How to Pick the Perfect Resort Town for Your Jamaica Vacation
On an island as picturesque and diverse as Jamaica, it’s often challenging to pick the perfect town for your vacation.
Soft white sand beaches, adventurous outdoor activities, deep history, and culinary escapades await you in Jamaica. You can almost feel the gentle, salty Caribbean breeze as you think about it. But wait, where are you going to stay?
With so many tourist options, it’s difficult to pick your perfect resort town on the island. Each town has something unique to offer.
We’ve developed a comprehensive list of things you should consider when selecting a resort town to stay in. Ranging from costs to scuba diving choices, we know you’ll be more confident about your decision after going through this article.
For the purposes of this list, we’re going to be focusing on the three top resort towns in Jamaica: Montego Bay, Negril, and Ocho Rios. We’ll also touch on Kingston.
But if you don’t have time to read this whole article, here’s the takeaway:
Montego Bay: Best and Most Choices of Resorts.
Stay here if you’re looking to spend your whole time in Jamaica on a resort.
Negril: Best Beaches.
Stay here if all you want to do is lay on the beach.
Ocho Rios: Best Variety of Activities.
Stay here if you want to combine beach living with other fun events and activities.
You’re probably going to Jamaica to enjoy the beach. Is there really a better way to escape harsh weather at home and run away from the stresses of life than on the luscious shores of a beach?
The thing is, almost every resort town offers breathtaking coastal views, pearly white sands, and crystal clear waves lapping on the shores.
To give you an idea, here are some of the best beaches in Jamaica.
Seven Miles Beach, Negril
Widely considered one of the best beaches, the seven miles of shoreline is a prime location for enjoying all varieties of beach activities. From lounging on the shore to scuba diving, there are a lot of options on this beach.
Doctor’s Cave Beach, Montego Bay
Also considered one of the most picturesque beaches, Doctor’s Cave Beach features sea caves to explore along with the Caribbean beach look you expect: white sands and blue waters.
Frenchman’s Cove, 2 hours from Ocho Rios. 4 hours from Montego Bay.
Fisherman’s Cove was featured in Knight and Day starring Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise, Lord of the Flies, and The Mighty Quinn. Frenchman’s Cove is a favorite Hollywood filming location, and for a good reason! With a choice between taking a dip in fresh or saltwater, you will have a marvelous time soaking up the sun on a beach that is truly gorgeous.
Dunn’s River Falls and Beach, Ocho Rios
While the majestic falls are worth visiting in and of themselves, the beach is also a great place to appreciate the 180-foot cascade of water flowing over limestones to the rippling ocean water down below. This beach has white sands and calm lapping Caribbean waves.
You’ll notice there are stunning beaches all over Jamaica. And although you may say right now that all you want to do is sit on the Caribbean shores all vacation, you’ll likely get stir-crazy after a while and want to do something new.
All in all, it’s difficult to pick a town in Jamaica just by beaches since there are so many fabulous beaches to explore. Instead of choosing a town just for a beach, we recommend picking a resort town by the other activities. You will be sure to have plenty of time for beach life wherever you choose.
While lounging on the beach is an outdoor activity, Jamaica offers many other outdoor pursuits for the adventurous soul.
Golfing, hiking, ziplining, scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, and cliff jumping are just some of the adventures you can embark on in Jamaica. While some locations are better than others, most resort towns offer at least a few different outdoor activities to keep you and your family occupied.
Negril is known for its beaches, and while lounging is the most popular sport, you can also cliff jump into the sea from Rick’s Café.
The most popular place to raft in Jamaica is the Marth Brae River, just a short drive from Montego Bay.
The most popular Jamaica attraction is Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios. The most top-rated destination in all of Jamaica is Ocho Rios Blue Hole. The turquoise natural swimming pool also has a waterfall and is untouched by modern designs, keeping the landscapes in their original form.
Generally, Negril is known for its beaches. Montego Bay for its resorts. And Ocho Rios for its diverse activities. You can even zip line and quad through the rainforest in Ocho Rios while still having time to chill on the beach and eat in town. When it comes to outdoor activities, we recommend Ocho Rios.
If you are going to Jamaica solely to envelop yourself in the country’s history, Kingston is your best bet. What Kingston lacks in luscious beaches, it makes up for in historical buildings, art galleries, and the Bob Marley House.
Montego Bay boasts one of the few surviving plantation houses on the island. Almost all of the plantations were burnt to the ground in the 1813 slave rebellion. Greenwood Great House remains and is a great place to visit to get a better feel for the colonial heritage of Jamaica.
Not all cultural events have to be specifically historical! Festivals abound in Jamaica. Enjoy the Seafood Festival in August, the Rebel Salute Festival in January, and the Jazz Festival in May and June. These different festivals celebrate the fantastic food and music of the country that gave birth to Bob Marley. Many of them are located in Ocho Rios. For a list of festivals, see here.
In addition to events and activities, you’re going to want to consider the food.
Jamaica is a foodie’s paradise. With so many excellent options, from comfy Italian fare to spicy Jamaican jerk and everything in between, Jamaica will delight your palate.
Of course, if you’re staying at all-inclusive, you won’t need to worry about this. Your food will be served for you at the resort. Although some all-inclusive villas, like Villa Serenity, offer you options so you can enjoy both catered meals while having the freedom to explore the possibilities in town.
All the major resort towns in Jamaica have excellent dining options. Like with cultural events, Kingston has the widest variety of food options, comparable to a large metropolitan city. But, other resort towns also have world-class choices.
If you’re looking for the most authentic Jamaican food (and you should be!), we recommend sticking to Ocho Rios. Scotchie’s in town is said to make the most authentic jerk on the entire island, and they’re based right out of Ocho Rios!
Foodies love their homemade sauces, sweet breadsticks, and pure Jamaican ambiance.
Since we’re talking about food in Jamaica, we’d be remiss if we didn’t tell you what jerk is since it’s the official food of Jamaica and can be found all over the island.
Jerk is a style of cooking native to Jamaica. Meat is dry-rubbed or marinated in a hot spice mixture, made with scotch bonnet peppers, pimento, nutmeg, soy sauce, and thyme. It’s not for the faint of heart, as the seasoning can be SPICY.
But, if you’re looking to truly taste Jamaica, you can’t find anything more island-y. Bring a container home, and you’ll have Jamaica in a bottle – it’s that authentic to the island.
We don’t want you to feel like you have to try jerk, especially if you don’t like spicy food. Because there is plenty of excellent, tamer food options all over the island.
For example, Evita’s Italian Restaurant serves up 30 varieties of pasta and delicious and original entrees. Evita’s is the self-proclaimed “best little pasta house in Jamaica.” Their wine list makes the visit a true delight to the tastebuds.
Where you stay will have a massive impact on what events, restaurants, and other considerations will be important to you.
If you’re staying at an all-inclusive resort, the town matters less than the amenities offered at the location.
You don’t have to stay at a resort in Jamaica. In fact, there are many ways to explore Jamaica without being stuck at a resort but still having the comforts of an all-inclusive.
Consider staying at an Airbnb or villa. Villas like Villa Serenity offer you all the perks of an all-inclusive with the freedom to truly experience Jamaica.
And before booking anything, consider all your options. What amenities does the accommodation offer? Private beaches? Private pool? Resort access? Shuttle service? Food choices? There are many things to consider before booking.
For more information on the differences between accommodation options, click here.
While we don’t recommend picking a resort town solely based on the airport, it is worth noting.
Most tourists traveling to Jamaica will arrive at Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay. Located only a 10-minute drive from the heart of town, it makes Montego Bay an attractive place to stay if you want to be close to your flight. It is, however, 90 minutes from Ocho Rios and Negril.
However, there are other airports on the island, including ones closer to other towns. For example, Ocho Rios is close to the Ian Fleming International Airport.
Furthermore, many resorts and villas offer shuttle services to and from the airport. Check your accommodation before, but shuttle service makes traveling to your final destination a breeze.
For information on airports, read here.
It’s normal to think about safety when you’re planning your Jamaica vacation.
Certain areas in Kingston and Montego Bay are under military occupation. Heavy police presence, curfews, and gang violence can be found in specific spots in the country and in sections of these cities.
As a tourist, you don’t have much to worry about, though. The government has increased security and safety in tourist hubs throughout Jamaica. You’ll see a strong security presence in these areas, making them relatively safe. As long as you stick to touristy areas, bad parts of the city are very localized and won’t affect your visit.
If you’re still concerned, consider staying in cities with the lowest crime rates in the county. Ocho Rios is the safest town in Jamaica. With a crime rate equivalent to US cities, the main issues are pickpocketing and petty crime.
Wherever you decide to stay, ask the staff for areas to avoid before you leave your accommodation.
If you’re the adventurous type and want to try some authentic Jamaican street food, only go to non-tourist areas during the day and make sure you ask a trusted, knowledgeable person before setting off, no matter which resort town you choose.
We saved the best for last. Of course, the cost will be another deciding factor on your journey to finding the perfect Jamaica resort town.
Jamaica is one of the cheapest countries in the Caribbean to visit. But there are ways to keep your costs as low as possible.
No matter what resort town you’re staying in, consider staying at a locally-owned villa or Airbnb. Not only will you be supporting the local economy, but you’ll also often be getting a better rate.
Many resorts in Jamaica are owned by American companies with huge mark-ups. Since the cost of living in Jamaica is significantly less than in the US, booking your lodging with a local company will often get you the best, most affordable option.
If you’re wondering which major resort town has the cheapest resorts, and villas it’s Ocho Rios, followed by Negril and Montego Bay.
Have any questions? Contact us here!