But while those resorts have much to offer visitors, the real Jamaica can be found further afield for those willing to head off the beaten path and take on the challenging infrastructure.
For this is an island with an interior of lush rainforests and spectacular waterfalls, and a coastline sprinkled with stretches of picture perfect sand on uncrowded beaches. Its strong musical pulse goes well beyond the famous figure of Bob Marley to encompass musical styles such as ska, ragga, dancehall and reggae. It’s the birthplace of jerk chicken and a land of lobsters, Red Stripe beer and rum. Here, the passion for cricket runs strong still – catch a match if you have the chance.
And although it has been tarnished with a reputation for danger, visitors that steer clear of notorious trouble spots will discover an island of forgotten treasures and welcoming people.
Places to Visit in Jamaica
- Port Antonio
- Treasure Beach
Unique Things to See and Do in Jamaica
- Trace the history of Jamaican music in Kingston
- Spot crocodiles along the Black River
- Swim under the beautiful Reach Falls
- Eat lobsters on the sand at Frenchmans Cove
- Sip a rum punch on a Caribbean sandbar at the Pelican Bar
A Brief History of Jamaican Music
Jamaican music has its roots in the rhythms of Africa – a connection that is evident in reggae’s definitive one-drop beat as well as its use of toasting, the call-and-response style of singing which echoes that of West Africa.
English and European influences can also be found among the beats as a result of the colonial era. Jamaican folk music featured quadrilles and reels, for example, right up into the last century.
But by the end of the 1940s, mento had become a popular form of music unique to Jamaica. Similar to Trinidadian calypso, it used acoustic instruments such as banjos and guitars combined with raucous lyrics.
Mento absorbed American music elements in the early 1960s to become ska. Its fast-paced and upbeat rhythms trilled with horns and soulful lyrics were hugely popular in Jamaica and coincided with the rise of rude boy culture. Similar to ska, but with a slower beat and no horns was rocksteady which emerged in the mid to late 60s and soon evolved into reggae.
Roots reggae was heavily influenced by Rastafarianism, while dancehall which came into existence from the late 1970s was more a product of the times. Dancehall, bashment and ragga continue to be a popular if controversial form of music in Jamaica.
Getting Around Jamaica
Airlines fly into Montego Bay and Kingston, and while there are internal flights, they tend to be on the expensive side.
A far better way to make your way across the country is to simply rent a car. The roads aren’t great, especially once you get out of the main tourist areas, but along the north coast they are quite manageable.
The south coast is a little more challenging so if you are of a slightly more nervous disposition, then you can organise transfers with someone else taking the wheel.
There is also an extensive bus network which offers the cheapest way of getting around, although often minus creature comforts such as air conditioning.
Best Time of Year to Travel to Jamaica
The official winter season runs from mid-December to mid-April. This is when the weather is driest but the prices are highest. To grab more of a bargain, the shoulder season is worth considering. Until July, the weather holds up while prices are noticeably lower. Temperatures and humidity rise during the summer months, and hurricane season falls during September and October, while the rains tend to strike in November.
Did you know…?
Ackee and salt fish is Jamaica’s national dish. Ackee, Jamaica’s national fruit, was actually brought from Africa on a slave ship. It is cooked and used as a vegetable, although it must be carefully prepared as parts of the plant are poisonous.
Did you ALSO know…?
In the time of slavery, those that escaped into the mountains formed their own independent groups called Maroons who fought guerilla-style from mountain fortresses against being re-enslaved. As a result, the English were forced to sign peace treaties with them allowing them to self-govern mountain regions such as Cockpit Country and Moore Town which still exist as Maroon communities.
Ready to plan your visit to Jamaica? Check out these popular guides and trips.