Jamaica is an island that knows how to make a big first impression—just like that initial intoxicating sip of local Blue Mountain coffee. From fictional spy James Bond to reggae legend Bob Marley to Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt (not to mention a certain underdog bobsled team), this Caribbean island thrives on people and experiences that capture the imagination.
It’s the kind of place where beauty is balanced by boldness, relaxation is enlivened by irresistible rhythm and warm turquoise sea blends harmoniously with misty emerald peaks. Jamaica’s famous white-sand beaches—in Negril, Montego Bay, Ocho Rios—gave the world the first all-inclusive resorts and its fiery cuisine and homegrown spirits have inspired legions of jerk chicken aficionados and Appleton rum and Red Stripe beer lovers.
One of the most popular islands in the Caribbean for a resort vacation, Jamaica has also managed to simultaneously polish its reputation as both a place to party—with clothing optional in some places—and a hot spot for honeymooners, families and golfers. The type of vacation you’re seeking will determine where to stay.
The island is home to the best beach resorts, all-inclusive resorts and romantic hotels with old-school ambience, as well as contemporary properties and family resorts with waterslide-filled aqua parks, internationally-themed restaurants and a swim-up bar or two. And if your budget is generous you can even sleep in one of the Caribbean’s first overwater bungalows.
Activity wise, Jamaica excels at offering top-notch experiences in the ocean and on land. Its best beaches and warm coastal waters are ideal for snorkeling or diving as well as parasailing, windsurfing, stand-up paddle boarding and Jet-Skiing. And Negril’s cliffs are famous for luring the adventurous to jump off them into seawater that’s as much as 40 feet below.
But the fun doesn’t stop once vacationers head into the island’s lush interior. One of the most popular activities in Jamaica is climbing Dunn’s River Falls near Ocho Rios, where the cascades are more than 600 feet wide. Other options for active nature-lovers are a visit to YS Falls on the south coast, which is smaller but no less beautiful, zip-lining (there a several canopy courses) or taking a bobsled ride through the jungle at Mystic Mountain. Those who prefer a more leisurely pace can go rafting on the Martha Brae River, visit a historic Great House, hit the fairways on one of Jamaica’s 10 golf courses or have every last worry expertly rubbed away with an essential-oil-infused massage.
One thing that everyone who visits Jamaica can count on: blazing sunsets that ignite star-filled nights filled with reggae and revelry.