Jamaica has been a famed getaway destination since the 1950s and has been well-developed to cater to tourists. It can be easy, and fun, to arrive at the island and have your itinerary taken care of by one of many well-respected organizations, but there are hidden rewards to be found in plotting your own route.
Keep these four quick tips in mind on a trip to Jamaica and you should be able to avoid the tourist traps and make the most of an island excursion.
Go for Attractions Without an Entrance Fee
While many of the established places are well run and offer an exciting array of activities, there’s a definite charm to planning your own agenda. Renting your own snorkel gear and jumping into the waters anywhere along the coast, for example, or eating sizzling pan chicken from the side of the road instead of a restaurant or enjoying the local watering holes can be cheaper and charming alternatives to the familiar brand names that speckle the towns.
Talk to the Locals
Striking up a conversation is the easiest way to make friends, get insider hints and generally brighten your day. Jamaicans are known for their friendliness and many of the people you’ll encounter – the vendors, the receptionist, the bartender, the guy sitting on the side of the street playing guitar – will be more than happy to talk at length about anything and everything. Taxi drivers are especially keen to dish out life advice (though it is often dubious), and an open mind and willingness to talk will find you leaving the island with many more friends than you arrived with.
An old sailor’s haven, Jamaicans have an aversion to staying dry, and with good reason. There’s a whole world to be discovered in the ocean. From scuba diving to snorkeling, parasailing to windsurfing, white-water rafting or horseback rides through the waves, and even the famous Pelican Bar built in the middle of the ocean, venturing off the island is an essential part of enjoying it.
While Jamaica is an island that has, for the most part, kept up with modern technology, and Wi-Fi, computers and cellphone reception are available for the determined, much of the island’s charm is in its laissez-faire attitude to life. Unplug and unwind; whether slogging it up Blue Mountains with nothing but a torchlight to catch the sunset, or spending a day with a book on a hammock, the ability to escape real life is what the island is famous for. While at first, living life 0 miles per hour might make one itch, it is the best antidote for burnout and the reason many visitors keep coming back.