Jamaica is a Caribbean country that comes with its own soundtrack. Groove to its singular rhythm as you explore beyond the beaches and all-inclusive. Even in a region as crammed with jewels as the Caribbean, Jamaica is a powerfully beautiful island.
Jamaica begins with crystalline waters flowing over gardens of coral, lapping onto soft sandy beaches, then rises past red soil and lush banana groves into sheer mountains. Rushing waterfalls seem to erupt out of nowhere. Jamaican culture can be a daunting subject for foreigners to understand, but ultimately it’s a matter of appreciating this great green garden of land and how its cyclical rhythms set the pace of so much island life.
Culture & History
Jamaicans are warm and friendly for the most part, with a blend of cultures stemming from Africa and the Caribbean. As deeply religious people, the island is teeming with churches, with a protestant majority together with Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim faiths and cult Rastafarianism.
It is generally a casual and relaxed society, away from the mad capital, with regular dancing and parading in the streets for a slew of events. The banging of steel drums, soca, and reggae music are ubiquitous, while culture can also be seen in the arts and crafts churned out in busy markets island-wide.
With Bob Marley, Jamaica gifted us the first global superstar from the developing world. But he didn’t spring from anywhere – this tiny island has musical roots that reach back to the folk songs of West Africa and forward to the electronic beats of contemporary dancehall. Simply put, Jamaica is a musical powerhouse, a fact reflected not just in the bass of the omnipresent sound systems, but in the lyricism of the patois language and the gospel sounds from the island’s many churches. Music is life in Jamaica, and you’ll soon find yourself swaying along with it.
Like many aspects of Jamaican culture, the food is a creole, born somewhere between the Old and New Worlds. African spice rubs have evolved into a delicious jerk, while yam, rice, and plantain form the basis of rich stews, and fish abound in local waters. Throw in the astounding array of tropical fruits that seem to drip from the trees, washed down with a shot of rum, and you can see (and taste) how the Jamaican cultural story retains its original voice while adapting to the setting – and, of course, rhythms – of the Caribbean.
Jamaica’s culinary prowess is so strong you can taste it in other countries. Many drinks and traditional food of Anguilla are impacted by Jamaican cuisine and it extends farther abroad. Many Costa Rica fruit trees were brought by Jamaican immigrants working on the railway and the spicier Costa Rican food in the south is influenced by its Caribbean neighbors.
From chicken to pork, lobster, and fish, there’s a jerk meal for just about any palate. Today this method of jerking meat is synonymous with Jamaica and transcends much of the local culinary scene. Be warned, however, the combination of sweet and savory spices mixed with fragrant wood is very hard to resist. You may find that your Jamaican diet consists of little else. Pair it with any of our favorite sites like festivals, a fried sweet dough, or bammies, a cassava flatbread.
Montego Bay, lovingly called MoBay by locals, is one of the best places to enjoy Jamaica’s nightlife. MoBay is all about having a good time, sip cocktails as the sun goes down by the seashore, and then dance the night away to the sounds of reggae. Whatever your party style may be, you’re sure to find evening entertainment to fit your fancy.
If bar hopping is your modus operandi, hit up the thriving nightlife scene on Gloucester Avenue, better known as the Hip Strip. This area is a hodgepodge of venues. You’ll find bars blasting reggae hits, nightclubs with the latest hits, live jazz performances, and laid-back bars. This is the most exciting area to go out in at night in Montego Bay, and the party often overflows into the street.
If you like things to get a little bit spooky after the sun goes down, book a spot on the Haunted House night tour at Rose Hall. This isn’t a kitschy Halloween haunted house – it’s the location of a true-crime horror story. The 18th-century house is haunted by the white witch, Annee Palmer, who is believed to have killed many slaves and three of her husbands. You’ll learn the dark history of Rose Hall on the candlelit tour.
Outdoors & Adventure
While Jamaica's beaches are certainly alluring, this is a country to dive into, literally and figuratively. Beneath the waves, there's great scuba diving and snorkeling, and you can float on the water too with lazy bamboo-raft trips. The adventurous can go caving, or get their hiking boots on to explore the remote crags and forests of this crumpled landscape. You don't even need to be as fit as Usain Bolt to enjoy the hike through lush mountains to the top of Blue Mountain Peak.
If you’re seeking a full day of daring activities, adventure parks in Jamaica are ideal choices for the whole family. Though Kool Runnings’ kid-friendly main attraction is Jamaica’s largest water park, it also offers go-kart racing and paintball activities. Conquering bumpy terrains with ATVs, soaring through the air on zip lines, and maneuvering rushing waters are common adventure park activities. For example, popular picks like Jamwest Speedway and Adventure Park, Yaaman Adventure Park, and Chukka Cove Adventure Park and Falls all offer these options in addition to others that make each venue a unique experience.
Cool down as generous splashes of water wash away beading sweat. Whether you’re a river or beach lover, our inviting streams, waterfalls, and sea are popular adventure destinations. Maneuver the valley on twisted torrents of the Rio Bueno with River Rapids Adventure, kayak with fellow daredevils on water waves, and learn how to surf with Jamnesia Surf Camp.
Take a look at all the amazing destinations we have selected for you and your group, read our experiences and advice in our blog, and check what’s people saying about us too!