Jamaica: turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, and laid back vibes.
Leave your stress at home and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of Jamaica’s verdant nature and other natural attractions.
Jamaica is the third-largest island in the Greater Antilles and the Caribbean Sea. It is an independent country, but remains a part of the British Commonwealth.
The country is known for sun-soaked getaways, the birthplace of Reggae music, jerk chicken, Blue Mountain coffee, glorious waterfalls, and the list goes on. There is so much to explore to sate your wanderlust.
This Jamaica travel guide will help you plan the best way to spend your tropical vacation.
- Where is Jamaica?
- When to travel to Jamaica
- Things to know before you visit Jamaica
- Things to do in Jamaica
- Where to stay in Jamaica
- Places to visit in Jamaica
- Getting around Jamaica
- Highlights of Traveling to Jamaica
Where is Jamaica?
It’s located about 160 km west of Haiti, 191 km west of Hispaniola, and 150 km of south Cuba.
When to Travel to Jamaica
If you’re looking for the best time to visit Jamaica, you should know that tourists flock to the island from January to March so hotel rates become higher, beaches become more crowded and attractions may have lineups.
If you want to enjoy the island, take advantage of lower prices on accommodations and simply avoid the crowds, visit Jamaica around November to mid-December. The weather is also favourable during this time which is around 75°F to 85°F.
Summer is another period when rates are cheap, but take note that this is also hurricane season.
Weather in Jamaica
Jamaica has tropical weather, so expect that it’s hot all year round. There are a few differences between summer and winter but the average temperature ranges from 70°F to 88°F.
Jamaica has two rainy seasons which are from May to June and September to November. Hurricane season starts from the beginning of June until the end of November.
Things to Know Before You Visit Jamaica
Before you pack your bags and buy your tickets, here are entry requirements you need to know beforehand to enjoy your travel to Jamaica.
The basic guidelines for travellers from the US, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Mexico or Panama over the age of 12 are required to present a negative result of the COVID-19 PCR lab test.
Check their website for other guidelines and updates.
Traveling to Jamaica
Most tourists land on Sangster International Airport at Montego Bay while the Norman Manley International Airport allows you to be close to the country's capital, Kingston.
Visiting Jamaica is also possible via sea travel because it has main cruise ports in Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Falmouth.
Jamaica’s Visa & Passport Requirements
You don’t need a visa to stay in Jamaica for up to 90 days.
U.S. citizens are required to present a valid passport. Canadian citizens should present a valid passport or use a government-issued ID with an official birth certificate and a Canadian Permanent Resident Card.
Flights to Jamaica
Some US airlines that have direct flights to Jamaica are American Airlines, Jet Blue, United, Delta, and US Airways.
Caribbean Airlines has direct flights to Montego Bay and Kingston from Fort Lauderdale (1 hour 40 minutes), Orlando (2 hours), New York (3 hours 20 minutes) and Toronto (4 hours).
From Canada, you can fly via WestJet and Air Canada from Toronto (4 hours).
Is Jamaica Safe to Travel To?
Even though Jamaica has a sketchy reputation for safety caused by petty thieving, you can still travel safely to Jamaica as long as you're always aware and alert of your surroundings. Gang crimes are only in the inner communities so travelers are safe.
Dressing up in simple casual clothing helps you blend in with the locals.
Whether you’re traveling solo or with friends, stay in populated areas and keep your belongings close to you.
Lastly, keep your travel itinerary and departure date private.
What Language is Spoken in Jamaica?
English is the official language but Jamaican Patois is also widely used in Jamaica.
Money in Jamaica
Most ATMs accept international bank cards including Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus and Plus logos.
The Jamaican dollar (J$) is their official currency.
Is Jamaica Expensive?
Things are a bit more expensive in Jamaica when compared to some other islands in the Caribbean.
The tourist areas prices are jacked up around 30-40%. If you’re staying in an area where prices are quoted in US dollars, this means that you’re in an expensive location.
Tipping Etiquette in Jamaica
Tipping is only common in touristy areas. In hotels and resorts, make sure if tipping is allowed because employees may get fired for taking a gift or money.
In restaurants, you can give between 10-20% tip if there's no service charge added to your bill. Taxi tips can be around 10 to 15% or higher if you’re traveling late at night.
How to Pay for Things in Jamaica
The Jamaican dollar is their currency, but many places will accept US dollars. Small shops often accept cash rather than credit cards.
Dress & What to Pack for Jamaica
Enjoy the sunshine in Jamaica and make sure to wear lightweight clothing with breathable fabric.
Shorts, swimwear, and flip flops are great while on the beaches, but these are not appropriate outside the beach setting. It’s also wise to pack a cover-up or quick-dry clothes to easily change into.
Don’t forget your reef-safe sun protection, insect repellant, snorkelling gear, waterproof pouch for gadgets. An underwater camera is great for taking pictures of the abundant marine life in Jamaica.
Evenings can be chilly at times so pack a sweater. If you’re planning to have dinner at their fine dining restaurants, you can wear semi-casual clothing like a dress or sweater and pants.
Jamaica Laws to Know
- 18 years old is the legal drinking age.
- Contrary to Jamaica's reputation, smoking marijuana (ganja), cocaine, and other controlled substances are illegal in Jamaica.
- Camouflage clothing is restricted since it will be seen as an impersonation or a threat if civilians choose to wear camouflage prints.
Things to Do in Jamaica
Claim your spot at the beaches around Jamaica and enjoy the warm weather. Dive or snorkel to explore the underwater world with abundant marine life.
Your vacation won’t be complete without immersing yourself in their culture and entertainment. Visit the museums, listen to live reggae music, and watch the street dances.
But don’t just be a beach bum when you get there. Take a day to see the lush mountains, spectacular waterfalls, and caves. Caving, golfing, cycling, hiking, and horseback riding are some of the non-water outdoor activities travellers look forward to.
If you want to spend some relaxing time with your partner or looking for the perfect wedding venue, Jamaica offers the perfect sunset view as a backdrop when you say your “I do’s”.
Don’t forget to eat like a local and taste amazing Jamaican delicacies like jerk chicken, Jamaican patties, goat curry, or ackee and codfish. Jamaica’s Blue Mountain coffee is a rare type of coffee so try to take a sip at a cafe while taking a rest after a day of adventure.
Where to Stay in Jamaica
Experience a piece of paradise in Jamaica. You can stay in an all-inclusive resort or a homey apartment in Jamaica.
GoldenEye is Jamaica's famous five-star beachfront hotel that is perfect for vacationers staying in for special occasions. Jamaica Inn in Ocho Rios for a classic Caribbean island feel.
Meanwhile, families like staying in luxurious resorts like Half Moon so kids and adults have their own entertainment and relaxation time.
Places to Visit in Jamaica
Some of the most sought-after beaches for swimming, diving, snorkelling, and other water sports in Jamaica are the Seven Mile Beach in the Negril area, Boston Beach, and the Bloody Bay beach.
The Dunn's River Falls is a popular tourist attraction in Jamaica with cascading 600 feet into the Caribbean Sea.
Are you a Bob Marley fan? You can visit the famous reggae singer's museum called Bob Marley Museum in Kingston or his burial place in St. Ann Parish.
Nature lovers would love the mystical blue waters of Blue Lagoon and see the colours change throughout the day. Rafting the Martha Brae and exploring the gorgeous stretch of the river is a good stress detox for travellers, too.
You and your group can also hike the highest peak in Jamaica at the Blue Mountains or explore the Green Grotto Caves with a massive limestone cave and myriad rock chambers.
Getting Around Jamaica
Travel around the island using a rental vehicle, taxi, or bus. Driving can be challenging in Jamaica since the road conditions may be poor. There’s often heavy traffic in the major cities while busses tend to get quite crowded.
Most tourists opt for taxis since they can get anywhere they want to go. Make sure to stick with licensed taxis that have red and white license plates with the letters "P" or “PPV” inscribed on them.
Highlights of Traveling to Jamaica
Getting ready for your trip to Jamaica? Check out the rest of our tips to completely enjoy your tropical vacation.
Under-rated Attraction: Float in the Glistening Waters at Falmouth, Jamaica. It's such an ethereal experience to see a normal lagoon shimmering in a ghostly glow at night.
Best Cup of Coffee: Taste some of the best coffee in Jamaica at Patsy’s Coffeeshop, Cafe Blue, and Island Coffee Cafe.
Best Hidden Gem: Visit Firefly atop a high hill in St. Mary Parish if you want to see one of the best views in Jamaica.
Local Favourite Restaurant: Locals love to eat at Pork Pit and Scotchies for jerk pork and chicken. Juici Patties is perfect for people looking for delicious Jamaican patties.
Little-Known Fact: Jamaica has over 200 species of orchids and 73 of those are indigenous species.
Don’t Forget to Pack: Bring water shoes especially if you're doing water activities or visiting Dunn's River Falls.