The Caribbean island nation of Jamaica is famous for being a laid-back destination – it’s the home of Rastafarianism, after all. The culture of Jamaica has influenced music worldwide, too, with reggae, dub, dancehall, and ska – to name a few – affecting the global music scene. The capital of Kingston is a busy, cosmopolitan city, where you can get to grips with that modern culture that Jamaica is so famous for.
But rewind a few hundred years, well after Christopher Columbus himself landed here in 1494, and Jamaica was famous for pirates. The town of Port Royal was notorious for playing host to the swashbucklers. The beaches where the Buccaneers would often turn up are the very same beaches where tourists sun themselves and splash around in the turquoise water.
Map of Jamaica
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The former British colony, which gained independence in 1962 but is still a member of the Commonwealth, is also famous for its fantastic food, African spices mixing with British staples like pasties; think jerk chicken and other fiery dishes for a delicious culinary scene.
When it comes to where to stay in Jamaica, there’s more than just all-inclusive resorts and spa hotels to choose from, and many places to soak up the real culture of this island nation. So, strap in and get ready to “ride the riddim” – here are the best places to stay in Jamaica.
Set in western Jamaica, the area of Negril draws crowds with its beautiful white sand beaches and tantalizingly turquoise waters. This is the location of Seven Mile Beach, a popular holiday spot with many bars, restaurants, and hotels to choose from – the lively Rick’s Cafe is particularly famous. There’s also Long Bay, where you will find a lagoon that’s perfect for snorkeling thanks to its coral reefs.
You could go for a horse ride along the beach or embark on a catamaran cruise on the sparkling water.
Negril comes complete with a friendly, hospitable atmosphere and is often up there as one of the best beach resorts in the world. The beach itself is spread along two bays, Bloody Bay – where you’ll find the all-inclusive resorts – and Long Bay, which is more about smaller, low-key hotels.
Where to Stay in Negril
- The SPA Retreat Boutique Hotel – Enjoying a beachfront location within a short distance of the famous Coral Beach, this classy 5-star hotel offers you tranquility and luxury under the same roof. Loaded with features such as a swimming pool with sun terrace, a world-class massage and spa center, and an on-site restaurant that cooks up some of the finest Jamaican and international delicacies, the Spa Retreat Boutique Hotel also arranges yoga sessions on request. The lavish cottages here are adorned with stone walls and rich wooden décor.
- Rayon Hotel – A stone’s throw away from the popular 7-Mile Beach, Rayon Hotel is a stylish 4-star getaway that lets you truly immerse in the beauty and hospitality of Jamaica. Sporting an enriching classic décor and exquisite wooden ceilings, the gorgeous rooms offer a soothing pool view and an ensuite bathroom. Amenities at the Rayon Hotel include a swimming pool immersed in nature, a lively poolside bar, a fine dining restaurant, and a game room for you to enjoy a round of pool with your buddies.
- White Sands Negril – Boasting a private beachfront with a sun terrace, and a bar and grill that serves you some of the finest international dishes right by the ocean, White Sands Negril is a remarkable budget-friendly holiday lodging that offers a dandy swimming pool, a lush garden space, and a games room for you to indulge in a round of ping pong. From lovely beachside rooms to self-catering one-bedroom apartments, the hotel has a wide range of accommodation options for you to choose from.
The famous Montego Bay is a popular destination for cruise ships that dock at the terminal here. Located on the north coast, and affectionately known as MoBay by locals, here is where you will find plenty of hotels, fine dining, and duty-free shopping. The airport – the English-speaking Caribbean’s busiest – is not too far away.
There are popular beaches in the area, too. For example, Doctor’s Cave Beach is backed by trees for shade and boasts facilities like showers and changing rooms, as well as places to eat nearby. There’s also Walter Fletcher Beach, complete with dive shops. Back in town, you’ll find the Montego Bay Cultural Centre, set in a former colonial-era ballroom and courthouse.
When it comes to accommodation, Montego Bay is not short of places to stay. These range from homely inns to family-friendly hotel stays and even high-end spa resorts.
Where to Stay in Montego Bay
- S Hotel Jamaica – Set in a picturesque location by the Montego Bay, this stunning 5-star hotel spoils you with world-class hospitality and state-of-the-art amenities. The posh rooms here flaunt a minimalist yet elegant décor with contemporary furnishings. Start your day with a rigorous work out session to work up an appetite so you can relish the hearty buffet breakfast served every morning. Unwind your mind and body at the magnificent spa with its ancient baths.
- Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay – Flaunting a private beachfront overlooking Montego Bay, Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay denotes the extent of Caribbean hospitality at its best. With over 500 beautifully decorated guest rooms boasting the most contemporary amenities, this charming resort also offers exclusive adults-only suites. Luxury facilities at this Holiday Inn Resort include two outdoor pools and a dedicated children’s pool, an avant-garde spa, multiple game courts, several dining and drinking options, and a fully-operational business center.
Formerly a fishing village, and located on Jamaica’s northern coast, Ocho Rios – which means “Eight Rivers” in Spanish – is allegedly the first spot where Christopher Columbus made landfall all the way back in 1494.
Long gone are its days as a humble fishing village. Ocho Rios is now a popular port of call, not just for cruise ships but also cargo ships, too. Away from that, this town was used in not just one but two James Bond films – Dr. No and Live and Let Die.
The popular beach at Ocho Rios features a selection of hotels. Many of these are very much of the premium variety and cater to adults only, particularly couples. However, there is a selection of more relaxed beachfront accommodations to choose from, too.
Where to Stay in Ocho Rios
- Moon Palace Jamaica – This 5-star hotel with a private beachfront is all that you need for an extravagant holiday experience. Offering an all-inclusive holiday experience, Moon Palace Jamaica features a grandiose swimming pool with multiple water slides and a wave machine. What’s more, there’s a dolphinarium, where you can literally swim with the enchanting sea creatures! Guestrooms are decorated with soft white and beige hues and contemporary furnishings. They also offer a full or partial view of the sea and a liquor dispenser with the finest international brands.
- Jewel Dunn’s River Beach Resort – An all-inclusive, adult-only modish resort set on the beachfront of Ocho Rios, Jewel Dunn’s River Beach Resort boasts palatial rooms with artistic colonial décor, 4-poster beds, and a private balcony that overlooks the ocean or the surrounding mountains. You can choose to enjoy a refreshing drink at the swim-up bar or experience fine-dining at one of the two restaurants here. Enjoy a game at the 9-hole golf course or pamper yourself at the full-service spa to add to your holiday experience.
The capital of the island nation of Jamaica, Kingston is situated on the southeast coast. The city is surrounded by the Blue Mountains and sits in a large natural harbor, partly the reason it developed into the bustling metropolis it is today. It’s the economic and cultural center of Jamaica and is an incredible mix of natural beauty, colonial history, and electric energy.
The downtown area jostles with historic buildings, while the uptown part of the city, New Kingston, is where you will find modern hotels, tall buildings, and restaurants. New Kingston is also where visitors will discover Emancipation Park; here, public events are held, people go jogging, or simply enjoy the peace and quiet of the park. The Bob Marley Museum is housed inside a 19th-century building and gives an insight into the life of the iconic musician.
There are all sorts of places to stay in Kingston, ranging from no-frills hostels and guesthouses to shiny chain hotels.
Where to Stay in Kingston
- Spanish Court Hotel – Located within a short distance of Port Royal historical district, the Spanish Court Hotel is a posh 5-star holiday rental with exclusive amenities such as a rooftop space with an infinity pool that overlooks the surrounding garden, a state-of-the-art fitness center, and a world-class spa. Rooms here are decorated in bright and elegant colors and come with an ensuite bathroom and iPod docking station. You can choose to enjoy some mouthwatering local delicacies at the in-house café or experience fine dining at the international restaurant.
Port Antonio is a port town situated on Jamaica’s northeast coast. This place is surrounded by tropical jungles and waterfalls in the nearby mountains of Portland Parish. It lacks the hectic vibrancy of Kingston and is a laid-back place to get in touch with local life. You will find markets, street vendors near the port, and a lot of historic Georgian architecture to admire as well.
Tourists initially arrived during the first part of the 20th century, with visitors including Rudyard Kipling, Bette Davis, and Errol Flynn. It became a favorite place to enjoy the tropical climate and seas of Jamaica for the early jet setters. The tourist crowds have since moved on, leaving Port Antonio a relatively quiet town offering a more realistic view into Jamaican life.
The glitz and glamour of the old days still remains, with some 5-star options on offer. However, much of the accommodation is decidedly mid-range, with small apartments and guesthouses to choose from.
Where to Stay in Port Antonio
- Moon San Villa at the Blue Lagoon – A hop, skip, and jump away from the captivating waters of the Caribbean, this charismatic resort offers you a real chance to disconnect from the world and enjoy a peaceful vacation with your loved ones. The rooms here are spacious and bright. They feature contemporary amenities, including coffee machines with the famous Blue Mountain Coffee. Start your day with a healthy breakfast before setting out on a boat tour to explore Monkey Island or the Blue Lagoon.
Treasure Beach, situated on the southeast coast, became a tourist-friendly destination over the past 25 years. The once sleepy but still community-minded fishing village has given way to travelers drawn to the area for its laid back and somewhat bohemian atmosphere. Since then, Treasure Beach has grown into a big resort destination, with luxury spa resorts and all-inclusive hotels for visitors to choose from.
Despite its popularity, there are still some deliciously deserted beaches to discover, all situated around the four coves – Billy’s Bay, Frenchman’s Bay, Calabash Bay, and Great Bay. It’s the perfect place to come if you feel like lounging around on a beautiful beach all day and eating fresh seafood every night. Treasure Beach is also home to Great Pond, Jamaica’s largest body of still water.
Even though there are many upscale resorts and hotels, there are still lots of authentic local sights to soak up and some villas and guesthouses to choose from.
Where to Stay in Treasure Beach
- Katamah Beachfront Guesthouse – Ornamented with romantic décor throughout the resort, Katamah Beachfront Guesthouse is set on an enchanting beachfront location with lush green surroundings and laid back vibes. Extremely apt for couple retreats and personal revitalization, the guesthouse offers a range of aesthetically decorated rooms and villas that provide a view of the sea or the well-manicured gardens. There’s a beachfront living room where you can relax and take in the mesmerizing landscape.
Set on the north coast to the east of Ocho Rios, Runaway Bay is a resort town that’s known for its stunning offshore coral reef and beautiful beaches. These include Cardiff Hall Beach and Fisherman’s Beach – both wonderfully sheltered spots for swimming, and great for families.
Interestingly, the name derives from its use as an escape route for runaway slaves back in the early colonial era. Today, the hills are filled with Western expats who have made Jamaica their new home; there’s even a golf course. Staying here, you’ll be able to choose from resorts, spa hotels, bed-and-breakfasts and guesthouses for a good choice of lodgings.
The beaches are beautiful, yes, but there are other natural wonders here, such as the Pearl Tree River and the Green Grotto Caves, which are around half a million years old and filled with interesting stalagmites and stalactites, as well as an underground lake.
Where to Stay in Runaway Bay
- Jewel Paradise Cove Beach Resort – An exquisite adult beach resort and spa, Jewel Paradise is an admirable 5-star holiday rental set on a private strip of beach overlooking the striking Caribbean Sea. Sporting a health and fitness theme, the resort has a cross-fit court, three fascinating outdoor pools, a swim-up bar, and tennis facilities. The resort also offers PADI certified diving excursions and water skiing. Rooms here are decorated in a vogueish, contemporary style with an ensuite bathroom. Some of them even come with personal butler service!
Just west of Montego Bay is the town of Falmouth. It may be a cruise ship port, but this town is all about its heritage. There are some beautiful examples of crumbling Georgian architecture in its historic district, while slightly out of town is the 18th century Good Hope Estate – a former sugar plantation where you can now learn all about what went on here.
There are numerous old churches around the area, such as St Peter’s Anglican Church. There is even a Jewish cemetery located in Falmouth. But it’s not all about the history; there are some fantastic beaches in the vicinity, such as Burwood Public Beach – complete with a children’s play area – and Silver Sands Public Beach, suitable for snorkeling and swimming.
If this delightful town sounds like your sort of place, you will be able to choose from low-key guesthouses, hostels, and a few seafront hotels.
Where to Stay in Falmouth
- Cas Bed & Breakfast – A no-frills, budget-friendly 4-star bed and breakfast with a private beach, this simple yet cozy vacation rental is perched atop a hill that overlooks the surrounding lush green forest and azure waters of the Caribbean. The holiday home features units fitted with a kitchenette, a living area, a dedicated dining space, as well as a private balcony. Begin your day with a nourishing breakfast and end it with one of many alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages served at the sky bar.