For the first time in over a year and a half, I finally got to experience going abroad and what a better way to be introduced back into the world of travel than by visiting the Caribbean! Since Ireland is so far away from Jamaica, I honestly don’t know many people who have visited there and the lack of direct flights over doesn’t help – but if there is one thing to take away from this blog is that if you have been considering going – definitely do!
Five of us travelled over to Jamaica for ten days/nine nights. We knew before going we didn’t want to spend the entire trip just in one resort (if you’re not new here you will know that isn’t my usual style!) so we opted for renting a car to visit Negril, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay which are all along the same coast. As mentioned previously there are no direct flights from Ireland so we had a short stopover at Gatwick, and then took a roughly nine hour flight to Kingston where we picked up our car. If you are thinking about doing a similar trip in Jamaica let this be your warning that driving over there is INSANE! My boyfriend and I have rented cars in several countries and Jamaica is up there with one of the top three worst places that we have ever driven. There are no rules, there are potholes the size of small children and they feel like they can get away with pretty much anything once they give you a little ‘beep beep’ to let you know that they are there (while over taking on a bed, undertaking you on a small road, the list is honestly endless). That being said the only issue that we had was one flat tyre and we lived to tell the tale! If you want to visit more than one destination but aren’t keen on driving yourself, most places offer transfers to the major tourist attractions such as the ones mentioned below.
As this location is the closest to Kingston it was our first stop on our trip. Ocho Rios is a popular destination for cruise ships so the town is well used to large volumes of people arriving in at the port. Ocho Rios is where we did the majority of our activities so it’s a must visit in some capacity during your trip!
DUNNS RIVER FALLS
Dunns River is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Jamaica. The park has an amazing set up as it is government run and between all they have to offer you could honestly spend your whole day here. The main activity is climbing up the falls which is an AMAZING experience! The only thing to note is that for this activity you will definitely need wet shoes, but if you don’t pack them they do sell them in stalls by the park. Along with the waterfall, you can also take a walk through their botanical gardens, zipline, or chill out at the beach which is at the very bottom of the falls. As the park is by a beach you can reach here both by car, but also by boat by booking a cruise. Entry is $25 for an adult and $17 for children between 5-12 although they also offer cheaper rates for Jamaican residents. You can plan your trip to the falls by visiting here
THE BLUE HOLE/ISLAND GULLY FALLS:
If you like adventure, you will LOVE this place! Nestled in the absolute and utter middle of nowhere you will find the coolest place to go cliff jumping. As it’s not government owned, the set up isn’t as official as Dunns River and there aren’t as many amenities but once you’re prepared when you arrive it’s not an issue. The cost was $20 each (I think!) and it’s best to have cash on you as they aren’t set up to take card payments. You are assigned a guide at the carpark who will give you life jackets and show you all the best spots to jump. I think you can go without a guide, but honestly it’s best to go with one unless you’re really, really sure of yourself. You don’t have to take a jacket either if you don’t want to but even as a decent swimmer I did and I was glad since there are some strong currents in places and it stopped me from getting too tired having to put effort into swimming constantly after each jump. Along with the life jacket I would also recommend bringing water shoes for this activity as the rocks along the way are quite slippy. Not everyone in our group was keen on jumping and they still had a good time between the rope swing at the beginning and getting to walk along all the areas of water. It was definitely my favourite activity that we did in Jamaica and I would highly recommend! The guides are full to the brim of energy so they bring a lot of atmosphere to the experience. At the end, you can grab a beer off one of the vendors in the carpark before you head back.
OCHO RIOS BAY BEACH:
On our third day in Ocho Rios we decided to head to the main beach which is stunning! You have to pay a small fee to enter but once you are through the gates there are toilets, showers and changing areas along with security along the beach so you know your things are safe enough while you swim. There is crystle clear water and as far as I know during cruise season as there are more people, you can get massages on the beach and there are several vendors set up which would give it an even better atmosphere! Just outside the beach there is a small outdoor shopping centre where you can shop, grab a coffee or stop for a drink at Margaritaville! This bar is located on the beachfront and also has a pool making it the perfect place to grab lunch or even spend your day if you wanted to have a few drinks and enjoy the sun.
Montego Bay is the home of resorts in Jamacia! The coastline is dotted with huge resorts where people go to enjoy the caribbean waters and relax.
We went to Montego Bay at the end of our trip and stayed in the all-inclusive adults-only resort Hyatt Zilara Rose. The hotel is joined onto it’s sister resort Ziva Rose which is the family side but as adults you can enjoy amenities in both. I had never stayed all inclusive before and WOW, Jamaican all-inclusive hotels do not disappoint! Our hotel had 10 restaurants and a handful more bars and lounges, free water sports to avail of such as paddle boarding, sea kayaking and boat tours along with two huge pools in each resort and a wide range of daily activities and gym classes. It really and truly blew my mind! I don’t think anyone should fly all the way to Jamaica just to coop themselves up in a resort the entire time, but it is definitely something to look at incorporating into your trip.
RAFTING AT MARTHA BRAE RIVER:
Rafting down the Martha Brae River is such a unique and gorgeous experience! Here you get on a bamboo raft (which takes max. two people per raft) which is handmade by your captain. They then take you down the winding river where they tell you stories, talk about the flora and fauna and they even let you have a go at steering the raft yourself and will also take pictures for you along the 3 mile journey. There are vendors set up along the river bed who sell trinkets, souvenirs and even food and drink. One thing to note if you drive yourself is that at the end you do end up 3 miles away from where you parked so taking a taxi/tour might be best. We didn’t know this before we got there and had to hitch a lift back with the van that carries the rafts back to the starting point of the tour! Tickets are $77 per raft but when we offered to pay in Jamaican Dollars (since we don’t use USD) we got our rafts for $10,000JMD which is roughly $68. You can find out more about rafting here
Negril is one of the most picturesque places that I have ever been! The vibe is so relaxed and all the hotels along 7 mile beach look stunning. There aren’t as many activities to do in this area but honestly the beach is enough!
7 MILE BEACH:
This beach does exactly what it says on the tin! The beach which stretches 7 miles along the Jamaican coast has gorgeous golden sand and the calmest, most clear water I have ever had the pleasure of seeing! It really was out of this world and it made it easy to want to stay there all day alternating between soaking up the sun and taking dips in the sea.
One of the most iconic places to visit in Jamaica is Ricks Cafe. Known as one of the best spots in the world for watching the sunset, this bar offers SO much in one place. You can come here for food and drink, there is a huge dancefloor and dancing competitions all night long or if those don’t tickle your fancy you can chill by the pool, or even cliff dive off one of the many platforms that they have to offer! Boats pull up to diving area and let you swim off and join the fun in Ricks Cafe for awhile, so no matter where you are along the coast I’m nearly sure you can organise a night to enjoy here.
Visiting Jamaica was such a once in a lifetime experience! The food, the music, the people, the scenery.. honestly you couldn’t fault it! While it is known for not being the most safe destination in the world to visit, if you keep your head screwed on and stay in the right areas then there really is nothing to worry about.
JAMAICA DURING COVID:
While I’m sure travelling in Jamaica under regular circumstances is amazing, travelling around during a pandemic was still amazing and honestly it meant that there were less tourists at all the main attractions and in the hotels which gave us a more personal experience. The country does have some rules in place such as the below, so if you are going please make sure to check their government website to see what the latest restrictions are.
– Quarantine on arrival: As tourists travelling along their ‘travel corridor’ AKA the most popular areas to visit once you show proof of a negative PCR/Antigen test taken 72 hours before you arrive you didn’t have to quarantine. If you are travelling outside of there areas there are quarantine measures in place.
– Masks & Sanitisers: You are to wear masks in all indoor establishments (eg.walking the halls of your hotel, in shops, while being seated in your restaurant, etc) along with some outdoor areas (eg.from your hotel room to your pool, outdoor shopping facilities, etc) and hand sanitiser was available more or less everywhere that we went.
– Curfews: There are currently curfews in place at different times depending on the day. When I visited the mid-week curfew was 7pm meaning you had to be home by 7pm – this meant most shops, restaurants, bars, etc all closed by 6pm so do factor this into your daily planning because when I say closed, I mean closed!
– Lockdowns/No Movement Days: When cases rise in the country they impose ‘No Movement Days’ which essentially means everything (and I mean everything!) is closed and you are to stay at home. During my visit they had a three day mini-lockdown/no movement days but thankfully it is business as usual in hotels and you can eat, drink and party for these days once you remain on the property.
Despite COVID being present in the country I always felt incredibly safe over there as they took the rules anywhere that we visited quite seriously (I can’t speak for the rest of the country!).
So, have you been to Jamaica? Or would you like to go now that you know more about it? Let me know!