Hello! My name is Asha. I’m a professional travel and style creator from Toronto! Thanks for stopping by my travel guide on Jamaica – the heartbeat of the Caribbean. I grew up a little bit everywhere. I was born in Kitchener, Ontario and lived in Cambridge until I was about eight years old.
Then my dad’s job took us to Grenoble, France where we lived for two and a half years before relocating again to California’s Bay Area. My brother and I moved back to Canada – specifically the Greater Toronto Area – with my mom when our parents divorced. After that, we visited our dad in Houston.
So, I think it was all of that moving around itself that really contributed to my love of travel. I have been traveling since childhood and my family spent a lot of time exploring Europe while we lived in France. We flew, took road trips and did whatever we could to travel. It was a great experience!
This awoke my sense of adventure and wanderlust from a young age. I have definitely carried that love for travel into adulthood. Photography was always something that I loved too. My interest in photography and growth as a creator came when I started sharing my travels on social media.
Platforms like Instagram are so visual and as it evolved to require better and better content, I wanted to make better content for my audience. I’m still learning every day but it’s definitely been a journey of its own!
A Wonderful Wedding in Montego Bay, Jamaica
Jamaica was always on my bucket list but I ended up going for a very good friend’s wedding. It was the perfect opportunity to celebrate a joyous occasion and experience Jamaica for the first time. We spent a week in Montego Bay – the capital of Saint James Parish on Jamaica’s north coast.
The first couple of days were spent relaxing at our resort before the wedding which was at Borghinvilla Wedding Venue. It was such a magical experience that I feely only Jamaica could deliver! For the rest of the visit, we were fortunate to be working with the Jamaica Tourist Board.
This allowed us to take day trips around the island. We visited Negril where we strolled Seven Mile Beach, visited the stunning Rockhouse Hotel and ate Jamaican cuisine at its restaurant, climbed the Negril Lighthouse for an epic view, and enjoyed watching cliff jumpers at Rick’s Café.
We also got to explore Ocho Rios where we visited the lush grounds of the Shaw Park Botanical Gardens, the famous Dunn’s River Falls and Island Gully Falls. We got to go night boating on the bioluminescent waters of the Luminous Lagoon and enjoy water rafting along the Martha Brae River.
Despite everything we got to do, I know that we barely scratched the surface. Jamaica has so much more to offer and I would love to go back one day to continue exploring! I am particularly keen to adventure through the Blue Mountains and go beachside horseback riding.
Rafting on the Martha Brae River
My favorite experience from my Jamaica trip, aside from celebrating my friend’s wedding, was the river rafting on the Martha Brae River. We did it at the end of our trip. It was such a peaceful experience and gave us the opportunity to reflect on the time we had spent on the island.
10 Best Things To Do in Jamaica
Jamaica really is the heartbeat of the Caribbean with a whole host of attractions such as reggae music, the soul of Bob Marley, beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters, creole cuisine goodness and much more! Below are my top 10 recommendations for this Jamaica travel guide.
- River raft down the Martha Brae River
- Swim in Island Gully Falls (Blue Hole)
- Cliff jump at Rick’s Cafe
- Boat on the Luminous Lagoon
- Go climbing at Dunn’s River Falls
- Snorkel at the many beaches of Jamaica
- Try caving at Green Grotto Caves
- Enjoy the endless white sand beaches
- Horseback riding along the beach
- Taste authentic Jamaican cuisine.
As some of the most popular activities on the island, I think these are the best activities for first-time travelers to Jamaica — to introduce them to everything the island has to offer and leave them wanting to come back!
Positive Spirit of Jamaican Locals
Jamaicans are welcoming, friendly, open and warm. They are always smiling! Their positive spirit is infectious. Everyone we met became an instant friend. We found the culture to be super laidback and diverse.
We got to talk with locals everywhere we went and it was really an eye-opening experience to meet them and learn about the dynamics of Jamaican society. Everyday life on the island has its challenges but the people remain so positive, upbeat, smiling and have a massive love of life.
One of the best parts of my trip that I would like to share with you in this Jamaica travel guide was just being able to connect with the locals throughout. We were always treated with such kindness and I think that is such a beautiful reflection of the nature of the Jamaican people.
Rich Caribbean Flavors of Jamaica
The food of Jamaica is delicious and the overall scene is diverse. You can find foods from many different backgrounds. But of course, we tried as much Jamaican food as possible. Always fresh and tasty. Visiting the Jus Coool Puddin Man for his famous pumpkin pudding is a must.
I would also recommend dining at Scotchies for the best jerk chicken and at Rockhouse Hotel in Negril. The latter serve a delicious ackee dish, amazing cocktails, and other fresh and authentic Jamaican dishes – as well as offering one of the best restaurant seaside views in the Caribbean.
Lastly, have a beer at Floyd’s Pelican Bar which is arguably the coolest bar in the world. Speaking of beer, we discovered Red Stripe Sorrel Beer. Let’s just say I have been searching all of the Jamaican stores for it in Toronto!
Jamaica Travel Guide: Best Hotels & Resorts
There are many beautiful properties to stay in on the island. If you are staying in Negril in western Jamaica, I would recommend the popular and stunning Rockhouse Hotel. If in Port Antonio, I would say that Kanopi House (4-star hotel) would be a really unique accommodation to book.
But in Montego Bay, I would 100% recommend staying at Jewel Grande Montego Bay Resort & Spa. It’s a beautiful and classy resort that is perfect for anyone looking for a private resort and ultimate luxury. It has a variety of room types, including gorgeous hotel suites and fantastic individual villas.
We loved it because it was more sophisticated than the typical all-inclusive resort and offered both all-inclusive and non-all-inclusive options. You can also pay for all-inclusive for certain days. Furthermore, some of the suites are private and listed on Airbnb. So you have the best of all worlds!
Jamaica Travel Guide: Need to Know Before you Go
My tips for visiting Jamaica: you can pay in US dollars, so make sure you bring some with you (in a variety of $1, $5, $10, $20 bills)! But don’t forget your Jamaican currency, also. Wherever possible, I would suggest paying in Jamaican dollars because you are more likely to get a better rate.
Also note that transportation (especially around touristy resort areas) can be very pricey. I would suggest making friends and exchanging numbers with one of your initial drivers or the person who takes you to your resort.
This way, should you have some independent day trips planned, it will be easier to negotiate a better full-day rate with them beforehand than what you would be able to settle on with a driver that your hotel calls for you on the day. I also recommend actively and financially supporting the locals.
One way to do this is to tip your drivers, hotel staff and guides. For example, if you go river rafting, you will have a guide. Those guides each have to take turns with customers – meaning one raft guide will only be able to take on another customer once the rest of the guides have had one.
They only make money from the tips they get from those customers, and making sure to give them a generous tip or to buy one of their hand-made crafts is a great way to support the locals who make a living showing you their beautiful country. It might be a small gesture but it can go a long way!
Thanks for reading my travel guide on Jamaica. I hope you have enjoyed reading and that it has inspired you to visit this incredible Caribbean island one day in the future. Feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions or would like further information on this island paradise.