There is never a dull moment in Jamaica: the small dot on the map is a massive voice on the regional and wider global stage.
Whether you’re a tourist or have lived here for 100 years, there is NO excuse not to explore the beauty and vitality of our beautiful sun-kissed Caribbean isle, rich in cultural and leisure activities.
There’s the usually favourites ackee and saltfish, a Red Stripe beer in hand on the beach, with some Reggae music blaring in the background as jerk chicken and jerk pork grill nearby – but what else is out there?
Here, I love Jamaicans Lifestyle presents a list of must-do activities and must-go places in Jamaica before you die:
How many of these have you checked off your bucket list?
1. A fun-filled day at Kool Runnings Water Park, Westmoreland
Take your kids (as a viable excuse!) to the Kool Runnings Water Park. Complete with 10 amazing water slides, Captain Mike’s Coconut Island, diving, go-karts and bungee trampoline, go ahead and treat yourself.
2. Rainforest Bobsled Jamaica at Mystic Mountain is a popular rainforest adventure. Ocho Rios visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the town and sea on the Rainforest SkyExplorer, a chairlift ascending the mountain. The more adventurous can zoom down the mountain on Bobsled Jamaica, a single person roller coaster ride through the forest, or glide through the treetops on Tranopy, a ziplining adventure.
Other attractions here include guided nature walks, butterfly and hummingbird gardens, and an infinity pool and waterslide. Book a Bobsledding Tour at Mystic Mountain in advance. For visitors arriving by cruise ship, there is free pickup from the port with this tour.
3. The messy adventures of Sun Coast Adventure Park, St Thomas
Just 15 minutes’ drive east from the Harbour View Round-about. We are Jamaica’s first and largest and best Paintball facility! With that said, Sun Coast Adventure Park is much more than a Paintball field. Guests are guaranteed to have a great time, enjoying our hiking trails, maze, ropes challenge course and zip-line and of course paintball.
4. The beauty of YS Falls, St Elizabeth
Opened to the public in 1992, YS Falls are considered by many to be Jamaica’s most spectacular waterfalls. It isn’t actually one continuous drop but rather a system of seven falls separated by pools ideal for swimming. Not a fan of the water? Towering limestone cliffs and the lush surrounding vegetation will be a feast for the eyes.
5. The haunted royalty of the Rose Hall Great House, St James
This mansion, with its commanding hilltop position 3km east of Ironshore, is the most famous Great House in Jamaica.
Much of the attraction is the legend of Annie Palmer, multiple murderers said to still haunt the house.
Her bedroom upstairs has been redecorated, the cellar now housing an English-style pub, a snack bar, and the facility has a well-stocked gift shop full of souvenirs.
6. Earthly glory of the Windsor Caves, Trelawny
These caverns may be off the beaten track to most people, but they’re a major way-point for some 50,000 bats. Located in the Cockpit Country, you’ll pass into a large gallery full of stalactites and a huge chamber with a dramatically arched ceiling; in rainy season you can hear the roar of the Martha Brae River flowing deep underground.
7. Curry Festival, Westmoreland
If you never do another thing in life make sure you check out the annual Curry Festival, which will be held this year on April 24, in the capital Savanna-la-Mar. Everything imaginable is curried to perfection, it’s an epicurean delight and is attended by food lovers in the thousands!
8. Wildlife day at the Black River Safari, St Elizabeth
If you ever make your way to the breadbasket parish ensure that you’re been on the Black River Safari at least once. This is non-negotiable. Black River is the second longest river on the island but sustains the largest wetland ecosystem. Crocodiles are the main attraction, but the area is also popular for bird-watching.
9. Appleton Rum Tour, St Elizabeth Jamaica boasts the region’s best rum, so why not take a tour of the Appleton Rum Estate in St Elizabeth? Now owned by J Wray and Nephew, rum has continuously been made there since 1749.
10. ‘Therapeutic’ Frenchman’s Cove, Portland
Fed by cool, clear water from a natural spring, the small river that flows into the sea at Frenchman’s Cove, near Port Antonio, makes for one of Jamaica’s most postcard settings for a swim. As the tide is ebbing, let the river’s flow suck you out into the warmer sea water for what feels like a natural aqua therapy session.
11. The magical Glistening Waters, Trelawny
Get your glow on at Glistening Waters. Even if you’ve seen the phenomenon of bioluminescence before in the ocean, we’re pretty sure you haven’t seen it like this. One of Jamaica’s least publicised attractions is one of its best. Head out after dark for a five-minute boat ride from an old school marina near Falmouth, and watch the water glow bright green and blue-ish with agitated dinoflagellates (tiny marine plankton) in the boat’s wake. When they cut the engine, don’t miss the chance to enter the shallow water to swim. You’ll turn into Tinkerbell, trailing light all around you, for one of the most magical after-dark dips of your life!
12. Bob Marley Museum, Kingston and St Andrew
Home of Reggae, a visit to the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston is bound to spark the talented musician in you! Learn about Bob’s life when not on tour and things he loved to do. The facility has thousands of memories and comes with a café and gift shop.
13. Blue Mountain hiking, St Andrew
Unlike some Caribbean islands, lush Jamaica has lots going on beyond its beautiful beaches. Take a hike and dwell high in the majestic Blue Mountains – the Caribbean’s highest mountain range – where a breath-taking view of Kingston (and even Cuba!) awaits you.
14. Blue Hole, Portland
The waters that launched Brooke Shields’ movie career are by any measure one of the most beautiful spots in Jamaica. The 55m-deep Blue Hole opens to the sea through a narrow funnel, but is fed by freshwater springs that come in at about a depth of 40m. As a result the water changes colour through every shade of jade and emerald during the day thanks to cold freshwater that blankets the warm mass of seawater lurking below.
15. Devon House, Kingston and St Andrew
Devon House stands as a beautiful colonial house. Amid the grand surroundings, the tree-shaded lawns of Devon House attract Kingstonians and tourists alike, who come here to canoodle and read. The popular former carriage house and courtyard are home to the famous Grog Shoppe restaurant, the island’s best ice cream, and a few quality shops.
16. Dunn’s River Falls
These famous falls, 3km west of town, are Jamaica’s top-grossing tourist attraction. Great throngs of people can sometimes make it can seem more like a theme park than a natural wonder, but this doesn’t make the climb up the falls any less exhilarating.
You clamber up great tiers of limestone that step down 180m in a series of beautiful cascades and pools. The water is refreshingly cool, with everything shaded by tall rainforest.
17. Seafood at Little Ochie, St Elizabeth
Little Ochie is a culinary phenomenon that, despite a cult following, refuses to sell out. Set on an unkempt but romantic slice of beach, it uses the same charcoal-blackened kitchen and scribbled chalkboard menu it has for eons, although the staff has morphed from one to 30 since 1989. The secret? Fish so fresh you can catch them yourself – if you have time.
There is even a popular festival held every year (seafood lovers rejoice!).
If not, make your choice from what the fishers just brought in and then elect how you want it cooked. The jerk is always a good bet, though it can be spicy.
Grilled lobster and steamed snapper also have a dedicated following. Little Ochie is one of Jamaica’s few bona fide destination restaurants and has established itself as the No 1 attraction in otherwise sleepy Alligator Pond.
18. A historical lesson at Liberty Hall, Kingston and St Andrew
At the end of a tree-lined courtyard, decorated with cheerful mosaics and a mural depicting Marcus Garvey, stands Liberty Hall, the headquarters of Garvey’s UNIA (United Negro Improvement Association) in the 1930s. The building now contains a quite excellent multimedia museum about the man and his work, which allows the visitor to appreciate Garvey’s impact as a founder of pan-Africanism.
19. Rio Grande River
Expert guides pole bamboo rafts through an impressive stretch of tropical rainforest along the Rio Grande River during a two-and-a-half-hour tour. Rafting here dates back to around 1911, when banana farmers in the Rio Grande Valley used to transport their bananas along the river. The Rio Grande tends to be less crowded than the Martha Brae River and offers beautiful scenery and gentle rapids.
20. Doctor’s Cove, St James
It may sound like a rocky hole inhabited by lab-coated troglodytes, but this is actually Montego Bay’s most famous beach. A pretty arc of sugary sand fronts a deep-blue gem studded with floating dive platforms and speckled with everyone blessed to visit sighing happily.
21. Port Antonio
Set between mountains and a double harbor, Port Antonio exudes the relaxed charm of a sleepy fishing village. Once a center for banana export, the area is distinctly less commercial than the other resort towns. Visitors can explore the many art galleries, hike jungle trails, and snorkel and scuba dive the coral reefs. A popular swimming spot is the beautiful 60-meter-deep Blue Lagoon, fed by freshwater springs, and site of the namesake movie starring Brooke Shields. Navy Island, set between Port Antonio’s two harbors and reached by ferry, was once owned by movie swashbuckler Errol Flynn and was renowned for wild parties. Today the island is a favorite for picnics and day trips.
Jamaica’s spicy “jerk-style” of cooking originated in the region and some of the best can be found at Boston Beach east of Port Antonio. Other highlights of the area include the 18th-century British stronghold Fort George and beautiful Frenchman’s Cove, where a fish-filled river flows into the sea. The beaches here are a wonderful mix of white sand, shallow waters, and lush outcroppings of land. Nearby, Daniel’s River plunges through a gorge of natural rock in a series of cascades and pools known as Somerset Falls.
22. Hellshire Beach, located near Portmore Jamaica, Hellshire is famous for its fried fish and safe swimming in its stunning blue sea. But if swimming, not your thing, lounging on the near white sand beach is also a perfect pass time.