Planning a trip to the Caribbean island of Jamaica and wondering about the best things to do on the West Coast? There are so many things to do in Jamaica, from climbing waterfalls to pirate cruises, diving and snorkeling, and of course exploring reggae music and visiting a Rastafari Indigenous Village.
If it is your first time to the popular destination of Jamaica, and you’ve not yet had the chance to research some of the amazing things to do on the island, with this useful guide you’ll learn some things to do in Montego Bay and Negril.
Jamaica is becoming more and more popular with backpackers and travelers who want to have more authentic experiences and escape their all-inclusive resorts.
As an avid traveler, backpacking mostly in Latin America and the Caribbean. I have spent many seasons traveling in and around Jamaica and still visit the island regularly. I truly love this country and want to share some of my favorite things to do in Jamaica to help make your vacation to this Caribbean island the best it can be!
Best Things to do on the West Coast of Jamaica
Before we get into this list of things to do on Jamaica’s west coast, note that the following activities listed are to give you a mixture of things to do in both Negril and Montego Bay.
Maybe you’re traveling to Jamaica with family and would prefer to take part in more group activities? Perfect, there is something in this guide for you too.
With there been many things to on Jamaica’s West Coast, I have picked out some of the most popular to get you acquainted with this part of the island.
Now, let’s begin by looking a bit further into what to do in Montego Bay:
#1 Swim at the One Man Beach
When you are in Montego Bay, you’ll no doubt want to visit the beach. Leaving your resort or accommodation shouldn’t be difficult.
Many people will recommend you go to Dr. Cove beach which is a paid stretch of beach where you can sit and relax. However, if you’d like a more local beach experience you can head down to One Man Beach. Expect hot sands and blue skies. Both beaches are located close to the Hip Strip and you are more likely to encounter one or two local people.
Like many of the beaches in Jamaica that are off the tourist map. The One Man Beach has no bar or official shop, per se, but you will likely be approached in a more local fashion. If you want drinks there will usually be a someone ‘manning’ the beach. In true Jamaican style, this is one of the best beaches where you can feel one step closer to life as a local in Jamaica, especially. if you have been used to a hotel atmosphere.
#2 Take a Walk down the Hip Strip
If in Montego Bay and looking for something pleasant to do, a great start would be to take a walk down the Hip Strip. Although it is the most tourist place to be seen in Montego Bay, it is always worth a stroll down and one of the most fun things to do on the west coast if it’s a first-time visit. If you’re a newcomer you may find merchants to be quite pushy and intimidating… so Welcome to Jamaica.
However, I urge you not to fear it or let it change your mind of the place. Actually, no vending is allowed on this street, so you’ll notice how relatively quiet it is compared to other parts of Montego Bay. But still, many people make a living from approaching tourists.
If you want to find some more local shop and eateries, though, you’d have to wander up one of the side streets to find something. Also, remember that many of the shops on this street are not Jamaican-owned. That’s why I recommend that you buy your souvenirs elsewhere.
#3 Sample some Jamaican Jerk Chicken
As any proud Jamaican will tell you, Jerk Chicken is a recipe that originates right back from the time when the Maroons brought their African cooking techniques to Jamaica.
If you’re an avid meat eater you can’t leave Jamaica without sampling some of the finest Jerk Chicken. Usually, done best when cooked by the man at the side of the road. They start their process of Jerking the meat right from early morning.
Look out for the colorful carts that usually advertise what that particular vendor is selling. You’ll find also find it in most good restaurants but usually at a premium price. If you don’t like or eat Chicken you can find other Jerked food items including Pork and some type of vegetables, if you are lucky.
#4 Explore the Fantasy Craft Market
Whilst on the Hip Strip, also known as Gloucester Ave, you’ll notice most of the shops and offers are targeted at tourists. Normally the type that who are on the Island for less than a day. For example, people who step foot off the cruise ship have very little time.
Many tourists hardly even make it to the Craft market because is hidden behind a convenience store and you’d never know that it existed.
For anyone traveling to Jamaica, the Fantasy Craft Market is probably the best place in Montego Bay to get real handcrafted goods for a reasonable price. You can also haggle with the sellers. However, I invite you to consider the artist’s skill, time and labor that into the work. Many of these are one-off pieces. Generally, the sellers will look after you, and are very competitive, so allow yourself a bit of time to look around before you commit buying anything,
#5 Watch the Sunset at Ricks Cafe
Whilst in Negril, one place you may not want to miss is the infamous Ricks Cafe. This is the place where you watch people jump off 20 foot high cliffs without a care in the world. Meanwhile, you just sit back with a rum punch and the most satisfying sunset you will have probably ever seen.
If feeling daring, you can take part in the cliff jumping. There are lifeguards on site, so you can jump with confidence. Admittedly, though, it is a bit of a tourist trap, as the venue has built a good reputation up over many years. However, the vibe is fun and you’ll love the live music and entertainment that is on offer.
Many people come here just to view the sunset, which makes it a great place to be in the early evening. In fact, it is best to arrive at the popular spot before the sunset to be able to position yourself in order to get some amazing shots.
At Rick’s cafe, you’ll also find a pool, cabanas and a selection of Jamaican food available to order. If you missed out on getting Jerk Chicken on the street, now is your chance. Know what to expect from this type of tourist venue and you will not be disappointed.
#6 Connect with Locals
In Jamaica, if you are open, you’ll find it’s very easy to talk to people. Depending on where you find yourself, at first, it may seem people are harassing you to buy something. However, once you accept this is a part and parcel of everyday life on the island, you can actually learn a lot from Jamaican people.
For example, you can encounter people with a hospitable spirit who make it their best interest to ensure you have a good experience on the island.
Many people say that Jamaicans are rude and inconsiderate when it comes to customer service and relations. The key is to remind yourself that these people do not speak for all Jamaicans. A part of learning about a new culture is to realize not all people are the same.
The best way to connect with Jamaican people is to ask them a question about life on the island or about the local life and they’ll usually be more than happy to share a pleasant exchange with you.
#7 Observe Art at Sam Sharpe Square
Whilst on Jamaica’s West Coast you may want to see some cultural attractions. If you are in Montego Bay, you can easily check out Sam Sharpe Square. Here you’ll find a memorial that commemorates the struggles faced by him being born into slavery.
Jamaica has a vast history and these statues can be found in downtown Montego Bay, so it is right in the middle of the hustle of bustle of the city. If you are staying close by, you can use public transport in Jamaica to get here.
Although I recommend that you contact a local taxi driver to take you to this spot, there is no need to be startled by the immediate area. If you do feel intimated by being approached by locals, there are usually police vans parked close by so tourists can feel at ease when visiting this important Jamaican landmark.
How are things on the west coast? You’ll get a great vibe of the local climate with a visit to this part of Jamaica.
Most Popular Tours in Jamaica including the West Coast
So, now you have some ideas for the best things to do on the west coast of Jamaica, what will you do? If you love sand, sea, and sunset you’re definitely in the right place.
With the island’s happy vibe and its contagious rhythm of reggae music, you can be sure to find time to relax and even get off the beaten tourist track.
More Things to do in Jamaica
If you expand your visit of Jamaica a few additional attractions are well worth a visit!
Southeast Coast of Jamaica
- The Bob Marley Museum in Kingston, Jamaica. The museum is located at 56 Hope Road, Kingston, and is Bob Marley’s former home. This is one of the most popular attractions for music fans.
North Coast of Jamaica
- Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios. You can actually climb a portion of the waterfalls in the shallow waters, which is 180 feet high and 600 feet long. This is one of the most popular activities in Jamaica.
- Glistening Waters is a glowing lagoon on the north coast of Jamaica. Luminous lagoons are only found in four places in the world, however, this luminous lagoon is the brightest of them all due to the climate in Jamaica. The freshwater from the Martha Brae River meets the salt-water ocean and this Luminous Lagoon is formed making Jamaica one of the best places in the world to see this marvel.
- The Green Grotto Caves. This labyrinth of limestone caves is located in Falmouth, between the resort towns of Ocho Rios and Montego Bay and a great excursion for nature lovers. The tour is an interesting walk through geology and history. It is thought that runaway slaves used these caves to hide from the English in the 18th century. It is also said that Pirates used these caves to hide their treasures.
Northeast Coast of Jamaica
- Port Antonio is the gateway to nearby tropical jungles, mountains, and many waterfalls. In the John Crow Mountains, Reach Falls flows into a river pool. Near Hope Bay, Somerset Falls flows on the grounds of a former plantation.
- The Blue Lagoon is known for its blue waters, fed by the Caribbean Sea and underground springs. This is one of the more popular tourist attractions.
- The Blue Mountains extend for about 30 miles (50 km) from Stony Hill, 8 miles north of Kingston, eastward to the Caribbean Sea. They are the longest mountain range in Jamaica and include the island’s highest point, Blue Mountain Peak, at 2256 m (7402 ft).
- Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Tour. Explore the misty paths of the Blue Mountains and see where the world’s best coffee is grown. Considered one of the most expensive coffees in the world, Jamaican coffee is grown on coffee plantations in the Blue Mountain.
What You Need For Travel to Jamaica
Now that we’ve explored the best things to do in Jamaica and especially things to do on the west coast, let’s get into some practical tips!
Do I need a Visa to Travel to Jamaica?
Citizens and permanent residents of the U. S. and Canada do not require a tourist visa for visits in Jamaica of less than six months. Citizens of other countries should check with the Jamaican Embassy well in advance of travel to verify if you need a visa or not.
Do I need a Passport to Travel to Jamaica?
While this might sound obvious, I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard from travelers who didn’t have a valid Passport at the time of travel.
- The biggest oversight is knowing your Passport must have at least 6 months to expire to travel to India (and most international locations).
- The next is a traveler not realizing their passport might be expired at the time of travel.
- The third is knowing you must have two blank pages available in your passport. When you begin planning your trip to India, take a look at your passport expiration date and make sure you have two blank pages available.
Best months to visit Jamaica:
The best time to visit Jamaica is November to mid-December. That’s when the island’s already beautiful weather (ranging from the mid-70s to the high 80s all year-round) is the most pleasant and the hotel and flight deals are the easiest to find. Peak season begins Mid-December and ends Mid-April, so the weather will be gorgeous, but it will be more expensive during these months.
What to Pack for a Trip to Jamaica
Make sure you have all of your travel documents in order and secure in a safe but accessible place. This includes a valid passport, driver’s license, airline tickets and/or boarding passes. A pocketbook or outside pocket of your carry-on bag is ideal since you’ll need easy access at the airport and upon arrival at the hotel.
Also, be sure to pack copies of prescriptions for medications, which should be carried in their original containers. Make sure you know if the island you are traveling to requires a passport (most do). If you don’t already have a passport and need it quick, RushMyPassport.com is a great resource.
You can find just about anything you may need while you are in Jamaica, but you’ll pay a premium, especially for beach items like sunscreen. Here’s a checklist of things to bring for your Jamaica vacation:
Sunscreen – The Caribbean is a tropical climate where the sun’s UV rays have a more direct angle to the Earth’s surface. That is why you need to be vigilant in your sun protection. UV protective clothing, hats and sunglasses, and seeking shade whenever possible, are all important things to focus on. But the most important thing for your skin exposed to the Caribbean sun is a quality sunscreen! I recommend a minimum of SPF 30 and water resistance is essential as you’ll most likely be in and out of the gorgeous Caribbean Sea. I love Neutrogena SPF 70 because it isn’t greasy, water-resistant and is only $8 on Amazon. If you are traveling with kids, I prefer the Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Sunscreen Spray Spf 70+, and it’s only $10 on Amazon.
Aloe Vera – I like to bring a travel-size organic Aloe Vera Gel to soothe the inevitable sunburn I get despite all of the sunscreen slatherings! I somehow seem to miss one spot, like my ears.
Water Shoes are handy for rocky beaches. If you are more adventurous and enjoy hiking, you may want to look into something like a Reef sandal. This Teva Sandal can be worn around town and in the water.
Mask & Snorkel – If you plan to snorkel, bring your own: this is an item you don’t want to rent. Renting a snorkel set day after day can be expensive. If you love to snorkel it makes sense to bring a mask & snorkel set. You won’t find water this clear and beautiful in many other parts of the world and you’ll want to take advantage of snorkeling in the crystal clear Caribbean Sea. This ProDive Dry Top Snorkel Set is a great set you can pick up on Amazon for only $29 and you’ll get your money’s worth after a day or two.
Do’s and Don’ts When Visiting Jamaica
There are do’s and don ts when visiting Jamaica. Jamaica is one of the most relaxed vacation spots in the world and one of the most popular beach destinations in the Caribbean. Like many locations around the world, taking a few precautions will go a long way towards enjoying your trip to the fullest. Follow these tips to make your Jamaica vacation fun and keep you safe!
- Set up airport transfers ahead of time. Avoid being overcharged, left stranded, or even hassled by drivers who may or may not be authorized
- Exchange some of your money into local currency. You will need smaller bills or coins if you’re souvenir shopping, as well as for tipping, taxi’s or other things that may come up. Jamaica’s currency is called the Jamaican dollar. The banknotes are in 50s, 100s, 500s, 1000s. 4. US dollars are widely accepted on the island but you will pretty much always pay more than if you paid in Jamaican dollars.
- Learn a few words in the Jamaican language. Knowing a few popular phrases and words like please, thank you at minimum is always polite when you travel to a foreign country.
- Look Left! Cars drive on the left, as opposed to the right in the US. When crossing streets in Jamaica check the left (as well as the right) to avoid oncoming traffic.
- Don’t take rides with strangers in the city. Not safe. Not smart!
- Don’t explore the island by cab. Instead choose a car service, rent a car or hire a guide from your hotel concierge. There is a bargaining culture in Jamaica and if you are not accustomed to haggling, some cab drivers may take advantage of the situation and you may find yourself paying an unfairly expensive fare.
- Beware of pickpockets. Especially, in tourist hotspots like Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, always keep your wallet in your front pocket and your money tucked safely somewhere (in a hidden pocket or under your clothes).
- Don’t walk around Kingston at night. Kingston is notorious for its high crime rates. It is best to explore Kingston during the day.
Read More About the Caribbean
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.
Thinking about visiting Jamaica? Have questions about things to do west coast? Ask your questions in the comments below!
west coast things to do