Jamaica Port Guide: A complete guide of what to see, do & eat in Jamaica
With sun, sand, culture and cuisine (not to mention rum and reggae), this Caribbean hotspot has something for everyone – making it one of the world’s great cruising port calls.
Visit Jamaica and you’ll be treading in the footsteps of fearsome pirates who once terrorised the Caribbean from their base at Port Royal. Today all you need to fear is the potency of the cocktails and the heat of the local cuisine (thanks to rum and scotch bonnet chillies respectively).
So enjoy the laidback lifestyle as you laze on those powder-soft sands or bar-hop along Montego Bay’s famous Hip Strip.
But don’t forget that Jamaica is more than just a beach paradise. Venture inland and you’ll find that the Caribbean’s third largest island is also blessed with abundant wildlife, spectacular flora and Insta- friendly waterfalls where you can jump in and cool off from the tropical heat.
And whichever port you sail into – Montego Bay, Ocho Rios or Falmouth – you’ll find a warm welcome awaits.
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Seven Mile Beach
At Negril on Jamaica’s famously chilled-out west coast (an easy day trip if you’re docked at Montego Bay), the island’s most famous beach really does live up to the hype.
You’ll go for the white sand and the warm, unbelievably clear turquoise water.
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You’ll stay for the stunning sunsets, the ice-cold Red Stripe beers and the delicious rum cocktails on offer at numerous friendly beachside shacks.
Inland from those famous beaches lies a lush tropical paradise – and in the rural parish of Portland you’ll find Reach Falls, where visitors and locals alike come to cool down in the cascading waters.
Find your ideal cruise
There are plenty of places to picnic, too, so spend a couple of hours here before you head back to your ship.
If you’re looking for something extra, try a guided tour of the caves where escaped slaves once hid from their captors.
Bob Marley Museum
What visit to Jamaica would be complete without an exploration of reggae and its roots?
Though Trench Town is often called its birthplace, 56 Hope Road is where reggae went to live. Bob Marley bought this timber-clad Kingston property in 1975 and lived there until his untimely death in 1981.
Now a museum, it’s a fitting tribute to Jamaica’s most famous son. But make a reservation before you go – it’s a hugely popular attraction.
Rose Hall Great House
One of Jamaica’s most impressive sights, this elegant Georgian plantation house was rescued from ruin and restored to glory in the 1960s.
Located in Montego Bay, with beautiful gardens and stunning coastal views, the mansion is now a museum telling the island’s story of colonialism and slavery.
You’ll also hear all about the White Witch of Rose Hall, Annie Palmer, who lived here in the 1800s and is said to haunt its corridors to this day.
Best restaurants & bars
The HouseBoat Grill
One of the most popular dining spots on the island is this colourfully decorated double- decker houseboat in Montego Bay.
Here, lucky diners get to feast on a seasonal Caribbean fusion menu, with favourite dishes including succulent Caribbean lobster and grilled beef tenderloin with Chinese spices.
The unique waterside setting is charming, and the cocktails are pretty special too.
Overlooking the sea on Montego Bay’s Hip Strip, this lively bar promises ‘ice cold drinks with red hot fun’.
If you’re in port overnight, you’ll be dancing to reggae under the stars.
Visit in the day and you can sip your rainbow-coloured frozen margarita, then ride a 120ft slide from the upper terrace into the bath-warm waters below (on second thoughts, maybe take the plunge first).
Popular since the Seventies, this clifftop haunt in Negril is the perfect spot to catch some reggae, grab a drink and see one of the world’s great sunsets
Don’t be distracted by the sight of super-buff locals diving 35ft into the warm sea below!
It’s incredibly popular, so get here in late afternoon to secure a cliffside view, then order a few local dishes and kick back with a beer or three.
Doctor’s Cave Bathing Club
You pay a modest sum at Doctor’s Cave Beach to use the facilities – including the bar – all day.
But once you’ve handed over the $6US entry fee (less for kids), drinks are served straight to your lounge chair on the sand.
Don’t miss the frozen cocktails in the rastafarian colours of red, gold and green – plus local nibbles to help blot up all that rum.
Jamaica’s home-grown coffee is some of the best in the world, celebrated for its smooth but full-bodied flavour.
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Pick up a pack or two at one of the island’s specialist coffee shops or even in a local supermarket.
The scotch bonnet chilli is one of the world’s hottest, and they love it in Jamaica.
So take a little bit of Caribbean fire back home to warm you through the cold British winter.
Jamaica produces an astonishingly wide variety of rums – from dark browns to clear whites – so have fun finding your favourite, then put a few bottles by to share with your friends back home.
What to expect
Jamaica is one of the most popular Caribbean port- calls but its size easily absorbs all those thousands of visitors.
The locals are very friendly, the lifestyle is relaxed and reggae is played wherever you go.
Where to stay
The island has an abundance of fine resorts and hotels, including the adults-only 5-star Secrets St James at Montego Bay, and the legendary Royalton White Sands, just along the coast in Falmouth.
Both offer superb service and are close to some great beaches and bars.
When to go
The UK’s winter months are the best time to visit Jamaica, with the dry season falling between December and April and temperatures reliably in the high 20s. May brings rain, while the hurricane season is between June and November.
At 146 miles long, Jamaica is bigger than most visitors think. Communal ‘route taxis’ are a good way to travel about, and car-rental is also a viable option (Jamaica drives on the left). If you only have a day on the island, an organised coach trip is a good idea.
Get on board
10-night ‘Panama Canal with Costa Rica & Caribbean’ cruise aboard Caribbean Princess, round trip from Fort Lauderdale via Falmouth (Jamaica), Cartagena, Panama Canal,Puerto Limon and Grand Cayman, departing 18 December 2022, from £949
14-night ‘Exotic Explorer & Flavours of the Caribbean’ cruise aboard Marella Discovery 2, round trip from Montego Bay via Roatan Island, Santo Tomas de Castilla, Cayman Islands, Havana and Cozumel, departing 17 January 2023, from £2,030 including flights
Best local tips
‘Caribbean life is meant to be chilled so go with the flow. To get in the groove, head for lunch at a local spot or enjoy a beer on the beach.’ - Melanie Smith, LOCAL BLOGGER
‘Make sure you visit at least one of our amazing beaches – your visit won’t be complete without it. Doctor’s Cave Beach is my favourite.’ - Kyle Marcel, TOUR OPERATOR
‘Don’t miss out on the local food – Jamaican jerk chicken is famous for a good reason. If you’re vegetarian, try a delicious patty with hot sauce.’ - Agathe Campbell, TRAVEL AGENT
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