Jamaica has long provided a Caribbean retreat for travelers. James Bond novelist, Ian Flemming dreamed up the famous 007 character at his GoldenEye resort here. The island, made especially famous by Bob Marley and the reggae music scene, boasts incomparable live music venues. White sand beaches, turquoise waters, and hidden waterfalls await exploration. Rum punches wash down spicy jerk chicken at the end of the day. You’ll find all this and more on the Rock, so start your adventure with these 15 things to do in Jamaica.
1. Seven Mile Beach
Picture golden sand positioned against crystal blue waters to get an idea of the pristine beauty of Seven Mile Beach. It’s just a bit longer than the name suggests.
Located in Negril, Seven Mile Beach sits on the western side of the island with ample space to find your own little private enclave by the sea. The beach has a few adults-only resorts where there are some clothing-optional private beaches.
It’s also popular with families who mostly flock to all-inclusive Beaches Negril.
When the sun goes down, the parties heat up. You can hit one of the many hotel bars that spill onto the sand for beach-side dance parties featuring rum punches and mojitos with reggaeton and samba music.
2. Dunn’s River Falls
Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios invites you to explore its resplendent natural beauty.
The waterfall’s terraces make it an ideal climb that’s not too challenging, as hikers alternately climb and relax in the water. Altogether, the climb takes between 60 and 90 minutes. Just make sure to take precautions as the falls can get a bit slippery from the cascading water.
Feeling less ambitious? Visit Dunn’s River Falls for a relaxing day at the beach at the bottom of the tiered waterfall that leads directly to the Caribbean Sea.
Some may prefer the safety of the stairs that run along the falls’ rocky terrain. You can skip climbing the falls altogether and relax at the foot of the waterfalls. Families should consider leaving young ones behind for safety.
3. Blue Mountains National Park
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Blue Mountains stand out as one of the top things to do in Jamaica. Located along the eastern side of the island, the region contains the Blue and John Crow Mountains.
The region has become famous for its coffee (a fantastic souvenir to bring back), and you can visit the Mavis Bank Coffee Factory to sip the world-renowned java. The factory produces 1.4 million pounds of coffee beans, and guests can take a 45-minute tour of the facilities for a low entry fee.
After a cuppa joe, take that burst of energy to explore nature during a hike through the mountains. The Blue Mountains rise to 7,402 feet, so you should plan your hike with that in mind.
Looking for something even more adventurous? Blue Mountains National Park invites you to camp under the stars. The park also has bicycle tours available that operate daily.
4. Bob Marley Museum
One can hardly hear the word “Jamaica” without associating it with its famed singer, Bob Marley.
Fans of the late reggae musician can learn more at the museum located in his former residence in Kingston. Bob Marley purchased the home in 1975. Today, you can visit and discover the man behind the music. View personal artifacts or explore his recording studio, gardens, and bedroom.
The museum also features an 80-seat theater and a gallery of photographs. A tour of the home takes approximately one hour and 15 minutes. At the end, enjoy lunch or a snack at the One Love Cafe located on the premises.
5. Rose Hall
Get spooked while in Jamaica by visiting Rose Hall. The legendary story says that the spirit of its former resident still roams the grounds of the plantation located near Montego Bay.
According to rumors, Annie Palmer was born in Haiti to an English mother and Irish father. When her parents passed away, she moved to Jamaica to marry John Palmer, owner of Rose Hall Plantation.
The infamous Annie had a dark side, murdering her husband and two subsequent spouses, as well as male slaves. That was until a slave named Takoo took revenge and murdered Annie.
Although her evil ways have ended, Annie is said to haunt the halls of the plantation as the “White Witch”. Is she still there? There’s only one way to find out.
6. Rick’s Cafe
Enjoy a soft island breeze at the famous Rick’s Cafe. Caribbean Travel and Life Magazine voted the beachside joint as one of the best bars in the world. It is the must-visit place for a proper Jamaican sunset.
Located in West End, Negril, Rick’s Cafe shows off views of the island’s cliffs against the pristine Caribbean Sea. Sip local rums and watch in awe as those who dare to dive plunge into the waters below. Yes, that means if you want to jump in, you can (I did not).
The cafe first opened in 1974, back when Negril remained a sleepy fishing village. A favorite among locals and tourists alike, the cafe serves up invigorating cocktails and authentic Jamaican cuisine. Signature dishes include ackee and saltfish, oxtail and butter beans, goat curry, and callaloo. Guests are welcome to tour the cafe, weather permitting.
7. James Bond Beach
Jamaica’s Laughing Waters Beach and Roaring River Beach have earned the nickname James Bond Beach for inspiring Ian Flemming to write his famous James Bond novels. The beaches also appeared in the 1962 film, Dr. No, starring Sean Connery as 007.
Situated just outside of Ocho Rios in Oracabessa Bay, James Bond Beach is a nod to the iconic 60s movie. Palm trees and mangroves shade the white sandy beach.
The tropical inlet attracts concerts as well, having hosted famous musicians like Rihanna, Ziggy Marley, and Lauryn Hill.
The beach also hosts the two-story Moonraker bar, which can accommodate up to 200 guests. The venue often has live music like jazz, blues, soca, and reggae.
8. Green Grotto Caves
Beneath the thick jungles of Jamaica hides one of the island’s most impressive natural wonders.
The Green Grotto caves on the north shore have been awarded EarthCheck’s Platinum Certification. They consist of deep, underground caves, lakes, and tunnels. You can go 37 meters beneath the ground to explore stalactites, stalagmites, and other mineral formations. Tours take about an hour.
The mysterious underworld has a dramatic history that spans the centuries. Tainos used them as dwellings, Spaniards hid from the English in them, runaway slaves hid there, pirates stashed their booty in the caves, and arms dealers concealed guns there. Foolishly, it was even once a nightclub venue.
9. Rainforest Bobsled Jamaica at Mystic Mountain
When Jamaica comes to mind, you might not associate the Caribbean island with bobsledding. But just five minutes from Dunn’s River, you can do just that. The Rainforest Bobsled Jamaica at Mystic Mountain offers an exhilarating experience.
Take the Sky Explorer chairlift to the top of the mountain. Then you’ll fly across the rainforest. The brave can zoom down a 1,000-meter descent in one of the custom-designed bobsleds. You can also get down by zipline. Hold onto your hats.
10. Martha Brae Rafting Village
The island ranks highest when it comes to endemic flora. Nature lovers can admire the lush rainforests of Jamaica during a raft trip at Martha Brae Village. A thirty-foot-long bamboo raft takes you along a three-mile stretch of the turquoise waters of Martha Brae River. During the one-hour tour, guests learn about the Legend of Martha Brae, and can even take a dip in the river.
Before the tour, stroll through the Martha Brae herb garden to learn about the island’s famous herbs known for their healing and medicinal properties. The Martha Brae Rafting Village sits 20 miles outside of Montego Bay, and is 40 miles from Ocho Rios.
11. Appleton Estate
Did someone say Jamaican rum? Fans of the sweet liquor can’t miss a trip to Appleton Estate in Nassau Valley on Jamaica’s south coast. Knowledgeable guides walk you through the historic plantation while you sip a complimentary rum punch.
You’ll witness historic production methods used at the estate. The tour demonstrates how to remove juice from sugarcane, and the distilling and aging processes. Sample molasses and freshly squeezed sugar cane juice.
The tour ends with a rum tasting. Stay for as long as you like and drink to your heart’s content.
12. Doctor’s Cave Beach and the Hip Strip
Spend the day soaking up the Caribbean sun and people watching at Doctor’s Cave Beach. Or, rent a chair under the shade of an umbrella overlooking calm Caribbean seas.
This historic beach spot became a bathing club back in 1906 when Dr. Alexander James McCatty donated the property to Montego Bay.
A hurricane destroyed the cave in 1931, but the beach continues to attract travelers from around the world to its crystal clear waters. The sea temperatures feel like bathwater, ranging from 78 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit.
Doctor’s Cave sits in the middle of Montego Bay’s Hip Strip on Gloucester Avenue. Breakfast spots like The Pelican serve up hearty meals to start the day. Take a break from the sun with a bit of shopping. Merchants sell fine jewelry, crafts, and souvenirs. (Get ready to haggle for the best price.)
Nearby resorts promise plenty of places to sit, drink, and enjoy live music and entertainment. The energy picks up as the sun sets. Grab a drink and hit the dance floor for a Jamaican celebration on the Hip Strip.
13. Reach Falls
Runaway slaves from St. Thomas first discovered this rainforest oasis where they came to seek refuge. This eco attraction is tucked in the Montane Forest on the John Crow Mountain Range.
Waters cascade into an emerald pool surrounded by dense greenery. You’ll spot a range of birds gliding overhead, including black and yellow-billed parrots. You may also catch a peek of a wild pig strolling by.
14. Blue Hole Mineral Spring
Karst limestone encases a cavernous mineral pool off the beaten path in Little Bay, Jamaica. Leap into the clear, cool water 25 feet below, or climb the ladder down.
The mineral waters will nurture the skin and leave you feeling completely refreshed. You can also soak in the same water in a nearby pool if you prefer not to descend into the spring.
15. Eat Jerk Chicken at Scotchies
Whatever your preferences, you simply can’t visit Jamaica without trying the local jerk chicken.
Get the best jerk chicken over at Scotchies. The hole-in-the-wall joint is as casual as it gets. The Montego Bay location isn’t too far from Half Moon resort but there are several others scattered across the island.
Check the chalkboards to find out what the kitchen has cooking. You can opt for sides of plantains, festival (bread), rice and beans, breadfruit and more. I was there in a large group so I had the opportunity to try nearly every outstanding dish (and wash it down with a Red Stripe, of course). Those who like spice should add a few dashes of their famous hot sauce.
The aromas of jerk chicken sandwiched between corrugated sheet metal and crackling piles of pimento wood waft throughout the restaurant and al fresco garden.
(Can’t get to Scotchie’s? We picked up this recipe for drunken jerk chicken during a trip to Jamaica.)
Where to Stay in Jamaica
There is no shortage of luxury hotels in Jamaica, but here are three where you can enjoy Virtuoso benefits at no additional cost to you.
Half Moon, Jamaica
If you’re looking for ample privacy during your stay in Jamaica at a large luxury resort, book a room or villa at Half Moon, Jamaica.
The 400-acre resort sits along two miles of beach and it’s entirely possible never leave it because there are so many things to do here.
The expansive property has multiple bars and restaurants so guests can conveniently wine and dine on-site. Sugar Mill, the resort’s signature restaurant, won the award for “Jamaica’s Best Restaurant.”
The 18-hole golf course runs through a retired sugarcane estate. The equestrian center means guests can go horseback riding along the beach. The grounds also contain tennis courts, an art gallery, a children’s village, and an award-winning spa.
Rose Hall Villas come with five, six, and seven bedrooms with views of the crystal Caribbean. If you’d like something smaller, Half Moon also has rooms and suites with outdoor seating to take in the gentle sea breeze. Many offer ocean views.
GoldenEye Resort is the place that has ties to both James Bond and Bob Marley. It was here that Ian Flemming dreamed up his James Bond novels. Today, Chris Blackwell, famed producer for Bob Marley and the Wailers, owns the waterfront luxury resort.
But first, a bit of history: In 1942, the British Navy sent Ian Fleming on an operation called GoldenEye to the Caribbean. The famed author, who went on to write the James Bond series, instantly fell in love with the region. After the war, he returned, scoping out a 15-acre former donkey racetrack for sale in Oracabessa Bay, Jamaica. He constructed a dream villa, nicknamed GoldenEye,
It was at GoldenEye that Ian Flemming created his super-agent 007, James Bond. He wrote the first of the 13 James Bond novels here, including Casino Royale, Dr. No, Live and Let Die, and The Man with the Golden Gun, all of which take place in Jamaica. Many famous people have stayed at GoldenEye including British Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden. Sting even wrote the song “Every Breath You Take” for his band, The Police at GoldenEye.
Today, you can experience the historic GoldenEye Resort during your stay in Jamaica. The grounds contain cottages overlooking the turquoise lagoon, and rustic beach huts. Resort restaurants serve up local specialties. Meanwhile, guests can unwind while watching the Caribbean sunset that inspired so many artists and musicians.
For something a bit more intimate, book your stay at the award-winning Jamaica Inn. This resort in Ocho Rios consists of 48 suites and cottages with seafront views.
The historic resort first opened 50 years ago. Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller spent their honeymoon at the Jamaica Inn. Other notable guests include author, Ian Fleming, as well as Old Hollywood headliners like Errol Flynn and Katherine Hepburn.
The luxury resort boasts a restaurant, lounge, and beach bar. During a stay, you can enjoy the great outdoors with water sports like kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, snorkeling, and sunfish sailing. Push the reset button at the Ocean Spa where you can completely unwind with a massage, healing stone treatment, body scrub, or foot soak.
From the delicious food to the picturesque Caribbean shores that inspired the James Bond novels, you won’t run out of things to do in Jamaica.