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Jamaica comes with its own soundtrack. Groove to its singular rhythm as you explore the sandy beaches, lush mountains and unique flavors of this powerfully beautiful island.
Top 15 beaches in Jamaica
6 min read — Published Feb 26, 2021
Lonely Planet EditorsWriter
From the gentle waves in Half Moon Beach to the surfer's paradise in Boston Bay Beach, here are the best beaches in Jamaica.
Discover some of the most unique and fulfilling experiences your next destination has to offer.
Tips & Travel trends to help you pick the perfect time to visit this destination.
Golden rules to keep in mind when traveling to this destination.
Put these must-see destinations on your next travel wish list.
Check out these fun-filled activities that the entire family can enjoy.
Browse the various transportation options to make your trip that much easier when you arrive.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Jamaica.
Even in a country that abounds in waterfalls, Reach Falls stands out as one of the most beautiful places in Jamaica. The white rushing cascades are surrounded by a bowl of virgin rainforest; the water tumbles over limestone tiers from one hollowed, jade-colored pool into the next. It’s possible to walk, wade and swim your way up to the edge of the falls, by an unmarked jungle path some way below the main entrance. Do I need a guide? Once you enter the falls, guides will offer their services – crucial if you want to climb to the upper pools, which we highly recommend (there’s a little underground, underwater tunnel a bit up the falls known as the rabbit hole; plunging through is a treat). Excellent local guides Leonard Welsh (849-6598) and Kenton Davy (438-3507) can take you and point out plants and wildlife along the way if you choose to hike to the falls. The Mandingo Cave, the crown jewel of the falls, can be accessed at the top of the cascades, but you need to bring climbing shoes and be prepared for a long climb. It'll involve clambering up slippery rocks, over neon-green moss and into cool mountain pools of the freshest spring water but it's well worth the effort. In some areas you can dive under watery tunnels and through blizzards of snowy-white cascading foam. How much does it cost? The entrance fee is $10 per adult, $5 per child (11 and under). How do I get there? The turnoff to Reach Falls is well signed just over a mile (2km) north of Manchioneal. Any Port Antonio–Manchioneal route taxi can drop you; it's a further 1.8 miles (3km) uphill to the falls.
High on the White River, Jamaica's heavenly Blue Hole is a vision and is an undisputed highlight in Ocho Rios. To reach this popular spot, make your way up a series of magical falls (one measuring 20ft high) and blue pools surrounded by forest, with ample opportunity to swim, dive and swing off ropes 15ft in the air and into the water. There is an entry fee to enter. The Blue Hole is open from 8am to 5pm. Guides accompany you through the cascades on a well-marked trail (with steps and ropes where necessary for safety). The tiny cave climb under one of the falls is safe but isn't for claustrophobes. The guides are excellent and are attentive to both kids and more senior visitors who might be uncertain on some of the climbs. For those who arrive unprepared, vendors sell jelly shoes at the entrance. There are also refreshment stands. Remember, take nothing you aren't happy to get wet. Safety at the Blue Hole While no official accounts of leptospirosis have been confirmed at the Blue Hole, they have been reported. The leptospirosis bacteria can occur in any body of water and is always a concern when doing water-based adventure activities. The bacteria can enter the body through the eyes and nose or via cuts or abrasions, or by swallowing contaminated water. Life jackets are also available for those who want to enjoy the falls but aren't strong swimmers.
The waters that launched Brooke Shields’ movie career are by any measure one of the most beautiful spots in Jamaica. The 180ft-deep (55m) “Blue Hole” (as it is known locally) opens to the sea through a narrow funnel, but is fed by freshwater springs that come in at a depth of about 131ft (40m). As a result, the water changes color through every shade of jade and emerald during the day, thanks to cold freshwater that blankets the warm mass of seawater lurking below. The seemingly bottomless pool of turquoise water is nestled in a protected cove and surrounded by forested cliffs. Blue Lagoon is a definite bucket-list trip in Jamaica © Westend61/Getty Images How to get to the Blue Lagoon From Port Antonio, it's about a 17-minute drive on Fair Prospect Rd to Folly Rd with a turn off at Blue Hole Road. Park at the beach. Since this area is public land, there is no entrance fee. You can swim at the entrance to the lagoon, or take a boat tour (around US$30) on a short ride past some glitzy seafront villas to nearby Cocktail Beach (where parts of the Tom Cruise movie Cocktail were filmed) and rustic Monkey Island. Note that if it's been raining heavily, runoff water from the hills turns the lagoon a murky green.
The superlative collection of Jamaican art housed by the National Gallery is the finest on the island and should on no account be missed. As well as offering a distinctly Jamaican take on international artistic trends, the collection attests to the vitality of the country’s artistic heritage as well as its present talent. The collection is organized chronologically, introduced by Taíno carvings and traditional 18th-century British landscapes, whose initial beauty belies the fact that their subjects include many slave plantations. Several galleries represent the Jamaican school from 1922 to the present. Highlights include the bold sculptures of Edna Manley, the vibrant ‘intuitive’ paintings of artists including John Dunkley and David Pottinger, and revivalist bishop Mallica ‘Kapo’ Reynolds. Other displays chart the course of Jamaican art up to the present, including abstract religious works by Carl Abrahams, Colin Garland’s surrealist Caribbean fantasias, ethereal assemblages by David Boxer, and the work of realist Barrington Watson. Temporary exhibition spaces frequently offer up the best of contemporary Jamaican art, as seen during the superb biennial temporary exhibition that takes place on alternate (even-numbered) years between mid-December and March.
Highest of the highlights, Blue Mountain Peak reaches 2256m above sea level, and no visit to the area should neglect a predawn hike to its summit for a sunrise view.
The idyllic waterfall and swimming hole of Nanny Falls is a 30-minute walk uphill from the end of Moore Town, passing under huge ferns, Jamaican apple trees and cathedral-like stands of giant bamboo. It's worth the hike to be able to clamber over the rocks at the end to reach a series of lovely pools and the curtain of water tumbling down through the greenery. A swimming costume is essential; a picnic would be even more perfect. If you organize a guide from the Maroon Cultural Center at least 48 hours in advance, it's possible to arrange camping at the falls, with local food laid on.
The large, creaky, colonial-era wooden house on Hope Rd, where Bob Marley lived and recorded from 1975 until his death in 1981, is the city’s most-visited site. Today the house functions as combined tourist attraction, museum and shrine, and much remains as it was in Marley’s day. The hour-long tour provides fascinating insights into the reggae superstar's life after moving Uptown. His gold and platinum records are there on the walls, alongside Marley’s favorite denim stage shirt, and the Order of Merit presented by the Jamaican government. One room is entirely wallpapered with media clippings from Marley’s final tour; another contains a replica of Marley’s original record shop, Wail’n Soul’m. Marley’s simple bedroom has been left as it was, and next to it is the kitchen were he'd fix healthy fresh juices. At the rear of the house you'll see the spot where gunmen attempted to kill him in 1976. The former recording studio out back is now an exhibition hall with some wonderful photos of Bob, and a theater, where the tour closes with a 20-minute film. Photography isn't allowed inside the house, but you'll almost certainly be instructed to sing 'One Love' at some point. It's possible to buy a joint ticket that includes entry to the Tuff Gong studios.
Bath is the gateway to the Morant peninsula which juts into the Caribbean Sea. The 30m-tall, red-and-white-striped lighthouse marks Morant Point, the easternmost tip of Jamaica. Cast in London in sections that were shipped to Jamaica and erected in 1842, it is the oldest iron trunk lighthouse in the world, and visiting it is a tremendous adventure. The lighthouse keeper is generally happy to give tours to the rare visitors, and will ask you to sign his visitors book (a tip wouldn't go amiss). The powerful view and the windy silence make for a profound experience as you look out over rippling sugarcane fields toward the cloud-haunted John Crow Mountains and the deserted, wave-lashed shore. To sea, you can imagine almost seeing Haiti, due east. The beaches here are unsuitable for swimming but you will have their wind-whipped beauty all to yourself – the lighthouse keeper assured us the fishing is great. You need a car happy with rough roads to reach Morant Point. From Bath, take a right in Golden Grove to the one-street village of Duckenfield – GPS navigation may send you astray, so aim for the tall, unmissable chimneys of the Duckenfield sugar factory. Keep the factory on your left and take the dirt road that runs straight into the cane fields. Several lesser trails branch off from it, but as long as you stick to the main one, it’s very difficult to get lost – in a couple of places there are signs pointing to the lighthouse. The fields of sugarcane and entirely empty horizon have a haunting quality, as if the land is trying to summon the ghosts of the enslaved workers who toiled here in the colonial period. The dirt road meanders through cane for around 8km before emerging at the coast, at which point the lighthouse comes into view. A 4WD is strongly recommended during the rainy season.
This splendid 1770s mansion is the most famous great house in Jamaica. John Palmer, a wealthy plantation owner, and his wife, Rose (after whom the house was named), hosted some of the most elaborate social gatherings on the island. Much of the attraction is the legend of Annie Palmer, alleged to have murdered three husbands, whose ghost is said to haunt the house. Rose Hall is 3km east of Ironshore. Entry is by entertaining tour only. Beyond the Palladian portico the house is a bastion of historical style, with a magnificent mahogany staircase and doors, and silk wall fabric that is a reproduction of the original designed for Marie Antoinette during the reign of Louis XVI. Unfortunately, because the house was cleaned out by looters back in the 19th century, almost all of the period furnishings were brought in from elsewhere, and quite a few are from the wrong century. With that said, the exquisite imported antique furnishings are the genuine article, and many are the work of past leading English master carpenters. Slaves destroyed the house in the Christmas Rebellion of 1831 and it was left in ruins for more than a century. In 1966 the three-story building was restored to its haughty grandeur. Tours take in the rooms, including Annie Palmer's bedroom upstairs (which has been decorated in crimson silk brocades because, y’know, red is the color of blood), the secret passage through which she was visited by her slave lover, her tomb, and the cellar with period objects and an English-style pub. Day tours focus on the sumptuous furnishings, while evening tours are theatrical and fun, with staff leaping at you from dark corners, ideal for those with a stout disposition.