Where to Stay in Jamaica First Time: 8 Best Areas

The best areas to stay in Jamaica for both first time and returning tourists are the neighborhoods of Negril, Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Treasure Beach, Kingston, Runaway Bay, Port Antonio, Mandeville. This blog post is going to help you decide where to stay in Jamaica for couples, aldults, all-inclusive.

Located in the Caribbean Sea, Jamaica is a popular destination for summer vacations. With its beautiful, varied landscape of mountains and beaches, nature reserves and farmland, there is plenty to explore. Or maybe you prefer sticking to the private pools of exclusive resorts, or enjoying the convenience of a Caribbean city break.

If you plan to spend most of your time relaxing on the beach, Negril is your best bet. Known for having some of the best beaches in the world, you will have plenty of soft, sandy beaches to choose from.

If an energetic and vibrant nightlife scene is your priority, then you will want to head to the city of Montego Bay. This town is well known for having the best and most varied nightlife in Jamaica. 

For family vacations, Ocho Rios is a great location. One of the most popular tourist towns on the island, you will have plenty of family-friendly, all-inclusive resorts to choose from. There are plenty of nearby attractions and activities to keep the whole family entertained. 

For those planning a budget trip who want plenty of affordable options to choose from, Kingston is a good place to look. With fewer beaches there is less demand for accommodation, so the rates are generally lower than at the resort towns.

💖 Best Area:Montego Bay
💎 Best luxury hotel:S Hotel Jamaica
🏨 Best mid-range hotel:The Blue Orchid
💰 Best budget hotel:Mynt Retreat Bed & Breakfast

Where to stay in Jamaica: 8 Best Areas

1. Negril, where to stay in Jamaica for first-time tourists

Negril, where to stay in Jamaica for first-time tourists

Located on the Western tip of Jamaica and close to MBJ Sangster International Airport, Negril (Capital of Casual) is where you will find many of the best beaches in all of Jamaica, crystal clear waters, and spectacular rugged cliffs.

Considering that Jamaica is known for its fabulous beaches, that is really saying something. Coral Beach and Norman Manley Beach are both within the town, whilst various others are just a short journey away. 

Seven Mile Beach is the best known that stretches from Bloody Bay to Long Bay and the Negril Cliffs. Believed by many to be the number one beach on the island, and frequently voted one of the best in the world, Seven Mile Beach is just a couple of kilometers north of Negril.

Seven Mile Beach is also notorious for being one of the most popular party beaches in Jamaica. It’s filled with seafood restaurants and bars, shops, hotels, and the famous Rick’s Cafe.

Head here after dark if you want to enjoy the exciting nightlife that’s not confined to the indoors. The thriving open-air parties make this a popular location for singles to meet and mingle.

Located along the east coast of Jamaica, the beaches here offer some of the best sunsets on the island. There are plenty of bars and restaurants lining the waterfront, so you can enjoy watching the sun dip below the ocean horizon, as you enjoy delicious Jamaican delicacies and cocktails.

If you do want to spend some of your time doing something besides sunning on the beach, there are also plenty of other attractions and activities in the area to enjoy. 

A few kilometers north of Negril is the Kool Runnings Waterpark. With various slides and pools to play in, the whole family can enjoy an afternoon splashing about. There are even some drier activities available, including paintballing and go-karting.

Just a short way south of Negril is Barney’s Flower and Hummingbird Garden. This vibrant botanical garden is home to various exotic plant species and beautiful hummingbirds. Any nature lover will enjoy spending an afternoon here.

If you are interested in picking up some unique local souvenirs, the Negril craft market is a good place to stop. The complex of colorful huts boasts stalls selling a variety of traditional goods to take home.

You can also take a trip to Blue Hole Mineral Spring, Mayfield Falls which is an hour’s drive from Negril.

There is a wide range of accommodation on offer in Negril, with plenty of affordable options for those who need to stick to a tighter budget. You can choose from self-catering apartments, intimate bungalows, or typical hotel rooms, all for some very reasonable prices.

If you have more to work with, you will have your pick of seafront bungalows and all-inclusive resorts. With plenty of hotels along the seafront, you could even book a room with ocean views and enjoy the sunset from the privacy of your balcony.

You will find more all-inclusive resorts around Long Bay and cheaper ones around Long Bay.

Stay In Negril If you are looking area for first-time tourists and singles; you want to enjoy some of the best sunsets in Jamaica; you enjoy open-air nightlife and beach parties.

Best places to stay in Negril:


2. Montego Bay, where to stay in Jamaica for nightlife and shopping

Montego Bay (known as MoBay by locals) is a major resort town on Jamaica’s northern coast. A particularly lively city, Montego Bay is well known for its vibrant nightlife and plentiful shopping streets.

Many of the shopping centers here even offer tourists duty-free purchases, an added bonus. 

The Hip Strip (also known as Gloucester Avenue) is one of the notorious party areas. Here you will find numerous beachside bars and nightclubs, shops, cafés, and entertainment venues keeping the area lively late into the night.

With its west-facing coastline, it’s also a fantastic place to enjoy dinner and drinks with a beautiful view of the sunset over the ocean. 

If you want to take in some of the histories of the area, you can visit the remains of Fort Montego. Once an 18th-century British fort, you can explore what is left of the structure and remaining cannons.

Sam Sharpe Square is where you can learn the history of Jamaica during the 1800s. Originally named Charles Square but in 1976 renamed in honor of a Jamaican National Hero, and anti-slavery activist, Sam Sharpe.

The cobblestone town square has several heritage structures: the Sam Sharpe Monument, the Civic Centre, the Freedom Monument, a cast-iron fountain, and the Cage which is served as a jail for drunks, vagrants, and runaway slaves.

Montego Bay Cultural Centre is home to the National Gallery and the National Museum, there is plenty to take in here. 

If shopping is what you plan on spending your vacation time on, there are plenty of opportunities here. You can enjoy multiple shopping centers and shopping plazas, particularly close to the coastline. You can hit the shops for the afternoon and then head straight back to relaxing on the beach.

If you want a more unique shopping experience, you can head to the Harbour Street Craft and Cultural Village. This is a vibrant market where you can browse stalls housed in colorful chalets. It is a great place to pick up local arts and craft items to take home as gifts or souvenirs. 

As the second-largest city in Jamaica, it is home to one of Jamaica’s busier international airports, Sir Donald Sangster International Airport (MBJ). If you fly into Jamaica here, you’ll have a fantastic view of the ocean as you land. There is no better introduction to a tropical paradise.

If you are visiting Jamaica for a shorter trip, or just want to keep close to the airport, this is a great location. You will have plenty of attractions, conveniences, and comfortable beaches to take advantage of within a short distance of your accommodation. 

The city has plenty of comfortable beaches for you to enjoy. Doctor’s Cave Beach is particularly popular. It’s paid entry, which makes it feel exclusive, whilst keeping the crowds to a reasonable level. 

Doctor’s Cave Beach boasts stunningly clear waters, soft white sand, and a beachfront restaurant and bar. Perfect for relaxing on the beach, sipping cocktails in the sun. 

Alternatively, Dead End Beach and Tropical Bliss Beach are both right next to the Sangster Airport runway. Whilst it is certainly not the quietest beach to relax on, you will get some fantastic views of the planes as they take off and land. 

876 Beach Club is another option for parties with live music and entertainment, a large floating water park, a restaurant, bar, a shared lounge, and a garden in The Rock.

Families and children will love a huge amusement park, Aqua Sol Theme Park on Walter Fletcher beach which offers kid-friendly activities such as go-karting, watersports, water sliding.

The Jamaican Georgian plantation house, Rose Hall Great House, built in 1770, is also worth a visit! Annie Palmer (the White Witch of Rose Hall) is the former owner who killed three of her husbands and slaves.

In Rose hall, you will find Half Moon Equestrian Centre, where you can experience a variety of equestrian activities, riding, jumping, polo lessons, and thrilling beach rides.

Golf enthusiasts will love to play at an 18 holes Cinnamon Hill Golf Course, once a sugar plantation in the rolling hills with beautiful views of the Caribbean Sea.

Montpelier Jungle Outpost is located on Montpelier Estate, a large estate rich in history that dates back to the 18th century. You can hike to see Montpelier waterfall and Jamaica’s fourth longest river.

There are also zip lines and canopy tours through the jungle or river tube or kayaks down the Great River that split the two parishes of St. James and Hanover.

If you are interested in cave exploration, hiking, and learning about the Tainos, Jamaica’s very first inhabitants, then Bunker’s Hill Cultural Experience is a must-try! 

There is a wide range of accommodation available in Montego Bay. If you are trying to keep to a lower budget, you will have plenty of affordable options to choose from across the city. Mid-range options are plentiful too, for those who appreciate higher levels of comfort.

If you prefer to relax at all-inclusive resorts, you are in luck there too, as there is a good selection to choose from. There are even some right up close to the beach that offer very reasonable rates. 

Stay In Montego Bay If you love great nightlife and shopping; you’re first time visiting Jamaica, you’re traveling as a couple, family keen on diving and snorkeling;

Best places to stay in Montego Bay:

luxury hotel: S Hotel Jamaica This 4-star hotel offers a private beach area, a buffet breakfast, a 24-hour front desk, swimming pools, sky pools, bars, room service, and free WiFi, and an on-site restaurant that serves the Caribbean dishes. It features rooms with a flat-screen TV with cable channels, a private bathroom with a shower, free toiletries, and a desk.

mid-range hotel: The Blue Orchid This bed and breakfast has units with air conditioning and a flat-screen TV, a fully equipped private bathroom with a shower, and free toiletries.

budget hotel: Mynt Retreat Bed & Breakfast This hotel offers air-conditioned rooms with a flat-screen TV with cable channels, desks, and closet, tea and coffee makers and some of them have a balcony.


See more about Caribbean destinations: Where to Stay in Costa Rica

3. Ocho Rios, where to stay in Jamaica with family

Ocho Rios, best area to stay in Jamaica with family

Ocho Rios is a former fishing village and has now become one of the most popular tourist destinations on the island. Home to an abundance of all-inclusive resorts and family-friendly hotels, this is a particularly popular place for families to stay in Jamaica. 

Located along the north coast of Jamaica, there are plenty of nearby beaches to enjoy. Ocho Rios Beach and Mahogany Beach are both within the town itself. Easy to get to and offering water sports and beach bars aplenty, these offer both convenience and comfort.

There are a few other beaches just short ways outside of Ocho Rios. Reggae beach offers a more laid-back, somewhat less crowded alternative. With reggae music drifting through the air, and tiki bars to relax by, this beach has more of that typical Jamaican vibe.

If you are willing to take a bit more of a drive, James Bond Beach is just a few kilometers to the east. The beach was a location in Doctor No and many of the accommodations and businesses in the local area lean into that legacy. 

Lazing on the beach isn’t all there is to do here though, as there are plenty of activities to get involved in, in and around the town. Turtle River Park makes for a fun family day out. With seven acres of gardens to explore, containing ponds filled with colorful fish and turtles, it is a lovely place to spend an afternoon.

You can continue the fun at neighboring Turtle River Gardens. The gardens are home to even more tropical wildlife. Through the gardens, you can reach Konoko Falls. Climb to the top of this lovely waterfall to enjoy beautiful views of the town and bay.

A few kilometers to the west of Ocho Rios are Dunn’s River Falls. Dunn’s River Falls are one of the most popular attractions in Jamaica, with the idea being to actually climb the waterfall itself. 

Guides are available to help those willing to try the climb. I definitely recommend it as it is an unforgettable and unique experience. 

Dolphin Cove is another unique natural attraction that is definitely not to be missed. Here you have the opportunity to swim with wild dolphins and stingrays in their natural habitat. It is an absolute must for nature lovers. 

A few kilometers inland of Ocho Rios is The Blue Hole. This network of waterfalls forms a beautiful lagoon that has become one of Jamaica’s most popular tourist destinations. You can enjoy a refreshing swim in the crystal clear pools. The daring can even jump from the top of the falls. 

Aside from being the most popular resort town on the island, Ocho Rios is also the most popular cruise ship port in Jamaica. As such, it can get very crowded, especially in peak season.

If you are not a fan of crowds, or just want to stay somewhere more laid back, this probably isn’t the place for you.

Stay In Ocho Rios If you are traveling with family; you want plenty of activities within a short distance of your accommodation; you are not looking for a quiet area; you are hoping to stay in an all-inclusive resort.

Best places to stay in Ocho Rios:


4. Treasure Beach, where to stay in Jamaica for authentic vibe

Treasure Beach is an area still largely undiscovered by the larger tourist crowds. The beaches here are typically quieter than elsewhere in Jamaica. It’s perfect if you really want to get away and relax in the peaceful and laid-back atmosphere Jamaica is known for.

Being located along the west-facing coast, the beaches here are perfect for enjoying the sunsets. There are plenty of bars and restaurants along the seafront to enjoy the view from. Between the quieter atmosphere and beautiful sunsets, this is a great location for a romantic getaway.

With fewer tourists to cater to, the atmosphere around Treasure Beach has a much more local feel. The beaches and streets are lined with family-run bars and restaurants serving home-cooked, local cuisine. If you want the chance to experience what an authentic Jamaican town feels like, Treasure Bay is a good choice.

There are plenty of beautiful beaches to choose from along the Treasure Beach area. The area actually stretches along three separate bays. Billy Bay in the north, Pedro Bay in the south, and Frenchman’s Bay in the middle.

Billy’s Bay Natural History Museum in the north of the region is a great little spot to visit if you want to learn more about the wildlife and conservation efforts in the area. 

Jamaica has a thriving population of exotic wildlife, including turtles and dolphins, and the museum takes great pride in providing information about them.

Alternatively, if you want to learn more about the local arts and culture, the Caijan Art Gallery and the Mud Palace Gallery are two great places to visit. You can not only browse various works and artifacts on display but also buy locally made crafts as unique souvenirs.

Being a quieter destination than many of the more popular beach resorts around Jamaica, the rates for accommodation here are pretty reasonable. There is a good selection of more luxury villas and hotels. However, most of the options here are very budget-friendly.

This is not the best place to look for all-inclusive resorts. That market has really made its way into the area yet.

Stay In Treasure Beach If you want somewhere with an authentic Jamaican atmosphere; you are looking for a quieter area; you want to be able to enjoy watching the sunset over the ocean.

Best places to stay in Treasure Beach:


5. Kingston, the capital, where to stay in Jamaica on a budget

Kingston, the capital, where to stay in Jamaica on a budget

The largest town on the island and Jamaica’s capital city, Kingston is often not the first place people consider when planning a Caribbean vacation. A bustling port town, there are fewer comfortable beaches to relax on than in other towns across the island.

That’s not to say there are no beaches at all, however. Although you will have to head a few kilometers outside of the city to find ones comfortable to swim from.

Hellshire Bay is where you will find most of the beaches frequented by Kingston residents. Sugarman Beach and Hellshire Beach are both popular for the local food vendors selling delicious fresh fish.

Fort Clarence Beach is a particularly lovely beach to visit. Like the others in the area, Fort Clarence Beach is serviced by several beach bars and seafood restaurants, and vendors.

You can also enjoy riding a horse along the sand, or around the nearby Great Salt Pond.

Visitors can also swim with wild turtles. The beach here is a turtle nesting ground, so it is common to find them drifting about in the waves. It’s a good spot to go scuba diving or snorkeling to see more of the local wildlife.

Less of a tourist trap than the resort towns along the north coast, Kingston has a much more typically local feel. Rather than being surrounded by mostly other tourists, you will really get to interact with the Jamaican people here.

One of the perks of staying in a city is being able to take advantage of the many tourist attractions, monuments, and museums that you may not find in smaller towns. The Bob Marley Museum is particularly worth a look. 

The Bob Marley Museum is located in the musician’s old house. Visitors can take guided tours to learn more about the reggae icon’s life. The colorful walls painted with various murals of Bob Marley are impossible to miss.

You can continue learning about Jamaica’s reggae legacy at the nearby Peter Tosh Museum or head closer to the water to the Music Museum.

Meanwhile, at the Trench Town Culture Yard Museum, you can take tours of where Marley and other reggae musicians once lived and worked.

Other highlights in the area include Devon House, a heritage site from the 1800s uniquely blending Georgian and Caribbean architecture. The National Gallery of Jamaica is just a short walk away too.

National Heroes Park is a landmark at the center of the downtown area. Part memorial park, part burial ground, you can find monuments to various Jamaican figures.

If you want to escape the urban landscape, the Blue Mountains National Park is just to the north. There are numerous hiking routes leading through the area for you to explore. Guides are also available if you are not comfortable going alone. They will be able to take you to all the best spots.

There are various waterfalls to discover in the Blue Mountains. The Falling Edge Waterfalls are at the edge of the park, close to Kingston, and easy to get to. Meanwhile, Fish Dunn Falls are deeper into the park, but generally quieter and well worth the trip.

If you are not a fan of hiking, you can cycle through the Blue Mountains instead. Either hire a bike yourself or take a guided cycling tour. Whatever you choose, you should definitely head to Blue Mountain Peak to appreciate the stunning views.

Since Kingston typically has fewer tourists, the lower demand for accommodation keeps the prices lower than elsewhere on the island. If you are looking for where to stay in Jamaica on a budget, this would be a great location to consider. 

You Should Stay In Kingston If You want more opportunities to interact with the locals; Beaches are not your priority; You are working with a smaller budget; You are interested in Jamaica’s musical legacy.

Best places to stay in Kingston:


6. Runaway Bay, where to in Jamaica for snorkelling and scuba diving

Runaway Bay, great place in Jamaica for snorkelling and scuba diving

Runaway Bay is a little town along the north coast. Established around an 18th-century plantation, the area gets its name from being a popular route for people fleeing enslavement.

A quiet, local town, this is a great place to avoid the worst of the tourist crowds. Don’t worry though, there are still plenty of comforts and amenities to ensure you have everything you need for your vacation.

If having convenient access to a comfortable beach right nearby is a priority, you are in luck with Runaway Bay. Cardiff Hall Beach is right at the heart of Runaway Bay. The soft white sand and numerous beach bars ensure you will be able to completely relax.

The beach is well known for having a brilliant coral reef nearby. As such, it is very popular with scuba divers and snorkellers. Shops throughout the town sell basic snorkeling equipment if you don’t have your own. I definitely recommend exploring the coral to meet all the exotic fish that live there.

If you want to go scuba diving too, there are shops and schools nearby ready to give you the chance. Whether you are experienced or looking to try scuba diving for the first time, the reef here is a fantastic underwater world for you to explore.

A few kilometers west of Runaway Bay is another popular attraction, the Green Grotto Caves. This underground complex of caverns spans almost 2 kilometers. The highlight of the Green Grotto Cave, and what makes them such a popular attraction, is the eponymous grotto.

Guided tours will lead you through the tunnels to a beautiful underwater lagoon. Despite being twelve metres underground, large holes in the roof of the caves allow brilliant sunlight to filter down in several parts.

Aside from their natural beauty, the caves have a significant human history. Pottery and other artifacts have been recovered, dating back to the indigenous peoples who once lived here. More recently, the caves have been used as a hiding place for runaway slaves. 

If you are interested in the legacy of Bob Marley, and have the time, his birthplace and burial site are in a small village just a few kilometres from Runaway Bay. The village is called Nine Mile. A chapel near his birthplace has been converted into a museum and you can also visit his mausoleum.

There are plenty of options for accommodation to choose from in Runaway Bay. If you are trying to keep costs down, there is a wide variety of budget and mid-range hotels, apartments, and cottages throughout the town.

If you have a bigger budget to spend, you can enjoy your pick of private villas and studios. There are even some all-inclusive spa resorts if you really plan to want for nothing on your vacation.

Stay In Runaway Bay If you enjoy snorkeling and scuba diving; you would appreciate the chance to explore a coral reef; you are looking for a quieter, local town; you would like to visit the birth and burial place of reggae legend, Bob Marley.

Best places to stay in Runaway Bay:


7. Port Antonio, where to stay for surfing and outdoor activities

Port Antonio, where to stay for surfing and outdoor activities

Port Antonio is a small city along the northeast coast of Jamaica. Quieter than other cities on the island, with less of an overly touristy atmosphere. Port Antonio is a great place to stay in Jamaica for those planning a relaxing getaway in a laid-back town.

Aside from relaxed, local restaurants and waterfront bars, there are also some interesting landmarks within Port Antonio city to discover. Folly Point is home to both the Folly Ruins and the Folly Lighthouse and is just a short walk around the East Harbour.

The Folly Ruins are what remains of an unfinished mansion. Abandoned before its completion due to problems with its construction being deemed bad omens, it is now a fun bit of urban decay to explore. 

Along the East Harbour, you can also find the Port Antonio Craft Market. With various stalls selling a range of traditional and locally made items, friendly vendors, and an onsite bar, it is a fantastic place to relax and pick up some quirky gifts and souvenirs.

Surrounded by beautiful jungles and just a short way from Blue Mountain National Park, Port Antonio is particularly popular with people who enjoy adventuring in the great outdoors. There are plenty of hiking trails and natural landmarks to explore in the nearby area.

One of the best-known natural wonders in the area is the Blue Lagoon, a couple of kilometers to the east of Port Antonio. The sheltered bay is renowned for its stunning blue waters, which are a popular spot for snorkeling or just enjoying swimming.

If you prefer to stay dry, various companies offer boat and raft rides out into the lagoon. If you enjoy surfing, you will appreciate being just a few kilometers from Boston Bay Beach. It is a popular destination for the island’s surfer crowd to hit the waves, with its soft, white sand and lively waters. 

The nearby area is home to several excellent jerk chicken restaurants. Work up an appetite in the water, then head to try one of Jamaica’s most famous delicacies.

Heading further inland, there are various waterfalls and rivers to discover, or why not climb to the peak of one of the surrounding hills and mountains to take in a spectacular view over the bay.

There is a varied mix of hotels and accommodation to be found here. The area is popular with wealthy travelers for its relaxed charm, so you can find plenty of higher-end hotels and private villas throughout Port Antonio and the neighboring bays.

However, there are also a good number of very low cost, affordable hotels, and cottages too. As such, this is another good area to consider if you are working with a smaller budget.

You Should Stay In Port Antonio If you want to avoid the worst of the tourist hustle and bustle of busier resort towns; you enjoy surfing; you enjoy hiking and other outdoor activities; you want to stay somewhere with a laid back atmosphere.

Best places to stay in Port Antonio: Moon San Villa at the Blue Lagoon


8. Mandeville, where to stay in Jamaica with a car

Mandeville is a bit of a wild card as far as places to stay in Jamaica go. For an island known as a destination for laid-back beach holidays, a tiny inland city would probably not be most travelers’ first choice.

If you are looking for somewhere to experience authentic Jamaican life, away from the affectations of the tourism industry, this is a great choice. With fewer foreign visitors to cater to, Mandeville really has that laid-back vibe that Jamaica is known for.

There are plenty of local restaurants to try here. Catering to the local population, you can trust that you will be trying authentic Jamaican cuisine. This is one of the best places on the island to try the traditional delicacies as you know they won’t be altered to appeal to the preferences of tourists.

In the evenings, head to the local bars where you can mingle with the locals. They will be your best resource for finding all the best restaurants and hidden landmarks that even the guidebooks don’t know about. If you like your nightlife a little livelier, there are several nightclubs around the city center.

There aren’t many attractions to be found here. As such, Mandeville is best visited by those intending to hire a car for their vacation. Mandeville makes a good home base from which to explore the rest of Jamaica.

Considering Mandeville is very much not your typical tourist town, there are fewer options for accommodation than elsewhere in Jamaica. What is here, however, is very good value.

You can score some fantastic rooms or apartments for excellent prices. If you are working with a smaller budget, but still want an accommodation that feels like luxury, this is an area worth looking at.

Stay In Mandeville If You want to experience life in an authentic Jamaican city; Staying away from crowds of tourists is a plus; Being close to the Beach and the sea is not a priority; You have a smaller budget to work with.

Best places to stay in Mandeville:


Check out my virtual tour about the best places to stay in Jamaica in this video or continue reading:

Where to stay in Jamaica: Best Areas to Stay in Jamaica

So those were the eight best places to stay in Jamaica. By now you should be feeling more familiar with the various areas of the island and what Jamaica has to offer and have a better idea of where is best for you to spend your Jamaican vacation.

With that decision out of the way, it is time to get on with finding your perfect hotel. We have plenty of recommendations for that too. Whether you are looking for a family friendly hotel, a private villa, or an all-inclusive with a private beach, Jamaica has a fantastic range of accommodation to choose from.

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