Jamaica is without question one of the top tropical paradises of the Caribbean, and across this emerald island, hotspots of excitement and entertainment eagerly await your arrival.
Difficult to choose between, as they are all amazing holiday destinations, the cities of Montego Bay, Negril and Ocho Rios all have individual qualities that guarantee a stay that you will never forget.
Also read: 40 wonderful things to do in Jamaica.
Jamaica is the place to help you have a wonderful vacation. Below you will find details on weather, annual events, and the top 5 places to visit, so that when you arrive in Jamaica, you will have nothing to worry about as the stress of regular life melts away.
In this article on the Sandals Blog:
Like its neighboring islands, Jamaica’s climate is lush and tropical, with only slight variations across the island. Note too that the island experiences two rainy seasons; the first beginning in May, ending in June and the second lasting from September to November. There are also two dry seasons, with one running from July to August and the second from December to April.
The best time to visit Jamaica is during the start of 'winter', November to mid-December, with temperatures averaging 80°F. Peak season begins mid-December and ends mid-April, which is a great time to vacation in Jamaica if you don't mind the crowds. Summers (June to August) are warmer, bringing a slight increase in rainfall.
It’s always a good time to visit Jamaica, but if the weather is a contributing factor in your decision-making process, below are some detailed weather graphs giving you a month to month overview of what you can expect on your vacation.
A tropical climate means warm weather all year round, with only slight variations between winter and summer.
Montego Bay sees its warmest days in July, with a maximum temperature of 91°F, while the ‘coldest’ period is over the month of January, at 82°F.
Negril generally hottest in July, Negril averages a maximum temperature of 86°F, and is coldest in January at 82°F.
Kingston, located off the southern coast, is slightly warmer in the winter months, with average maximum temperatures of around 86°F. The summer months average maximum temperatures around 91 °F. Be aware, if you are looking for a relaxing beach vacation - you'll have a better time at Montego Bay, Negril or Ocho Rios.
Similar to the rest of the country, Ocho Rios boasts warm temperatures year-round. June is the hottest month, with maximum temperatures averaging about 88°F, while January has the coldest temperatures, hovering around a still-warm 84°F.
Typical of the tropics, the north-east winds have a direct effect on Jamaica’s rainfall. Especially between September and November, when the island’s northern coast experiences a slight increase in rain.
The southern region (e.g. Kingston) is sheltered from the winds by the Blue Mountains, as well as the hills of the west-central part of the country.
Due to their elevation, the central mountainous regions receive more rain than Jamaica's coastal hotspots, and as a result, are naturally lush and green - truly a sight to behold.
Montego Bay receives around 37 inches of rain each year, September to December being the wettest months, but still a great time to enjoy the island country. You'll experience beaches that are less crowded, and accommodation is often available at a lower rate.
Negril has its wettest month in October, averaging 8.7 inches of rainfall, while December to March averaging less than 3 inches of rainfall, as the driest months of the year. In a year, Negril receives around 62 inches of rain - slightly more than other Jamaican hotspots. That being said, Negril boasts the most beautiful beaches in the country and is a great place for a beach vacation all year long.
Kingston, being protected by the mountains, receives less rain than the rest of the island, with an average of around 28 inches of rain per year. The wettest months in Kingston are from September to October.
Ocho Rios receives around 37 inches of rain per year, with September and October being the wettest months.
Keep in mind Jamaica seldom sees a full day of rain. Being a tropical destination, rain often falls in one part of the day – making way for sunshine the other part of the day. Just make sure to bring a waterproof bag, in case you get surprised by some tropical rainfall.
Every day is a beach day in Jamaica. Sea temperatures range from 81 °F between January and April, and up to 84 °F between July and November.
Average water temperatures of 82 °F and pristine beaches, means you can snorkel all year round whenever the mood strikes. While the weather is cooler during peak season (ever so slightly), and the water visibility may be slightly better, due to less rain, you will not be disappointed if you travel during low season.
The weather in Jamaica is spectacular year-round, making it the ideal destination to enjoy the beautiful island. Your best bet would be to travel during the months of November and mid-April, just before and during peak season.
Winter is peak season in Jamaica. The weather is slightly cooler over these months, and the island sees an influx of tourists from around the globe. We would advise that you book at least three months in advance to avoid facing a situation where there is no availability.
Shoulder season is a great time to visit your (soon to be) favorite vacation island. From Mid-April to May the weather is amazing and the crowds taper-off after peak season, giving you ample space to relax, unwind and soak up the magnificent surroundings. From November - Mid-December enjoying the same great weather, but you can expect the beaches and resorts to be less crowded.
Low season falls during the summer months. During these months you will experience fewer crowds on the beaches, resorts and restaurants. On top of that you will often find top-class accommodation at a lower rate. This might be not the best time to visit Jamaica when you are looking for a party, but it's a great time to grab a cocktail and take a well-deserved break on the beach.
Picture: Dunn's River Falls near Ocho Rios.
Insider tip: If you are considering taking a cruise ship vacation to immerse yourself in the natural beauty that is Jamaica, expect fewer crowds at the cruise ports during shoulder season.
While the Jamaican resorts will provide you with a luxury experience like no other, you might want to venture out for one or two authentic Jamaican experiences. You won't regret adding a little adventure to your vacation!
Location: Montego Bay, Kingston, Ocho Rios
Month: January to April
It’s an explosion of color, music, dance and food. Soak up the full Jamaican experience as the island nation comes to life in the center of the three major cities, Montego Bay, Kingston and Ocho Rios. From beach parties to street parties, the Jamaica Carnival is truly a unique experience. This might very well be a great time to visit Jamaica.
The first week of February sees reggae fanatics and Rastafarians come together in the city of Kingston to commemorate the life and music of Jamaica's best-known musician, Bob Marley. The week includes symposiums, lectures, karaoke contests, a fashion show, exhibitions and various other events related to Bob Marley. Don’t miss out on the “Redemption Live” concert. It’s the closest you’ll get to a Bob Marley experience - a man whose music and beliefs were so rooted in grassroots of the Jamaican people.
Location: Montego Bay
If you’re up for a feast of maritime activity from the esteemed Montego Bay Yacht Club, you’ve come to the right place. Whether participating or simply witnessing the sails glide past you, from a spot of your preference, you’re in for a few days of delightful entertainment over the Easter weekend.
Location: St. Elizabeth
If it’s an immersive local experience you’re after, Easter Monday will give you just that. Affectionately known as the “Flower Show” the St. Elizabeth Horticultural Society Flower Show has been providing locals and tourist alike a real Jamaican experience since 1963. Get a taste of dancehall (popular Jamaican music), local eats, and a few shopping experiences where you can haggle with local vendors, which should stand you in good stead for the rest of your trip.
Location: Richmond, St. Ann
Calling all families and social lovers to the annual St. Ann Kite Festival and celebration. You’ll need to bring your A- game if you intend on entering the competition. This long-held tradition is less about the flying and a more about kite design and the building of kites. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of light (fun) rivalry. In true Jamaican style, this event is concluded with eats and live reggae music.
“Everything Curry” is the theme of this festival and it will deliver just that. Food, music and art are the order of the day, at the sought-after Kingston Curry festival. Showcasing the best dishes from local chefs and restaurants, the Kingston Curry Festival is also host to an artisan village and a number of other popular Jamaican cuisines. Be sure to arrive hungry.
Month: May (Biannual - the next one to be held in 2020)
“Inspirational” and “diverse”, are words that spring to mind when describing the Calabash International Literary Festival. Twice a year locals and visitors will be passionately adorned to a 3-day festival of poetry readings, music and other forms of storytelling methods.
" ... Calabash is a high-grade international event in which writing from the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia forms a thought-provoking mosaic of story, history and mythology." - The Independent on Sunday
Location: Ocho Rios
What started out as an experimental one-day event in 1991, with the idea of redefining the Jamaican musical landscape, has now boomed into an eight-day festival, featuring the greatest names in Jamaican Jazz around the world. Known as the oldest Jazz festival in the region, families can enjoy their Jazz Vacation in multiple regions from Ocho Rios to Kingston.
Do you want to celebrate the Ocho Rios Jazz Festival in style? Book in advance and pamper yourself by staying in the ocean-front butler suites of classy Sandals Royal Plantation.
Location: Montego Bay
Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley, Beres Hammond and Maxi Priest are just a few of the many highly acclaimed local and international jazz artists performing at The Reggae Sumfest. A 6-night line-up of activities which will include an all-white blitz party, a sound system explosion, and a beach party along with the 3 main concerts will contribute to a full week of summer festivities.
“Reggae music isn’t something you hear, it’s something that you feel.” - Peter Tosh
Jamaica International Fishing Tournament: Montego Bay
Port Antonio International Blue Marlin Tournament: Port Antonio
The waters of northern Jamaica are famous in the deep sea fishing circles. For over 40 years, both the Jamaica International Fishing Tournament and the Port Antonio International Blue Marlin Tournament sees local and international anglers and fishermen from all corners of the globe making their way to the Caribbean to fish the teeming waters. To win you’ll have to catch the biggest Blue Marlin, a fish that migrates through the Caribbean during September and October. Parties and celebrations make these tournaments a heritage highlight.
Location: Throughout Jamaica
Not all heroes wear capes. Every third Monday in October is a public holiday commemorating Jamaica’s seven official national heroes. The greater freedom and societal betterment for Jamaica is attributed to six heroes and a heroine. Apart from these official-status heroes, modern day heroes are also recognized and given awards on National Heroes Day.
Location: Throughout Jamaica
A foodies paradise! Over 100 participating restaurants throughout Jamaica will have you chomping at the bit (no pun intended) to get your bum in a seat for their delectable culinary delights. Restaurant chefs will welcome patrons for their signature dishes at discounts as much as 30 per cent. If there was ever a time to visit the island, the best time to visit Jamaica would be over the month of November.
Seven miles of unadulterated sandy bliss is what makes Negril a destination of choice. Seven Mile Beach, which as you might have guessed is nearly seven miles of uninterrupted sand. Coupled with endless turquoise waters for as far as the eye can see, this piece of paradise will certainly set the tone for your dream vacation.
Grab a cocktail and watch the sun melt into the ocean straight off the shores of Negril. Witness the most beautiful sunsets at Sandals Negril (all-inclusive adults only resort), or Beaches Negril (all-inclusive family resort with waterpark).
Picture: Sandals Negril, all-inclusive resort on Seven Mile Beach.
A well-known stomping ground for the rich and famous, the pearly beaches of Montego Bay are home to some of the best premier luxury resorts. Second in its size to Kingston, it is known as the tourist capital of Jamaica, and for very good reason. From shopping, to art galleries, to parks and nature reserves, the beautiful seaside city will certainly keep you on your toes.
Insider tip: Staying at any of these all-inclusive resorts in Montego Bay, will give you access to all three resorts - including all restaurants, bars and swimming pools: Sandals Montego Bay, Sandals Royal Caribbean, Sandals Inn. It’s like three vacations in one!
Picture: Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay
Ocho Rios, once a small fishing village, is now a bustling city hosting an array of outdoor adventures for you and your family. Outdoor adventures on Mystic Mountain, Martha Brae River Rafting, or exploring the city on horseback, are just a few of the many “must do” activities while visiting Ocho Rios.
Don’t forget to go on the Dunn’s River Falls island Routes Tour, one of Jamaica’s most magnificent natural treasures. Check out Sandals Ochi (all-inclusive couples-only resort) and Beaches Ocho Rios (family friendly all-inclusive resort) for a stress-free vacation.
Picture: Sandals Ochi, all-inclusive resort in Ocho Rios.
Port Antonio, the capital of Jamaica’s Portland Parish, is found on Jamaica’s northwest coast, and is the island’s third largest port. Made famous by Hollywood, movie buffs will appreciate that Port Antonio was featured in multiple Hollywood films, such as Club Paradise and Tom Cruise’s Cocktail.
Recognizing the important role reggae, ska, dance hall and rocksteady have played in shaping the city’s identity, Kingston, was crowned the Creative City of Music by UNESCO in 2015. The capital and largest city of Jamaica is located on the south eastern coast of the island. Known as the heart of music, art, and culinary explorations in Jamaica, it’s no surprise visitors flock to the city for a day trip to get a taste of the Jamaican culture. Kingston is the business center of Jamaica, if you are looking for a beach vacation - the other four destinations mentioned above might be a better pick.
From alluring sandy beaches to adventurous hikes through lush mountains and waterfalls, Jamaica boasts an array of unique experiences. Above all: it’s the perfect paradise to have a drink and relax. Experience authentic Jamaican food accompanied with the groovy beats of reggae and you have yourself a vacation that is a welcome break from busy day-to-day life.
Base yourself at any one of the Sandals' all-inclusive resorts in Jamaica and start your vacation the way it was always intended: stress-free and everything being taken care of for you.