If you’re thinking of Jamaica, the first things that might spring to your mind are Bob Marley, Usain Bolt and the country’s infamous bobsled team, but Jamaica has so much more to offer than the fastest man in the world and the guys who inspired my brother-in-law’s favourite movie ever. Jamaica is incredibly family-friendly and a great place to visit with children of all ages, so if you haven’t considered this Carribean beauty for your next family holiday, read on to see what Jamaica has to offer for families.
How to get there
There are three international and three domestic airports in Jamaica with most UK-flights landing either in Montego Bay or the island’s capital, Kingston.
Where to stay
Obviously, there are plenty of hotels or resorts all over the island but I think to get the real Jamaica experience, there’s nothing like staying in your very own beach house in Jamaica. I mean, can you imagine anything nicer than falling asleep to the sound of the waves crashing against the shore or waking up to the most colourful sunset over the sea?
When to visit Jamaica
The best time to visit Jamaica is when it’s the most miserable here in the UK. Between mid-December and mid-April, you can enjoy everything the island has to offer without getting wet feet. September to November, however, are the rainiest months on the island and what locals would call hurricane season, so do consider that when planning your family holiday.
Things to do in Jamaica
There are heaps of things to do in Jamaica, so to make research a little easier for you, we have collected some of our personal favourites and divided them into categories. No matter, if you are after a relaxed family day at the beach, want to soak up the culture of the island or explore the heart of Jamaica on a walking tour, we’ve got you covered. So lean back, grab a cuppa and start planning your trip of a lifetime.
Get to know the real Jamaica
There’s no one who knows Jamaica as well as the locals, so my very first tip is to sign up to the Meet the People Program as soon as you arrive on the island or even better, prior to your trip. The Jamaican Tourist Board created the program, which has been running since 1968, to match locals with individuals and families who want to get to know the real Jamaica.
Depending on your hobbies or interests, you could meet another family or a fellow musician, doctor, chef, dancer, farmer, teacher, beautician, photographer, nurse, artist, or participate in a wide range of activities, such as hiking, shopping at a local craft or food market, visiting a church, or a school, touring a facility or conversing over a cup of Jamaica’s famous Blue Mountain coffee. The possibilities are endless but one thing is certain, the activities offered by the program’s volunteers are uniquely Jamaican, providing you with an island experience that only true locals can create.
Best beaches in Jamaica
On an island like Jamaica, you’re spoilt with beautiful beaches in every direction but not every beach is for everyone. If you’re looking for a beach with a buzzing party atmosphere, head to West End Cliffs or Seven Mile Beach in Negril. Both are fairly laid back during the day but become party hotspots at night.
Winnifred Beach in Port Antonio is less crowded than beaches in touristy areas like Negril and surrounded by the most beautiful nature. A sure bet for families is Doctor’s Cave Beach and Montego Bay. Both are super family-friendly with calmer waters, beautiful sandy beaches and lots of playmates looking to make a new friend.
Water Parks in Jamaica
If the beaches are getting a little boring and your kids fancy some action, take them to one of the many water parks on the island. Some of the most popular options are Kool Runnings Adventure Park, Wata Land or Pirate’s Paradise. If your kids are a little older, they will love an afternoon of river tubing or rafting. There are plenty of providers all over the island, so there’s no need to book in advance.
The best museums in Jamaica
No visit to Jamaica would be complete without a visit to the iconic Bob Marley Museum. Situated on the ground’s of Marley’s former home in Kingston, the museum showcases a large number of the musician’s personal items as well as an 80-seat theatre, a photographic gallery, a record shop and gift shop filled with all sorts of memorabilia and the One Love Café. Via the museum’s website, you can also book three different tours looking at Marley’s musical legacy and studio, his personal home or a combination of both. Prices start at £17 for adults (13y and older) and £8 for children (4-12). Those under 4 go free.
If you want to learn more about Jamaica’s history, the National Museum in Kingston is a great place to start. With over 17,000 exhibits, the museum on 10 East Street offers an incredible amount of information on everything from the Tainos, Jamaica’s first people, the country’s plantation and slavery system and those who fought for emancipation and independence.
Across the island, you will find numerous old plantations which give a fascinating look into Jamaica’s colonial past. Greenwood Great House in Montego Bay survived unscathed during the slave rebellion of 1831 and still has most of its original furniture including the largest and rarest collection of musical instruments and books in the island. Guided tours, which can be booked via the website, take around an hour and cost £15.
Outdoor fun in Jamaica
The heart of Jamaica is just as stunning as its beaches and sunsets. Discover the Reach Falls in Portland where Hollywood blockbusters like Lord of the Flies were filmed or have a dip in the rock pools around Mayfield Falls or Dunn’s River.
If you want to enjoy stunning views of the island, make sure to plan a trip to Jamaica’s World Heritage Site, the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park. The park, located in the eastern part of Jamaica, stretches across 41,000 hectares and is home to Jamaica’s highest point – the Blue Mountain Peak at 2,256m.
While the hike to the peek is probably too challenging for younger children, it is definitely something that fit teens can master. Younger kids will love the play areas around Hollywell that you will come across on the guided nature walks.
A great company to hit up for outdoorsy adventures such as horseback riding, quad biking, zip-wiring and more adrenaline-filled activities is Chukka. They’ve got lots of different locations around the island and are super popular with families or groups of friends.
Jamaica is known for its high crime rate but if you follow some basic safety rules and trust your instincts, you will have a great time.
The main danger in touristy areas is pick-pocketing and theft, so don’t flash your possessions such as expensive jewelry and electronics and only take out as much cash as you need for the day.
Lock all valuables in your hotel’s safe and only use your hotel’s ATM, if you need to get cash out. Credit card fraud is quite a common problem in Jamaica, so be very alert when using your card in shops or restaurants.
When exploring the island, stick to safe (and at night, well-lit) areas and only go with local registered guides. Not everyone who appears to be helpful really is. If you have a ‘run-in’ with a robber, it’s always safest to hand over whatever they want. Don’t start an argument or get physical.
Taxis with a red license plate and white letters are registered and safe to use. If possible, avoid public transport as it can often get crowded and you can easily become a victim of pick-pockets.
What do you think? Is Jamaica making it onto your family travel bucket list and if you have already been, what’s your experience of Jamaica? I’d love to know!
Images kindly provided via Jamaica Tourist Board, Pixabay and Kool Runnings Water Park