Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond

Jamaica Beach Vacation Tips

Dunn's River Falls
Dunn's River Falls; credit: Jamaica Tourism Authority
A Jamaica vacation is a great way to visit an island with interesting people and things to do.

Jamaica is one of the five most popular vacation destinations in the Caribbean for other reasons. The island is located 600 miles from Miami, so it is more easily accessible than other locations in the Caribbean, especially the southern destinations.

It also is a convenient and popular stop for western Caribbean cruises.

Anyone planning a beac vacation in Jamaica for the first time might look for hotels or resorts in three major areas -- Ocho Rios, Negril or Montego Bay. Like the Dominican Republic, Jamaica is known for all-inclusive resorts, where guests are able to take advantage of meals, beverages and entertainment for one fee. It is similar to the experience they will find on a typical western Caribbean cruise.

Hotel and Resort Tips

Jamaica is one of the most popular islands in the Caribbean for all-inclusive resorts. It is partly a matter of safety because certain areas of Jamaica have a higher crime rate.

“Exercise increased caution in Jamaica due to crime. Some areas have increased risk," the U.S. State Department says. Even government employees are supposed to avoid certain areas of the island. That said, the resort areas are largely safe.

Hotel visitors to Negril will fly into the Negril Aerodrome. Montego Bay visitors will fly into Sangster International Airport. Both airports are near hotels and resorts. Ocho Rios visitors will fly into either Sangster or Kingston-Norman Manley Airport and drive to Ocho Rios on a shuttle bus.

Be aware that resort prices may look cheap compared to hotel prices. But they may list their room rates and not their all-inclusive rates that include meals and beverages.

Tourist Attractions

Active visitors will want to get out and find Jamaica attractions worth seeing. One of the most famous family attractions is Dunn's River Falls, where visitors can climb hundreds of feet up the cascading waterfalls in a daisy chain of handholding.

Other visitors who want outdoor adventure can hike through the Blue Mountains, which are known as the location of Jamaica's famous Blue Mountain Coffee.

Kingston is a popular place to tour for both cruise visitors and anyone staying for the week on the island. It is the largest English-speaking city south of Florida and has local attractions including the Bob Marley Museum, the nearby Royal Botanic Gardens, plenty of shopping and a long list of other historical and cultural sites to see.

Weather / Best Time to Go

Jamaica tourism statistics
Jamaica weather is a critical part of any plan for a vacation there. Visitors avoid September through November because those months are in the middle of the annual Caribbean hurricane season. October rainfall averages seven inches during the month, according to the Meteorological Service of Jamaica.

Heavy rain and tropical storms are common, while hurricanes pass through or nearby on rare occasion.

The two most popular months to visit Jamaica are June and July, while the late spring months are popular as well. For people who want to visit in the summer, June is not a good month to visit because of a spike in rainfall. July is a better choice.

The average high temperatures range from the low 80s Fahrenheit in the winter to the upper 80s in the summer.

The average annual temperature is 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The hottest months are May through September, and the coldest are December to March.

The combination of mountains and plains create great variety to the temperatures and rainfall. The mountains receive up to 300 inches a year and other areas receive as little as 30 a year.

Tourism / When to Go

All U.S. and Canadian stopover visitors require a passport. Cruise visitors simply need to have their ship ID cards available when leaving the ship and returning.

The most popular months to visit are March, July and December, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization. The least popular time is September and then October.

Currency / Tipping / Taxes

The national currency is the Jamaican Dollar. Most currencies can be exchanged at local banks. Many ATMs accept international bank cards. Jamaica follows the common practice in the Caribbean of 10-15 percent tips on services such as hotels and restaurants. But some places automatically add a gratuity while others such as all-inclusive resorts do not allow tipping at all. Hotels have a 10-15 percent room tax.

Culture / Geography

English and English patois (vernacular or nonstandard form of English) are the dominant languages. The economy depends heavily on services especially tourism. Jamaica is mostly mountains, with a narrow and discontinuous coastal plain.

More About Jamaica

Mellow and good natured is the best way to describe many Jamaicans. They make the shopping experience different from any other island we have visited.

They don't hesitate to approach a tourist, but they easily take no for an answer and often give a smile in return as they walk away. It's unlike the hard sell of other islands in the region.

It is justifiably famous for a distinct culture and alluring dialect that shows up even on excursions. The coolest people I have ever met were the crew of the catamaran that we took to Dunn's River Falls. If climbing the falls isn't appealing, consider any type of cruise along the coast that is one of the most beautiful in the Caribbean. If you see Mick Jagger standing outside his villa, be sure to wave.

The fact that Jamaica is only 600 miles from Miami makes it easily accessible to most American and Canadian tourists.

Jamaica is the third most popular tourist island in the Caribbean. It is somewhat more popular among stopovers than cruises, with most of the stopovers heading to the many resorts.

Sources / More Information

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

Montego Bay Resort Map

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February 17, 2020
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