Rebel Salute, January
Jamaica Carnival, February
Boys & Girls Championships, March
Calabash International Literary Festival, May
Reggae Sumfest, July
January is prime tourist season, when the rains are few and the weather is pleasantly sunny and warm.
The biggest Roots Reggae concert in Jamaica goes down on the second Saturday in January at Plantation Cove in St Ann's Bay on the north coast. Details at www.rebelsaluteja.com
The weather continues to be dry and the sun continues to shine as some of the important cultural festivals on the island occur in the east.
Fi Wi Sinting
This festival (the name means ‘It is ours’) has grown into the largest celebration of Jamaica’s African heritage, with music, crafts and food, Jonkanoo dancing, mentos music and storytelling. Held in Hope Bay, Portland parish.
This carnival draws thousands of costumed revelers to the streets of Kingston, MoBay and Ochi. Sometimes spills over into March.
A month of concerts and sound-system parties across the island celebrate Jamaica's iconic music, centered on Bob Marley's birthday on February 6.
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.
Boys & Girls Championships
Held during the last week before Easter, this century-old, four-day event is a crown jewel of Jamaican athletics. Around 30,000 spectators (and talent scouts) crowd the national stadium to try to spot the next Usain Bolt. Details at www.issasports.com.
Kingston City Run
In the first weekend of March, Kingston straps on its running shoes and takes part in the popular charity-fundraising Kingston City Run. Details at www.kingstoncityrun.com.
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.
Trelawny Yam Festival
In ruggedly beautiful Albert Town: yam-balancing races, best-dressed goat and donkey, the crowning of the Yam King and Queen – how can you resist? Perhaps the most idiosyncratic, unique festival on an island full of 'em. Details at www.stea.net.
The rainy season really gears up in May, although things stay dry in the south for the nation’s top literary festival.
Calabash International Literary Festival
This innovative literary festival held in even-numbered years draws some of the best creative voices from Jamaica, plus highly touted international intelligentsia, to Treasure Beach. Details at www.calabashfestival.org.
Jamaica Observer Food Awards
The venerable Observer’s affair is the Caribbean’s most prestigious culinary event. International talent and attention turn toward Kingston, where local restaurateurs bring their top game to the kitchen. More at www.jamaicaobserver.com/foodawards.
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.
Caribbean Fashion Week
You may not be able to access some of the most exclusive tents here, but the vibe of Caribbean Fashion Week can be felt all across Uptown and the posher suburbs of Kingston.
Phew. It’s hot. And not just the weather: one of the island’s best music festivals heats up the events calendar. The rainy season continues.
The big mama of all reggae festivals, held in late July in Montego Bay, this event brings top acts together for an unforgettable party. Even if you’re not attending, you’re attending – the festivities tend to take over MoBay.
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.
August 6 marks Jamaica’s independence from the British Empire, and occurs with no small fanfare and delivery of dramatic speeches, especially in the Kingston area. Celebrations mark the event island-wide.
Now the rains are coming in hard, and there may be hurricanes gathering off the coast. On the plus side, accommodations run dirt cheap.
Jamaica Coffee Festival
Thousands of coffee-lovers converge on the spacious lawns of Devon House in Kingston during the first week of October to slurp up Jamaica’s world-famous coffee in an orgy of beverages, liqueurs, ice cream, cigars and classic Jamaican chow.
The rains are beginning to slacken off, although the northeast is still getting drenched. This is the end of low-season rates.
Jamaican restaurant week has been building over the years, and organizers clearly hope it will grow in international cachet. It shows off the dishes of participating restaurants from Kingston, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay. Details at http://go-jamaica.com/rw.
One World Ska & Rocksteady Music Festival
Held in Kingston, this one-day festival flies the flag for some of Jamaica's pioneering yet sometimes overlooked musical genres, ska and rocksteady. Expect national and international acts. More details at www.facebook.com/oneworldska.
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.
LTM National Pantomime
The Jamaican take on social satire is raw, irreverent and amusing, and presented at this annual song-and-dance revue in Kingston from December through January. This is some of the best theater in the Caribbean. Details at www.ltmpantomine.com.
Kingston’s National Gallery shows works by Jamaica’s newcomers and old hands at this biennial display – one of the most anticipated cultural events in the Caribbean. The current cycle hits on even-numbered years. Details at www.natgalja.org.jm.
Rastafari Rootz Fest
Three-day celebration of Rastafari culture near Negril with excellent live music, I-tal food and a lot of ganja – including the Ganjamaica Cup for best in show. More details at www.rastafarirootzfest.com.