If you’re not sure where to stay in Jamaica, keep reading. This blog post is going to help you decide the best areas to stay in Jamaica for your vacation.
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. Whatever your preference, Jamaica is a big enough island that there is definitely something to suit everyone.
See more about Caribbean destinations: Where to Stay in Costa Rica
Known as the home of reggae and iconic figures in the genre like Bob Marley, Jamaica has a distinct cultural heritage. In today’s article we will we looking at the best places to stay in Jamaica to take advantage of all the island has to offer.
As the third largest island in the Caribbean, there are plenty of locations to choose from when it comes to where to stay in Jamaica. Before we get into the heavier details, I have a few quick tips and suggestions on where you might want to start looking to base your vacation.
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.
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 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.
- Where To Stay in Jamaica: 8 Best Areas to Stay in Jamaica
- Montego Bay, where to stay in Jamaica for nightlife, shopping
- Negril, where to stay in Jamaica for best beaches
- Ocho Rios, best area to stay in Jamaica with family
- Treasure Beach, quiet area for an authentic Jamaican atmosphere
- Kingston, the capital of Jamaica
- Runaway Bay, great place in Jamaica for snorkelling and scuba diving
- Port Antonio, good area for surfing, hiking and outdoor activities
- Mandeville, good place in Jamaica for budget travelers
Where To Stay in Jamaica: 8 Best Areas to Stay in Jamaica
To help you decide on the perfect location for you to stay in Jamaica, I have selected the eight best areas for those visiting Jamaica to consider. By breaking down what each area has to offer tourists, you should be able to get a good feel for which location is best for your perfect trip.
:Best Areas to Stay in Jamaica map:
1. Montego Bay, where to stay in Jamaica for nightlife, shopping
Montego Bay 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 centres here even offer tourists duty free purchases, an added bonus.
The Hip Strip is one of the notorious party areas. Here you will find numerous beachside bars and nightclubs 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 shopping is what you plan on spending your vacation time on, there are plenty of opportunities here. You can enjoy multiple shopping centres 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 colourful 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. The local Sangter International Airport is right by the water, so 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.
Likewise, you won’t have to waste too much time travelling between your hotel and the airport. You can step off the plane and straight into your vacation.
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 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 Sangter 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.
If you want to take in some of the history 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.
The nearby Montego Bay Cultural Centre is definitely worth visiting for anyone who wants to learn more about the local area. Housing the National Gallery and the National Museum, there is plenty to take in here.
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.
You Should Stay In Montego Bay If:
- A vibrant nightlife is high priority for you
- You intend to take advantage of duty free shopping
- You are visiting Jamaica for a shorter trip
- You appreciate the conveniences that a larger city has to offer
2. Negril, where to stay in Jamaica for best beaches
Negril is where you will find many of the best beaches in all of Jamaica. 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. 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 kilometres north of Negril.
Seven Mile Beach is also notorious for being one of the most popular party beaches in Jamaica. Head here after dark if you want to enjoy 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 kilometres 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 colourful huts boast stalls selling a variety of traditional goods to take home.
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 Should Stay In Negril If:
- You are planning to spend most of your vacation on the beach
- You want to enjoy some of the best sunsets on Jamaica
- You enjoy open air nightlife and beach parties
3. Ocho Rios, best area to stay in Jamaica with family
Ocho Rios is 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 a 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 kilometres 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’s 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 colourful fish and turtles, it is a lovely place to spend an afternoon.
You can continue the fun at neighbouring 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 kilometres 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 kilometres 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.
You Should Stay In Ocho Rios If:
- You are travelling 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
4. Treasure Beach, quiet area for an authentic Jamaican atmosphere
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 peace 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 artefacts 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.
You Should Stay In Treasure Beach If:
- You are looking for a quieter area
- You don’t mind being quite a way from the convenience of a larger town or city
- You want somewhere with an authentic Jamaican atmosphere
- You want to be able to enjoy watching the sun set over the ocean
5. Kingston, the capital of Jamaica
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 kilometres 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 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 snorkelling 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 colourful 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 centre 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
6. 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 snorkelling 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 kilometres west of Runaway Bay is another popular attraction, the Green Grotto Caves. This underground complex of caverns spans almost 2 kilometres. 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 artefacts 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.
You Should Stay In Runaway Bay If:
- You enjoy snorkelling 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
7. Port Antonio, good area for surfing, hiking 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 the 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 the 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 ways 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 kilometres to the east of Port Antonio. The sheltered bay is renowned for its stunningly blue waters, which are a popular spot for snorkelling, 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 kilometres 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 travellers for its relaxed charm, so you can find plenty of higher end hotels and private villas throughout Port Antonio and the neighbouring 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
8. Mandeville, good place in Jamaica for budget travelers
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 travellers’ 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 than 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 centre.
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 on 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 accommodation that feels like luxury, this is an area worth looking at.
You Should 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 beaches and the sea is not a priority
- You have a smaller budget to work with
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.