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, Kingston, Ocho Rios and Port Antonio 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:
Weather in Jamaica.
Temperatures in Jamaica.
Rainfall in Jamaica.
Ocean temperature in Jamaica.
How to avoid hurricane season.
Peak season vs slow season.
Bonus: Top 5 destinations in Jamaica.
Come to Jamaica and feel alright.
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. Summers (June to August) are slightly warmer, bringing an increase in rainfall. Hurricane season in Jamaica lasts from June to November, with intensity increasing between August and October.
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.
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 more 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 a lot more rain, 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.
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.
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.
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 slow season, or during the summer months. The ideal time for snorkeling however is in the winter months of January until March, where you will find crystal clear, calm waters and great visibility.
Note that the island experiences two rainy seasons; the first beginning in May, ending in June and the second lasting from September to November.
Easily avoidable, hurrican season in Jamaica falls between the months of June and November, with intensity increasing between August and October. Satellite weather forecasts generally give an accurate warning upfront in case of a pending hurricane. However, it is recommended to purchase a travel insurance, if you are traveling during these months.
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-December, just before peak season kicks off.
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 there is still minimal rain and the crowds taper-off after peak season, giving you ample space to relax, unwind and soak up the magnificent surroundings.
Slow season falls during the summer months. This is also known as rainy season. Due to the rain and the impending hurricane season, you will experience fewer crowds.
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 - making it a good time to plan your cruise vacation.
While the island will provide you with a luxury experience like no other, you might want to venture out for one or two authentic Jamaican experiences. There is nothing quite as enriching as immersing yourself in a few cultural activities.
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.
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
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.
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 to get a taste of the Jamaican culture.
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.
From alluring sandy beaches to adventurous hikes through lush mountains, 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.
Remember: a good time to revel in the beauty of Jamaica is from November to April, with November to mid-December as the sweet spot. Fantastic weather, fewer crowds, and uninterrupted down-time. Hello Jamaica, Hello Paradise!
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.