A beautiful island with warm, welcoming breezes and incredible turquoise waters, Jamaica is one of the best vacation destinations in the Caribbean. There are many reasons why this tropical island receives so many tourists each year, including the ease of getting there. The top 3 cities or tourist destination areas are Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, and Negril. All 3 areas are must-sees for all travelers there, so try to put them on your list when you visit. Stay away from the south island areas if you can as they are dirty and crowded in the big cities, especially Kingston. Definitely NOT recommended or on the busy tourist trail.
Montego Bay is located on the north west coast of the island, and is a great place to base camp at one of the area’s popular all-inclusive resorts, such as RIU. Some people will choose to stay at the property for the entire vacation and never leave! There are usually so many things to do when you stay at an all-inclusive resort that it’s quite possible… However, try to leave the property for at least a while to visit some of the many attractions around. Montego Bay is located near the airport, and if you are flying to Jamaica on vacation, this is the airport you will most likely arrive at. I would not suggest renting a car and driving in Jamaica the first time you are there as some areas are very rural and it can be dangerous after dark. As you continue along the road, you will see farmers or locals walking around with donkeys loaded with firewood or other goods, and even some of the goats that are on the island right on or near the roadside. Also, an unfortunate gift from the British is driving on the wrong side of the road, making it more dangerous.
Jamaica is actually a contrast in vacation destinations, although it is definitely a must visit at least once in a lifetime, you have to be careful while you are there. The people may be friendly, but there is also rampant poverty everywhere, so thefts happen quite often, even at the big all-inclusive resorts. Laptops are a big draw for thieves, and you WILL find employees like maids or others at the resort who will steal things from your room if they can, especially laptops left out in the open. NEVER leave one out in plain sight during the day, hoping it’s still there when you return later. Use the safe when possible, which is actually more possible nowadays due to the small size of moras with internet access via email and browser. So if possible, stay safe and leave your laptop at home. Your Blackberry fits nicely inside the room safe.
One of my favorite areas of Jamaica is Negril, on the west end of the island. This is a very popular tourist area, but the journey there is through some poverty-stricken cities, so be prepared for that. Once you get closer to Negril it becomes much nicer and the beaches stretch for miles and miles with sugar white sand and amazing water. As you swim the stingrays will come up to you and you will see many other varieties of fish. There’s good snorkeling, and be sure to enjoy the tourist destinations there, like Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. A must-see destination in Negril is Rick’s Café. This is home to world-famous cliff divers, and you’ll catch a sunset show right on the water’s edge as locals jump or dive from the tallest trees above the grotto below for tips. It’s really amazing, and it just might make you cringe! Anyone can tempt fate and jump or dive from a tower or lower platform at their own risk, and many people do! It’s always a fun time at Rick’s Café.
Further east is the tourist destination of Ocho Ríos, which receives a lot of traffic from the cruise terminal located there. This is a fun town, with some great, must-do things to do, like climbing Dunn’s River Falls (waterfall) and the new zip-lining experience that recently opened there. Anytime you watch a video or picture of Jamaica, you’ll usually see Dunn’s River Falls and all the tourists going up following a tour guide. This is a fantastic experience, and I recommend it to everyone! It was definitely one of the highlights of the vacation, because the water is so cool and refreshing and you can take your time at some points and relax in the pools along the way. However, DO NOT attempt to climb it without a guide as it can be extremely dangerous because not all areas are good climbing routes. There are quite a few exposed falls, and if you get into the wrong area it can be very difficult to get out in the strong currents. You can get dragged off the edge, which would be a bad thing… Having said that, it’s safe enough with the right guide, but make sure you wear shoes of some kind with a good grip for the rocks. Water shoes are the best.
I hope you think about planning a trip to Jamaica soon, you will really enjoy it as long as you go with the right expectations. If you stay entirely at the resort there will be plenty to do and see, but also try to venture out and see some of the sights. It’s safe enough, so have fun!