My trip to Jamaica was the true definition of “spur-of-the-moment.” I had just come back from Cuba a couple weeks prior when the opportunity to go to Jamaica presented itself. And of course, when opportunity knocks, you run to answer the door! So I booked my flight and a few days later, I was touching down in a tropical paradise. Even though the trip was filled bumps, I still had an enjoyable time and got to do some amazing things. Here’s some must do things when you go to Jamaica:
- Dunn’s River Falls- Dunn’s River in Ocho Rios was probably the most fun experience that I had in Jamaica. Dunn’s River is a waterfall that is open to the public to climb, yes, climb. It costs $20 to go up with or without a tour guide, but trust me when I say you need to take a tour guide. You start at the bottom near a beach and climb up large rocks and wade through, at times, chest deep water to get to the top. There are videographers available to follow you the entire way up to capture your waterfall adventure. If you don’t already have nonslip pool shoes, they have some for your to purchase before you go up. Along with getting a tour guide, I advise that you purchase these shoes, because while the waterfall is a ton of fun, it can also be really dangerous if you aren’t careful. The tour guides climb the falls everyday so they are experts on the safest ways to get to the top. If you find yourself in Jamaica with only time for one excursion, I highly encourage you to choose this one!
- Swim with dolphins. Swimming with dolphins has always been on my bucket list and I finally got to do it in Jamaica. I got to do it in Sandy Bay, a town 35 minutes away from Montego Bay. The venue was equipped with a small bar with a limited menu, but the drinks were definitely sufficient for my wait until my dolphin session started. The first thing I noticed was how friendly and funny the staff were! They kept me laughing and comfortable the entire time. Once I was suited up in my life vest, I made my way down to the enclosed pools where the dolphins were. The guide that was with me was extremely knowledgeable about the dolphins and the dolphins genuinely seemed to be enjoying themselves. I learned so much and would definitely recommend.
- Go to the Bob Marley Museum. If you’re in Kingston or have time to make a day trip, I hear the Bob Marley Museum is definitely worth the trip. I didn’t have time to go, but my driver told me a lot about it. It’s located in Bob Marley’s actual house in Kingston and gives insight into the life and influence of Bob Marley. It’s super affordable, as it’s only $25 per adult. It’s definitely on my list of things to do if I ever go back to Jamaica.
What I liked about Jamaica:
- The people. The people seemed to be really friendly and helpful. The atmosphere and vibe of the people is really relaxed and laid back. Strangely enough, however, I didn’t feel as relaxed as I usually do in other countries, so I kept my guard up a little more than usual, but it wasn’t because of a bad experience that I had there. Overall, I enjoyed mingling with the locals.
- The food. Two words: MEAT PIES. They were delicious and I tried to eat them everywhere I went. I also got to try ackee and saltfish, which was similar to scrambled eggs to me. The array of tropical fruit that I got to try was also right up my alley.
- The excursions. I had a love/hate feeling towards the availability of the excursions. On one hand I loved that there were many cool things for visitors to do, but on the other hand, there were SO many things to do with some many people pushing you tot do the excursions that it felt too tourist-y to me. However, the excursions that I did go on made the trip a lot of fun.
What I disliked about Jamaica:
- The prices. I swear, I think Jamaica is the most expensive country I’ve been to thus far. The excursions are expensive. Lodging is expensive. Transportation is outrageous. I felt like I was just bleeding money the whole time. It may have been that I’m used to traveling for cheap, but I felt like things were not worth the price that I was paying for them.
- The all-inclusive resorts. This is pretty subjective, but I hated staying in an all-inclusive resort. Usually when I travel, I like to stay as close to the local people as possible, whether it be in a hostel, rented apartment, or with a local family. It was the first time I’d stayed in a resort or hotel abroad, and it honestly felt like I was in a black hole. There were multiple bars, restaurants, shops, a “casino,” a nightclub, pools, and a spa all in one space. To some, this might be ideal, but to me I felt like I was stuck and I needed to get out. It didn’t feel like I was in another country, which was disappointing to me. What’s the point of traveling to a foreign country if you have no reason to go out an explore? Once I left the resort, I felt so much better! From then on, I made it a point not to return until it was time to sleep. For people who would like all-inclusive resorts- you’re in luck. They’re everywhere. While I’m sure they exist, I never saw a regular hotel- just the all-inclusive ones.
- The weather. I just think my trip happened at a bad time. There was a tropical storm brewing in the Caribbean at the time, so it was overcast and rained every day of my trip. The rainy season is May-November, but the weather stays hot. The cooler and drier months are December- April, but the temperature doesn’t get much lower than the high 60’s.
What I wish I’d known before going to Jamaica:
- Money conversion is not necessary. I’m used to automatically exchanging money before I leave the airport, so I did, but in Jamaica, this is actually not necessary. Credit cards are widely accepted and American money is widely used in high tourist areas.
- Jamaica is REALLY tourist-y. I wasn’t ready for how commercialized Jamaica is. I was in Montego Bay, but I didn’t really feel like I was abroad, because of how tailored to American tourists it was. Want some KFC? You got it. Want some Burger King? Sure, just ride through the drive through. Don’t want to deal with exchange rates? That’s okay; they’ll take USD just the same. Because of this, I didn’t feel like I got an authentic experience. This on top of people hounding you to take their tours detracted from a true Jamaican experience for me.
Jamaica for me wasn’t the best trip that I have ever been on, but I am willing to give it another try. Now that I know what to expect, I know to avoid tourist-filled areas to get more of an authentic experience. Have you been to Jamaica and had a better experience? Share it in the comments!