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Jamaica - a neighborhood guide to beaches, beats and boogying

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Imagine you're in Jamaica and you're probably picturing yourself lounging on a heavenly beach, sipping a rum cocktail and tapping your toes to a relaxing reggae beat. And you'd be quite right; the stereotypes of Jamaica are so for a reason. As the fifth largest island country in the Caribbean Sea, Jamaica has more to offer than you could even imagine, so grab a pen and paper and take note of where we think are the best spots to visit. 

Robert Stephens

My Destination local expert on

Jamaica

Kingston

 

With its overwhelming size and inherent buzz, the country's capital demonstrates the complexity of the island's cultural history. The city is split into two halves and the residents of each barely mix. However, for the true Kingston experience you must explore both. Downtown Kingston is home to the historic buildings, factories and anarchic street fairs with blaring beats; shabby chic and truly authentic. Uptown however, is more of a tourist trap with a cosmopolitan vibe, showcasing the island's best hotels, restaurants and clubs as well as the essential stop at the Bob Marley Museum. Known primarily for its reggae music scene, the city has in the past had a reputation for high crime rates. Although this has since improved drastically, as a tourist, it is best to avoid the 'garrisons' or ghettos like Trench Town and Tivoli Gardens.

 

Port Antonio

 

Over on the northeast of the island, Port Antonio is best known for shipping bananas and coconuts across the globe and attracting the audacious tourist. With a reputation for being particularly laid-back, the town is not a hive of beach resorts. Instead it is a welcoming web of busy backstreets and friendly locals, ideal for travellers seeking an alternative to the furor of the urban capital. Heading east out of Port Antonio, through thick jungle, you'll come across the humble coastal villages of Frenchman's Cove and Fairy Hill, where the famous Blue Lagoon, San San Beach and Winnifred Beach offer picturesque coastline in all its glory.

 

Ocho Rios

 

If you're looking for peaceful relaxation then this probably isn't the place for you. However, if you're a thrill seeking adventurer, with an ear for music and a stomach for local cuisine then Ocho Rios is an essential pit stop. Known by the locals as 'Ochi', the small bay was developed especially for sightseers back in the 1980s and so may be too touristy for the avid traveller. But the wide range of adventure tours, ranging from dog sledding to zip-line guides, there's plenty to do. Come nightfall, get your party shoes on for rough and ready dancehall clubs and if you're feeling crazy, the likes of an all-you-can-drink swimwear party.

 

Negril

 

Providing both boisterous beats throughout the night and peaceful, scintillating views come sunrise, Negril provides everything a traveller could want. Tourists are welcomed with open arms by locals and hustlers alike so keep your wits about you, especially if you're the stereotypical tourist, equipped with bumbag and camera. With the limestone cliffs creating the ideal stomping ground for schools of tropical fish and delicious rum cocktails flowing from every beach bar, you'll find it impossible not to fall in love with the south coast town. As the magnificent sunsets slide into a starry night simply sit back and let the essence of Jamaica envelop you.

 

A country molded by it's rich cultural history, Jamaica has a wealth of tastes, sights and activities on offer. Whether you're looking to relax and unwind on the idyllic beaches, dance your socks off to the reggae beats or indulge your inner culture vulture, the island has everything you could want and more - a truly unique and stunning travel destination.