All I know about Jamaica is a) those accents b) jerk chicken. But there’s so much more to these gorgeous islands! Today, local Susaye is telling us about the tiny towns we can’t miss, hidden waterfalls, and why we should pop into a track and field event. Fascinating!
Hi, I am Susaye and I currently reside in Montego Bay, Jamaica. You have probably heard of Jamaica because it is the home of Reggae music (and Bob Marley), Rastafarians (and ganja) and the Sprint Factory (Bolt and Shelly-ann Fraser-Pryce, the world’s fastest man and woman).
All true. But Jamaica is a really small island of about 2.9 million people (split into 14 parishes) with a vibrant culture and very happy people. You’ll love it.
Must go in Jamaica
Translated as 8 rivers, it’s a tiny town with a special flare. Ocho Rios is where you will find the famous Dunn’s River Falls.
Y0u’ll also find opportunities for swimming with the dolphins, water rafting, bobsledding, and ziplining at Mystic Mountain. The Ocho Rios Craft Market is in the center of town and the Bob Marley museum is really close by (but this is Jamaica, so everything is close by).
This is my favorite place. Negril has an old island feel with bicycles, motorbikes and a slowness that forces you to relax. A seven-mile stretch of white sand meets you in Negril.
While there are few public beaches, they are readily accessible if you choose to stay at a resort. On Saturday nights you will find live reggae music, street food and a rocking nightlife welcoming you.
In Negril you will find the famous Rick’s Café and if you like to jump from high cliffs (or just watching expert Jamaican cliff-jumpers) this is your spot. Sunday evening beach parties with local Jamaicans, where the vibe is easy, are also something available to you in Negril.
Once the primary vacation spot for Hollywood royals, Portland is a hidden jewel of a parish. With jerk festivals and hidden waterfalls, you will find more native accommodations available to you here. If you’re interested in ecotourism, Portland is for you.
Must do in Jamaica
Go to Rebel Salute
Held in St. Ann in early January, this is an “ital” event filled with conscious music. This is a revolutionary event that you will love and come back to year after year. You will find respectful, roots rock reggae, vegetarian food and artisans peddling their art.
Go to a beach/river
Every one recommends going to the beach, but your trip to Jamaica is incomplete without a visit to the beach. To make your visit even better, go to a natural beach/waterfall such as Mayfield Falls.
If you truly want to experience something off the beaten path, go to a river. Rivers are free opportunities to hang with the locals. Just be aware and go with someone who knows the lay of the land.
Go to Hellshire Beach on a Sunday
If you love good fish, the beach and hanging out, Hellshire beach in Kingston is for you, especially on a Sunday. You will find live music, excellent and fresh fish and lots of locals peddling anything that you could need.
Go to a sporting event, especially track and field
The camaraderie that you will experience at one of these events will be beyond anything that you could experience. Jamaicans love their sports so any sporting event will be enjoyable but a track and field event is your best view into the unity of the Jamaican people.
See the Luminous Lagoon
If you’re interested in a low-key, romantic evening out, take a trip to the Glistening Waters Restaurant in Falmouth, Trelawny. You have the option of a boat tour where you will witness the glowing dinoflagellates or just enjoy the atmosphere while you enjoy delicious food.
Must eat in Jamaica
While this is the national dish and is recommended by everyone, I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t recommend this dish. Cooked well, this dish will change your life.
Ackee is a delicate, gentle fruit with a mild flavor and pairing it with salted fish brings out an indescribable flavor that you will love. Ask for fried ripe plantains. You’re welcome.
Jamaica is known for its jerk and nothing tastes better than a juicy piece of jerk chicken or pork. Don’t leave Jamaica without it. You can get jerk in a restaurant or jerk center but if you have an opportunity try the Jerk chicken from the local jerk pan (called pan chicken). It is often served with bread but you can have it with festival.
Cooked down in a coconut curry sauce, conch with a side of fried plantains and rice and peas will be your new craving.
Fish (fried, curried, brown-stewed, stuffed) with a side of bammy (fried cassava) or festival
This is readily available. Fish in any way is delicious and a must have before you leave Jamaica. The fish is generally freshly caught and most times you get to choose which one you eat.
Jamaican Cultural Tips
You will be sold to. Be prepared that once you’re walking among the local community, be aware that this is a developing country and most people do not earn a living wage. This means you will encounter beggars (men, women and children). Give what you can and move on.
Because you are a foreigner, the prices you will be quoted are going to be higher than the local prices. If you can find a guide you trust, your guide will be able to negotiate reasonable prices for you.
Jamaicans are a generally jovial and courteous people. Just return the courtesy and you will be fine.
Cheap travel tips for Jamaica
Travel from the airport is expensive. Take it the first time until you establish a relationship with a local taxi driver. Local taxis are always available.
It will be more comfortable to “charter” a private vehicle. While it is more expensive than local taxis, you will experience more convenience and that alone is worth it. These modes of transportation are cheaper than any that will be provided by a resort.
Like most places, Airbnbs will be cheaper and more authentic than a hotel. Here’s a two-bedroom villa in Negril for $75 a night and here’s a studio apartment for $64. If you’ve never used Airbnb before, here’s a $40 credit towards your first booking!
For the very brave, local buses are cheap options. Be prepared to be squeezed really tightly and be ready for the speed.
Thanks so much for sharing, Susaye! Do guys have any questions for her? Any of your own tips to share?