge. There are three cruise ships call port every day.
Lying between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, Jamaica is situated in the southeastern region of the Caribbean. Just across the bay from it is Cuba, and it shares a border with Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago to the north. Most of the action in the city revolves around the open, densely packed beachfront and the lavish resorts that line the north coast, where the region's large cruise ships often drop passengers for a day or two. This is paradise for those who enjoy their tourism and the food. However, if it's a weekend and you are staying out of town, it's not the kind of paradise you will miss. Don't just visit the resorts. You should walk the streets, go to some of the other fascinating smaller villages and experience the local culture, which is really the essence of Jamaica. A four- to five-hour ferry ride from Kingston takes travelers to Ocho Rios on the east coast, with its incredibly beautiful beaches. The town is famous for the posh Sandy Lane Resort, a landmark on the British monarchy's roster of holidays.
Negril, the primary destination for those looking to visit Jamaica's most scenic island, offers a number of natural attractions and lots of things to do. Located on the northeast coast of the island, it has long been the island's main tourist destination and has an astonishing array of eco-friendly and all-natural attractions. Known as Jamaica's Big Island, Negril stretches 11km along the coastline and is the largest island on the island of Jamaica, offering breathtaking views of sugar-sand beaches and world-famous rainforests. There are more than 70km of scenic paths winding around the coast, and there are a number of visitor centers along the way. In Negril, the most popular spots to see include the Royal Baboon Sanctuary, Crane Valley and Half Moon Beach. The area around Negril also includes some of Jamaica's most beautiful waterfalls and offers scuba diving, swimming and snorkeling, zip lining, river tubing, horseback riding and kayaking. It also offers year-round sailing, fishing and sports.
Dunn's River Falls
Dunn's River Falls, 30 miles from Ocho Rios on the north coast of Jamaica, are about as close as you can get to the Falls, Niagara. The falls of Dunn's River were first described by English Captain Joseph "Gentle" Dunn, who also introduced bananas to Jamaica in the 1730s. The strong freshwater river plunges 75 feet to the Caribbean Sea and the water cascades over a series of short, but seemingly endless, vertical rock faces. At the top of the falls, the rushing water forms a mist that floats upward to the sky, creating a beautiful array of colors. It is this mist that gives the Falls their name. Getting to Dunn's River Falls is no easy task. The trip is a fairly rough two-hour jeep tour and it takes more than one person, so the vehicles are tightly packed and seats are tiny. But it's well worth the effort. From Ocho Rios, first take a minibus up the Abencerages Road to Bob Marley's birthplace in Nine Mile, then take a minibus to Montego Bay and transfer to the minibus. Drive for 45 minutes to Ocho Rios, then get off the bus and wait for the tour vehicles. You will have to go a little farther than the minibus stop to get to the falls, but a two-person jeep should cost you around US$40. Other activities to enjoy while you're at Dunn's River Falls include snorkeling, hiking to waterfalls, and trekking to the Blue Hole at the Aburrá River. Dunn's River Falls is an out-of-the-way natural wonder, great for unwinding and recharging your batteries.