If you are looking for a truly memorable family vacation with plenty of sun, sea and sightseeing, then look no further than the stunning island nation of Jamaica. This tropical Caribbean paradise has African, Asian, European and Middle Eastern influences making up its vibrant culture.
Jamaica has something for everyone; cities such as Kingston and Montego Bay and towns like Ocho Rios and Negril, offer everything from museums, galleries, clubs, theaters and restaurants to dozens of pristine beaches and a dazzling coral reef rich marine park.
But if you truly want to absorb the essence of this beautiful island and its enchanting melting pot of a culture, then experience Jamaica like the average Jamaican. Visiting Jamaica in a non-touristy way can make for a great family vacation, fun for adults and an enjoyable learning experience for children.
- Jamaican Villa
An excellent alternative to chain resorts are wonderful Jamaican villas that offer a far more localized and personalized stay, where you feel like you’re living in a Jamaican family home rather than in a hotel, complete with every modern amenity to make your stay comfortable. There are charming family villas built in the local Caribbean architectural style, offering accommodation that is serenely comfortable and a staff that offers Jamaica’s famous gracious hospitality catering to guests’ every need.
- What to Wear
Jamaicans are known for their colorful tropical attire. Although one of the most culturally independent islands in the region, Jamaica still retains some of the influences from its days as a British colony.
The clothing you’ll see around Jamaica is vibrant and striking, but the overarching theme in this tropical climate is comfort. No matter your plans, comfortable clothing is essential. Lightweight cottons and linens are advisable, while light woolens are suggested for evenings. Try to avoid synthetics, which may not be as breathable as woolens and linens.
Hats, particularly with large brims, and sunglasses are also highly recommended for travelers to keep the unrelenting sun at bay. Sun block is also a must-wear for most vacationers. Some have also said that, while skimpy clothing may sound appealing to those looking to tan. Sundresses and lightweight pants are particularly recommended, though sweaters may be a necessity in the evening.
The following tips will help you fit in, and avoid accidentally offending more conservative islanders:
- If you are traveling for business, a suit, jacket and tie are expected, and the usual formalities and courtesies are observed;
- Shorts and bathing suits are acceptable on beaches, but should be avoided in town without cover-ups;
- Generally speaking, travelers should consider long shorts or skirts and pants, and men may want to bring button-up shirts;
- Club attire is generally more revealing than clothes worn any other time during the day or night, particularly for women (but it is best to err on the side of caution!).
As always, it’s best to be aware of the attire expected at a specific location. Many Jamaican villas have little to no dress code in place, but some resorts and hotels require women to wear dresses or slacks and men to wear suits and ties at their restaurants.
While visitors may want to come prepared for all possible weather, there are many styles of island dress that are appropriate. Traditional garb may be worn by some, but Rastafarian wear is also well-known. However, no matter what the clothing, you can be sure it will always be infused with color.
Rastafarian-influenced clothes generally include red, green, and gold, which are the colors of the Ethiopian flag. One of the most important aspects of Rastafarian clothing is that it is made from natural fibers. Also important in this attire is the “tam,” a hat that covers the dreadlocks.
Remember that Jamaican locals have adopted many of the same Western trends and fashions that you are used to back home, so fitting in should not be a problem. As long as you pack clothing that is cool and comfortable, you won’t look back and regret the clothes you wore on your Jamaican vacation.
- Public Commute
When it comes to getting around, Jamaica offers quite a few options. Air-conditioned buses are preferred by most tourists, but if you really want to travel like the locals, hire a route taxi. These are usually sedans and you’ll be in for a truly Jamaican experience as the driver goes about his route, picking up passengers on the way. Another way to get around like a local is to travel by bus or mini bus, which operates pretty much the same way a route taxi does, making for an adventurous yet fun commute.
- Greet People In Jamaican Patois
English is the official language in Jamaica, however, Patois is spoken at home and informal situations. You can win over locals by greeting them in Patois if you learn just a few basic greetings like “Wha gwaan?” meaning “What’s going on?” or “How are you?” Showing respect for the local dialect always endears a foreigner to the locals and earns their respect.
- Eat, Drink And Be Merry
Love food? Then you’re on the right island. Jamaican food boasts Indian, Chinese, Spanish, African and British influences which make it wonderfully diverse and absolutely delicious. Forget the fancy restaurants and head to locally owned independent hangouts where the Jamaicans eat. Try ackee and saltfish, the national dish. Savor the famous jerk chicken, callaloo or goat curry. You can buy a wonderful beef or chicken patty with cocoa bread from one of the many patty vendors and don’t forget to try roast breadfruit for dessert. Wash it all down, Jamaican style with fresh juices like tamarind, coconut water and sorrel. And lastly, no Jamaican vacation would be complete without healthy doses of Red Stripe Beer!
- Bargain Hunter
Jamaica’s many markets offer a variety of shopping options. Head to places like the famous Coronation Market which offers a multitude of items from food to handmade tools. Bargaining is key in Jamaica and many Jamaicans have this rather charming belief that if you don’t bargain, the person who comes after you will be forced to pay a higher price too. Learn to haggle over everything from produce and Blue Mountain Coffee to homemade soaps. If a local guide is accompanying you, you’ll get the hang of it faster.
If you wish to experience the beauty of Jamaican culture, you’ll need to leave all-inclusive resorts on the island and venture inland. Staying in a Jamaica villa often makes these types of day trips more appealing and convenient. At Jamaica Ocean View Villa in Ocho Rios, we’ll be glad to help you plan your day trip to one of the many beautiful waterfalls in the area. Feel free to contact us for more information about how our accommodations in Ocho Rios can suit your Jamaica vacation plans.