Relentless sunshine, powdery white-sand beaches and marbled cerulean blue Caribbean Sea are the first things travelers notice about Jamaica. It offers a fast fix for overstressed lifestyles in the form of sun, sand and surf. Best of all? Come home from a long weekend feeling relaxed, inspired and revitalized. Here’s how.
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Where to stay
Fly into Montego Bay and you’re less than an hour from a panoply of great all-inclusives, some of the best in the Caribbean. Opt for the Grand Bahia Principe Jamaica, an 850-room megaresort with six onsite restaurants, three interconnected pools and even a minidisco. For an ultra-luxe experience, the 36-room Round Hill Hotel and Villas is set on 110 acres and offers ocean-facing rooms or your own villa with food from its own organic veggie garden. Indoor/outdoor living comes to life at Golden Eye, the lavish getaway featuring 49 villas, lagoon villas and beach huts. For a more secluded experience, try to book the unique Fleming Villa with its own private beach.
Serious hikers will want to explore the rugged landscape, dramatic waterfalls and epic views in Jamaica’s Blue and John Crow Mountains, a UNESCO site, where visitors may catch a glimpse of the giant swallowtail butterfly, the largest butterfly in the western hemisphere, or the rare Jamaican blackbird. Vying for something involving screaming? Try bobsledding and zip lining through the rainforest in an afternoon at Rainforest Adventures, an elevated property overlooking the ocean and Ochos Rios. For a full-day outing, try Yaamon Adventure, a stunning 1,000 acre forest property where you’ll learn to make Jamaican curry (and eat it) outdoors overlooking the ocean, feed neon parrots that land in your hand, ride a Segway, a horse and a camel (though not all at once). Cap off your afternoon driving a mini-jeep through the world’s muddiest trails.
Make it a beach day
Every day is a beach day in Jamaica. Most hotels have designated waterfront areas, but some beaches are worth the bus ride. Traipse across Seven Mile Beach in Negril, a peaceful 7-mile stretch of white powder sand. And if you’ve ever wanted to jump 35 feet into crystal blue waters, now’s your chance: Rick’s Café nearby dishes up the opportunity, along with all-day booze and bar fare when you’re done. For the feel of a private, secret beach, try Frenchman’s Cove, an inlet surrounded by forest, which costs $10 per day but is small, intimate and inviting. Jerk lovers and surfers alike will love Boston Bay Beach, known for its reliable waves and as the birthplace of jerk cooking. Postcard-perfect Winnifred Beach is a calm, public spot with an underwater reef perfect for snorkeling.
Let it glow
There are only five bioluminescent bays in the world, and Jamaica’s Luminous Lagoon is one of them. This is a can’t-miss, stunning nighttime experience, where millions of microscopic dinoflagellates, that thrive where shallow bodies of saltwater and freshwater meet, light up at the touch of a paddle or in the wake of your boat. This nighttime cruise gives visitors the opportunity to swim as the shallow, warm water casts a thaumaturgical light.