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A First-Timers Guide To Visiting Jamaica: Where To Stay, Eat, Drink And Visit

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There are a whole host of reasons to visit Jamaica, not least for the delicious local cuisine, unbelievable beaches, rivers and deep valleys. From the lively music scene and hospitable culture to the soaring temperatures, the Caribbean island is the perfect escape from the gloomy British weather we’re accustomed to.

Six hours ahead of the UK, Jamaica’s long-haul flight time from London is around nine to eleven hours, which may seem lengthy, but it’s definitely worth getting through an extra couple monotonous in-flight films, snacks and a bit of (attempted) shut-eye.

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Making the trip that one bit easier, Norse Atlantic offer direct trips to Montego Bay, starting from £545 from December to mid-April (an ideal time to visit the island as the dry season is neither too hot or cold).

In 2023, Jamaica saw an increase of tourists holidaying there by 17.8%, as discovered by Travel And Tour World. Even more so, it’s expected that a total of 250,000 tourists from UK and Ireland will visit by 2025, which is why we’re adding Jamaica to our ever-growing bucket list destination list, pronto.

If you want to get ahead of the commotion of what it set to be one of travel’s newest trending destination, here’s a first-timers guide to Jamaica:

Holger Leue//Getty Images


Where to stay in Jamaica

a partial view of azul beach resort which features the rooms, smaller pool areas and room balconies

Azul Beach Resort

If a resort could be considered as the life and soul of the party, then look no further than Azul Beach Resort. Situated on the coast of Negril, there’s always something going on to keep you occupied. Between Patois lessons by the bar, dancehall classes at the beach deck, live music under the stars and water activities each day, you’ll easily want to extend your stay at this five-star resort.

Nestled away in the luscious rainforest filled hills of Portland, Geejam is a hub of buzzy activity. It’s no wonder this is a regular haunt for musicians, artists, and celebs the world over, the hotel is decked out with recording studios as well as every amenity you could dream of. The bush bar is the perfect spot to lounge in the infinity pool, with panoramic views overlooking the ocean and kick back with one of the house’s signature rum cocktails. Or hop down to the hotel’s private beach for some peace and quiet. It’s the sexiest spot on the island for eating, drinking, and dancing – perfect for the adventurous traveller.

Steeped in history and oozing opulence, The Jamaica Inn hotel is one of the most magical spots on the Island. Visited by Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller on their honeymoon, the quiet property on the pristine beach of Ocho Rios still feels like stepping into an old Hollywood movie; decked out in antique furniture and perfectly groomed lawns and gardens, it’s a haven of peace and quiet. There’s a clientele here who visit year after year and you can instantly see why, you leave feeling utterly serene.

If you’re feeling fancy, take a game of croquet on the lawn or pop down to the Sea Shanty bar for a rum punch, previously frequented by Winston Churchill, and soak up the old school charm while drinking in the luscious surroundings. For health lovers, there’s a fully decked out spa, yoga classes and a farm to skin foraging workshop guaranteed to leave you feeling nourished, body and soul. There’s no better way to spend a sun filled afternoon.

Looking to immerse yourself in nature? Look no further than Kanopi House. Set in the rainforest of Portland, these picturesque wooden treehouses are nestled into the natural surroundings, shaded by the vast green trees, perfect for the eco conscious traveller. The treehouses are stylishly decked out in wood, with adjoining outdoor showers to get you straight into eco living.

Head on down for a dip into the blue lagoon at the bottom of the property, the crystal-clear waters are restorative and fall asleep to the symphony of Rainforest sounds and tropical birds surrounding the property. It’s a perfect sanctuary of forest filled tranquillity, the ultimate escape from the daily grind.

For sunseekers, head to Negril, characterised by sweeping white sand beaches and epic sky views from sunup to sundown. Rockhouse is by far the best place to get the best of the Negril coast. Loved by celebs like ELLE’s cover star Naomi Campbell, Bob Marley, and The Rolling Stones, Rockhouse is Jamaican coastal luxury at its finest. Situated a top the wild cliffs on the west coast of Negril, the hotel offers 360-degree ocean views, with bright blue ocean inlets and pools to explore as well as buzzing restaurants, music, and lively atmosphere, it’s a luxurious escape for any traveller.

couples tower isle bedroom view of a living room with a couch and chairs

Couples Tower Isle

The sweetest getaway for you and your loved one to unwind and rejuvenate in complete privacy in Ocho Rios. Indulge in the finest local produce at the hotel’s Eight Rivers gourmet restaurant or take a romantic glass bottom tour and explore an array of marine line. And of course, there’s sunbathing by the beach or you can go au naturel on the resort’s private island.

The Best Restaurants To Visit

Set by Kingston’s Ocean Boulevard, Gloria’s Seafood City is known as a staple seafood haven in the local area. Serving up everything from honey jerk lobster and curried shrimp to sweet, steamed fish, the delicious food is made better by the stunning pier side views.

To get a real taste of authentic, tenderly cook jerk chicken, Scotchie’s in Montego Bay promises just that. Made for dining with family and friends, a taste of their freshly jerked chicken, pork, side dishes and local juices won’t leave you disappointed.

Known for its breath-taking views, you’ll come for the food but must stay for the sunset. Don’t miss the gratinated oysters and char-grilled ribeye and for dessert, Rick’s classic cheese. To make the most of this scenic wonder, its best to arrive between 2-4pm, as you’ll want to spend some time by the water before the sunsets, and if you’re bold enough to brave it, jump off the 35-foot-high cliff.

What To Do During A Day Trip

a man walking through ocho rios dunns river and waterfall

DACX

Quite possibly one of the top sights that Jamaica has to offer is Dunn’s River Falls and Park. Home to the island’s tallest waterfall, which stands at 600ft, it flows directly into the Caribbean Sea. Make a day of it and spend time swimming and relaxing in the water. For the thrill seekers, this waterfall is climbable – just make sure you’re wearing water shoes and clothes that you won’t mind getting wet. Although the journey to the top may seem intimidating, you’ll soon find that it’s very safe and worth it.

Ranked as the number one beach in Montego Bay, this bathing club is the closest spot to paradise in this corner of the island. Enjoy numerous restaurants on the beach front, or service straight to your lounger, you’ll leave your worries at the entrance of this world-famous bathing club.

If you’re still reeling from the One Love film and are keen to know more about the legend that is Marley, adding a museum tour of his house in Kingston should be a must on your list of things to do. You’ll be taken around by a well-educated guide and learn more about the cultural icon’s life and the legacy he left behind.

martha brae bamboo rafting

Courtesy Jamaican Tourism Board

Can you really say that you’ve been to Jamaica if you haven’t tried the infamous (and incredibly Instagrammable) river boat-rafting? There are a couples of places to go, but Martha Brae is top of our list. Hop on a handmade bamboo raft, and soak in the serenity as your guide steers you down the river and teaches you about the surrounding areas. Sit back, relax and and let the flow of the river put you at ease in minutes, whilst listening to, and looking out for a variety of exotic birds. If you’re feeling adventurous, try your hand at steering (an unexpected amount of elbow grease is needed) or even take a dip in the water.

Horseback Riding

Calling all horse lovers! No matter your experience level when it comes to horses, this is an inclusive activity for everyone. There are several sites across the island for horseback riding in the ocean, but we suggest doing it by Salmon Point fishing village, just before sunset. As you’ll be in the water, wear clothes you won’t mind getting wet as well as water shoes to ensure a safe and comfortable grip.


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