I can’t even count how many times I’ve gotten this exact question: Which Jamaican city should I spend my vacation in? The true answer is ALL OF THEM. But, of course, we do not live in an ideal world and most people cannot take a month or two off to explore every nook and cranny of Jamaica. The truth is it all depends on what vacation you’re looking to have….. Do you want to party the night away, bum it on a beautiful beach, or explore Jamaica’s vast intricate history? And who says you can’t have it all? In all honesty, Jamaica has something to offer every traveler and no city is particularly better than the other. It all depends on the type of vibe you want. I won’t attempt to put a catchy phrase in Patwa here but just know ya girl gotcha covered!
The cities below are listed in no particular order but each one will always have a special place in my heart.
1. Montego Bay
Montego is number 1 on this list because a majority of travelers arrive through Sangster International Airport in the city. While Montego Bay doesn’t host the most beautiful beaches on the island. it does have a lot of offer, from delicious restaurant to a central location for various tourist attractions. This city is perfect for families or people visiting Jamaica for the first time. You won’t be hard-pressed to find things to do and you’ll be able to get a feel for the country as a whole. Climb the powerful Dunns River Falls or feed your adventurous side by rafting down the Martha Brae River.
2. Ocho Rios (Ochi)
Ocho Rios, known to the locals as Ochi, is a vibrant coastal town and host one of my favorite Jamaican attractions…. The Blue Hole… I mean just look at the beautiful water. (Photo to the left)…. enough said. Along with the Blue Hole, Ochi is also home to Dolphins Cove. If you’ve ever dreamed of swimming with these majestic animals then this is for you. Ocho Rios is a bit more of a party town but it also has the peaceful Turtle River Park for a nice family lunch. Although Ochi does not have as much beach space as Montego Bay it still is a place when families and friends can enjoy quality beach time.
Tip: For delicious authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken, head to the town center (Near the police station) one evening and stop at one of the many roadside grills. It should about 500 JMD (3.50 USD) for two pieces of tasty chicken and a slice of bread.
Mandeville……. Unfortunately, this city is not very popular with tourists and it’s a shame because the history here is astounding. With minimal shoreline, travelers visiting this country will receive a plethora of knowledge about Jamaica and everything other than Bob Marley. which seems to be the only history tourist are interested in. (notice I said tourist and not travelers :D). Stay at the town landmark, the Mandeville Hotel, built in 1875 as barracks for English troops or visit Marshall’s Pen, a 18th century Great House on a 300-acre cattle ranch and wildlife sanctuary. Plus to top it all off, you will have most of the beaches and attractions all to yourself or share it with a small group.
No article about Jamaica is complete without mentioning the country’s capital, Kingston. My all-time favorite thing to do it visit the Bob Marley museum. I know this may sound crazy but I can always feel the serenity Bob Marley exuded. Kingston has a vibe of any major Caribbean city. There are tons of historical and cultural things to explore in this city. While most people do not visit Kingston for the beaches, that isn’t to say there aren’t any available. Lime Cay is technically the closest beach to the city center, but if I were you I would make my way to Hellshire Beach instead. This is especially for families as this beach as lifeguards on site. Overall I wouldn’t recommend spending your entire trip in Kingston but it’s nice to visit for a day or two.
5. Port Antonio
Located in the far northeast of the island, Port Antonio is an exotic tropical paradise. It is also home to my favorite Jamaican attraction….. THE BLUE LAGOON. There is something so tranquil and beautiful about this originally believe to be a bottomless lagoon. Port Antonio is the perfect place for a couple looking for a romantic peaceful vacation. Lounge on the alluring Bikini Beach and chow down on delicious fresh seafood at the onsite restaurant. Port Antonio is another great place for families and couples. The main road runs along the coast and offers breathtaking views.
6. Runaway Bay
Ahh…. Runaway Bay, a.k.a where I spend 50% of my time in Jamaica, is a slow-moving town. Surprisingly Runaway Bay is home to multiple million dollar villas that could make anyone weak at the knees. The beaches here are frequented by locals and there is even a public beach with a host of bars serving fresh seafood. Once again Runaway Bay can offer a secluded vacation but also offers authentic Jamaican vibes with savory restaurants along the main road. The current is usually weak and the waves are low so you will often see young children frolicking in the water. The massive villas are the perfect place to hold a family reunion as all villas come with their own private beach and water sports activities and machines.
Negril is often described as a sleepy beach town waiting to be awakened. I saved what I would consider the city with the clearest water and most picturesque beaches for last. Afterall who visits Jamaica and DOESN’T want to swim in crystal clear water with a colorful reef below them. Negril has something for everyone! Feed your wild side through cliff diving at Ricks Cafe or pamper yourself with an early morning beachside massage. The only thing to remember is that Negril isn’t close to other neighboring cities like Montego Bay and Ochi so you will have to decide what is most important to you, attractions or beautiful beaches. (That’s not to say that other Jamaican beaches arent beautiful….. I just think Negril is the best for beaches) Negril’s nightlife scene, unfortunately, cannot compare to that of Ochi but you’re always sure to have a good time at Rick, even if you arent cliff jumping.
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