When Christopher Columbus arrived on Jamaica’s south coast in 1494, he said it was “the fairest isle that eyes ever beheld.” Since then, little has changed. Jamaica’s intense natural beauty transcends centuries, elbows its way past time. Truth is, it’s one of the most enchanting islands in the Caribbean, if not the world. Here are 10 things that make Jamaica such a magical, must-visit destination.
1. Dream-Come-True Beaches. While there are other sugar-white sand beaches on this beautiful island, Seven Mile Beach in Negril is positively heavenly. Your toes will love the fine, white sand hugged by clear, baby blue water. It has a private kind of vibe and yet, it’s not deserted. There are a few bars and restaurants where you can stop by and grab a drink or something to eat. You can also rent kayaks and sailboats, if you want. If you just want to hang out, that’s okay, too. It’s one of the most gorgeous places on the island and is why Jamaica is the stuff that beach dreams are made of.
2. Stunning Natural Beauty. When you first lay eyes on the water, you won’t believe the color of blue. It’s so incredible, it might be tough to look away. The turquoise-teal waves are simply divine. Jamaica also boasts lush rolling, softly curving mountains bathed in the deepest Kelly green, but this is not surprising: the island is home to 1,930 square miles of forest and over 3,000 flowering plant species. In and among this tropical flora also lives exotic wildlife. But there’s more. Meandering rivers and magnificent waterfalls abound – you must visit Dunn’s River, Konoko Falls and YS Falls. For night time jaunts, you can take a boat ride and see the water light up the night in Jamaica’s magical bioluminescent bays.
3. Laid-Back Vibe. Wherever you go on the island, you’ll be greeted with warm, smiling faces and hear the iconic phrase, “No problem, Mon.” The locals are so welcoming you’ll feel like family. In fact, many times when you arrive, you’ll hear “welcome home.” When you’re on vacay, what better thing to hear, right?
4. Picture-Perfect Climate. Unlike other places in the Caribbean and Mexico, the weather is not insufferably hot. While it’s indeed a tropical island with all the requisite fringy palms and soothing sun, the average temperature is a sweet 81 degrees. When you experience the ocean breezes washing over you while you’re taking in a golden sunset, it’s pretty safe to say you won’t ever want to leave.
5. Luscious Local Fare. Heads up Foodies: of all the Caribbean islands, Jamaica’s cuisine, cocktails and coffees are some of the best your taste buds will ever encounter. Jerk Chicken is THE spicy dish you’ll want to dig into. It’s a rite of passage when you’re on the island. Pair it with a cold Red Stripe beer and you’ll be feelin’ fine. Rums are also terrific here. In fact, Jamaica was the first island to produce it on a commercial basis, starting in 1849. Jamaica’s Appleton Estate crafts some of the best smooth-tasting rums. Order up a rum and coconut water for a refreshing twist. If you’re adventurous (and why wouldn’t you be?), you can try a traditional Jamaican breakfast that is made up of Ackee and Salt Fish (that’s Cod Fish). If you love your morning, afternoon or evening Joe, Blue Mountain Coffee is amazing. You might get addicted so make sure you take some home with you.
6. Chill Music. While Bob Marley put Jamaica on the international music map for reggae, you might not know that five other styles of music originated here, too: ska, rocksteady, mento, dub and dancehall. When you’re out and about, you might hear the Jamaica rapper Sean Paul and reggae fusion singer/deejay, Shaggy. But there are many singers to discover on this island. Kick back, sip on a rum drink and let the music soothe your soul.
7. Movie-Inspiring Locale. Let’s start with the most famous, the James Bond movies. But here’s a quick back story: These thrillers were actually written on the island. Ian Fleming, the English author/journalist, spent many balmy days and nights on his Goldeneye estate in Jamaica creating these stories. The first movie from the series, Dr. No, was filmed here, as was Live and Let Die. Other popular flicks have been filmed here, too: Blue Lagoon, Cocktail and Cool Runnings. When you see just how spellbinding the beaches and water are, you’ll immediately understand why Jamaica was chosen.
8. Heart-Pumping Land Activities. If you can name a land activity, chances are, you can do it. The short list includes biking, hiking and touring the island in both ATV and Jeep safaris. You can also zip-line through the rainforest canopy and tour a plantation where you can sample the succulent seasonal fruits. If you’re a golfer, you’re in luck: There are beautifully manicured, world-class championship courses, too.
9. Splash-Worthy Water Sports. Fact: the water here is crystal clear and hypnotizing, which means you’ll want to dive in as soon as possible. Snorkeling and scuba are big. And not just any kind of scuba: you can dive around shipwrecks like Cayman Trader and La Dominicana. You can also explore underwater caves like the Throne Room that’s in Negril Marine Park. Other awesome things include sailing, parasailing, kayaking, horseback riding through the ocean and jungle river tubing.
10. Super Fun Restaurants. There are many places to dine, but a few stand out above the rest. First up is Rick’s Cafe in Negril. While the drinks and food are great, many come to leap off their cliff into the deep blue along with a big helping of sunset-ogling. Next up, the one and only Floyd’s Pelican Bar. This interesting structure is made of driftwood, is located about ¾ mile out in the ocean in Parottee Bay and is actually stilted on a huge sandbar. It’s one of the craziest, most wonderful places in the world to have a few cocktails and enjoy some fresh seafood. Speaking of, Office of Nature is THE place for lobster. It’s a little shack that is full of big flavor. Last but not least is the inimitable Margaritaville in Montego Bay, Negril, Falmouth and Ochos Rios. This famous place (thanks to Jimmy Buffet’s song) is overflowing with good eats and drinks, and sunsets that will melt your heart.
Jamaica is an escape haven that is unlike any other, a mesmerizing island with heart and soul, a magical retreat that is calling your name. Don’t keep it waiting. Book.