Jamaica is an island country in the Caribbean Sea. It is part of an island group called the Greater Antilles that also includes Cuba and Puerto Rico. Kingston is both its capital and largest city. You may already know this about the country and even plan a Jamaica vacation.
Transportation for a Jamaica vacation is easy to arrange for the island has three international airports: Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston, Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, and Ian Fleming International Airport in Ocho Rios. You can also reach Jamaica by ship. Its three main ports are located in Falmouth, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. Visitors will need a passport.
How to Get to Jamaica
- Citizens of the United States will need a passport or passport card to enter and leave Jamaica. Passport cards are smaller and cheaper than regular passports. However, they are only accepted from visitors traveling by land or sea. Visitors coming by plane must have full passports.
- Citizens of Canada and the US will not need a visa if they are staying for less than six months during a Jamaica vacation. Visitors from other countries will have to consult the Jamaican Embassy.
- It is illegal to bring weapons, pornography or books about witchcraft into Jamaica.
- Pets will need a permit from the Ministry of Agriculture’s Veterinary Division. However, you are not allowed with birds of any kind.
- Plants, soil, fruits and vegetables need a Phyto Sanitary Certificate from the Ministry of Agriculture before being allowed in.
Planning the Trip
Jamaica is a tropical island, so travelers should pack accordingly. While most of the clothes should be lightweight, warm-weather clothes, a visitor may want to pack warmer clothes like a sweatshirt, sweater or jacket for the mountains or cooler evenings. A hat and sunscreen will protect visitors from the sun.
Jamaica is a bilingual country:
- Most people speak either Jamaican Standard English, which derives from British English and thus has the same grammar and spelling rules.
- Jamaican Patois is a creole with English and African influences.
One United States dollar currently equals about 130.8 Jamaican dollars. Like the American dollar, the Jamaican dollar is divided into 100 cents.
Best Time to Go to Jamaica
In terms of weather, the best time for a Jamaica vacation is between the months January and April, for the weather is relatively cool and dry. There are also no hurricanes during this time of year. However, January through March is the peak tourist season with accompanying high prices.
- The Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival is held at Montego Bay in late January.
- Jamaica has its own version of Carnival held throughout the island during early April.
Top Things to Do in Jamaica
A Jamaica vacation offers many possible activities from going to the beach to visiting an art museum.
- Also known as the Seven Mile Beach, Negril Beach is in the town of the same name. The longest beach in Jamaica, it offers a variety of activities that include scuba diving, glass-bottom boat rides, kayaking and horseback riding.
- The Bob Marley Museum is one of the most popular attractions in Kingston. It was converted from his home, a house built in the 19th century.
- The Dunn’s River Falls is a terraced water fall that extends 600 feet or 183 meters. It is also one of the few rivers that empties into the Caribbean Sea. Some visitors like to climb the tiers to the top, while others prefer to sit in the pools.
Choosing Where to Stay
In Jamaica you can find all-inclusive resorts and many other options for your trip.
- Jamaica Inn, Ocho Rios;
- GoldenEye, St. Mary;
- Half Moon, Montego Bay;
- Hotel Mockingbird Hill, Port Antonio;
- Rockhouse Hotel, Negril;
- Jake’s Treasure Beach Hotel, St. Elizabeth;
- Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton Resort & Spa, Lucea;
- The Caves, Negril.
Other Jamaica Facts
Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, first visited Jamaica during World War II. In 1946, he bought a property there and built a house that he called GoldenEye. He also wrote all of his James Bond novels there. Twelve years after Fleming’s death in 1964, Chris Blackwell bought GoldenEye from the Fleming estate and gradually converted it into a high-end resort.
While cricket is the most popular sport locally, Jamaican athletes are best known internationally for their prowess in track and field competitions. Usain Bolt competed in the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics and won eight gold medals. He has the reputation of being the fastest man in the world.
Jamaica is a tropical island and there is little difference in temperature between the seasons. In Kingston, for example, January and February are the coldest months and have temperatures that range between 70 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, July and August are the hottest months with temperatures ranging between 75 and 91 degrees Fahrenheit. Days are typically warmer than nights.
Jamaica has a rainy season that lasts from April to October. Hurricanes are most likely to strike from August to October. When Hurricane Irma swept through the Caribbean, Jamaica was largely shielded from the storm by its bigger neighbors Cuba and Hispaniola.
The food is another reason to wish for a Jamaica vacation. The island’s cuisine reflects multiple influences including African, Indian, Chinese and British.
- Popular dishes include ackee and saltfish, curry goat and fried plantain.
- Jerk is a traditional dish in which meat is flavored with a spicy mixture called Jamaican jerk spice.
- Popular deserts include mango ice cream, grater cake and banana fritters.
- Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee is one of the most sought-after and expensive coffees in the world. Moreover, Jamaicans brew it or use it to make Tia Maria liqueor.
Jamaica has had an outsized influence on music. Also, one local musical tradition, mento, derives from West African traditions. It resembles calypso, which had evolved on Trinidad and Tobago, and uses acoustic instruments like drums, banjo and guitar. Mento is also an ancestor of other Jamaican musical traditions like ska and reggae. Bob Marley (1945-1981) was probably the best-known reggae musician and songwriter.
The National Gallery of Jamaica, which is the country’s premiere art museum, is in Kingston. Established in 1974, it showcases work by Jamaican artists, both historical and contemporary.
A Jamaica vacation has a lot to offer. Travelers can soak up the sun, or they can explore the island’s music and art. Fans of James Bond may see where Ian Fleming used to live.
Did you visit Jamaica? Share your inside tips with other readers!