Many visitors to Jamaica opt to stay in a villa or at a resort property, and this allows them to enjoy the very best that the local area has to offer in terms of the beaches and amenities. However, it may prevent a traveler from getting an authentic experience of Jamaica itself, and this is unfortunate as it is a place of great beauty, delicious foods, and culture.
What should you do on a stay in Jamaica? The top destinations in Jamaica include Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Negril, Kingston, Port Antonia, and Runaway Bay. These are spread out all over the island, but many feel that the most common location for tourism is the North Coast. Here visitors can enjoy the golf courses, shopping areas, galleries, restaurants, and beaches.
Does this mean an authentic experience of Jamaica has to occur outside of these areas? No. Some of the nicest beaches open to the public are found here, as well as historic sites, rivers, and more.
However, there are some great benefits to stepping beyond the villa and tourism areas to explore the amazingly beautiful inland areas of this country. With these points in mind, our list of top alternative Jamaican destinations will include:
Jamaica’s Beaches to visit
Negril Beach is probably the most idyllic of them all. Extending across two bays and more than seven miles it is dotted with restaurants, amenities, and gorgeous scenery. Doctor’s Cave Beach in Montego Bay is another top beach, though the cave was destroyed in the 1930s. Luminous Lagoon in Falmouth is a unique experience and takes its name from the marine phosphorescence that appears each evening. Port Antonio’s beaches are noted as some of the very best in the island.
Historic Sites of Jamaica
Rose Hall Great House in Montego Bay is a 1770s beauty with amazing views and spooky candlelight tours for the brave of heart. Falmouth is a town, but it is a Georgian era town that is amazingly preserved with a great house museum, plantation house, and lovely little beach.
Natural Attractions of Jamaica
Head to Martha Brae River near Montego Bay is a wonderful spot for river rafting on classic bamboo rafts with local guides. Blue Mountains and John Crow Mountains National Park which offers more than 200,000 acres of pristine rainforest and hundreds of native species. This park can be explored by mule or on foot, and on Blue Mountain Peak, and the hearty traveler can enjoy views to Cuba. Daniel’s River near Port Antonio makes its way through rocky gorges and ends at Somerset Falls, and is one of the most scenic spots on the island. Rio Grande River is home to excellent guided tours on bamboo rafts, which take you through the rainforest and educate you about the now defunct banana industry. The Black River and YS Falls are where you can still see wild crocodiles and hundreds of varieties of native birds as you tour the river and end at the large and lovely YS Falls (and even enjoy a plunge in the wading pools below).
Jamaica Towns to Visit
Port Antonio is a lovely fishing village that is a very charming spot to shop the galleries, go hiking, do some diving in the local Blue Lagoon, and sample the very best authentic “jerk” at Boston Beach.
We would also say that a day or two in Kingston is a must simply because it is a truly cosmopolitan city with scenic mountains in the background, and a long list of museums, gardens, and cultural experiences. It is also where the Bob Marley Museum is located, and even those who are not fans of the reggae superstar will enjoy a few hours in his former home.
There are also many guided adventures that include zip-line tours and hikes into the mountains, and these too get you outside of the resort or villa and into the lesser known but equally appealing Jamaica.
Learn More About Jamaica & Where to Stay