Jamaica is a Caribbean island nation is home to pristine beaches, lush rainforests, stunning waterfalls, and of course traditional Jamaican food. There’s always something for everyone in Jamaica, whether you’re looking for a quiet retreat or an action-packed adventure.
From learning about its history to scenic raft tours to swimming at some of the most beautiful spots on the island (and plenty more!), let’s check out the best places, unique activities, and fun things to do in Jamaica.
1. Take a Tour at Appleton Estate (St. Elizabeth)
The Appleton Estate is a rum distillery located in the heart of Jamaica. The estate’s rum crafting began with its first distillation in 1749, and today it is one of the most popular brands in the world.
Whether you’re an avid rum lover or want to step into the world of Jamaican-style rums a visit to the estate will be fun! You can take a tour of the facility, learn about the history of rum production, see how they make the spirits, and have a guided taste of some of their rums.
2. Take a Black River Safari (St. Elizabeth)
The Black River is one of Jamaica’s most popular tourist attractions and one of its longest rivers (measuring 33 miles/53.4 km.) And what better way to experience what this river offers than going on a safari boat tour!
The Black River Safari takes you on a boat ride through the waterlands, home to American crocodiles and over 100 bird species like egrets and Jacana (Jesus bird).
3. Take a Rum Tour at Hampden Estate (Trelawny)
Jamaica is well known for its rum drinking culture and what better way to explore it than with a distillery tour? The Hampden Estate Rum Tour will sweep you off your feet right from the palm tree lined entrance to the working distillery that was established in the 1750’s. Not to mention their Rum Fire punch that will welcome you to the tour.
Take the time to explore these picturesque grounds, learn the distillery process and sample some of the best rum around.
Book a Tour: Hampden Estate Rum Tour Reservations
4. Swim in the Blue Hole (Ocho Rios)
The Blue Hole is a tourist paradise located in Ocho Rios. It consists of a series of natural limestone pools in a secluded area, which is also a short hike from a beautiful waterfall.
The place got its name from the bluish hue of the pools’ waters that get up to a depth of 20feet, making them perfect for swimming and diving. You can take a simple swim, plunge into the water Tarzan style on a rope swing or, for the thrill seeker, head over to the waterfall for a crazy cliff dive.
5. Raft the Blue Lagoon (Port Antonio)
There’s never a shortage of picturesque sights in Jamaica, and the Blue Lagoon is another proof of this. Located in Port Antonio, the lagoon is a mix of freshwater from the springs and salt water from the open sea. It was once believed to be bottomless, but has since been measured to be around 200 feet in depth at its deepest point.
While swimming is the first obvious choice for enjoying the lagoon’s waters, another way to experience its beauty is by going on board a bamboo raft. Be sure to have your cameras ready for those Instagrammable shots!
6. Visit the Bob Marley Museum (Kingston)
The Bob Marley Museum in Kingston is dedicated to the life and legacy of the legendary Jamaican reggae musician of the same name. The museum has a collection of Marley’s belongings, including his instruments, clothing, and artwork. Plus, to make it an even more bucket list worthy experience, the museum is housed in the former home and studio of Marley, where he wrote and recorded many of his songs!
7. Enjoy Booby Cay Island (Negril)
Booby Cay Island is a popular destination for snorkeling, sunbathing, eating fresh seafood and picnicking on the white sand beaches. And the best way to get there? Hop on one of the glass-bottom boats around the shores of Negril.
8. Take in the History at Columbus Park Museum (Discovery Bay)
The Columbus Park Museum overlooks Discovery Bay and is dedicated to the history of the Jamaican people. The open-air museum reveals the history of the arrival of Christopher Columbus on the island, features Spanish-era ruins and different artifacts in Jamaica’s history (like Taino canoes, sugarcane mills, and cannons).
A bonus is that the park museum also boasts a bar and a popular authentic Jamaican restaurant called Scotchies, where you can get your jerk chicken fix.
9. See the Plants at Coyaba Gardens (Ocho Rios)
Coyaba Gardens is full of blooming flowers (like the Blue Jade Vine and Torch Ginger), lush foliage, and the Mahoe waterfalls. All of which make it a great place to explore.
It’s easy to see why it’s named after coyaba, a word in Jamaica’s Taino language which means ‘paradise’!
10. Visit the Croydon Plantation (Montego Bay)
The historic Croydon Plantation is located at the foot of the Catadupa Mountains, which is the reason it is known for some pretty impressive panoramic views of the mountains. But, that’s not all it has—it is a working plantation known for some of the best pineapples and coffee in Jamaica! So you will definitely be in for a treat.
11. Tour the Devon House Mansion (Kingston 10)
The Devon House Mansion was built in the early 19th century by Jamaica’s first black millionaire, George Stiebel. Designated as a National Monument in 1990, the mansion has become one of Jamaica’s popular tourist attractions and one of its most photographed buildings in the county. The house is surrounded by a large garden, and has a beautiful view of the Jamaican coastline.
Visitors to the Devon House Mansion can tour the different rooms in the house and surrounding grounds. Plus, the Scoops Unlimited shop on premise makes the famous Devon House I-Scream (mentioned by National Geographic as one of the best!), so don’t miss out on eating a scoop.
12. Climb Dunn’s River Falls (Ocho Rios)
Dunn’s River Falls are not only beautiful, but you can also climb the 180-foot-high, 600-foot-long falls, which cascade down a series of terraces into the Caribbean Sea. The falls are surrounded by tropical vegetation, and there are several platforms along the way where visitors can stop to rest and enjoy the views.
13. Walk Through Emancipation Park (Kingston)
Emancipation Park was opened the day before Emancipation Day on July 31, 2002, serving as a tribute to the country’s freedom. It is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike, featuring an eleven-foot-high sculpture called ‘Redemption Song’ by Jamaican artist Laura Facey. Adinkra symbols can also be found in many places in the park, like the perimeter fence and benches.
Plus, the park is full of stunning tropical flowers and trees that nature lovers will surely love!
14. Drive Through Fern Gully (Ocho Rios)
Nestled in the mountains of St. Ann is the Fern Gully, a nature lover’s paradise. This hidden gem is a haven for Jamaican birds and animals, and is also home to hundreds of fern varieties—hence the name.
The best way to experience the Fern Gully is by driving down its winding 3-mile road, which connects Ocho Rios and Colgate. As you drive your way through the gully, you’ll come across several vendors selling different fruits, vegetables, wooden carvings, and sculptures.
Just a word of caution, they also have life-size male sculptures that are ‘well-endowed’ down there, so that is something to keep in mind if you’re traveling with the kids!
15. Go Underground at Green Grotto Caves (Discovery Bay)
The Green Grotto Caves are a popular Jamaican attraction on the island’s north coast. It got its name after the green algae covering the caves’ walls. The Arawak Indians once inhabited the caves, leaving behind various pottery and tools, such as the adzes.
Portions of the caves are accessible to the public, which include a large ‘lounge’ with tables and benches made of rock. Unique rock formations are also a delight for the eyes as you travel deeper into the caves, with an underground lake called the Grotto Lake awaiting at its bowels.
16. Visit the Greenwood Great House (St. James)
The Greenwood Great House is a 1780s house in Jamaica built by Richard Barrett, a relative of the renowned English author Elizabeth Barrett Browning, to serve mainly as a guest house. Located on the island’s North Coast in the St. James parish, it is one of the best preserved houses of the plantation era. It was later bought by Bob and Ann Betton in 1975.
Today, it is considered a national monument because of its history and Jamaican antiques. The visitors can opt for a tour (they only take reservations), and the house’s kitchen serves as a bar where you can enjoy some cold refreshments.
17. Take the Heritage Beach Horse Ride (Montego Bay)
Looking to experience Jamaica’s countryside and beaches in style? Then you should definitely try out their Heritage Beach Horseback Riding tour. The tour takes you on a guided horseback ride following scenic trails through the countryside, where you’ll learn about the island’s rich history, pass through old sugarcane plantations, and visit other historical sites. It then ends on a white sandy beach, where you can enjoy the coast on foot or horseback.
18. Stroll Through Hope Gardens (Kingston)
The Hope Royal Botanic Gardens was established in 1873, covering an area of approximately 200 acres.Because of its large, green spaces, especially at their Sunken Garden, it is a popular spot for tourists and locals to enjoy picnics, walks, exercises, and concerts.
19. Visit Indigenous Rastafarian Village (Montego Bay)
Situated just outside of Montego Bay, the Rastafari Indigenous Village is a live cultural center that aims to promote, protect, and preserve Rastafarian culture. Visitors will get the chance to learn about Rastafari philosophy and way of life. These include drumming and chanting ceremonies, eating Ital vegan food, learning about the different herbs in their garden, and a traditional way of making drums.
20. Eat Jerk Chicken at Scotchies (Montego Bay)
If you’re ever in Jamaica, you HAVE to try the jerk chicken at Scotchies. It’s seriously some of the best! The chicken is marinated in a secret jerk sauce for hours, then slow-cooked over a fire until it’s so tender it falls off the bone. The flavor is out of this world – a perfect balance of spicy, sweet, and savory. So whether you’re a sucker for good food or just looking for a unique Jamaican dining experience, put Scotchies at the top of your list. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
21. See the Luminous Lagoon (Trelawny)
From the little settlement of Rock to the town of Falmouth, the Luminous Lagoon runs beside the Trelawny marshes. Falmouth was one of Jamaica’s most important ports in the 18th century when sugar was king. The lagoon, which was at the prominent intersection of the Martha Brae River and the Caribbean Sea, contained a dock where large English ships unload cargo into smaller boats before being transported inland up the river.
The lagoon is full of tiny bioluminescent plankton that glows a blue light when disturbed. You can take a boat ride out to the lagoon and swim in the glowing water. Now that’s one heck of a bucket list experience!
22. Float Down the Martha Brae River (Trelawny)
Martha Brae River is one of Jamaica’s most popular tourist attractions, located in the rural parishes of Trelawny and St. Ann. Thanks to its lush green forests and gentle emerald waters, it is considered one of the best places on the island for river rafting.
Just head down to the river where bamboo rafts at Jamaica Rafting will be ready to take you on the 3 mile ride. The ride on the 30-foot long ‘2 person’ raft is not only very relaxing, but also informative in Jamaican wildlife and nature.
We saw blue herons, bamboo, mango, banana and fig trees, plus a termite nest and a cool ‘sensitive plant’ that closes when you touch it. There are also stands along the way selling coconuts, paintings and other souvenirs.
TIP: Ask for a guide who is able to identify all the plants and wildlife along the way. This makes the experience a lot more interesting and informative!
Book a Tour: Cruise the Martha Brae River: Private Bamboo Raft Tour
Book a Tour: Jamaica: River Rafting and Waterfall Half-Day Tour
23. Have Fun at Mystic Mountain (Ocho Rios)
Towering at 700 feet above sea level, Mystic Mountain offers breathtaking vistas of Ocho Rios and also adrenaline-pumping rides to add to your adventure bucket list—like ziplining and wall climbing.
They also have their ‘Big 3’ rides, each with distinct and thrilling experiences you’ll surely enjoy: Sky Explorer, Bobsled Jamaica, and Raggamuffin. After hours of screaming your lungs out from all the rides, you can relax and take in the views at one of their infinity pools or enjoy a meal at their restaurant.
24. See the Art at the National Gallery of Jamaica (Kingston)
The National Gallery of Jamaica is a public art museum in Kingston Mall. The gallery is dedicated to displaying the art of Jamaican and visiting artists, both past and present. Though, one of the highlights is the permanent collection of artworks, from the Taino to present day.
25. Get Drinks at Pelican Bar (Treasure Beach)
Pelican Bar is a popular and unique spot in Jamaica for drinks and relaxation, with a hut built on a sandbar just off Jamaica’s South Coast and accessible only by boat.
Being in the middle of the ocean, you can enjoy beautiful views of the seascape while sipping on rum punch or beer. You can also stuff yourself with some delicious lobster and fish.
26. Tour Reach Falls (Port Antonio)
Tucked away in the river valley at the northern foothills of John Crow Mountain Range is a hidden gem called Reach Falls. This cascade of waterfalls is one of the most beautiful in Jamaica, enveloped by the rich vegetation of the surrounding forest.
You can relax and cool off in the pool at the base of the falls, go on a guided hike up to the legendary Mandingo Cave, and take in the views while enjoying a meal at the picnic area.
27. Eat at Rick’s Cafe (Negril)
Rick’s Cafe is a popular spot for both locals and tourists in Negril, and it’s easy to see why. Located on West End Road in Negril, the eatery is a great spot to hang out for drinks, meals (try out their Red Stripe Beer Battered Shrimp and jerk chicken!), and just chilling. The bar is set on a 35-foot-high cliff and boasts some of the most beautiful sunsets in the country.
28. Visit Rose Hall Great House (St. James)
Rose Hall is an 18th-century plantation house set on 6,600 acres of land and includes a sugar factory used to produce sugarcane. What made the Rose Hall Great House even more popular are the legends about the White Witch of Rose Hall, Annie Palmer.
You can take a guided day tour where you’ll learn about its slave history and the Annie Palmer legend. Or opt for the night tour that delves more into the White Witch’s haunting stories and is sure to be one hell of a hair-raising experience.
29. Explore YS Waterfall (St. Elizabeth)
Most travelers to Jamaica know about Dunn’s River Falls, but YS Falls is a little lessor heard of. That can only mean that it offers you little more of a private, personalized experience that is quite frankly – unforgettable.
This 7-tiered waterfall offers a thrilling zip-line, a spring-fed pool, picnic grounds and, most importantly, a fun ride on the rope swing that will have you plunging into the refreshing water below.
Even though YS Falls is less known, it can still get a little crowded later in the afternoon, so I recommend arriving early.
Book a Tour: From Montego Bay: Black River and YS Falls Adventure
Book a Tour: YS Falls & Appleton Estate Rum Tour from Montego Bay
30. Find Your Favorite Beach
Seven Mile Beach (Negril)
The clear water and powdery white sand of Seven Mile Beach makes it one of the most popular destinations in Jamaica. Located on the island’s western side in Negril, the beach gets its name from its length.
Drink Cocktails at Frenchman Cove Beach (Port Antonio)
With golden white sands and azure waters towered by emerald trees, Frenchman’s Cove is definitely not your typical beach. Located in Port Antonio, Jamaica, this small but stunning beach offers a quiet spot for relaxing and having fun under the sun. It is also one of the few places where you’ll see a river meeting the sea, which in itself is a sight to see.
Enjoy Doctor’s Cave Beach (Montego Bay)
Doctor’s Cave Beach is known for its clear turquoise waters and white sand beaches. Doctor’s Cave was first made famous by a doctor who claimed that the cave waters had healing powers. Today, the beach is a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling.
Relax at Boston Beach (Port Antonio)
Boston Beach is a beautiful sandy beach located on the northern coast island of Jamaica and is considered one of the best surfing spots on the island. The waves here are some of the most consistent on the island, making it a popular spot for both beginner and experienced surfers alike.
The beach is also known for its jerk chicken/pork stands, and is said to be the birthplace of the jerk seasoning Jamaica is known for.
Hellshire Beach (St. Catherine)
Hellshire Beach is another beautiful Jamaican beach, located near Portmore. The white sand and clear blue waters make it a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling.
It is also well-known for its food (especially fried fish), with several restaurants and jerk stalls serving up delicious Jamaican cuisine.
31. Eat a Beef Patty
Whether you are arriving to Jamaica by air or coming in through a cruise port, make a pit stop either at Juici or Tastee for a taste of Jamaican food tradition. These are the two popular eateries serving one of the Caribbean islands most popular street food called beef patties, which is similar to an empanada. They have numerous fillings from chicken to beef and even salt fish that are stuffed into a flaky pastry pocket.
On my visit to Tastee, I ordered a beef and cheese patty with coco bread, a dense bun made with coconut milk. The idea is to stuff the beef patty pastry inside the coco bread. Double the carbs! The ground meat had a little bit of a kick to it, similar to taco seasoning. It is an adventure in the local cuisine.
TIP: Offer your driver a few patties of his own and he’s sure to be happier about making that pit stop.
32. Toast Your Trip with a Red Stripe
No trip to Jamaica would be complete without having their local brew, Red Stripe. Brewed by Desnoes & Geddes, this 4.7% pale lager is almost as popular as rum in Jamaica. It won’t be hard to get your hands on a bottle (or two) and just stare into the sunset as the cool Caribbean breeze carries your troubles away—everyone sells them!
33. Enjoy the Luxury Service at Bluefields Bay Villas (Bluefields)
Resorts such as the Bluefields Bay Villas are a huge part of why people love Jamaica so much. At Bluefields they offer six 5-star private villas in one of the most serene and quite honestly, surreal environments in the region. You can sit on the patio with a rum punch and listen to the sounds of nature for hours. I did it just that!
But, what really sets them apart from the rest is that you have the opportunity to have a full staff including a chef (who is amazing!), housekeeper and a butler, plus a nanny. We had it all and were treated like royalty during our entire stay! Our team kept us pampered, well-fed and ensured that we wanted for nothing.
Our villa, Mullion Cove, had a beach front where we could kayak, paddle board or simply sunbath. Just another reason that when you visit Bluefields, you will most likely never want to leave.
As if all that wasn’t luxurious enough, they even offer a helicopter transfer from the airport!
Get Pricing & Book a Villa: Bluefields Bay Villas
34. Take a Sunset Boat Ride (Bluefields)
While staying at Bluefields, have them organize a sunset boat ride that you will never forget. The boat will take you along the water’s edge to see the line of pristine resorts (including your own), then park in the middle of the sea while the sky turns a beautiful burnt orange.
35. Check into Half Moon Luxury Resort (Montego Bay)
True to their word, Half Moon Luxury Resort is a destination in itself. What would you expect when you pair 400 acres of manicured grounds with two miles of pristine beach acting as the backdrop?
With 197 individually appointed rooms & suites; 31 villas (most of them offer views of the Caribbean Sea); an award winning spa; an 18-hole golf course and an equestrian center featuring 28 horses, Half Moon Luxury Resort certainly over-delivers (if there is such a thing when comfort and luxury are concerned).
If you thought that was too much, wait until you dine at the ‘Sugar Mill’ (see below!) – awarded and lauded as the best restaurant in all of Jamaica.
Get Pricing & Book a Room: Half Moon Resort
36. Swim with Horses (Montego Bay)
What? Swim with horses? You did not read that title wrong! At Half Moon Resort they have an impressive equestrian center and their Turf-n-Surf program is the highlight: a horseback ride along the oceanfront, plus a swim with the animals. A definite bucket list once-in-a-lifetime!
37. Enjoy Dinner at Sugar Mill (Montego Bay)
Dining at the Sugar Mill restaurant is a luxury experience to savor with its exquisite outdoor seating amongst the foliage and unique twist on Jamaican cuisine. They specialize in putting a spin on Caribbean flavors (like with the crispy jerk chicken rolls with cho cho Slaw and sorrel-dark rum chutney).
A stay at the Half Moon Resort wouldn’t be the same without a dining experience here.
. . .
Jamaica is a perfect vacation destination for those who love the sun and the sea. Whether it be relaxing under the sun in one of their stunning beaches, exploring rivers and lakes atop bamboo rafts, or enjoying some jerk chicken or Red Strip, there’s never a shortage of fun and memorable things to do in Jamaica. Add to that the friendly people and laid-back atmosphere, and you have yourself a trip definitely worth taking.
Best Tips for Visiting Jamaica
Getting There: Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston, and the Ian Fleming International Airport in Ocho Rios are major hubs and most airlines will fly into them. You can easily check for the best fare deals at Skyscanner, which also has the option to choose ‘cheapest month’ as the departure to find the lowest priced dates to fly to your destination. From the airport to the city center, you can take a shuttle or take a taxi.
Where to Stay in Jamaica: It’s best to stay near the city center, public transportation or the area that you will be spending the most time in. Rok Hotel Kingston Tapestry Collection By Hilton is a great choice in the Kingston district. For something on the less expensive side, try Da Fabio located in Negril. For a hotel with a little more extravagance, book a room at the The Cliff Hotel. Or search some great deals on hotels of your choice at Booking.com. If you’re looking for more of a home atmosphere (or are traveling with a group of people), head over to Airbnb that has houses, apartments and even just a room for rent in every price range.
Getting Around: Driving in a new destination can be a bit of a challenge, but if you choose to rent a car, RentalCars.com has great deals. If you are not renting a car, there are plenty of other options. Taxis are available all over the city. For a more budget friendly option, you can take the public bus, however keep in mind that it is only available in Kingston and Montego Bay. You can also rent bikes which are available throughout the tourist areas of Jamaica.
Insurance: It’s always a good idea to travel fully insured so you are protected in case of trip cancellations or medical emergencies. You can check out pricing at Travelex Insurance.
Universal Adapter: Your American plugged equipment will need an adapter. I use the Celtic Universal Adapter, which has brought me around the world with no problems.
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