9 Authentic Jamaican Experiences You Need to Know
Many see Jamaica as a dream holiday destination; exclusive luxury hotels and private tropical beaches. Although a fantastic way to spend a vacation, it seems a waste to visit a country with such an exciting culture and history yet not experience any of it. Below are Jamaica’s top nine experiences, from tempting the senses with jerk chicken and reggae music, to discovering the dark history of Rose Hall and Port Royal.
Also known as Bacchanal Jamaica, the festival came to life in 1989. Revellers who travelled to Trinidad annually to partake in their carnival had been halted by Hurricane Gilbert. As a result, Jamaica’s carnival was born.
The colourful event spans a six-week season which ends on the Sunday immediately after Easter Monday. Kingston, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios are flooded with music, food, costume, and culture. Jamaica’s Carnival is a raw celebration of Caribbean flavour, influenced heavily by the original Trinidadian Carnival.
Bob Marley Museum
Located in Uptown Kingston, Bob Marley’s home from 1975 until his death in 1981 was converted into a museum by his wife. The family home displays personal treasures related to music and Marley’s Rastafari religion. The room where an assassination was attempted on Marley and his wife is still riddled with bullet holes.
The peaceful surroundings and modest personal belongings narrate Marley’s six years of life in this family home perfectly. A trip to Jamaica without visiting the home of the island’s icon is sacrilege.
Scotchies for Traditional Jerk
The most celebrated restaurant in Jamaica is Scotchies, in Montego Bay. Diners can queue up at the wooden shack whilst feasting their eyes on the jerk chicken and jerk pork being grilled across pimento wood chips, giving it a unique flavour. Before taking a seat outside, make sure you order some rice and peas, sweet potato, breadfruit, or festival to accompany your meal. Don’t forget to wash down Scotchie’s supreme jerk chicken or pork with a Jamaican favourite; Red Stripe.
White Witch of Rose Hall
Montego Bay may be one of the most popular destinations in Jamaica, but it holds a dark secret. Undeniably striking, Rose Hall is a colonial mansion built in the 1770s. Attached to Rose Hall is a plantation called Palmyra, which enslaved 250 African people until the abolishment of slavery in 1834.
Legend has it that Annie Palmer, the wife of Rose Hall’s first resident, killed three husbands and countless male plantation slaves before being murdered herself. Chilling tours of haunted Rose Hall are enjoyed by many who visit Jamaica.
Having been in action for 24 years, Reggae Sumfest takes place every July in Montego Bay. It is a celebration of not only reggae, but other traditional Jamaican music styles such as rocksteady, dancehall, mento, ska, and ragga. Many popular international artists such as 50 Cent and Rihanna have performed at Sumfest. However, the focus is on Jamaican and Caribbean artists including Damian and Stephen Marley, Beres Hammond, Beenie Man, and Bounty Killer.
2017 marks the 25th anniversary of Reggae Sumfest and attendees can expect an extended festival, spanning seven days in July. A celebration of not only reggae and dancehall music, Sumfest rejoices in every captivating aspect of Jamaican culture.
Those wanting to escape Jamaica’s most popular locations can take to the waters of Black River Great Morass. Spanning the southwest of the country, the Black River is a popular destination for those wanting to take in the flora and fauna the country has to offer. The safari boat will glide past banks thick with mangroves and trees enveloped in Spanish moss, as white egrets and anhinga fly overhead.
However, your tour guide will most likely find the river’s prehistoric resident for you to feast your eyes upon. The American crocodile. Male crocodiles can grow up to 4.8 meters long and those who take to the Black River on one of the water safaris are guaranteed to see some crocodiles basking on the shores or silently lurking in the shallows.
The Blue Lagoon
Providing the backdrop for Brooke Shield’s 1980 hit, The Blue Lagoon, the spot in Jamaica of the same name is an incredible cove. The turquoise waters lap against the finest sand and many spend days relaxing around the lagoon, taking dips or diving.
The lagoon is fed by numerous underground streams coming down from the mountains, which means the water is a swirling mix of cool freshwater currents and warm tidal waves. From the Blue Lagoon, visitors can take a boat to nearby Cocktail Beach or Monkey Island.
Piracy in Port Royal
Located at the end of the palisades at the mouth of Kingston Harbour is the historical Port Royal. It was the largest centre of shipping and trade during the latter half of the 17th century, before it was partially destroyed by an earthquake and tsunami in 1692. It was further damaged due to another earthquake in 1907.
During its heyday, Port Royal was known as the ‘wickedest city on earth’. Pirates took to the shores to make the most of women and wine, before heading back to their ships. Brothels and bars lined Port Royal and black-market trade was rife. Today it is a sleepy fishing village, but visitors can still take in the location’s dark history.
Carnival and Sumfest are both incredible celebrations of Jamaican life. However, no day is more important than the 6th August, Independence Day. Jamaica was under Spanish rule, before Britain took over in 1655. For the next 183 years Jamaica was one of many countries dominated by cruel slave labour and plantation economy. In 1838, Jamaica was granted full emancipation from chattel slavery.
Despite this triumph, Jamaica was still under British rule. In on 6th August 1962 Jamaica attained full independence. This date has been celebrated ever since and the whole country is united in one day of partying, with Jamaican flags flying high and revellers dressed in green, black and yellow.