If you haven’t been to the island of Jamaica, now may just be the best time to live your best life and book a flight.
My first encounter with Jamaica came through attending Jamaica Carnival, a days-long festival of soca, reggae dancehall and masquerading in Kingston, which takes place every Easter season (see our 2018 Jamaica Carnival video diary to see how lit it was).
But for travelers who like a more relaxing vibe, there are options too.
Between its beautiful sandy beaches, deliciously savory foods and rich historical landscape, the capital city of Kingston has plenty of wonders to explore.
So grab a friend or get your solo travel on, and check out these special gems for your next trip to Jamrock.
1. If you want to go on a relaxing walk or run… Emancipation Park
I stumbled upon Emancipation Park staying at the Courtyard Marriot across the street.
It’s perfect for a run and has distance markers all around designated just for people getting their fitness on.
(theGrio/Natasha S. Alford)
There’s a workout area with a gym, as well as benches to sit and view the beautiful flowers, palm trees and scenery.
If you walk down the stretch of the blue waterways, you’ll see the 11-foot-high Redemption Song Monument, which features a nude man and woman staring up at the heavens. It was so powerful and breathtaking when I saw it, I stopped and stared for a good 10 minutes to take it the meaning.
The monument is said to represent the “spirit of freedom” and it’s something you have to see in person for yourself before you leave.
2. If you’re boycotting Starbucks… Craighton Estate (home of Blue Mountain Coffee)
I love a good trip to the mountains to see the city from a different view. As part of my tour of Kingston, I went up winding roads to check out Craighton Estates, a 300-acre estate in the Blue Mountains where Jamaica’s famous Blue Mountain coffee is farmed.
Coffee-lovers will find themselves in heaven, as they get a taste of the coveted drink with a nice rum cake to help clean their palettes.
Craighton Estate tour guides are also very cool about letting you check out behind-the-scenes coffee bean roasting (which smells amazing), while breaking down the process of harvesting beans (it’s exported to Japan by the tons because of the quality) and the history of coffee (which was born in Ethiopia- shout out to mother Africa)!
While I admittedly don’t usually drink coffee on the daily, I left Craighton Estate actually enjoying the taste of Blue Mountain Coffee and getting some get pictures of the city on the mountaintop.
3. If you’re a lover of reggae… Bob Marley Museum
Bob Marley Museum stands as a living testament to the music icon’s life, because it’s the actually home he lived in. Within it you’ll get to see the studio where he created his hits, as well as his numerous awards, including a Grammy.
Be warned that no cell phones are allowed inside, but trust that your lively and hilarious tour guide with keep your attention the entire time. There’s lots of sing-along and participation on the tour, and if you stick it out to the end you can buy souvenirs in the gift shop.
Make sure you grab food at the official “One Love” museum café, with healthy eats inspired by Bob and his wife Rita’s rastafarian diet. I absolutely loved the Jerk Chicken wrap topped with Jammin’ Jerk Smokey BBQ sauce. Throw in a green smoothie and you’ll be good to go.
The tour is extensive so I highly recommend you eat (and rest) beforehand to enjoy all the knowledge being dropped throughout.
4. If you’re a black history nerd… Devon House Mansion
There’s nothing like seeing tributes to black excellence. Devon House Mansion, home of Jamaica’s first black millionaire, George Stiebel, is the perfect spot to see it in person.
Stiebel’s was a boss businessman, gold trader and property owner in the 1800, so it makes sense that his mansion is a protected heritage site.
When you arrive you’ll be greeted by a tour guide dressed in old-time garb, who will take you for 20-30 minutes to show you antique photos, furniture and heirlooms, which will look great in your pics on the ‘gram.
After the tour you can get a taste of the famous homemade Devon House I Scream shop, or try a shaved ice or coconut water instead (or do like I did and try all three.)
In addition to the Devon House bakery, there’s a steak house, pizza shop and The Grog Shoppe restaurant, which has a fusion menu of Jamaican and international cuisine.
Before you leave, check out RÊVE Jewellery & Accessories, which offers handmade gifts made locally in Jamaica. If Teasea’s in the shop, she’ll show you the latest trendy earrings and can give you the scoop on local events and fashion.
5. If you can’t get enough of the sand and sun… Fort Clarence Beach Park
I got my first taste of Fort Clarence Beach after the Xaymaca International post-Carnival beach Lyme (a.k.a party) during Jamaica Carnival 2018.
After figuring out I needed a driver to get there without a car, I forked over $90 for me and a friend to get a round trip from Kingston to Portmore. Considering it’s about a 40-minute drive, it made sense.
Once you arrive, the beauty of Fort Clarence Beach makes the trek worth it.
There’s plenty of space to stretch out to get tan, play sports on the sand, or dip in the water (which is actually warm and relaxing)!
Note that there is an entry fee and the beach closes at 6pm, so arrive early enough to get your money’s worth.
You can also buy fried fish or festival (which is like Jamaican fried dough). Add that with whatever you bring in your cooler and you’ve got the perfect wind-down to enjoy “The Rock.”
This is just a starter list to get you warmed up when you stop into Kingston, but here are some more places to try out when you visit the Land of Wood and Water: