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Jamaica – Family holiday guide

Jamaica’s one of the Greater Antilles and the fourth largest island country in the Caribbean. It’s the land of reggae and endless beaches, jerk chicken, soaring mountains, blue lagoons and dense rainforests. Teenagers love the 24/7 energy and extremes of adventure, the easy going atmosphere’s perfect for younger kids and the weather’s warm and sunny most of the time so it’s open year round for family holidays.


Why go on holiday to Jamaica

  • Direct flights from the UK to Kingston or Montego Bay take just over 10 hours.

  • Average temperatures are 28˚ year round with heaviest rainfall in September, October and November.

  • High season runs from December to March. Weather’s warm and sunny during UK summer but prices are low season.

  • Some of the world’s most luxurious and opulent beach hotels are in Montego Bay.

  • The Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park covers over 26,000ha in the east of Jamaica, it’s the country’s only UNESCO World Heritage site and contains the captivating Elfin Forest.

  • Frenchman’s Cove near Port Antonio is known as the ‘prettiest beach in the Caribbean’.

  • Apart from private resort beaches, Jamaica has over 50 public beaches including famous Doctor’s Cave Beach in Montego Bay.



Where to go

Kingston

You wouldn’t choose the Jamaican capital as a base for a family holiday, but it’s a big and brilliantly lively city and a fun break from endless, beautiful beaches. Come here for the reggae cultures and live music, ridiculously good Caribbean cooking, museums and botanical gardens, colourful markets and some of the country’s most famous historic buildings.

  • Don’t miss: Emancipation Park; Hope Botanical Gardens; Devon House; Bob Marley Museum; the National Gallery of Jamaica; Kingston Harbour.
  • Take a picnic and sail from Kingston to Lime Cay for miraculously lovely beaches and a very barefoot vibe – it’s a local favourite on Sundays.

Montego Bay

The most famous area in all of Jamaica and with good reason. The beaches are stunning, the golf’s great and many of the island’s grandest resort hotels are draped along the shoreline. Everything’s on hand here from the softest sun loungers and best water sports to duty-free shopping and fantastic seafood restaurants. It’s not authentic Jamaica but it works a holiday 24/7 and has great connections to almost everywhere, so finding more local life is never too difficult.

  • Montego Bay’s Cornwall Beach has some of the safest swimming on the island for younger kids.
  • Most of the Bay’s resort hotels have their own private beaches, but visit Doctor’s Cave public beach with teenagers, it’s plenty lively and good fun.
  • Don’t miss: Martha Brae River Rafting; Croydon Plantation; Ross Hall Great House; Rockland Bird Sanctuary; Sam Sharpe Square; Greenwood Great House.

Negril

The western point of Jamaica’s a relatively recent arrival on the holiday map. It used to be impossible to reach except by boat but there’s an excellent road in and out these days and the allure of Seven Mile Beach has proved irresistible to quite a few major international resorts. Rick’s Café and its legendary cliff-jumping exploits is in Negril and you’ll find Kool Runnings, Jamaica’s biggest waterpark, here too.

  • The largest coral reef is just off the coast at Negril so the snorkelling and diving here is about the best on the island.
  • Don’t miss: Seven Mile Beach; Roaring River Park; Negril Royal Palm Reserve; Rick’s Café; Kool Runnings.

Ocho Rios

Jamaica’s cruise port doesn’t have Montego Bay’s glamorous reputation but it does have the motherlode of outstanding, all-inclusive resort hotels and fun family activities. If you spot something you want to see or do that involves high-wires, wild waterfalls, extreme sports or herds of teenagers, chances it has an Ocho Rios’ address are fairly high.

  • Nearby Runaway Bay is good for younger kids: close to the action in Ocho Rios but quieter resorts with private beaches when you want a breather.
  • Ocho Rios shopping is about the best in Jamaica whether you’re up for local markets or glossy designer stores.
  • Faith’s Pen is not to be missed for authentic Jamaican cooking served street style, be prepared to queue it’s as famous as it deserves to be.
  • Don’t miss: Dunn’s Falls; Dolphin Cove; Green Grotto Caves; Saville Heritage Park; Yaaman Adventure Park; Mystic Mountain Rainforest Adventures.

Port Antonio

The lush eastern end of Jamaica is where to find some of the world’s loveliest beaches, most admired swimming spots and gorgeous colonial architecture to sweep you back two centuries in a heartbeat. Port Antonio is as different from the tourist gleam of Montego Bay and Ocho Rio as it’s possible to get, but shouldn’t be missed; a quaint charmer in its own right, the town’s also the gateway to some of the country’s grandest landscapes.

  • Don’t miss: The Blue Lagoon; rafting on the Rio Grande River; Winnifred Beach; West Street and Market Square; Fort George; Folly Mansion; Folly Point Lighthouse; Reach Falls.

What to do

  • Dolphin Cove Jamaica
    Each of Jamaica’s Dolphin Coves are in a different setting but they’re all world-famous for giving kids the unique experience of swimming naturally with dolphins in the Caribbean Sea – no surprises this is the country’s top family attraction. Dolphin Cove
  • Dunn’s River Falls, Ocho Rios
    The best known natural phenomena in Jamaica, Dunn’s River Falls are enormous and made for climbing. The ascent’s thrilling and even younger kids can manage – go easy and take advantage of all the lovely lagoons and ledges to rest up on along the way.
  • Bob Marley Museum, Kingston
    It’s never too early to introduce kids to ‘Brother Bob’, and this very personal museum, set in the 19th century house he lived in until his death in 1981, is a good place to start.
  • Kool Runnings Adventure Park, Negril
    Jamaica’s awash with fantastic waterfalls but, when only manmade white-knuckle terror will do, Kool Runnings is the country’s biggest and wildest waterpark – gorgeous Seven Mile Beach is nearby.
  • Green Grotto Caves, Discovery Bay
    Over 1500m long and 12m deep, the Green Grotto is one of Jamaica’s most thrilling natural experiences. The tour’s fascinating for kids and finishes up at a lovely underground lagoon.
  • YS Falls, YS
    YS has Jamaica’s shortest place name and the YS Falls: a complex of seven scalable waterfalls across a beautiful 19th century sugar plantation with ziplines in the tree canopy, horse riding and lagoon swimming.
  • Eco-Dreamer Cruise, Bogue Lagoon
    Between the ziplines and water sports and rides, chutes and slides, it’s easy to forget how naturally spectacular the Caribbean can be. A four hour cruise round Bogue Lagoon Marine Sanctuary is a perfect reminder.
  • Mystic Mountain Rainforest Adventures, Ocho Rios
    The one unmissable, high-octane Jamaican experience for kids is a day flying over, around and down spectacular Mystic Mountain on bobsleighs, gondolas, cable cars, ropes and ziplines.
  • Jungle Tubing, Great River
    A couple of hours adventurous tubing over gentle rippling glides and long, rushing stretches of the magnificent Great River and it’s easy to see how it came by the names.
  • Family Sail & Snorkel, Montego Bay
    A two hours cruise in Montego Bay and an insider’s expertise on the best snorkelling spots is a fun way to spend the morning with kids in one of Jamaica’s most iconic spots.

Educational value for kids

  • Sailing on traditional Jamaican rafts down the mysterious Martha Brae River is great fun for kids and local navigators double as history experts so learning’s squeezed into the adventure without anyone noticing.
  • Guided hiking tours in Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park are a thrilling way for teenagers to explore some of this magnificently wild UNESCO World Heritage sites; one of the most bio-diverse environments in the Caribbean.
  • Jamaica’s one of the few Caribbean islands with good, year-round snorkelling and diving conditions. No surprises it also has some of the best schools in the world too and kids are (almost) never too young to learn here.
  • Put Jamaica’s wonderful beaches together with the country’s long equestrian heritage and it’s just about the perfect place for kids to pick up the basics of horse riding. Gentle strolls and easy canters along the sand are the stuff holiday memories are made of.
  • The National Gallery of Jamaica in Kingston is the longest established in the Caribbean. The permanent collection’s pretty intriguing and the annual programme of events and exhibitions always has something worth seeing with kids.
  • Devon House was one of Jamaica’s very first 19th century millionaire’s mansions. Now publicly owned and beautifully restored, it’s wonderful to explore and the gardens are glorious. The history’s made entertaining for older kids and nobodby can resist the charming Devon House Bakery.
  • Take a tour of Jamaica’s Historic Schools. The built legacy of wealthy Victorian benefactors, the extravagant architecture’s almost as interesting as the 19th century island education system.

 

Getting around with kids in Jamaica

Car hire’s as easy in Jamaica as most other Caribbean islands. The defensive local driving style takes a bit of getting used to in Kingston and busier towns. Keep your speed down on narrow coast or mountain roads and drive cautiously at night. Knutsford Express buses are best if you don’t want to self-drive: large, air conditioned and cover the entire island. Many tours and attractions include transport to and from resorts in their ticket prices.

Interested in family beach holidays?