Where to Stay in Jamaica: 7 Best Areas & Neighborhoods

0
Ocho Rios ocean and skyline

Looking for the best place to stay in Jamaica on your upcoming vacation? If you’re a first-time visitor or someone who wants to relax in a local fishing village, you’re sure to find a spot that checks all the boxes. Get to know the island a bit better by learning about the neighborhoods and accommodations you’ll find in this beautiful island paradise.

There’s a way to make a Jamaican vacation work for every budget, so feel free to splurge on a luxury resort, or save your pennies for excursions and shopping.

Below, you’ll find information covering everything from spa hotels with an on-site fine dining restaurant and private beach to the best budget options with a nice swimming pool. Let’s get started as we explore the best areas for luxury travelers, families, and more.

TL;DR

Best Areas to Stay in Jamaica

From the north coast to Kingston, each part of Jamaica has a personality all its own. Here’s a quick breakdown of areas to look into based on what kind of vacation you have in mind:

  • Area for first-timers/tourists – Negril
  • Area for budget travelers – Kingston
  • Area for luxury travelers – Montego Bay
  • Area for safety – Port Antonio
  • Area for families – Ocho Rios
  • Area for authentic island life – Treasure Beach
  • Area for adult-only resorts – Runaway Bay

Where to Stay in Jamaica

1. Negril: Best Area for First-Timers

Aerial view of Jamaica Negril Caribbean Beach
Leon718 / Adobe Stock

If you’re a first-time visitor wondering where to stay in Jamaica for a classic beach experience, then Negril won’t let you down. Located on the western side of the island, Negril is home to white-sand beaches such as Seven Mile Beach, which is widely considered one of the most beautiful in the Caribbean.

As you head northward up the shoreline, you’ll find Long Bay, with its less commercialized beaches, and then Bloody Bay, with its collection of all-inclusive resorts. The waters on this part of the island are absolutely pristine, making it a perfect choice for scuba diving and snorkeling.

Kids will enjoy checking out the rides and games at Kool Runnings Waterpark, while adults may prefer a trip to the legendary Rick’s Cafe. Perched along the scenic cliffs of Seven Mile Beach, Rick’s Cafe Jamaica is a 1.5-acre bar and grill that offers great food, stiff drinks, and beautiful views of the sunset.

You can even enjoy breakfast on the water with a tiki boat cruise from Tiki Pon Da Sea. Afterward, head to the Kool Runnings Adventure Park to experience all the fun that Jamaica’s largest water park has to offer.

Be sure you also make time to experience one of Jamaica’s most beautiful natural attractions at YS Falls, an incredible seven-tiered waterfall. Swim in one of the natural pools, zipline over the water, or enjoy a picnic in the surrounding lush gardens.

Highlights of the Negril area:

  • Seven Mile Beach
  • Tiki Pon Da Sea
  • Long Bay
  • Bloody Bay
  • Kool Runnings Water Park
  • Rick’s Cafe
  • YS Falls
  • Every water sport imaginable

Our favorite accommodations in the Negril area:

  • Budget Hotel in NegrilJudy House – Judy House is a hidden gem that offers everything from cottages and rooms to a backpacker hostel. Judy’s is a great place to sleep at an unbeatable price, and you’ll love the cool, colorful accommodations.
  • Mid-Range Hotel in NegrilTravellers Beach Resort – Travellers Beach Resort is a great option if you’re looking for a beachside resort along Seven Mile Beach at a reasonable rate. Guests enjoy a swimming pool with a swim-up bar, nightly entertainment, dining, and an on-site dive shop.
  • Luxury Resort in NegrilSandals Negril Resort – Sandals Negril is one of Jamaica’s best all-inclusive resorts, due to the fact that everything from entertainment to an endless range of water sports is included. Enjoy gear and professional instruction for scuba diving programs, waterskiing, windsurfing, wakeboarding, and more.
  • Vacation Rental in Negril: Gated Community Townhouse – Want little more privacy? Check out this gorgeous 2-bedroom townhouse in Little Bay Country Club. Enjoy a private beach area, infinity pool, and 24-hour security inside an exclusive gated community.

See Related: Best Overwater Bungalows in the Caribbean

2. Kingston: Best Area for Budget Travelers

Aerial view of Kingston city, Jamaica. City landscape
Genya / Adobe Stock

Located on Jamaica’s beautiful southeast coast, Kingston is both the island’s capital and undisputed cultural hub. Many travelers are surprised to learn that it’s also one of the best parts of the island to enjoy a budget-friendly vacation.

This largely comes down to the fact that there are so many free or incredibly affordable things to do, including plenty of great beaches, parks, and museums. As the birthplace of no less than six musical genres, Kingston was dubbed a UNESCO Creative City of Music in 2015.

The city is surrounded by plenty of stunning Caribbean beaches, including local favorites like Fort Clarence Beach and Hellshire Beach. Up for a day trip? Check out a guided tour of Port Royal, which is located at the end of the Palisadoes in Kingston Harbour.

First founded by the Spanish in 1494, Port Royal was once the Caribbean’s largest city and became an infamous pirate hangout in the 17th century. Today, visitors can check out spots like Fort Charles, a fortress that was built between 1650-60.

Back in Central Kingston, you’ll find Devon House, which is another great historical treasure worth checking out. Home to George Stiebel, Jamaica’s first Black millionaire, the 19th-century mansion is decked out in a blend of Georgian and Caribbean splendor.

Other area highlights include Jamaica’s National Gallery, which is the English-Speaking Caribbean’s largest and oldest public art gallery. Make a day out of exploring Kingston’s great art scene with a tour that includes trips to sites like Emancipation Park, which features an amazing sculpture fountain and lush seven acres of relaxing landscapes.

Last but certainly not least is the Bob Marley Museum, which is perhaps one of Kingston’s biggest draws. Explore the former home of the reggae legend, which was decked out with all his treasures and turned into a museum by his wife, Mrs. Rita Marley.

Highlights of the Kingston area:

  • Gorgeous beaches like Fort Clarence Beach and Hellshire Beach
  • Port Royal
  • Fort Charles
  • Devon House 
  • The National Gallery of Jamaica
  • Emancipation Park 
  • The Bob Marley Museum

Our favorite accommodations in the Kingston area:

  • Budget Hotel in Kingston: Eventuality Bed and Breakfast – Eventuality Bed and Breakfast is a cool little spot that offers tours designed to give guests an authentic Jamaican experience.
  • Mid-Range Hotel in KingstonSpanish Court Hotel – Located in downtown Kingston, Spanish Court Hotel offers a resort experience for a mid-range price. With a great central location, the Spanish Court Hotel features a spa, fine dining restaurants, and an outdoor pool complete with a bar.
  • Luxury Hotel in Kingston: Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel – If you want to experience historic Jamaican charm at its finest, check out the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel. In addition to beautiful suites, guests enjoy a swimming pool, award-winning restaurants, room service, and a chic bar and lounge.
  • Vacation Rental in Kingston: Centrally Located 2-Bedroom – Enjoy a great rate on this colorful 2-bedroom apartment that’s conveniently located within minutes of some of Kingston’s most popular attractions.

3. Montego Bay: Best Area for Luxury Travelers

Beach in Jamaica, Montego Bay
Lucky-photographer / Shutterstock

When it comes to where to stay in Jamaica, you’ll find plenty of incredible choices in Montego Bay. Affectionately known as “Mobay” to locals, the area is home to some of the best hotels and beach resorts on the island.

A true cultural melting pot, Montego Bay features a nice mix of locals, guests, and expats. When it comes to things to do, your biggest problem will likely be figuring out where to start.

Spend a day snorkeling or sunbathing in paradise at Doctor’s Cave Beach, the top-rated beach in Montego Bay, or take a reggae catamaran cruise along the north shore. Montego Bay’s Hip Strip offers everything from restaurants and bars to casinos and shopping, so hiring a private guide can be a great way to take in the highlights.

Enjoy a private tour of the Appleton Estate Rum distillery or explore a historic 18th-century mansion at Rose Hall Great House. If you’re in the mood for adventure, then you might consider setting off on an ATV safari adventure tour through Jamaica’s beautiful backcountry.

Take a relaxing raft ride along the scenic Martha Brae or experience the thrill of a full-day guided adventure, complete with horseback riding, ziplining, and water tubing. Whether you want an action-packed vacation or a relaxing retreat to paradise, Montego Bay can make it happen.

Highlights of the Montego Bay area:

  • Doctor’s Cave Beach
  • Montego Bay Marine Park
  • The Hip Strip
  • Appleton Rum Distillery
  • Rose Hall Great House
  • ATV Safaris
  • Martha Brae Raft Tours
  • Horseback riding, ziplining, tubing, and other outdoor adventures

Our favorite accommodations in Montego Bay:

  • Budget Hotel in Montego Bay: Airport Beach Hotel – If you’re looking for a no-frills place to stay while you explore Montego Bay, then check out the Airport Beach Hotel. Located right by the water, this clean little hotel offers all the necessities and unbeatable value.
  • Mid-Range Hotel in Montego Bay: Hotel Grand A View – Hotel Grand A View is a great place to enjoy Montego Bay without breaking the bank. Located about a 6-minute walk from the beach, it features free Wi-Fi, an on-site restaurant and bar, a spa, and an airport shuttle service.
  • Luxury Hotel in Montego Bay: Sandals Montego Bay – When Sandals claims to be an all-inclusive resort, they aren’t kidding. You’ll enjoy unlimited dining at 12 high-end restaurants, 6 bars, entertainment, and free water sports equipment including PADI-Certified SCUBA diving and equipment.
  • Vacation Rental in Montego Bay: Luxurious Private Residence – Enjoy resort-style luxury in the privacy of this beautiful condo in a resort with its own private beach. It also comes with a spectacular wrapped terrace that overlooks the water.

See Related: Hidden Gems in the Caribbean Sea (You Can’t Miss)

4. Port Antonio: Best Area for Safety

Cruise ship pier in Port Antonio, Jamaica
Tetris Awakening / Shutterstock

Port Antonio is located on Jamaica’s southeast coast and is a safe area that’s perfect for nature lovers. Enjoy a breathtaking adventure among lush landscapes of beautiful mountains, jungles, and waterfalls.

Port Antonio is home to several amazing beaches, including Boston Bay Beach which is one of the best beaches for surfing on the island. You’ll find a series of local shops and cafes at Winnifred Beach, while Frenchman’s Cove Beach features crystal clear waters that flow down from Jamaica’s Blue Mountains.

Be sure to check out the Blue Lagoon, a breathtaking waterhole with a mix of fresh and seawater. Boat tours are available and the lagoon is also popular with snorkelers and swimmers.

While the Blue Mountains have plenty to love, setting out on a professionally guided tour can be a great way to make sure you hit all the best spots. After a hike through the colorful rainforests and crystal waterfalls, you’ll be rewarded with incredible views from the Blue Mountain summit.

One of the area’s other claims to fame is that it was the birthplace of jerk chicken. Be sure to take advantage of the amazing Jamaican food tours and local restaurants you’ll find in the area.

Highlights of Port Antonio:

  • Boston Bay Beach 
  • Winnifred Beach
  • Frenchman’s Cove Beach
  • Blue Lagoon
  • Blue Mountains
  • Somerset Falls
  • World-famous Jerk Chicken

Our favorite accommodations in Port Antonio:

  • Budget Hotel in Port AntonioGreat Huts – This cool little beachfront eco-resort offers glamping at its finest. Choose from a collection of rooms, huts, and treehouses that offer great prices for every budget.
  • Mid-Range Hotel in Port Antonio:  Jamaica Palace Hotel – Housed in an 18th-century European palace, Jamaica Palace is an absolutely gorgeous luxury boutique hotel. Despite the reasonable prices, you’ll enjoy on-site amenities like three restaurants, four bars, and a pool that’s shaped like the island.
  • Luxury Hotel in Port Antonio: The Trident Hotel – If you’re looking to splurge during your stay in Jamaica, then the Trident Hotel is a great place to do it. Home to just 11 exclusive oceanfront villas, the Trident boasts amenities like a spa & salon, high-end bars, and restaurants, an entertainment lounge, and much more.
  • Vacation Rental in Port Antonio: Beachside Family Villa – Retreat to your own private slice of paradise in this 4-bedroom colonial-style villa. Set on a peninsula overlooking the sea, the villa offers amazing amenities and views alike.

5. Ocho Rios: Best Area For Families

Beautiful sandy beach in Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Mikolaj Niemczewski / Adobe Stock

Ocho Rios is a former fishing village along Jamaica’s northern coast that has since been transformed into a major tourist hub. From adventure parks to amazing beaches, Ocho Rios’ many attractions make it a popular stop for cruise ships.

Head down to Dolphin Cove to swim with dolphins, stingrays, and sharks in their natural habitat. More beauty awaits along a hike through Dunn’s River Falls and Park, including the park’s namesake 600-foot cascading waterfall.

Not only can you climb the falls and swim in the waters below, but Dunn’s Falls also offers ziplining and a small kid’s water park. Hitch a private ride down to Mystic Mountain Adventure Park, where you can go on thrill rides, guided rainforest tours, ride ATVs, or go on a waterslide that ends in a massive infinity pool.

The legendary Ocho Rios Blue Hole, a series of natural limestone pools, is a must-see. With sparkling blue waters fed by a waterfall, the Ocho Rios Blue Hole is a great place for hiking, swimming, and even cliff jumping if you’re feeling feisty.

Konoko Falls and Park is another beautiful park, where you can take a guided tour of the gardens and learn about the history of the Taino people, who originally inhabited the area. Pick up souvenirs at the Ocho Rios Craft Market or take a load off at the local Margaritaville, where it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere.

Highlights of the Ocho Rios area:

  • Dolphin Cove
  • Dunn’s River Falls & Park
  • Mystic Mountain Adventure Park
  • Blue Hole
  • Konoko Falls and Park
  • Ocho Rios Craft Market
  • Margaritaville

Our favorite accommodations in the Ocho Rios Area:

  • Budget Hotel in Ocho Rios: Pineapple Court Hotel – When it comes to family-friendly hotels, Pineapple Court is a solid option at an unbeatable rate. While the rooms are nothing fancy, they are very clean and offer amenities like free Wi-Fi, cable, and a swimming pool.
  • Mid-Range Hotel in Ocho Rios: Hibiscus Lodge Hotel – Hibiscus Lodge Hotel is a beautiful boutique hotel that offers wonderful accommodations at reasonable rates. Enjoy authentic Jamaican cuisine at the onsite restaurant and bar or spend the day relaxing in the beautiful swimming pool.
  • Luxury Hotel in Ocho Rios: Moon Palace Jamaica – Moon Palace is an all-inclusive resort that offers luxury rooms right on the beach. During your stay, you’ll enjoy complimentary services including unlimited dining, drinks, room service, entertainment, and more.
  • Vacation Rental in Ocho Rios: Beachfront Condo – This 2-bedroom condo offers a great place to stay right on the beach. Not only will you enjoy plenty of room for the whole family, but also a beautiful balcony, and large TV HD televisions with top streaming services.

See Related: Best Family Vacation Spots in the World

6. Treasure Beach: Best Area for Authentic Island Life 

Beautiful idyllic Caribbean fishing village at Treasure Beach, Jamaica
Ralf Liebhold / Shutterstock.com

Located on the southern coast of the island, Treasure Beach is a hidden gem that’s made up of a string of beautiful beaches, including Calabash Bay, Billy’s Bay, Great Pedro Bay, and Frenchman’s Bay. It’s not as touristy as other areas, and it’s pretty low-key.

While the beaches in the area are stunning, don’t expect the cabana-lined sands of Montego Bay. Treasure Bay is more a collection of uncrowded shores and secluded coves lined with sand, coral, and native buttonwood trees.

Scattered along the shoreline, you’ll find traditional Jamaican farming and fishing villages with plenty of great food and small boutique hotels. While there are a few upscale hotels in the area, Treasure Beach is more of a place to go when you want to hang out with locals over a drink and a plate of jerk crab at cool little restaurants, like Jack Sprat.

Look no further for a killer breakfast with the local community than Smurf’s Cafe or Pardy’s Coffee Shop. Or check out Jamaican versions of Italian classics with jerk pasta and pizza at Mellow Yellow restaurant and bar.

Check out Jamaica at its most authentic when you set out on a Black River Safari, where you’ll come across everything from alligators to colorful tropical birds. Known as a hotspot for poets and artists, Treasure Beach is home to some great local galleries, such as the Mud Palace Gallery.

If you time your visit right, you might even get to check out the Calabash International Literary Festival. Each summer, the three-day event offers free public readings, music, and storytelling at the largest literary fest in the English-speaking Caribbean.

Highlights of the Treasure Beach area:

  • Billy’s Bay 
  • Calabash Bay 
  • Great Pedro Bay 
  • Frenchman’s Bay 
  • Jack Sprat Bar & Restaurant 
  • Smurf’s Café 
  • Mellow Yellow Restaurant & Bar 
  • Pardy’s Coffee Shop 
  • Black River Safari
  • Mud Palace Gallery
  • Calabash International Literary Festival

Our favorite accommodations in the Treasure Beach area:

  • Budget Hotel in Treasure BeachWelcoming Vibes – It’s possible that Paul, the owner of Welcoming Vibes, may just offer the best value in Jamaica when it comes to accommodation. Located just 1,000 feet from the beach, this little eco-village is stocked with hand-made furniture, a restaurant, and a game room.
  • Mid-Range Hotel in Treasure Beach: Aztec Villas – Aztec Villas is a great little collection of stand-alone villas where you can enjoy ocean views, a fully equipped kitchen, BBQ facilities, and a swimming pool. The villas also offer bike rentals, so you can cycle down to Callabash Bay Beach.
  • Luxury Hotel in Treasure Beach: Jake’s Hotel – Take your pick from a selection of bohemian oceanfront villas, cottages, or bungalows, complete with your own swimming pool. Jake’s Hotel is a Treasure Beach gem, where you’ll find plenty of great suggestions for how to enjoy the area like a local.
  • Vacation Rental in Treasure Beach: Rainbow Tree Villa – If you’re planning an extended family vacation or traveling as a group, then be sure to check out this amazing 5-bedroom villa. You’ll enjoy 4 acres, your own beach, and a full staff to assist you during your stay.

7. Runaway Bay: Best Area for Adults-Only Getaways

View of a resort on the tropical beach of Runaway Bay in Jamaica
Giongi63 / Shutterstock.com

Located just ten miles west of Ocho Rios, Runaway Bay is home to some of the most dazzling beaches on Jamaica’s north coast. Here you’ll find some of the island’s best hotels that cater to adults only, some of which include a clothing-optional private beach area.

Local beaches like Cardiff Hall Beach, Fisherman’s Beach, and Runaway Bay Beach are renowned as some of the best spots for snorkeling on the island. It’s also worth checking out Puerto Seco Beach Park, where you’ll find a water park, spa, restaurants & bars, and VIP cabanas.

Puerto Seco Beach Park is a great way to enjoy all the perks of a luxury resort, without actually committing to staying in one. A perfect spot for nature lovers, the park offers dolphin swims, snorkeling, and scuba diving.

Another great local attraction that nature lovers won’t want to miss is Green Grotto Caves, a beautifully lit underground cave network that’s open for tours and exploration. Runaway Bay is also where to stay in Jamaica for the easiest access to Nine Mile Village, the birthplace and final resting place of reggae legend Bob Marley.

You’ll find plenty of great tours that will take you to the tiny village, but just beware that they may not always be suitable for children, as the smoking of Marley’s favorite herb is legal in Jamaica. Rastafarian guides will show you everything from Marley’s childhood home, complete with an attached museum, to his final resting place at the Bob Marley Mausoleum.

Highlights of the Runaway Bay area:

  • Cardiff Hall Beach 
  • Fisherman’s Beach
  • Runaway Bay Beach
  • Puerto Seco Beach Park
  • Green Grotto Caves 
  • Nine Mile Village 
  • Bob Marley Museum and Mausoleum
  • Best adults-only resort town

Our favorite accommodations in Runaway Bay:

  • Budget Hotel in Runaway BayPiper’s Cove – While you won’t find fine dining options here, Piper’s Cove offers a pub, outdoor pool, sun terrace, and nice rooms with a private balcony. It’s a great place to stay in Jamaica if you don’t plan to spend a great deal of time in your room anyway.
  • Mid-Range Hotel in Runaway BayBahia Principe Luxury Runaway Bay – This adults-only resort is your paradise for a great getaway with your partner. Amenities include everything from gorgeous rooms and a nude beach to world-class entertainment and restaurants.
  • Luxury Hotel in Runaway BayJewel Paradise Cove Beach Resort & Spa – While pricey, Jewel Paradise is an adults-only resort where everything is included. Enjoy unlimited fine dining, drinks, swimming pools, a swim-up bar, nightlife, and land or water sports activities at this gorgeous hotel that has something for everyone.

FAQ

How far ahead should you book a trip to Jamaica? 

It’s usually recommended to book ahead by at least 2-3 months. While there are always last-minute accommodations available, many smaller boutique hotels and high-end resorts fill up months in advance.

When is the best time to travel to Jamaica?

The peak season is usually from mid-December to mid-April. But you may be able to find lower prices if you decide to go during the off-season, from mid-April to mid-December.

Is it safe to travel to Jamaica?

While Jamaica is a relatively safe travel destination, petty crime is not uncommon. Be sure to keep your belongings secure and either stick to reputable areas or travel with groups on nature tours.

Related Resources

Kyle Kroeger
WRITTEN BY

Kyle Kroeger

Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He's a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he'd heard.

Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he's learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.

He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time. Read more about his portfolio of work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *