Jamaica has 635 miles of coastline with a beach for every bum; not all of the beaches in Jamaica are dominated by all-inclusive resorts, either. Rugged pathways lead to secluded coves, and lively public beaches are equally tempting.
Sometimes you’re looking for a spot where you can spend all day on the beach, eating, drinking and soaking in the sun; there’s Bamboo Beach for that. Dunn’s River Falls Beach is also a great place to start a snorkeling adventure, or you can also try Pellew Island. More interested in cuisine than swimming? Check out Hellshire Beach for Jamaican delicacies like “festival” and “bammy.”
From east to west, for everyone from foodies to families, here are the 10 best beaches in Jamaica.
Jamaica’s celebrated western sweep isn’t really seven miles long; it’s actually closer to six, but, for beach lovers, the exact distance is irrelevant at one of the best beaches in Jamaica. What really matters: the casual and carefree vibe of Jamaica’s longest and most famous beach, where you can relax with a Red Stripe, get your hair braided and enjoy an aloe massage.
Doctor’s Cave Beach
In Montego Bay in the early 1900s, a local doctor and his friends would take a morning dip in a part of the sea fed by underground streams, which he has convinced had curative properties. Ever since, what’s now known as Doctor’s Cave Bathing Club has attracted legions of visitors, drawn not just by the water but also by family-friendly conveniences that include showers, beach umbrellas, chairs and floats for rent and a seaside food court.
The collective name for a collection of small beaches on the untrammeled south coast, Treasure Beach strands are more brown sugar than white, with a wild beauty you won’t find out on the manicured, resort-lined north coast. Kick back with a cold one on the sand at Jack Sprat, Great Bay or Calabash Bay Beach, where yours will be one of just a few footprints.
Sheltered by sea grape trees and embraced by rocky outcrops at either end, this local favorite (formerly known as Reggae Beach) lies just east of Ochi in St. Mary. The $11 entry fee includes rental of a beach chair to mark your plot on the quarter-mile cove while plenty of shade and a beach bar and restaurant make staying all day seem like a sensible thing to do.
In Port Antonio, this wide scallop immortalized in the movie Cocktail is bordered by a lush garden with a river running through it and is undoubtedly one of the island’s most Instagrammable. You’ll pay $10 to get in, but the beach is blissfully quiet, with no water sports or loud music to disturb the peace.
Dunn’s River Falls Beach
In the rush to climb the famous 600-foot-high cascade, most visitors overlook the lovely half-mile of sand at its base, from which you can snorkel or take a glass-bottom boat ride. To avoid the crowds, come in the early morning, late afternoon or on the weekends when cruise ships aren’t in port.
Ocho Rios Bay Beach
Also known as Turtle Beach, Ocho Rios’ marquee strand offers welcomed respite from the cacophony of the bustling town. Enter through the shopping center on Main Street, and enjoy the surprisingly peaceful half-mile-long sweep’s white sands, lapped by turquoise waters on which cruise ships float like giant tub toys.
In the east-coast town where the island of Jamaica’s fiery and fragrant barbecue originated, the appeal of this rugged beach endures despite recent erosion, partly because of the nearby jerk stands. Ride surfer-ready waves for an hour or two, and then reward your efforts with a foil-wrapped, finger-licking feast of jerk pork or chicken, enjoyed best right on the sand.
Five miles from Port Antonio, this islet has had many names (Monkey Island and Princess Island, among them), but its compact beach is consistently sweet. Live out your castaway fantasies here, mere minutes from the mainland, by kayaking over from San San Beach to laze on the sand and to snorkel the nearby reef.
Just a 30-minute drive from Kingston, this strand has caramel sand and vigorous surf. Sea and sand, however, play second fiddle to the string of fish shacks (each with its own devoted following) that line the lively sweep. Choose a fish from your shack’s cooler, order it flash-fried with sides of “festival” (slightly sweet fried dumplings) and “bammy” (fried cassava bread), and enjoy a beachfront breakfast of champions, Jamaican-style.