Beautiful people, white sand beaches, Rastas and reggae music, dancehall parties, rum bashes, Ital, and jerk pork. You will find all that and likkle more under the hot Jamaican sun. Visit some of the big events, but make sure you ask the friendlier locals about the best things. In Jamaica, you can’t miss: Every ‘ting Irie!
Reggae Sumfest and Negril
Held every July in the bustling tourist hub of Negril, Reggae Sumfest brings together top names in dancehall and reggae including Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Damian Marley, Shabba Ranks, and Tarus Riley. Sure to be a bumpin’, grindin’, and winein’ kind of weekend, you’ll probably want to spend your afternoons hydrating while lounging on one of the longest strips of white sand in the world. Don’t forget to check out the cliff jumping in the West End!
Calabash Festival and the South Coast
For all lovers of literature, the Calabash Festival is a must! Held in the small fishing area of Treasure Beach, Calabash is a great opportunity to listen to voices like Mutabaruka and Orlando Patterson while experiencing a part of Jamaica that has been left largely untouched by tourism. While regular travelers to Treasure Beach like to brag about how they keep it a secret, I am breaking the cardinal rule because I would feel guilty if you came back from Jamaica after reading this post and missed one of the best parts! From small guest houses to luxury villas and boutique resorts that routinely host major celebrities, you would never know who’s who in Treasure Beach, based on the indifference of the locals. A great place for sun, peace, quiet, and more than the occasional funny story. Make sure you stop by Kim’s Place (by the tree in middle of the road). Best fried chicken on the island!
Often touted as the top attraction in Jamaica, Pelican Bar is a small structure made from planks and branches, sitting in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. One mile off the coast of Parottee, almost any local fisherman can take you. Order a Red Stripe, play dominoes (forget about the missing pieces), and watch as Floyd and his team cook up your fish or lobster curry over the coal fire. The various flags and license plates hung around the bar are a testament to its popularity and an indication that you just never know who is going to cruise up and carve their name into the wood.
While Jamaica is not really known for its epic swells (except during hurricane season), one surf school worth visiting is Jamnesia. Run by Billy Wilmot (Mystic Revealers) and his family, Jamnesia is a fun, chilled-out place to learn how to shred. The venue also runs an open music jam every other week that attracts artists like Protoje and Jah 9.
The Blue Mountains
A veritable rainforest compared to the more arid areas of Jamaica, many homes in the Blue Mountains pump sweet spring water from the Hope River right into their taps. Find yourself a place nestled in a valley somewhere. Relax and drink some of the best coffee in the world. I won’t tell you whether the mountains really look blue. Your best memory may just be picking a ripe mango off a tree by the side of the road.
About K. Gandhar Chakravarty: A poet, musician, scholar, and traveler, Gandhar also writes about Jamaica villa rentals for Luxury Retreats, an elite travel broker specialising in personalized villa vacations. He has visited over 30 countries in his life and has enjoyed the privilege of living in quite a few. His books include Maple Vedas (2010) and Kolkata Dreams (2009).