You can see why Jamaica became the world’s all-inclusive resort capital. Wide sandy beaches, palm trees galore and an attitude so laid back it’s practically horizontal, Jamaica is paradise if you want to spend your holiday sipping cocktails from the comfort of your own beach-side hammock.
However, there’s so much more to Jamaica than that.
Head inland to the Jamaican countryside for a real flavour of the country where you can hike through lush rainforests or swim beneath cascading waterfalls.
Fuel up with some jerk chicken from a roadside stall, raft along the Rio Grande or don a snorkel to swim with the fishes. In Kingston, head to the National Gallery, catch a show or gasp in awe at the shapes being thrown on the dancefloor.
Don’t be tempted to buy anything made from ‘coral’ or ‘tortoiseshell’ (actually the endangered hawksbill turtle) – both are protected and trade is illegal. Avoid conch shells too as they are fast disappearing from Jamaican waters.
Take home some locally made reggae compilations or a few packets of Blue Mountain coffee instead.
Jamaica is generally hot and sunny year round. It is most pleasant in the winter, between December and April (peak season), when it is warm in the day but cool at night. Summer months are hot and humid, especially in September and October – hurricane season.
Kingston Norman Manley Airport (KIN) – 19km from the city
Chaotic but cheap public buses run between the main towns.
Hiring a car is possible in major towns but be prepared to deal with some pretty aggressive driving. Alternatively, hire a private car and licensed driver.
Luxury hotels, all-inclusive resorts, tiny guesthouses, B&Bs, homestays – Jamaica has them all. The all-inclusive hotel craze started in Jamaica and has been accused of corrupting both Caribbean culture and coastline.
Opt for a villa instead - has less run of the mill options – or stay at Treasure Beach where much of the accommodation is owned by local families.
Budget travellers should look out for cheap and cheerful guesthouses – hostels and campsites are pretty much non-existent.
Breakfast usually involves porridge or the classic saltfish and ackee (the yellow flesh of the ackee fruit is cooked with onions, tomatoes and hot peppers to make a tasty dish resembling scrambled eggs).
Roadside snacks are cheap and often spicy – don’t leave without trying the ubiquitous jerk meat, barbecued over pimento wood.
On the coast, try the local lobster, spicy fried fish or conch. Most dishes are served with rice and peas (red beans), bammy (flat bread made from cassava) or festival (sweet fried dumpling).
Jamaica (particularly Kingston) doesn’t have a great reputation when it comes to safety but any violent crime that does occur is normally restricted to the poor ghetto areas (‘yards’) and hardly ever involve tourists.
Hustlers do pester tourists in the resort areas, but in the countryside you’ll probably just attract a bit of curiosity. Use your common sense, have your wits about you, and don’t carry wads of cash.
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