30 Jun Attractions in Jamaica Worth Your Money
As a follow-up to our last post, Top Places to Visit in Jamaica: Off the Beaten Path, we’ve also compiled a list of some of the best attractions in Jamaica that are on that beaten path for a reason.
As we mentioned before, living and serving as Peace Corps Volunteers in Jamaica, we’ve had the opportunity to explore a fair amount of the island. At the very least, we’ve gathered a wealth of information from our network of Volunteers and counterparts around the country to find the best of the best.
Where our first list included some truly special spots that can only be found off the beaten path, today’s list shares the more popular sites. But these are not tourist traps. To make the list, the attraction must provide an authentic, quality glimpse of Jamaica.
At risk of sounding negative, I feel it’s important to warn first-time visitors that they may need to temper their expectations when coming to Jamaica for vacation. You just don’t get the same bang for your buck that you may be used to with big attractions back home. Outside of the big-box all-inclusive chains, Jamaica still struggles with development, and standards for hospitality or customer service may not be at the same level of quality you’re accustomed to. There are mosquitos, ants, and lizards. Power occasionally goes out. Things get delayed. If you don’t see these signs of “the real Jamaica” at your hotel, you’re probably paying big money for it.
A number of attractions in Jamaica don’t live up to their brochures or they charge more than they’re worth. Our selections are attractions that live up to the hype and provide a decent value for your tourist buck:
Pushcart Restaurant, Negril
Pushcart restaurant, located at the Rockhouse Hotel in Negril, is possibly our favorite Jamaican fusion restaurant, based on Jamaican comfort food and street food. This open-air restaurant pairs delicious and affordable dishes with one of the best views of the sunset that can be found on the island.
Arrive at 5pm when it opens to ensure you get a good seat during the sunset. While you’re there, check out their other restaurant (a good excuse to walk through the gorgeous, cliff-side hotel grounds) or maybe progress from one to the other for drinks and dessert. Tip: You can make a special request from the other restaurant if there’s a menu item you really prefer (we recommend the coconut crusted chicken).
This was our go-to restaurant during Peace Corps for special occasions, since it didn’t break the bank but was still a splurge on the Peace Corps budget. A couple can easily eat here for under $30- more if you’re going all out for appetizers, drinks and desserts.
Appleton Rum Tour, Central Jamaica
If you’re looking for a day trip away from the beach, we found the Appleton Rum Tour to be of relatively good value (about $25/person). With the history of sugar cane plantations in Jamaica, the production of rum from cane became another quintessential Jamaican product.
The tour includes a casual, guided walk on the Estate grounds where you’ll learn about the process of making and aging rum. You get a rum punch before starting, a couple tastes of the product in its stages between sugar cane and rum (like molasses), and samples of the different kinds of rum afterward.
Can you visit Jamaica and have a perfectly good trip without visiting the Appleton Estate? Absolutely. But if you’re nearby, have an extra half-day, and it sounds interesting to you, it’s a well-done tour.
Franklyn D. Resort, Runaway Bay
If you’re traveling with young kids, there’s no place like quite like the Franklyn D. Resort: your stay comes included with a nanny! The video above is a clip from a TV show called “Travel With Kids” which also shows FDR’s sister resort (no longer in operation).
For the most part, we recommend steering clear of all-inclusive resorts unless you don’t really want to experience Jamaica (in which case, why come?). But FDR is one of the exceptions. There’s enough to do for all age levels, including biking and walk/run trips through the up-scale neighborhood across the main road. There are sadly few places in Jamaica where coral and fish habitats are not destroyed, so this is one of the places where you can actually see a little variety of fish. And the meals provide a good balance of both American fare and authentic Jamaican dishes.
Unfortunately, we didn’t take very many pictures at the FDR. The first time we stayed was for a Peace Corps conference, then we saved up to treat ourselves over Christmas. (Above, you’ll see we added some Christmas cheer to our hotel room- the other photo depicts the hotel’s poolside decorations.) Some couples might prefer a place with fewer kids but it didn’t bother us.
If you’re going to splurge and are looking for a quiet, uniquely beautiful escape (while still be very near to the many attractions in Ocho Rios), Hermosa Cove Villas is top notch.
This place has probably the best quality and customer service we’ve personally witnessed in Jamaica. Clearly designed by an artist, the grounds and villas are absolutely gorgeous. The chef at the on-site restaurant prepares an excellent five course “welcome” meal, and a continental breakfast is included.
We were lucky enough to be treated to a stay here by some visiting family members. As part of the hotel’s tradition, we planted a tree together on the property – one more enticing reason to come back for a visit.
If you’re going to be in Ocho Rios but don’t end up staying here, I would call and see if you can have dinner at their ocean-side restaurant and take a walk around the grounds. It’s truly a beautiful place.
Reggae Marathon, Negril
You don’t have to run the full marathon at Reggae– there’s a half marathon and 10k option as well. Or you can volunteer.
This event always takes place on the first Saturday of December in Negril, and it’s one of the most well-organized events we’ve experienced in Jamaica. There is a nice buffet pasta feed the evening beforehand at registration- and we’re not talking your basic spaghetti dinner. It’s a full-blown, catered buffet.
Wake up early (the race starts before sunrise) and walk or take a free shuttle bus from your Negril hotel to the start line. Make sure you’re well hydrated and prepared for running in the hot climate. And when you’re done, enjoy the after-party with live music, fresh coconut water, and Red Stripe beer!
Doctor’s Cave Beach, Montego Bay
While there is a fee ($6 entry, plus optional chair/umbrella/snorkel rental), private beaches like Doctor’s Cave mean you won’t be constantly approached by vendors.
This particular spot is right on the “hip strip” in Montego Bay with nice sand, bathroom and changing rooms, on-site restaurant/bar, and a little snorkeling. If you’re looking for a beach day and don’t have access at your hotel, this is a great option. Just try to avoid cruise ship days when the beach gets extremely crowded.
We made the trip out to Doctor’s Cave about 3 times a year when we needed a good, quality day away from work. Because it’s a non-profit they gave Peace Corps Volunteers a special discount. Now-a-days, the new owner at the restaurant next door (Bigga’s) will let people hang out on his beach for free, so that’s another good option.
Where are your favorite spots in Jamaica? Do you find the tourist attractions to be worth the money? Please share your recommendations or questions in the comments below.
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