Relaxed to the max, that’s the best way to describe Jamaica. Nothing is urgent in Jamaica, everything is simply “No problem mon.” Best way to convey this ideology is a picture I took outside a “restaurant” on the beach (on the slideshow of uploaded pictures).
When going to Jamaica, especially for the first time, you really only have two options for cities to stay. The biggest city and capitol, Kingston, is really just too dangerous to visit. Even the locals tell you to stay away from the city if possible. Montigo Bay has the main airport, from which you will have to fly into, and is by far the biggest and most popular destination, but it’s a bit too touristy for my taste, making Negril on the west coast a much better choice. It’s smaller and more relaxed, and there are a lot of nice hotels and resorts right on the beach. Most of these resorts are on what’s called '7 mile beach', because of the seven miles of pristine Jamaican beach running along the coast.
The coast and its beaches are not the only natural beauty one can find in Jamaica. The inland areas of the country are filled with tropical forests, mountainous terrain, and spectacular waterfalls. I took a day trip into the inland, which in my opinion the best way to do is with a hired cab driver. You can find these guys anywhere and they’ll take you wherever you want to go for the day for usually around 50 bucks. Just make sure the cab is in fact a cab and you’re not being scammed. You can usually spot a scam, but be careful. The inland area was beautiful, the waterfalls were my favorite, but I was surprised to see big tracts of open land where you could find horses grazing. My cab driver and guide through this adventure was named simply Mushroom. He was a cool Jamaican and taught me all about the exploits of Bob Marley and what it meant to be rastaaa. Bob Marley is pretty much as big as you would expect in Jamaica. They obviously exploit heavily in the touristy areas, but even in the smaller shanty towns you can hear his music being played. I think there might actually be a church or some kind of cult dedicated to him. The love is intense to say the least, you'll get that impression right away.
The socioeconomic situation in Jamaica is clearly third world with most of the people living in total poverty. There aren’t many job opportunities and in fact more than half of the economy is relies solely on tourism. You get a sense of this the minute you walk out of the airport as you are swarmed by locals trying to sell you something, mostly illegal plants. Seriously I hadn’t even left the airport before I was confronted by about 10 guys trying to sell us some. They are usually really carefree and funny about it though. Arriving in the country on Christmas Day one of the locals trying to sell us dope came up to me and said HO HO HO merry Christmas, Santa Claus comes bearing gifts! The stuff really is everywhere and there is just a total benign neglect to it, even though it is in fact illegal. People are smoking it on the beach, on the streets, even your hotel bell hops offer it to you on a daily basis. It is just one of those things that is rampant that you can ignore if you chose to.
Depending on who you're going to Jamaica with will determine the kind of accommodation you will want. If you're a couple then you'll definitely want to stay in one of the many all inclusive resorts on the '7 mile beach.' If you're with a family or just a couple buddies there are plenty of cheaper hotels in that area as well.
- Jamaica Vacation Packages, Resorts & Hotels.
- Jamaica Hotels: All Inclusive Resorts & Vacation Packages BookIt.com
- Booking.com: 35 hotels in Negril, Jamaica.
Unless you are staying in one of the all inclusive resorts there isn’t a whole lot of options for decent food to eat. There’s only a handful of good restaurants, so if you fancy going to the same places it’s not a big deal. If you’re there for a longer stay your hotel might have a kitchen in it, but the grocery store is a bit sketchy, but do-able if you’re there for a long stay. One thing they have in abundance is jerk chicken. Literally every 50 yards or less on the “main road” there is another jury rig grill making burgers and jerk chicken. The chicken is actually pretty tasty, it’s cheap and stopping to talk to these guys is half the fun.
One restaurant in Negril that is a must see is Rick's Cafe. It’s not just the restaurant atmosphere, with its quality Jamaican service and live reggae music, making it worth the trip, but the place is perched right on top of a cliff line and they let their guests jump off the cliff at will.
Fun and Games
There is no shortage of things to play with in Jamaica; from banana boating to zip-lining Jamaica offers a wide range of fun activities for everyone. I would absolutely suggest at least doing some of the water sports. Unlike getting on a jetski in the states, the Jamaicans aren't too bothered by what you do while you're on them. There is a lot more freedom and flexibility, which allows you to be a little more wreckless and have a bit more fun.
Definitely the key note attractions in Jamaica. You'll find everything in the way of watersports, the trick is to shop around for cheaper deals. Always bargain. My personal favorite water toys was the jet ski, scuba diving, banana boating, and this awesome trampoline they just have flight out in the middle of the water that you can jump around on and off of.
There is plenty to do other than water sports. A popular thing to do is take day trips to the inner island to hike around the several big waterfalls around the country. YS Falls and Dunns river are the two big ones, and both are beautiful. There's a lot of adventure type sports, such as zip-lining, off-roading, horse riding, archery, plantation exploration, you name it and you can probably find it. Jamaicans are always looking for a way to make a buck.
Apart from the day adventures one can have in Jamaica, sitting on the beach getting a tan, checking out one of the many water sports all along the beach, cruising into the inner island to see spectacular waterfalls and lush “plantations”, there are many fun experiences to be had at night as well. There are a bunch of really fun restaurants that have good live music and an entertaining atmosphere, like Rick’s cafe above, but there’s also a lot of cool beach parties thrown randomly along the beach. Sometimes you have to pay to get into these but many times they are free, but they’re all fun. It’s usually a mixture of locals, travelers and in betweeners just jammin out to some live reggae music. This was one of my favorite parts about Jamaica. The atmosphere is so chillaxed, weather at night is perfect so your just wearing shorts, t-shirt and sandals, your drinking a couple rum rummers, mingling with the people who are just so laid back and friendly. You end up meeting random people from all over the world, some of the time right down the street from you.
So if you’re not wanting to go to Jamaica after seeing these pictures then you’re crazy!! Seriously a must see if you have the time and money; especially the money because contrary to my belief Jamaica isn’t that cheap, especially in the tourists parts. Jamaica is a great vacation spot and can be a great place to take the family, but in my opinion it’s best enjoyed by adults, either couples or a few friends. Being in Jamaica you can relax to the max, partake in one of the many activities on the beach and around the island, mingle with some locals and have random adventures, or a combination of all three. If you’re ever down that way and don’t have much time skip the other stuff like the Bahama’s, Mexico, the Dominican, just head straight for Jamaica. That’s where time stops and you can just forget everything going on back at home.