Even in a region as crammed with jewels as the Caribbean, Jamaica is a beautiful island. From the crystalline waters flowing over gardens of coral and lapping onto soft sandy beaches to the towering ridges of the Blue Mountains, Jamaica offers a year-round kind of bliss. Deciding when to go can get a little tricky, so here's our guide to picking the best time to visit Jamaica.
High Season: December to March
Best time for outdoor festivals
Expect sunny, warm days, especially on the coast, and lots of people. There's little rainfall, which means lots of time spent on the beach or grooving to any number of music festivals in the country. Rebel Salute is one of the biggest Roots Reggae concerts in Jamaica and is held at Plantation Cove in St. Ann’s Bay on the second Saturday of January.
For a taste of true Jamaican history, the Accompong Maroon Festival also takes place in January. The Maroons are the descendants of formerly enslaved Africans who escaped the inland plantations and set up communities in Jamaica’s mountains. January’s festivities are a celebration of Maroon town’s nominal independence.
Shoulder Season: April to May
Best time for exploring the outdoors
Springtime in Jamaica means lower hotel prices and fewer visitors. The weather is relatively dry (except for Port Antonio). Before the rainy season hits, now is the time to explore the country’s rugged landscape like the Blue Mountains or the many wildlife reserves dotted throughout the island.
Low Season: June to November
Best time for enjoying the arts scene
Sporadic heavy rainfall and hurricanes are an issue during this time of year. Yet despite the less-than-ideal weather forecast, Jamaica’s biggest music festival takes place in July. Reggae Sumfest in Montego Bay brings in the best reggae and dancehall artists from around the world. Even if you’re not attending, you’re attending – the festivities tend to take over MoBay.
August 6 is Independence day – expect much fanfare and celebration throughout the island.
January is prime tourist season. The weather is pleasantly sunny and warm which means the beaches are crowded.
Key events: Rebel Salute, Accompong Maroon Festival.
The weather continues to be dry and the sun continues to shine as some of the island's important cultural festivals occur in the east.
Key events: Bob Marley’s birthday, Rainforest Seafood Festival, Merritone Memories.
You may find Jamaica less crowded, yet still blessed with good weather, as the high tourism season comes to an end. In the capital, thoughts turn to getting fit with events like the Kingston City Run.
Key events: Boys & Girls Championships (track and field), Kingston City Run, Jamaica Rum Festival, Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Festival.
While this is the beginning of the Jamaican shoulder season, the weather stays largely dry even as the crowds, and accommodations rates, start to plummet.
Key event: Trelawny Yam Festival.
The rainy season really gears up in May, although rains pass quickly and things stay dry in the south for the nation’s top literary festival.
Key events: Calabash International Literary Festival, Jamaica Observer Food Awards.
A soupy combination of heat and humidity from the rains begins to take hold, but sea breezes on the coast and mountain chill in the interior keep things fresh.
Key events: Caribbean Fashion Week, Charles Town Maroon Festival & Conference.
Phew. It’s really hot. And not just the weather: one of the island’s best music festivals heats up the events calendar. The rainy season continues.
Key event: Reggae Sumfest.
It’s as hot as Jamaica gets, and about as humid too. In fact, the rains may be coalescing into ominous storm clouds. Yet the celebrations on the island aren’t slowing down.
Key event: Independence Day.
Now the rains are coming in hard, and there may well be hurricanes gathering off the coast. On the plus side, accommodations run dirt cheap.
Key event: Jamaica Coffee Festival.
The rains are beginning to slacken off, although the northeast is still getting drenched. This is the end of low-season rates, so grab some bargains.
Key events: Restaurant Week, Cycle Jamaica.
The weather becomes refreshingly dry again, and resorts start raising their prices accordingly. During Christmas, thousands of Jamaicans fly in from the US, Canada and the UK to spend time with family.
Key events: LTM National Pantomime, New Year’s Eve, Rastafari Rootz Fest, Reggae Marathon.
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