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If you’re looking for a Caribbean vacay that offers so much more than just superb beaches, welcome to Jamaica. Sure, the island has some pretty incredible coastlines, but it’s also home to thundering waterfalls, centuries-old plantations, mist-shrouded rainforests, and a pulsating local music scene. And of course, you can’t forget about the irresistible eats like ackee and saltfish, oxtail and jerk chicken. This one-of-a-kind island offers some incredible experiences if you’re willing to venture off the resort grounds. So gear up because we’re about to take you on a journey of some of the best and most unique things to do in Jamaica.
1. Sip Jamaican Rum at Appleton Estate
Ever thought about how rum gets from the sugar cane to your glass? The experts at Appleton Estate will show you how and then some. With a story that kicked off way back in 1749, Appleton Estate has been crafting world-class rum for over 250 years, making it Jamaica’s oldest rum distillery and one of the most well respected in the entire Caribbean region. Here you can dive deep into the rum-making process, try out a variety of rums to learn about the craftsmanship and specific Jamaican flavors, and even get to blend your own signature bottle.
2. Explore the Natural Beauty of Reach Falls
Ready for a slice of Jamaican paradise that’s off the tourist trail? Reach Falls, tucked away in the UNESCO-listed John Crow Mountains, is calling your name. Picture this: cascading waterfalls, crystal-clear pools, and hidden caves waiting to be discovered. Add to that the thrill of swinging into the pools from a rope, à la Tarzan, and the serenity of river tubing down the nearby Rio Grande River. You’re not just sightseeing; you’re living out a Jamaican adventure, exploring hidden grottos, diving from rope swings, and gliding down natural stone slides, all against the backdrop of breathtaking landscapes. Simply put, Reach Falls is not just a visit, it’s an experience.
3. Celebrate History and Culture at a Maroon Festival
One of the best things to do in Jamaica if you really want to learn more about the culture is join a Maroon Festival. The Maroons are descendants of escaped African slaves who established independent communities in Jamaica’s mountains. Here they developed their own distinct cultures, languages, and social structures, preserving their African roots while incorporating elements from indigenous and European influences. These festivals are not just parties, they’re living tributes to a proud and unique heritage. Expect to be swept up in a kaleidoscope of traditional music, rituals, folk songs and dances like “Dinki Mini” and “Jonkanoo”. It’s all about celebrating the spirit of resistance, resilience, and cultural richness.
4. Go Horseback Riding on the Beach
There’s nothing quite like hopping on a trusty steed and setting off on a leisurely trot along the sand and through the gentle surf of one of Jamaica’s beaches. Feel the sea breezes rustle your hair as you gaze out at incredible views of the coastline. There are tons of places in Jamaica that offer unique horseback experiences. No matter where you’re staying on the island, you’ll find a spot that can give you the ride of a lifetime through ocean waves and along sandy shores.
5. Set Off on a River Tubing Adventure
Looking for a more laid-back adventure? Picture yourself gently bobbing down one of Jamaica’s scenic rivers surrounded by tropical greenery on a river tubing excursion. From the rush of navigating the twists and turns of Rio Bueno in Trelawny to the tranquility of drifting along the Martha Brae River in Falmouth, there’s an experience for everyone. Soak up the tropical landscape with Calypso River Tubing near Montego Bay or explore the peaceful Lethe River, nestled in the hills. River tubing is one of those fun things to do in Jamaica that can be as chill or adrenaline pumping as you like it.
6. Discover the Sunken Pirate City of Port Royal
If you have an affinity for pirates, then Port Royal should definitely be on your Jamaican bucket list. Once a bustling haven for buccaneers and notorious characters, and the largest city in the Caribbean, it was destroyed by an earthquake and tsunami in 1692, and now it’s an underwater archaeological wonder waiting to reveal its secrets. Sign up for a snorkeling or diving excursion and submerge yourself into the vivid history encapsulated by shipwrecks and artifacts resting on the sea bed. Who knows, you might even feel the ghostly presence of Blackbeard himself!
7. Take a Bamboo Raft Safari
One of the most unique things to do in Jamaica is to take a bamboo raft safari down the Rio Grande River or Martha Brae River. Imagine this: you’re lounging on a hand-crafted bamboo raft while a skilled guide expertly steers you through the calm waters. On either side of you there are towering walls of greenery that house curious wildlife. This is a great way to see Jamaica’s natural side and get to know the rich history and folklore of these majestic rivers. It’s an experience that will leave you feeling at peace and in awe of the island’s natural beauty.
8. Experience a Rastafari Village
Rastafari culture is at the heart and soul of Jamaica, and a Rastafari village is where you can learn about the history and heritage of this lifestyle. One of the most well-known villages that welcomes guests is the Rastafari Indigenous Village in Montego Bay. This place isn’t just about preserving and showcasing Rastafarian history and spirituality, it’s about really connecting you to the community.
Keep in mind that every Rastafari village has its own rhythm, so some may be open to visitors, while others are more private and focused on internal community life. Do your research first to find out which villages welcome guests and be sure to make a reservation before rocking up. While you’re visiting, bring your respect, open mind, and a whole lot of love for the Rasta way of life.
9. Visit the Bob Marley Museum and Mausoleum
There’s no way you can truly embrace the soul of Jamaica without immersing yourself in the legacy of its son, Bob Marley. His last resting place at Nine Mile, St. Ann is more than just a spot on a map—it’s a journey through the legend’s life.
Kick things off with a guided tour of his childhood home, now transformed into the Bob Marley Museum. Here you can walk through the same rooms he did, absorb the energy, the history, and peek at his personal belongings. The tour doesn’t stop there. You’ll also get to visit the mausoleum where Bob Marley rests. Decorated with flowers and tributes, it’s here where you can pay your respects and feel a deep connection to this icon of music.
But the experience doesn’t end with places—it’s also about the culture. You’ll gain insights into Rastafarianism, the spiritual path that Bob Marley passionately followed. The rhythm of reggae music, so deeply entwined with Bob’s legacy, fills the air. Local musicians perform his songs, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself drawn into an impromptu jam session.
10. Climb the Blue Mountains
If you’re up for a bit of a challenge and a lot of breathtaking views, why not hike up the Blue Mountains? We’re talking the tallest mountain range in Jamaica here, so don’t forget your sturdy shoes. And while you’re soaking in the scenery, you may as well explore some coffee plantations too.
Ever heard of Blue Mountain Coffee? Yeah, it’s kind of a big deal—one of the world’s most coveted brews! What makes it so special, you ask? Well, it’s the high altitude, the cool climate, the fertile soil, and the misty conditions up here. The coffee plants absolutely love it, and the proof’s in the cup.
And if you’re a nature lover, you’re in luck. There’s a whole array of trails leading to the Blue Mountain Peak, each promising a unique panorama. Bring your binoculars because birdwatching opportunities are aplenty. Don’t be surprised if you spot some exotic wildlife on your adventure too. Trust us, the Blue Mountains have something for every outdoorsy soul out there.
11. Cool Off at Dunn’s River Falls
Dunn’s River Falls is a wildly popular attraction on the island, so while it may not be one of the most off-the-beaten path unique things to do in Jamaica, it’s definitely worth a trip if you’ve never been there before. This spectacular natural wonder features a staircase of waterfalls cascading down 600 feet. Feel the spray from the falls mist over you as you climb the naturally formed limestone steps, then treat yourself to a swim in one of the many refreshing pools in the terraces. These falls are famously picturesque, so you can also get some great shots to make your followers jealous.
12. Swim in the Blue Lagoon
Just like the name suggests, this stunning spot in Port Antonio is a gorgeous lagoon with mesmerizing turquoise-colored water. You may recognize it from the famous movie of the same name featuring Brooke Shields. You can opt for a scenic boat ride that cuts through the shimmering waters. But, hey, don’t just be a passenger, jump in! The lagoon is perfect for a refreshing swim or a leisurely snorkel. Float around, dive under, or maybe just kick back and enjoy the views of the lagoon surrounded by tropical foliage and distant hills beyond.
13. Take a Local Food Tour and Indulge in Jamaican Cuisine
Jamaican cuisine is renowned for its bold flavors and hearty creations. If you want a real taste of the island, join on a local food tour to sample authentic dishes like succulent jerk chicken awash in fiery spices, savory ackee and saltfish, and Jamaican patties wrapped in golden, flaky pastry. If you’re in the mood for something rich, curry goat paired with fluffy rice is a local favorite comfort dish. End your Jamaican feast on a sweet note with an array of fresh tropical fruits grown locally and picked that day.
14. Venture Into Cockpit Country
If you really want to go deep into the heart of Jamaica’s wilderness, make your way to Cockpit Country. The area is famed for its unique limestone karst landscapes. Travel along hiking trails that wind through dense forest, while marveling at the distinctive, cone-shaped hills. Along the way you’ll uncover hidden caves that were once refuges for the Maroons, escaped slaves who fought for and won their freedom. Trust us, there’s nothing quite like exploring this raw, untamed side of Jamaica that makes you feel like you’re stepping back in time.
15. Experience the Ethereal at the Glistening Waters Luminous Lagoon
Let’s take a moment and enter the realm of the extraordinary. Imagine being on a boat tour as darkness unfolds, heading towards the intriguingly named Glistening Waters Luminous Lagoon. As you glide through the water, an ethereal blue glow illuminates the darkness, creating a surreal scene. This otherworldly phenomenon happens when microscopic organisms in the water called dinoflagellates are disturbed, causing them to emit bioluminescent light. This is one of only four places on the planet where this happens, so it’s a must for any Jamaican itinerary.
16. Swim Among Shipwrecks
Take a deep dive into history with an underwater exploration of the shipwrecks off the coast of Jamaica. In Montego Bay, the Kathryn is a former minesweeper that is now an artificial reef 70 feet below the surface. For those who want to stay closer to the shore, the David and Gladys is a sunken tugboat teeming with colorful coral and tropical fish. It’s located in about 30 feet of water near Ocho Rios. Just remember though that these submerged treasures are best explored by those with diving experience and proper certification.
Have we inspired you to book your trip to Jamaica?
Featured image: Appleton Estate