A haven of sunshine and good vibes in the middle of the Caribbean, many associate Jamaica with lounging beneath beach umbrellas and admiring an expanse of ocean as locals with plastered smiles serve you cocktails. And yes, these environments can be found aplenty in Jamaica, particularly around cities like Montego Bay, Negril, and Ocho Rios. And if you were to choose to stay in one of these resorts, perhaps desiring a presumed sense of comfort and safety, then we would ask only one thing of you. We would ask that you make the effort to explore the less-traveled roads of this comparatively small island. Whether you tackle the island's center, where the caving country around the aptly named Cave Valley and the hiking and downhill biking of the Blue Mountain are intriguing options, or the infinitesimal beach options near tourist resorts or further off-the-beaten-path, there is much to do in Jamaica if you know just where to look (hint: the following paragraphs are a good start).
Many of the natural sights near the aforementioned resorts will usually have a predictably high number of tourists; this is a given in Jamaica. There will be tour groups heading to popular waterfall locations like Dunn's River Falls (near Ocho Rios) and YS Falls (near Negril), which are still worth seeing despite the gaggling tourists that splash through their waters. Other popular activities include river rides on the Martha Brae and Black Rivers (don't expect whitewater adventures), ziplining tours in a handful of locations, swimming with dolphins in Lucea, and other lower impact opportunities like horseback riding. Unsurprisingly, extreme adventurers will wonder what led them here (other than a possible Bob Marley or Reggae counterculture obsession), especially if you're one to avoid packaged tours.
Then again, if you are willing to get off-the-beaten-path (or at least find a tour operator who has expanded beyond the usual offerings), there are still plenty of things to do that are novel and authentic in Jamaica. At the center of the country, there are plenty of caves worth spelunking through, particularly in what is referred to by the locals as “cockpit country.” Often left unexplored by tourists, there are plenty of great spots for a variety of ability and equipment levels. Another area that is left unexplored to a lesser degree is the largely mountainous eastern half of the island, dominated by the Blue Mountain. Hikes can be strenuous and accommodation can be had on the mountain, along with a visit to local coffee plantations. Another, much easier alternative would be to do the downhill biking tour.
Most resorts will have beaches, which are often quite nice, but if you'd like to do some traveling, the following are less famous and no less rewarding. The multiple coves of Treasure Beach at the south end of the island are excellent for their long stretches of sand and their comparative lack of guys pushing you to buy drugs, while even further from the usual haunts are the tiny island of Lime Cay (near the coast of Kingston) or the aptly named and hard to find Turtle Bay (named for its unique rock formations; located in Portland county). There are also plenty of hidden waterfalls known to the locals and other interesting locations that won't be in most guidebooks. Our suggestion? Get to know someone locally or start exploring our dedicated pages to see what else there is to do with your time in Jamaica.