Caribbean Travelweb

Guide To Jamaica



The cultural life of Jamaica is a wealthy one; its music, art, and cuisine have a spirit that's as hard to describe as the rhythms of reggae or an outburst of streetwise patois. Although 95% of the population traces its bloodlines to Africa, Jamaica is a stockpot of cultures, including those of other Caribbean islands, Great Britain, the Middle East, India, China, Germany, Portugal, and South America. The third-largest island in the Caribbean (after Cuba and Hispaniola), Jamaica enjoys a considerable self-sufficiency based on tourism, agriculture, and mining.

The island's physical attractions include jungle mountaintops, clear waterfalls, and unforgettable beaches, and its tourist areas are grouped around the northern and western coastlines. Ocho Rios (often just Ochi) is a major cruise port, resort center, and the home of Dunn's River Falls, probably the most photographed spot in the nation. Montego Bay (or MoBay, as it's known), destination of most tourist flights, is a sprawling beach resort. At the island's western tip lies Negril, once a sleepy hangout for bohemian travelers; though now bigger and glitzier. In addition to these pleasure capitals, Jamaica has a real capital in Kingston, the true heart and head of the island. This is where politics, literature, music, and art wrestle for acceptance in the largest (800,000 people) English-speaking city in the Western hemisphere south of Miami.

Getting There

Air Travel

Airports in Jamaica
There are three international airports in Jamaica: Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston, Jamaica's capital city and the Ian Fleming International Airport in picturesque Ocho Rios.

Airlines Serving Jamaica

Air Canada
Air Sunshine
American Airlines
British Airways
Cayman Airways
Delta Airlines
Jet Blue
Spirit Airlines
Sunwing Airlines
Thomas Cook Airlines
Thompson Fly
Transit Airlines
United Airlines
Virgin Atlantic

In addition to the airlines listed above, there are a number of charter flights from North America and Europe.

By Sea

Cruise Ships that include Jamaica on their itinerary.

Carnival Cruise Lines
Reservations: 800 327 9501

Celebrity Cruises
Reservations: 800 437 3111

Costa Cruise Lines
Reservations: 800 462 6782

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines
Reservations: 800 688 3876

Holland America Line
Reservations: 800 426 0327

Norwegian Cruise Line
Reservations: 800 327 7030

Princess Cruises
Reservations: 800 421 0522

Radiddon Seven Seas Cruises
Reservations: 800 285 1835

Royal Caribbean International
Reservations: 800 327 6700

Royal Olympic Cruises
Reservations: 800 468 6400

Sun Cruises
Reservations: 800 468 6400

Entry Requirements

U.S. Citizens travelling to and from Jamaica must present a valid passport when leaving and or re-entering the United States . Residents must present their Alien Resident Card (Green Card) together with passport of country for which they hold citizenship. All visitors are required to travel with a return ticket or onward ticket for entry into Jamaica. For more information, go to:

Canadian Citizens: Valid passport or a government-issued identification with photograph, along with an official birth certificate. Canadian residents must present a Canadian Permanent Resident Card and a passport showing country of citizenship.

Click for more information on:

Jamaica Embassies and High Commissions

Consulates and Consulate-Generals

Getting Around

By Cab
Taxis have predetermined rates between one location and another. All cabs have red PPV plates (Public Passenger Vehicle) along with regular license plates. Limousines, air-conditioned coaches and local bus service also connect all villages, cities and towns.

By Rented Car

In Jamaica you drive on the left. The speed limit is 30 MPH in towns and 50 MPH on highways. To rent any vehicle, visitors may use a drivers license (valid for 12 months) for up to a 3 month period. Drivers must be at least 25 years of age to rent a car and must post a bond to meet insurance regulations with cash, major credit card, or travelers checks. Service stations are open daily and will only accept cash.

Helpful Visitor Information

The official language of Jamaica is English, although most Jamaicans speak a local patois influenced by a combination of several different languages.

110 volts/50 cycles is standard. 220 volts used at some hotels. Adaptors are available at some hotels, although hair dryers and irons work without adapters.

Time Zone
Jamaica falls within the Eastern Time Zone (UTC/GMT -5 Hours) and does NOT observe Daylight Savings Time.

Most hotels will include a 10 to 15% charge on your bill. These charges are not automatically included in restaurant bills, so tipping is suggested.

Bank Hours
Banks are open from 9am-2pm (Monday-Thursday) and 9am-4pm (Friday). Most ATMs do not accept ATM cards from the U.S.

Store Hours
Most stores are open 9am-5pm (Monday-Saturday).

Direct international telephone service operates in all areas 24 hours a day, and telephone operators will gladly facilitate collect, third party or credit card calls. International faxes, cables and telegrams can be sent from most hotels and post offices. Email and Internet access is available too, usually at hotels and parish libraries, but also at local Internet Cafes.

All drinking water in Jamaica is purified and filtered by modern methods.

Credit Cards

All major credit cards are accepted nearly everywhere. Traveler's checks are widely used, and most hotels, shops, and restaurants encourage their use-a real convenience for you, eliminating the need to constantly exchange money.

Activities and Attractions

Jamaica has some of the greatest beaches in the Caribbean. Whether you land on Negrilís seven-mile stretch, the North Coastís golden shores or the Southís wave-carved coves, Jamaicaís beaches will captivate you the moment you step onto their sands. If you like it natural, Jamaica has more nude beaches than any other Caribbean island.

You could spend weeks exploring Jamaica's embryonic trail system, mainly in the Blue Mountains, or tramping rough bridle tracks nationwide. Rugged Cockpit Country is little explored, yet tailor-made for experienced hikers.

Horseback Riding
A great way to explore Jamaica and most resort areas have stables. Many organized rides lead through plantations, with some trekking far into the country's interior.

Jamaica's boasts 12 championship golf courses, some of which are regular stops for the PGA and LPGA tours. Tryall Golf Club, 12 miles (19km) west of Montego Bay, is the pre-eminent course.

Deep Sea Fishing
Visiting anglers have an opportunity to battle blue and white marlin, wahoo, tuna and dolphin in deep water and drops to thousands of feet beyond the reefs, but a mere 15 minutes from shore. Blue marlin is the most-prized big game fish, and catching your first is well within reach. Great fishing encircles the island and larger blue marlin are usually caught between summer and fall. Although they diminish in size, they are present year-round. Well equipped boats and expert guides are available.

Scuba Diving
If its diving you want, Jamaica has it. Dive sites are close by and professional operators help to make Jamaica a great dive destination. And, with the establishment of marine parks in Montego Bay, Port Antonio and Negril, fish populations are flourishing.

Montego Bay is famous for its wall dives, and is known for its mass of coral caves, tunnels and canyons.

The underwater terrain around Negril has excellent patches of spur-and-groove corals including caves and overhangs, as well as "coral cottages" in depths of 60-plus feet. There are also several close-to-shore wrecks to explore.

Kingston is one of the Caribbean's best-kept scuba dive secrets. Port Royal, which abuts the Kingston airport, is rich with history of pirates and sunken ships that now provide haven for a dense array of tropical fish.

East of Ocho Rios, Devilís Reef, a pinnacle, drops from 60 feet to over 200 feet, with a sand shelf at 130 feet. Caverns, a shallow reef about a quarter mile long, has endless small tunnels, with silversides and nurse sharks often in residence.

Starting in 30 to 40 feet of water, the wall off Falmouth runs within a half-mile of shore. Chubb Castle, a Falmouth favorite, starts shallow, its top decorated with soft corals and basket sponges and its wall strung with rope sponges and black corals. A chimney, dropping from 35 to 90 feet, leads to even more tunnels and caves.

Water Temp Averages 78F 25 C throughout the year. Visibility can reach 100 ft 30 m

While surfing has been enjoyed in Jamaica for many years, many visitors still do not equate great surfing and this islands hidden away and seemingly out of reach of nice waves. Some of the best areas are Treasure Beach in St. Elizabeth, Long Bay and Boston Beach, and Portland, Jamaica. You can bring your own board or rentals are available at some beaches.

Long overlooked, windsurfing enthusiasts are finding Jamaica to be a great destination.

Special Events
Jamaica hosts a full calendar of musical, artistic, cultural and sporting events. Reggae Sunsplash and Reggae Sumfest are the biggest rages on the island, held about one week apart in July/August. Sunsplash is held near Ocho Rios, Sumfest in Montego Bay. Both are frenetic beachy music festivals, with A-rated fun and X-rated dancing. Carnival in March or April, the week after Easter, takes place on the university campus in Kingston and at various other places around Jamaica. It's a big blow-out, mainly for Jamaicans, with reggae, calypso and dancehall soca the main booty-shakers, but it's also a tourist attraction in its own right.

There are a number of yacht races on the calendar: the Pineapple Cup Yacht Race, held each February, starts in Miami and finishes in Montego Bay, a distance of 800-plus miles (1288-plus km). Cricket matches are held from laneway to lawn throughout the year. In April, the West Indies team takes on an international challenger in the Cable & Wireless Test Match in Kingston. Jonkanoo is a traditional Christmas celebration in which revelers parade through the streets dressed in masquerade. The festivity has its origins among West African secret societies and was once the major celebration on the slave calendar.

Attractions (Fees Charged)

Greenwood Great House - Montego Bay, St. James
Great House with rare antique musical instruments which still play. Fascinating antique furniture with hidden compartments Located 16 miles east of Montego bay near Falmouth.

Cornwall Bathing Beach - Montego Bay, St. James
Beach facility with water sports, bar and restaurant on property. At nights a disco entertains while you play volley ball.

Croydon on the Mountain - Catalupa, St. James
Guided half-day tour of working plantation with diverse crops, livestock and bee-keeping, Complimentary drinks made from fruits in season and Blue Mountain coffee.

Black River Safari Tours - Black River, St. Elizabeth
Located at the old boarding ramp on the eastern bank of the Black River, this wildlife boat tour of the coastal wetlands. Excellent opportunity for photographing many species of birds and crocodiles.

Shaw Park Botanical Garden - Ocho Rios, St. Ann
Five hundred and fifty feet above sea level with a spectacular view, this is Jamaica's most celebrated botanical garden, floral opulence, waterfalls. Gift shop and bar.

Dunns River Falls - Ocho Rios, St. Ann
A must see and do attraction in Jamaica is climbing Dunn's River Falls. Beginning at the sea you climb 600' of stair-stepping limestone surrounded by tall rainforest. If you're not quite so brave at heart there's wooden stairs along the way to view the awesome cascades and pools. You can spend the entire day here

Coyaba River Garden and Museum - Ocho Rios, St. Ann
Eco-tourist attraction with botanical garden, museum with Jamaica history dating back to the Arawaks era to the present. Juice Bar, restaurant and gift shop.

Rafting on the Rio Grande - St. Margaret's Bay, Portland
This is a leisurely three-hour ride down the river on a 36' long bamboo raft. You sit on a raised seat for two as an experienced guide poles your trip. It is wonderfully scenic and you'll get a taste of rural life along the riverbanks.

Bob Marley Museum - 56 Hope Road, Kingston
Formerly Bob Marley's home and studio of Tuff Gong. Interesting collection of Marley's memorabilia, films, posters, records, books, etc.

National Art Gallery - Roy West Building, Kingston Mall, Kingston
Large gallery on two floors. Permanent exhibition of Jamaican Art - Pre 20th century gallery. Also includes Edna Manley and Kap collection.

Cashoo Ostrich Park - Located on the South Coast

Enjoy the fine grilled cuisine, drinks and fruit juices from the wicker or logwood bars on a property that is entirely solar powered. And for the kids, while enjoying a sno-cone, cotton candy or popcorn, there is a petting zoo and play area that will keep them busy and happy for the entire day.

The Park includes:

* Medicinal Herbal Garden
* Fruit Orchard
* Petting Zoo for Children
* Children's Play Area
* Pond Fishing
* Bird Sanctuary
* Food Pavilllion
* Hammock Relaxation
* Donky Cart Rides
* Buffalo's
* The Park opens Tuesdays to Sundays 10:00 am to 4:30 pm


Caribbean Travelweb