An essential interview guide to visiting the island of Jamaica, including the top attractions, best hotels, restaurants and nightlife, as told by our expert, Julie Ward.
Located in the centre of the Caribbean Sea, the island country of Jamaica boasts year-round sunny weather, sandy beaches and luxurious resorts, complete with a rich cultural heritage, unique character and distinct locations.
Of all the places in the English-speaking Caribbean, Jamaica has the most beautifully captivating and compelling locations. It has the glorious beaches and the luxury hotels, along with an intriguing culture and a rich history, and. of course, the reggea music it has become famous for.
When to visit?
The best time to visit is during the winter season between December and April, as this is the driest part of the year, however as this is the most popular time to visit you may find that prices are rather high. In this case, you may want to consider between April and July, when hotel prices reduce by as much as 35% and the weather is not too different. If you are considering visiting during the summer months, prepare for hot and sometimes muggy weather. It is also worth noting that at the end of the summer, between September and October, there is a risk of hurricanes.
What is the best way to travel?
Jamaica has two main airports; Sangster International at Montego Bay in the north-west area, serving resorts on the western end of the island, and Norman Manley International in Kingston, serving the capital and the rest of the north east. Both airports have excellent car rental options for visitors looking to travel around independently.
As well as two main airports, cruise ships also stop at several ports on the island, including Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Port Antonio, as well as the newest port that opened in 2011 in the historic coastal town of Falmouth.
How can I get around?
If you plan on exploring the island, there are various options for doing so, from private chauffeured travel to coaches, transport is readily available.
Taxis will be available to book through the hotel reception or can be flagged down on the street and can be hired for a single journey or for the entire day, allowing you to really explore. There is also a unique taxi sharing system in place, with shared taxis running the routes – taxis taking part in the sharing scheme can be spotted by their number plates which should include ‘PV’.
While there are many coach tour operates on the island offering daily excursions and adventures run by an organised itinerary, the local bus service tends to offer visitors more of an adventure than a reliable transportation service – buses also tend to be overcrowded and uncomfortably hot.
If you plan to explore the island independently then hiring a car is the best option. This will allow you to travel freely around the island without having to worry about public transport. Waiting around for buses in the heat of Jamaican summer is never fun.
Where are the best places to stay?
With a range of accommodation on offer, from five star hotels and luxury resorts to unique guest houses and charming B&B’s, in Jamaica there is accommodation available to suit every taste and budget.
To find your perfect hotel, ensure that you choose a suitable location, i.e. if you’re looking for a beachside holiday then book a beachside resort, instead of having to travel to the beach on a daily basis. When booking your hotel, it is also important to consider what the hotel itself offers – if you are planning on spending a lot of time at the hotel then ensure your chosen venue has a suitable restaurant, a bar if desired, entertainment, children’s facilities if required, and always be sure to research the location and surroundings before booking. If large resorts aren’t your thing then consider booking a stay in a more independent venue, such as a little B&B or private guest house, by doing so you may also have a more traditional experience of what the country has to offer.
What to eat?
“Out of many, one people” is Jamaica’s national motto – the saying could also be applied to Jamaican food, as out of the various ethnic groups to populate the country, one very distinctive cuisine has emerged. Although there are many dishes just waiting to be tried, while visiting the country there are certain dishes that are absolute musts – after all, there’s no point in visiting somewhere new without trying out the local delicacies.
A favourite local delicacy is the traditional Jamaican breakfast, made up of ackee fruit and fish, which admittedly, can take a little getting used to, is combined with onions and peppers, making a delicious and fulfilling breakfast dish.
Jamaican cooking tends to favour the use of lots of lovely mixed spices and seasonings, often culminating in a fiery flavour, such as the Jamaican favourite, jerk sauce. Made from a mixture of seasonings, including Scotch bonnet peppers, pimento, cinnamon and nutmeg which are then dry-rubbed onto meat which is then roasted, over pimento wood. Although any meat can be jerked, chicken tends to be the favourite, with both locals and visitors alike.
Perfect for a light snack, the Jamaican Patty is often sold from market stalls and stands, as well as in tourist restaurants. Similar to the British pasty, the patty is made up of a pastry like casing filled with ground meat and seasoning, patty flavours can include everything from lobster and chicken, to pork and vegetarian fillings, complete with the zesty aroma of curry and Jamaican spices.
Of all the foods served in the country, you can’t fully enjoy Jamaican culture without tasting its very best natural resource – fruit. While visiting this Caribbean island paradise you’ll have the chance to taste some of the world’s most exotic fruits, things you’d never have the chance to try at home, including a paw paw fruit, a sweetsop fruit, a star apple and a guinep fruit.
What about the music?
One of the most musically influential nations in the world, Jamaica’s musical culture is deeply intertwined with the country’s heritage and its history of the Jamaican people. Famous for it links to Bob Marley and The Wailers, a Jamaican reggae band, the sounds of the country stem from many places, including African folk rhymes, gospel harmonies and modern brass music.
Any visit to Jamaica isn’t complete without experiencing some of this influential country’s music, be it at a concert, a festival or simply in a bar, one thing not to be missed in Jamaica is most definitely the music. Find some tips here for a Reggae pilgrimage.