It’s not just another day at the beach in Jamaica. There will be a million things you'll want to do on the island than can fit into a few weeks’ vacation. It’s times like these a wish list comes in handy. You know the kind that details the best leads to exciting treasure-troves, guaranteed to build memories, or otherwise make jolly good use of your time on the island. And there is such a list! To make sure you don’t miss out on the great stuff, here’s a description of the island’s most iconic, star-rated activities, plus secretly-shared must-dos to explore on your visit.
Best things to do
Hike the Blue Mountains
Climb the highest peak in the Caribbean! The journey up the famous Blue Mountain Peak is 3-5 hours long accomplished by most fitness level. Departure is set for midnight, but you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular view of the island at sunrise. See indigenous wildlife and exotic plant life, and sample a brew of world-renowned--Blue Mountain Coffee—the real stuff!
Zip across the Forest on Mystic Mountain
One of the top attractions in Ocho Rios, St. Ann is zip-lining. No-fail cables anchor you above the trees as you zip across mystical mountains (crazy-fun!). Also available, bobsledding down Mystic Mountain (crazier-fun!). Or choose a far less daunting activity—like bird watching, a delightfully serene experience through the rainforest.
River Raft or Climb the Water Falls
The island has over 100 rivers, many with breathtaking waterfalls tucked away across 14 parishes. Each parish offers unique water activities and captivating vistas. The most popular attractions are listed.
- Dunn’s River Falls—this is the most iconic falls in Jamaica, visited by thousands of tourists every year; located near Ocho Rios, the falls makes for an exciting climb.
- YS Falls—this is an enthralling seven tiered waterfall, cascading over several natural pools. Popular activities include rope-swinging--Tarzan-style, “canopy-ziplining” and swimming. The falls is located near the town of Black River, St. Elizabeth, where the intriguing Black River Safari begins.
- Mayfield Falls—located in Dolphin Head Mountains, Westmoreland this unspoiled beauty offers visitors two stunning waterfalls and 21 warm mineral springs.
- Reach Falls—among the island’s most breathtaking this waterfall stands grandly within an exotic rain forest in Portland.
- Somerset Falls—this is another world class Portland feature; it boasts of deep rock pools, secret caves and stunning water falls, hidden in the rainforest.
Lazy River Tubing in White River
River tubing is a fun, stimulating must-do! It is one of Jamaica’s best kept secrets and a cool way to build memories. In a private tube, let the “lazy river” tease you down a long exciting path of gentle rapids into an awaiting tranquil pool.
Wet Races at Kool Runnings Adventure Park
Kool Runnings is Jamaica’s premier water park, the only one of its kind in the Caribbean! One of the best things to do, visitors enjoy the thrill of plunging into a massive pool from a height of 40 feet. Choose from among seven humongous water slides for each tumultuous feat. Other exciting attractions are on this colorful property… located in gorgeous Negril, Westmoreland.
Explore the Underworld—of Caves
Jamaican caves are pretty amazing. They are everywhere on the island, close to the beaches and waterfalls; a tour will leave you spell bound. Some of the must-tries: The Green Grotto (the island’s flagship), The Caves of Nonesuch, Widowmakers Cave and Doctor’s Cave Beach.
Swim with the Dolphins at Dolphin Cove
The only one of its type in the Caribbean, Dolphin Cove is one of the best things to do on the island. Interact with these gentle giants, play and swim with them or better yet, glide with them above water—acrobatic-style. Locations: Ocho Rios and Negril.
Discover Secretly-shared Secluded Waterways
- Lime Cay: this is Kingston’s favorite secluded island, famous for sunbathing, yacht parties and snorkeling; it’s located near the historic town of Port Royal.
- Frenchman’s Cove: featured in Hollywood films “Club Paradise” and “Treasure Island,” this relatively virgin territory in Portland is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean, and a great place to fall in love.
Blue Hole Mineral Spring
It still mystifies visitors; the Blue Hole is a true hidden gem on the island. Located off-the-beaten-track, a few miles up the hill of Ocho Rios, its intensely blue waters is like no other. Here, you swim in your own private world—its existence is unknown to even many Jamaicans.
Rafting on the Rio Grande
There is river rafting, and then there is rafting on the Rio Grande, one of the must-dos of your visit. There’s even a song about this excursion. The Rio Grande is fed by torrential rains that run off the Blue Mountains. The Rio Grande is the birthplace of river rafting and the whole panoramic experience takes 2-3 hours.
Most “Fierce” Beaches
Jamaica has more than 50 public beaches, each one bearing its own signature swag, many are free of charge. Nine of the most characteristic of beaches include: Seven-mile Beach—Negril, Cosmos Beach--Westmoreland, Cornwall Beach—Westmoreland, Silver Sands—Falmouth, Burwood Beach—Falmouth, Long Bay Beach—Portland, Treasure Beach—Portland, Hellshire Beach—St. Catherine and Winifred Beach—Portland.
Jump Negril Cliffs and Dine at Rick’s Café
A world famous bar and restaurant with the most electrifying vantage point of the city. Rick’s Café is thrillingly situated at the edge of a cliff in Negril, and daring souls jump off for a swim. It bears a fun ambiance and is immensely popular among tourists and locals.
Swim and Snorkel in the Famous Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is a magical swimming spot featured in several films, including the infamous movie of the same name, starring Brooke Shields. Located in the delightful city of Portland, it is well worth a trip.
Be Mesmerized by the Glistening Water—A World Phenomenon
This ethereal, awe-inspiring lagoon is a sight to behold! See yourself illuminate in the pool. Take a boat ride; but definitely carry a bottle to catch a sample of this unbelievable “glow” (it will continue to shine in the bottle for a few hours). Called the Glistening Water, this lagoon shines bewitchingly from the depths within. Located on the north coast of the island, it is a natural phenomenon found in one of only four places in the world!
Catch a Blue Marlin, Go Glass-Bottom Boating and Snorkeling
Each year Jamaica hosts three of the largest fishing tournaments in the region (Jamaica International Blue Marlin Team, Falmouth Blue Marlin and Annual Port Antonio International Blue Marlin Tournament) in September and October. But don’t wait--deep sea fishing is ‘good’ year round--charter your own boat from a resort town. For a quiet respite, visitors also fish closer to shore in the mangrove wetlands of Old Harbour Bay, finishing off with a swim at Pidgeon Island.
Glass bottom boating—awesome! See everything that a scuba diver sees without getting wet. Marvel at the multitude of species swimming through the crystal clear waters. Do you Snorkel? There are many scuba diving and snorkeling facilities that allow you the surreal experience of swimming up close to aquatic life.
Dine like a Jamaican—Rustic Stops across the Island
Enjoy a laid-back, rustic setting among the locals; tip: order what they are having! Some of the best places for genuine Jamaican eats are listed.
- Andy’s Jerk Center for succulent pork, fish and chicken; located on Mannings Hill Road, Kingston.
- Gloria’s Rendezvous for ‘Jamaicanized’ seafood at Port Royal, Kingston.
- Tastee patties and meat loaves at outlets across the island.
- Hellshire ‘fry fish, festival and bammy” at Hellshire Beach, St. Catherine.
- Boston Jerk at Boston Beach in Port Antonio, the premier jerk center, some say the best on the island.
- “Pepper Shrimps” at Middlequarters (a small vortex of street vendors), St. Elizabeth.
- Faith’s Pen for a wide a variety of Jamaican cuisine; think fast food--Jamaican-style. Find it on the way to Ocho Rios from Kingston or from Flat Bridge, Rio Cobre.
Culinary sample tours: sampling tours are a must-do across the island. In Falmouth you can arrange an official culinary tour and taste much of the Island’s unique bounties. A few descriptions are provided:
- Walker’s Wood jerk factory, just beyond Fern Gully on the way to Ochie, offers a tour of the most delectable flavors of local jams, chutneys, and spices.
- Croydon Plantation tour allows you to sample a large variety of fruits and nuts on the property. Primarily a coffee and pineapple plantation, it is located at the bottom of the beautiful Catadupa Mountains, near Montego Bay.
- Appleton Rum Estate tour in St. Elizabeth starts off with complimentary rum punches (just what the doctor ordered!)—this is full-bodied, genuine rum—afterwards guests are taken to historic barrel houses, where rums are aged to perfection.
- Revel in Carnival and Beach J’Ouvet
- Join thousands of Jamaican revelers in the biggest Road Parade on the island. J’Ouvet signals the official start of the carnival weekend, and Beach J’Ouvert (which includes wild sprays of body paint!) is an added twist on the carnival vibe. The big day is in late April, but partying begins at the start of the year.
Party at the Fab “Club Privilege”
Guaranteed fun! Every weekend is an “Uber Night” (Pronounced: “y-o-u-ber”), a utopian party scene at Club Privilege, Kingston. The organizers, Appleton Rum, wanted to create an experience “away from the ordinary.” The club offers non-stop music, dancing and drinking attracting a nice mix of age groups. Expect to see famous locals and international celebrities like Bolt, Diplo and Sean Paul.
Rock with Jimmy’s Buffet Margaritaville
Margaritaville is a favorite hang-out among tourists and locals; the ‘joint’ promises a party atmosphere every time. The music is loud, drinks are flowing and everyone is your ‘long lost buddy.” Famous for their mouth-watering burgers, a must-try is the “Cheese Burger in Paradise,” which receives rave reviews from patrons. Locations: Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and Negril.
Drinks on Stilts—Floyd’s Pelican Bar
One of the most famous and fun spots for a drink, the Pelican Bar is a thatched hut on stilts, three-quarter mile out to sea. Definitely a place to brag to friends, patrons can chill with a Red Stripe and watch dolphins flip, nearby. Location: St. Elizabeth.
Enjoy Authentic Jamaican Ice Cream—Devon House-Style
Devon House I-Scream is a Jamaican household name. It ranks in the company of Ben ‘n’Jerrys meets Haagen Dazs. Choose from over 27 distinctive flavors, including: guava, mango, sour-sop, Blue Mountain coffee, pineapple, tamarind and more. This creamy goodness is located at the main store, Devon House, Kingston with many outlets across the island.
Meet the King of Reggae--Bob Marley Museum
Jamaica—reggae--and Bob Marley are synonymous connections. A trip to Kingston must include a stop at the legendary singer’s home and studio on Hope Road, the city’s most visited site.
Know the Real Jamaica—Countryside Excursion
No matter how Jamaican your hotel is, the real local experience comes from interacting with vendors and friendly people in the communities. A cultural and historical tour puts a captivating learning experience to your trip, for lasting memories.
Overall, Jamaica is a place of many mountains, waterways and caves. Some of the best things to do here are hidden within these natural wonders.