The temperature in Jamaica averages 27 degrees all year round. Winters are a little cooler thanks to trade winds but have little rain. It’s much hotter in the summer with high humidity in September and October. Hurricanes rarely hit Jamaica, but hurricane season is in September. The upper mountains get about 76cm of rain each year and can be much cooler. Kingston and the south coast have moderate rain all year, but summer gets a bit more rain.
When to fly to Jamaica
Mid-December through mid-April is the peak season for visitors booking flights to Jamaica, and reservations need to be made a couple months in advance. This season is especially busy at Carnival, which is March and April in Kingston, MoBay, and Ocho Rios, and May in Negril. MoBay is also busy with the Air Jamaica’s Jazz and Blues Festival in January.
Mid-April to mid-December sees rates cut by 20 to 60 per cent. However, it does get busy around the Reggae Sumfest, usually in late July or early August, and the Marlin Tournament every October in Ocho Rios and Port Antonio.
Getting around Jamaica
Driving isn’t so much a problem as is the cost of renting a car and buying gas — both can be prohibitive. Jamaicans drive on the left, road conditions range from excellent to terrible, and local drivers can be quite erratic, aggressive, and boisterous. The Jamaica Tourist Board’s Discover Jamaica road map is considered one of the best maps of the island.
For short distances, taxis are a reasonable option as is hiring a private driver and car for the day. Renting mopeds and motorcycles is another popular form of transport. Buses and minibuses go everywhere, are inexpensive, and a fun way to meet Jamaicans.
For longer distances, domestic flights are reasonably priced and airports convenient to different parts of the island, particularly the resorts.
Jamaica insider information
- Kingston has the best of local art, theatre, and dance, and it is said that Reggae was born here. The nightlife is sophisticated and sizzling, and the city has excellent festivals, museums, galleries, historic buildings, and, of course, beaches. Crime is a serious problem in Kingston; exercise common sense, don’t walk around at night, and use only licensed taxis or hotel-recommended transportation.
- Montego Bay (Mo Bay) is Jamaica’s busiest cruise pier and first choice for visitors. The ten-mile shoreline is fronted with coral reefs and blue lagoons and backed with lush green hills. The main tourist area, Gloucester Avenue, sees lots of visitors, shoppers, and hustlers. Active in tourism since 1924, Mo Bay attractions include bird watching, golfing, music festivals, and historic houses.
- Popular with American hippies in the 1970s, Negril remains free-spirited and best known for its overtly risqué resorts, seven miles of pristine beach, water sport facilities, music, discos and clubs, and best sunsets on the island. A fast-growing resort area, Negril is still laid back with prude and nude beaches, a relaxed interaction between tourists and locals, and tropical charm.
- The first Jamaican town specifically developed as a resort, Ocho Rios (Ochi) is dedicated to fun, sun, and tourists. There’s lots of shopping, bars, and visitor-oriented restaurants. For a day off from the beach, try a follow-the-leader climb up Dunn’s River Falls or a visit to Prospect Plantation, Cranbrook Flower Forest, Green Grotto Caves, Fern Gully, or Bob Marley’s former home.
- The quiet haven of Port Antonio has some of the finest beaches in Jamaica, excellent deep-sea fishing, and several of the most expensive yachts sailing the Caribbean. Port Antonio is the greenest parish in Jamaica, known for its many rivers and waterfalls. Long a favourite hideaway haven of celebrities, it’s also a retreat for ecotourists and European travellers.