Jamaica is the land of reggae and rum. Where there were once mansions of the British sugar empire and thriving plantations, now there are luxurious inns and world class golf courses. Beaches that once harbored ruthless pirates now offer vacationers the perfect tan. The music throbs with a pulse throughout this island and its warm, inviting people.
The tourism capital of Jamaica is Montego Bay, the islands’ second largest city. It is the home of the greatest concentration of resorts on the island as well as its busy international airport and cruise ship ports. The duty free shopping, restaurants, and night life are the main attraction to visitors.
Famous Seven Mile Beach, along the west coast is one the best strands of beach in the Caribbean. This is where you find Negril, the “Capital of Casual.” This carefree area was once a hippie hideaway in the 60’s and 70’s. The pace is slow with little shopping or nightlife, and lends itself to families, singles, and couples. Though recent growth has provided more choices of high end resorts, the laid back vibe still lives on.
Ocho Rios, located on the north coast, provides a dramatic mountain backdrop to the deep water harbor which serves as a major cruise port. Pleasant beaches, excellent resorts of all sizes and great shopping make this an important tourist destination. This is also the principal area for nature tours and adventure excursions. Climbing Dunns River Falls, rafting down the White River, and coursing thru the rainforest on a zip line are just a few examples of ways to see the natural Jamaica.
I’ve visited Jamaica many times since my first trip in 2011. Each time I find something new and wonderful, but every time I go I come home with a renewed love for the people. My favorite area is Negril. About an hour from the Montego Bay airport and you’re on the most beautiful beach on the island. Resorts from the 5 star luxury Couples Swept Away and Sandals Negril resorts to the cozy Treehouse, and Grand Pineapple, there is something for everyone.
But the ultimate in island feel is West End Road, a little further down the beach, past downtown and the craft market. The resorts in this area are perched atop cliffs overlooking the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean. You can dive from 2 feet or 20 feet and snorkel for hours right in front of your hotel. The sunsets are spectacular! This is also the home of the world famous Rick’s Café and the local cliff divers. It seems like they’re risking their lives for our entertainment, but to them it’s just a day at work.
A short walk down West End Road and you will find a variety of dining and local shopping venues. While you’re there, don’t forget to stop by and have a drink at Ivan’s Bar. Pick up one of the photo albums on the bar and read about the hurricanes that have ravaged the island and the resilience of the people behind the rebuilding.
The people of Jamaica will do anything to help you! Sometimes they come across a little over zealous in their desire to be helpful. A polite response and a kind word works wonders in letting them know that you’re on vacation if don’t really need what they are selling or their services.