Jamaica is a tropical paradise, complete with white sand beaches, rolling green mountains, colorful coral reefs, and unbelievably blue water. Combined with its rich history and culture that have captivated the world, it’s not hard to see why Jamaica is one of the Caribbean’s premier tourist destinations.
There are so many vacation-worthy spots on the island that it can be hard to decide where exactly to go. To make your planning a bit easier, here’s a rundown of 8 of the most popular tourist areas in Jamaica.
Negril has a more relaxed and romantic vibe compared to other tourist towns in Jamaica. Located on the western tip of the island, the area is home to some of the best beaches in the country. The gem is Seven Mile Beach, a stretch of white sand and crystal blue water that seems to go on forever! A visit to Blue Hole Mineral Springs or the Mayfield Falls will also be sure to refresh your soul. If a rush is what you’re after, try cliff jumping near Rick’s Café at the Negril Cliffs.
The water around Negril is usually quite calm, making it a great spot for watersports. Snorkeling around Long Bay’s coral reefs is a particularly popular thing to do here. Negril is also home to Jamaica’s largest waterpark — Kool Runnings Adventure Park.
Montego Bay (or MoBay) is the crown jewel of Jamaican tourism. Luxury is the name of the game here, with its top-rated resorts, high-class restaurants, and sprawling golf courses. Despite being a resort town and busy cruise port, it hasn’t lost out at all in the nature department.
Arguably, the best beach in the area is Doctor’s Cave Beach. In fact, this beach put Montego Bay on the map after a famous British doctor in the 1920s claimed people could be healed by swimming in the water here. Walter Fletcher Beach is another great choice, as it has a theme park that’s perfect for kids. Rose Hall Great House is a unique, must-see attraction. A former plantation estate, the house has been wrapped up in legends and ghost stories that captivate locals and visitors alike. Horror and/or history buffs will love it!
Along with Negril and Montego Bay, Ocho Rios is one of the three main tourist areas in Jamaica. Though it feels a bit more lowkey than the other two cities, it is actually the busiest cruise ship port on the island.
From lagoons and waterfalls to rainforests and mountains, Ocho Rios is famous for its inland nature. The number one tourist attraction on the island, Dunn’s River Falls, is a mere five-minute drive outside of the town. Dolphin Cove, where you can swim alongside dolphins, and Mystic Mountain, a rainforest adventure park, are also within a stone’s throw of Ocho Rios! The Ocho Rios Blue Hole, with its turquoise water and thrilling cliff-jumping spots, is also a must-see attraction.
Ocho Rios is home to an electric nightlife scene, too. One visit to Margaritaville, the town’s entertainment district, will have you wanting to go back every night!
Dunn’s River Falls
You can’t mention Ocho Rios without talking about Dunn’s River Falls! The landscape here is truly fitting of being Jamaica’s most popular tourist attraction.
Just outside of Ocho Rios, the hot thing to do at Dunn’s River Falls is to — of course — climb the falls. With the wet climb, you can make your way through the running water of the waterfall all the way to the 180-foot-high peak. The alternative dry climb — though it won’t take you all the way to the summit — is easier on your feet and has spots to chill along the way. Ziplining from the top back down to the base is also offered!
Aside from the main attraction, Dunn’s River Falls also has a gorgeous beach right at the base of the waterfall. There are also a trio of gardens on the premises, as well as a kiddie waterpark and a restaurant on-site.
Kingston, on the south coast, is the capital of Jamaica and home to almost half of the country’s population. As you can imagine, it’s a bustling city full of diversity. Though not a beach town, Kingston has too many potential vacation stops to even list!
The city’s many parks, such as Hope Botanical Gardens and Emancipation Park, are perfect for a stroll or picnic. Devon House, with its perfectly manicured lawns, is also a popular picnic spot. This manor-turned-attraction offers historical tours and is home to I-Scream ice cream, which is famous all around the island.
Reggae lovers will want to visit the Bob Marley Museum in the heart of the city. Here, you can see the former studio and home of the music legend. Your last stop for any day should be Dub Club in the hills. It offers good music, good food, and a brilliant bird’s eye view of Kingston at night!
Spanning four different parishes in eastern Jamaica are the sprawling Blue Mountains. The mountains tower over Kingston, where most excursions and tours depart from. An intense 4-hour hike — not for the faint-hearted! — will take you to the 7,401-foot-high peak. A mule ride to the top is also an option. On a clear day, you can see Cuba from up there! You can camp the night or stay at one of the various resorts along the mountain range so you can see the breathtaking sunrise from here.
Coffee plantation tours and bird-watching are two other popular activities in the mountains. There are also springs and waterfalls scattered across the landscape. The Blue Mountains were a place of refuge for Tainos and Maroons during the days of slavery. A few such villages and their townsfolk have persevered to this day and many of them invite tourists to come and learn.
Of all the areas on this list, Treasure Beach is the best place to experience real, down-to-earth Jamaican culture. Though its popularity has increased over the past two decades, it remains a well-kept secret and lacks the tourist-centrism you’ll find in north coast destinations.
Made up of actually four beaches/fishing villages, Treasure Beach spans six miles on the south coast of the island. Given its lowkey profile, there are no major tourist attractions in Treasure Beach. Instead, spend your time swimming, hiking, biking, and communing with locals. Sports are a pretty big thing in the area, from watersports to land-based activities like soccer and cricket. You can experience Jamaican food at its most authentic at “cook shops” and bars dotted along the beach, such as the popular Floyd’s Pelican Bar.
Georgian architecture reigns supreme in Falmouth, founded as a sugarcane farming town in the late 1700s. Formerly a hub of the slave trade, the town is now a hub of heritage and culture. Much has been preserved — quite a few estates from this era are still standing. Many, like the Great Hall Estates, have been converted into museums and meeting places, and their grounds into public gardens.
A lot of these areas in the town have been fitted with attractions for visitors to be both edified and entertained, such as the town’s flagship Heritage Walk, as well as the opportunity to tube or zipline over the nearby Martha Brae River.
Falmouth is still a farming town and is now also a busy cruise ship port. Located between Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, Falmouth manages to not have an overly touristy atmosphere, similar to Treasure Beach. It’s a beautiful area with an abundance of nature and opportunities to relax while giving you the chance to experience Jamaican history.