No matter where you stay in Jamaica, the Caribbean sea surrounding the island and the sandy beaches along the coast will stay the same.
However, Jamaica is a dynamic, lively, and old country that offers much more than the beaches, the sea, and Bob Marley. This guide will offer you a glimpse into the layers and intricacies of this beautiful island country.
The 5 Best Places to Stay in Jamaica
Jamaica is not a huge country, and you can visit at least two or three towns in one vacation. To preface all of this, remember one thing: the beaches and the sea are great no matter the place you choose.
That’s why it’s better to think about monuments, national parks, cultural institutions, and restaurants and take the sea and the beaches as a given.
- Negril: A fairly balanced city in terms of what it offers located in the western parts of the country — the best choice if you’re a newcomer to Jamaica.
- Montego Bay: Fancier and more lively than Negril, this town should do the trick if you are looking for vibrant nightlife and shopping.
- Kingston: Stick to the capital of Jamaica if you want to go to galleries and museums.
- Port Antonio: A town that offers some of the loveliest beaches in the country, the liveliest nature, and the unforgettable Blue Lagoon.
- Ocho Rios: A calm and relaxed city full of natural beauty and parks — the best option if you’re planning a family-friendly vacation.
Where to Stay in Jamaica: Best Areas & Hotels
Jamaica’s economy is mainly dependent on tourism since around four and a half million people visit the island every year. The accommodation infrastructure is fairly developed, with a lot of hotels, holiday homes, and apartments in every part of the country.
The accommodation options are fairly similar in terms of cost in almost every town in the country. That’s why we recommend that you don’t choose your preferred city in relation to how much the hotels cost.
In that way, you’ll never make an objective choice. You’ll get better results if you choose according to your preferences and what that particular area or city has to offer in terms of attractions and activities.
In almost every city presented in our guide, you’ll find a bunch of two-star and four-star accommodations, covering both the budget and the luxury options.
But the number of three-star hotels is definitely the highest: some of them being very cheap and leaning towards the budget pole; others being very expensive and leaning towards the luxury pole.
There’s no better place to start your Jamaica adventure than to stay in Negril. Located on the utmost western tip of the Island, it’s a small town with no more than 7,000 permanent residents.
The city is famous for its sandy beaches, its proximity to the MBJ Sangster International Airport, and the different water-related activities it offers to visitors. If this is your first trip to Jamaica, Negril is probably the best option for you.
Negril is well-known for its beaches, and that’s something to be proud of when you’re part of Jamaica. The sand is golden and pleasant, and the water crystal clear and completely transparent.
We recommend you visit at least three of them: Norman Manley Beach, Coral Beach — which are basically in the city — and, probably the most famous beach in Jamaica, Seven Mile Beach, which is just a few kilometers up north from Negril.
The beaches are great for relaxing and swimming, but they also offer much, much more.
First, along the beaches, you’ll find many restaurants, clubs, and cafes that offer great food and a lot of opportunities for you to hear a bunch of authentic reggae — especially during the night.
They’re great for romantic dates and anniversaries but also for new beginnings, adventures, and meeting new people. Finally, if you want to go scuba diving, snorkeling, deep sea fishing, or on different kinds of boat trips and tours, the beaches of Negril are yet again your best choice.
There’s another reason why we said that Negrils is probably the best choice for first-time visitors: the accommodation options and the restaurants.
There are only three- and four-star hotels in this town, but don’t panic — most of them are quite cheap and affordable. You’ll also find a lot of Caribbean and Jamaican restaurants that are quite good.
Negril Budget Hotels
- Da Fabio is an extremely cheap three-star hotel with an outdoor pool. Located just six kilometers from the Negril airport, it offers aesthetically minimalistic rooms but furnished with all the amenities. It also has an on-site restaurant that serves Italian cuisine and seafood dishes.
- Fay Guest House is the second cheapest three-star hotel located in Negril. The rooms have free Wi-Fi and air-conditioning and are equipped with desks, flat-screen TVs, private bathrooms, and balconies. There’s also a restaurant on the premises, which is all about Caribbean cuisine.
Negril Mid-Range Hotels
- Travellers Beach Resort is a three-star hotel that basically has it all. It’s located in a lovely white building and offers rooms furnished in a minimalistic and clean way. There’s also an outdoor pool on the premises, a bar, a restaurant, and a private beach.
- The Westender Inn is another great three-star hotel that isn’t too costly. It offers more than one swimming pool on the premises, a beautiful large garden, and a terrace. The rooms have flat-screen TVs and are furnished with wooden decor. The on-site restaurant serves traditional Jamaican food.
Negril Luxury Hotels
- The Cliff Hotel is a luxurious four-star hotel with an outdoor pool and a spa that offers an unforgettable view of the Caribbean Sea. All of the suites have free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, and a hammock. There’s a restaurant and a bar on the premises too.
- Stunning Ocean View is another four-star accommodation with a private outdoor pool. The place offers free Wi-Fi and air conditioning, a terrace, and a barbeque. The holiday home is located on the beachfront (and has a private beach) — a convenient place to do some snorkeling.
2. Montego Bay
For those who prefer shopping, enjoy nightlife, and think that sandy beaches are not the most important thing in the world, Montego Bay is the right place. Not that it doesn’t have nice beaches, quite on the contrary — it’s still Jamaica.
But it definitely has more nightclubs and more shops and boutiques than Negril. Another obvious plus is the proximity to the Sir Donald Sangster International Airport (MBJ), which is one of the largest airports in the country.
People who usually choose Montego Bay as their place of residence in Jamaica usually do that because of the numerous nightclubs they can find there.
The fun is mainly concentrated in the neighborhood called Hip Strip, along the English-sounding Gloucester Avenue. But, generally speaking, good clubs are not hard to find in any part of this vibrant city. We recommend you visit:
- Coral Cliff for live musical performances
- Margaritaville Montego Bay — great for outdoor partying
- Pier 1 — the best all-around nightlife destination in Montego Bay
- Treasure Hunt MoBay, a famous casino that doubles as a party hub
When people aren’t partying in Montego Bay, they’re shopping along the store-laden streets. If you’re more of a shopping mall type, we suggest the Main Street Rose Hall, the Whitter Village Shopping Mall, and St. James Place Shopping Centre (among others).
Fans of flea and street markets, on the other hand, should visit the Crafts Market, and if you’re looking for a souvenir, Jewels in Paradise
It’s also worth noting that Montego Bay is a safe and non-violent place. That being said, there are a considerable number of pickpockets and small, petty thefts, as in any tourist place.
Considering the accommodation, the situation is pretty similar to Negril: a lot of three-star hotels of all kinds, even some which are very cheap. For those who need luxury, there are a couple of extra luxurious and expensive four-star hotels.
Montego Bay Budget Hotels
- Airport Beach Hotel is a relatively cheap but nice three-star hotel located in close proximity to the Sangster International Airport. It offers free Wi-Fi and free air conditioning but also free parking and a terrace. The hotel is particularly liked by couples.
- Seacastles by the beach/pool is another very cheap three-star hotel, considering the things it has to offer. A private beach, an outdoor swimming pool, and a bar and a restaurant on the premises are some of the things you get. There’s also an airport shuttle service.
Montego Bay Mid-Range Hotels
- Altamont West Hotel is a great three-star hotel that has a lot to offer at a relatively average price. It has an outdoor swimming pool, free parking, a spa and wellness center, and a bar. You can also contact the hotel to organize an airport shuttle. The facilities for disabled guests are also a nice addition.
- Toby’s Resort is a three-star hotel with no less than two swimming pools. All of the rooms have a terrace with a garden view, and there’s a fitness center, a restaurant, and a bar on the premises of the hotel. The hotel is especially suitable for couples.
Montego Bay Luxury Hotels
- Jewel Grande Montego Bay Resort and Spa is a very luxurious four-star hotel facing the beachfront. It has everything you can think of in a hotel — from an outdoor swimming pool and a wellness and spa center to a restaurant, bar, and breakfast every morning. There’s also a garden and a kids club.
- Crystal Palace Villa is a very expensive and luxurious four-star accommodation. The house offers a garden, a private outdoor pool, and private parking. It has no less than six bedrooms and a fully equipped kitchen. There’s also American or vegetarian breakfast available.
You may be surprised that we reached the capital of the city so late, but you’ll surely agree that people generally visit Jamaica to swim in the Caribbean sea, relax on its sunny beaches, or enjoy the vibrant nightlife.
That being said, Kingston is an old city full of traces of history and the place you should visit if you want to learn about the rich and complex culture of the Jamaicans.
The city was founded in early 1692 after a horrendous earthquake destroyed its predecessor — Port Royal, which was the commercial center of the Caribbean and a famous stopping place for Pirates.
It isn’t a big surprise that Kingston has the biggest concentration of monuments and museums in the country. There are plenty, but we particularly recommend the following places:
- Devon House
- The National Gallery of Jamaica
- Peter Tosh Museum
- Trench Town Culture Yard Museum
- The Bob Marley Museum
- Port Royal
- Fort Charles
All of these places represent the intricacies and complications of the history of Jamaica, a combination of the highly artistic temperament of the people — especially in music — its colonial history and the history of piracy.
If you visit these seven museums, your perception will get clearer and your ear well trained. But the Jamaican natural landscapes still find their way, even in the commercial and cultural atmosphere of Kingston.
There are a few nice beaches that you can go to, like Sugarman Beach, Fort Clarence Beach, and Hellshire Beach. If you get tired of the hustle and bustle of the capital, we recommend that you take a trip to Blue Mountains National Park and do some hiking.
As Kingston is not a touristic center, accommodations tend to get cheaper. As in the first two cities, there are mostly three- and four-star hotels, but their prices range from very cheap to very expensive.
In terms of restaurants, on the other hand, the versatility of cuisine that is present in Kingston can’t be matched by any of the other cities in Jamaica.
Kingston Budget Hotels
- The Quiet Escape Loft is an extremely cheap three-star hotel, especially suitable for visitors who are on a strict budget. The hotel has a terrace that offers a beautiful mountain view, free Wi-Fi and air-conditioning, an airport shuttle, and nice breakfast in the morning.
- Eventuality B&B New Kingston is a very cheap, completely pet-friendly three-star bed and breakfast. The B&B can organize an airport shuttle, offers free Wi-Fi, free air conditioning, and provides very tasty breakfast every morning. The sun terrace and the barbeque are a bonus.
Kingston Mid-Range Hotels
- Christar Villas Hotel is a decent three-star hotel located just one kilometer away from the famous Bob Marley Museum — Reggae fans, this is the perfect place for you. It also has an outdoor swimming pool, a bar, and a restaurant on the premises, and offers room service too.
- Altamont Court Hotel is a slightly more expensive (but not too much) three-star hotel that offers a ton of amenities. It has an outdoor pool, free Wi-Fi, free parking, and a bar and a restaurant. Every morning, you’ll wake up with the smell of warm and fresh breakfast.
Kingston Luxury Hotels
- AC Hotel Kingston, Jamaica is a great four-star hotel that is particularly suitable for business-oriented travelers. It has an outdoor swimming pool, a fitness center, and a bar. The restaurant on the premises serves traditionally prepared Spanish food and a wide variety of cocktails.
- Infinity Pool Paradise Vacation Home is a very luxurious and expensive four-star holiday home. There’s a private outdoor pool, as well as a garden and private parking. The home has two bedrooms, flat-screen TV, a sitting area, and a fully equipped kitchen.
4. Port Antonio
Located to the northeast of Kingston, you’ll find Port Antonio, a small and relaxed city surrounded by beautiful nature. Its population amounts to less than 15,000 people — important information for travelers who prefer smaller, quieter cities and who tend to stay away from crowds and loud places.
Once again, beaches are our primary focus. Here — in contrast to Negril and Montego Bay — you’ll find calmer and less commercialized beaches, but they’re just as sandy and sunny as their more well-known counterparts.
We suggest the following:
- For sipping cocktails on a real tropical beach, go to Frenchman’s Cove.
- For clear blue water, coconuts, and nice restaurants, visit Winifred Beach.
- For surfing and traditional Jamaican cuisine, go to Boston Beach.
- For a nice, calm, and regular day at the beach, visit Long Bay Beach.
- For scuba diving and marvelous coral reefs, go to San San Beach.
We mentioned that the countryside surrounding the city is one of the main reasons why tourists come to this place. In that context, we have to bring up Blue Mountain National Park again, approximately one hour away from Port Antonio by car.
Full of natural monuments and a lot of hiking options, this Jamaican jungle is the usual first choice for nature lovers.
Back to Port Antonio proper, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention its most famous attraction: the unforgettable Blue Lagoon. A sheltered place, surrounded by lush nature and crystalline water, here you can experience the true natural sublimity of Jamaica.
Just one more thing: you shouldn’t forget the stunning Reach Falls and the Somerset Falls — two waterfalls that are truly worth visiting.
Reach Falls is just an hour and fifteen minutes away by car; Somerset Falls, which can also be reached by gondola, is less than half an hour away if you drive. Port Antonio is generally a cheap place that can be a convenient option for budget travelers.
There’s only one four-star hotel in the area, but some of the three-star hotels are quite upscale and luxurious. On the other hand, there is plenty of cheap accommodation all around the place.
Port Antonio Budget Hotels
- Finjam Cottage is a very cheap three-star accommodation that boasts an amazing vista of both Navy Island and East Harbour. The place offers rooms with free Wi-Fi, a fan, a wardrobe, and a private bathroom. There’s a nice tropical garden on the premises too.
- La Familia Guest House and Natural Farm is another extremely cheap three-star hotel, located just 200 meters from the beach and the sea. The accommodation has a bar on the premises, offers an airport shuttle, has free Wi-Fi in every room, and provides free parking.
Port Antonio Mid-Range Hotels
- Match Resort is a three-star hotel that offers plenty at a true mid-range price. Located just five minutes away by car from San San Beach, it has an outdoor swimming pool, a restaurant, and a bar at the premises. There’s free parking and free Wi-Fi for every guest, as well as breakfast every morning.
- Mesmerize Guest House is a three-star hotel located just half a kilometer away from Port Antonio Beach. It offers free Wi-Fi, free parking, an airport shuttle, and a spa and wellness center on the premises. There’s also a car rental and breakfast.
Port Antonio Luxury Hotels
- Jamaica Colors Hotel and Eco-Retreat is a four-star elite accommodation located a little less than a kilometer away from Long Bay Beach. Every room has a patio and rooms with beautiful views, and the hotel also features an outdoor swimming pool, a children’s playground, a bar, and a restaurant.
- Jamaica Palace Hotel is a three-star hotel leaning to the expensive side, stacked up as a much higher-ranking accommodation. It has an outdoor swimming pool, an art gallery, two restaurants, and a bar. Every room features free Wi-Fi, cable TV, and a private bathroom.
5. Ocho Rios
Located in the northern parts of Jamaica to the west of Port Antonio and to the northwest of Kingston, this once small fishing village has evolved into a true jewel for tourists.
Like the other coastal Jamaican towns, it is full of beaches and surrounded by beautiful nature. We think that Ocho Rios is the most family-friendly city and the most suitable option for those traveling kids.
Once again, let’s start with the beaches. Mahogany Beach and Ocho Rios beach are both city beaches and are quite accessible. They’re probably the first choice for every traveler.
The Reggae Beach — as the name suggests — is always vibing with reggae music in the background and is more laid back. Finally, just a few kilometers to the east lies James Bond Beach, which featured in the cult 007 movie “Dr. No.”
The most famous and most visited attractions in Ocho Rios are the waterfalls and parks. Both Blue Hole and Dunn’s River Falls and Park were selected as 2022 Best of the Best Travelers’ Choice.
The two of them offer a once-in-a-lifetime experience and are the perfect representative of the beauty of Jamaican nature. But they’re not the only ones that are worth visiting.
Here’s a list of the additional parks, waterfalls, and forests that we just love:
- Konoko Falls & Park (2022 Travelers’ Choice selection)
- White River (another 2022 Travelers’ Choice selection)
- Laughing Waters (famous waterfalls)
- Shaw Park Gardens & Waterfalls
- Turtle River Park
- Little Dunn’s River Falls
There’s one more attraction that’s unique, especially for the fans of reggae music. Just one and a half hours from Ocho Rios by car lies Nine Mile village, the birthplace of Bob Marley.
It’s a great way to continue the exploration of the story of the hero of reggae music after you’ve visited the museums in Kingston. In terms of accommodation, Ocho Rios is affordable.
There’s a bunch of three and four-star hotels, apartments, and holiday houses — with swimming pools, gardens, and free breakfast — that are more than suitable for a family stay.
Ocho Rios Budget Hotels
- Pineapple Court Hotel is a two-star hotel located just 800 meters from Mahogany Beach. The hotel offers a nice outdoor pool, a large garden, and rooms equipped with free Wi-Fi, free air-conditioning, and TVs. There’s also an airport shuttle available.
- Wizzy Apartment is a very cheap three-star accommodation that’s particularly suitable for couples. It offers free parking, free air conditioning, and free Wi-Fi for every guest, and the rooms come with equipped kitchens and TVs. There’s also a car rental on the premises.
Ocho Rios Mid-Range Hotels
- Hibiscus Lodge Hotel is a great three-star hotel with a lot to offer. There’s a nice outdoor pool and a private beach area for the swimmers; a restaurant that serves international and Jamaican traditional dishes; a bar on the premises where you can sip drinks and enjoy the night.
- E 20 Mystic Ridge Ocho Rios is another mid-priced three-star accommodation that is particularly suitable for couples. There are two swimming pools on the premises, a garden, a spa and wellness center, a terrace, and a bar. The visitors can also do some cycling and tennis in the area of the hotel.
Ocho Rios Luxury Hotels
- North Star Villas is a not-so-expensive but really upscale four-star accommodation. It offers an outdoor swimming pool available to all guests, and each room has a sofa, flat-screen TV, a private bathroom, a fully equipped kitchen, and a comfortable sitting area.
- My Palm Retreat is another luxurious four-star accommodation that’s not scandalously expensive. Again, we have a nice outdoor swimming pool, but also a garden and a terrace, available to all the residents. The apartment has three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a big living room, and a fully equipped kitchen.
Book Your Trip to Jamaica Today!
We talked about a lot of things in this guide, and we shared a lot of information. Before we put a dot on our last sentence, let’s do a quick recap of everything that was said:
|🏆Best for First-Time Visitors||Negril|
|🍷 Best for Nightlife||Montego Bay|
|🏛️ Home to the Most Museums||Kingston|
|🐋 Best for Nature Lovers||Port Antonio|
|👪 Best for Families||Ocho Rios|
So, with so much to see and do, what are you waiting for — book your trip to Jamaica today and experience the island vibes for yourself!