(LifeWire) - Welcome to Jamaica
At 146 miles long and 51 miles at its widest point, Jamaica is the third-largest island in the Caribbean after Hispaniola and Cuba. Perhaps most famous as the birthplace of ska and reggae, the island has a strong tradition of soul rebels from the Maroons to Bob Marley. Check out Jamaica's unique patois (-listen to Green Eggs and Ham, Jamaican-style.)
A popular destination for families, over 1 million people visit annually to enjoy Jamaica's golf courses, jerk chicken and beachfront all-inclusive resorts.
Montego Bay's Sangster International Airport is well serviced by flights from major North American cities and London. Some airlines also fly into Kingston, the island's capital, but it's not ideal; recommended family accommodations are primarily on the island's northern coast between Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, and you'll either have to take a connecting flight or brace yourself for a long drive on Jamaica's winding roads. From Montego Bay, the drives to area resorts are generally no more than half an hour and many resorts provide a shuttle service. Rides to Ocho Rios and Negril will be much longer.
How's the Beach?
Families hoping for great beaches won't be disappointed in Jamaica. Most famous is the "Seven Mile Beach" in Negril. In Montego Bay, Doctor's Cave Beach became famous for its supposedly curative waters and remains a popular spot.
Family-Friendly All Inclusive Resorts
Jamaica has many all inclusives for families, especially in the well-developed area between Montego Bay and Ocho Rios on the northern coast. See Top Jamaica All Inclusive Resorts For Families for an overview.
Beaches Resorts: Jamaica is the home of the Sandals group of all inclusive resorts, and Beaches Resorts is the family resort brand. There are three Beaches Resorts in Jamaica, with signature features such as Sesame Street character and themed activities; annual Single Parent Months; butler service, and more. Scuba is included, for ages 12 and up. Beaches Negril is on Negril's 7-mile beach, and has a water park.
Franklyn D. Resort: This mid-sized all inclusive resort on Jamaica's north coast has the usual array of watersports, kids club, teen activities, and family fun PLUS a very special extra: each family has their own personal vacation nanny throughout their stay.
Breezes Trelawny Resort & Spa: This affordable, all-inclusive SuperClub property is east of Montego Bay and close to Discovery Bay. The kids' club offers activities for infants to teens, and there's also a kids' pool with a 124-foot water slide. You'll even find flying trapeze lessons!
Sunset Beach Resort: A value-priced all-inclusive on a white-sand beach 15 minutes from the Montego Bay Airport, with its own pirate-themed water park. Also: Club Mongoose for ages 2 to 12; Pirates Cove Teen Center.
Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort & Spa: If your family can tolerate a 90-minute car ride from the airport, this massive all-inclusive Ocho Rios property will reward the kids with a water slide, Club Mongoose (ages 2 to 12) and Jamrock Teen Center, while the adults can enjoy a casino, nearby golf and polo and the private beach.
Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort Montego Bay: Just 10 to 15 minutes east of the airport, this mid-priced resort has all inclusive pricing, complimentary kids' programs, a nursery, and kids 12 and under stay, play, and eat free with a paying adult.*
Ritz-Carlton Golf & Spa Resort: A 15-minute ride west from the airport, this luxurious resort offers the brand's well-established Ritz Kids program (ages 5 to 12) plus themed nights for the children, and the respected White Witch golf course for the grown-ups.
Round Hill Hotel and Villas: This sophisticated, low-key property is 25 minutes west of Montego Bay and is preferred by families seeking an elegant, relatively quiet vacation. Children can enjoy the Pineapple Kids' Club (ages 3 to 12), while adults indulge in the spa or hit the links on the famous Tryall gold course nearby.
Attractions & Fun Outings
The most popular outing in Jamaica is Dunn's River Falls Park, near Ocho Rios. Bring your swimsuits and water shoes, and expect plenty of company: You'll climb the falls via a human chain led by a guide.
Jamaica has a number of water parks, including the pretty Sugar Mill Falls Water Park> at the Rose Hall Resort, with a 280-foot water slide and a lazy river. Non-guests can join in the fun by buying a day pass*.
On the northern coast between Montego Bay and Ocho Rios are the Green Grotto Caves, believed to be a haven for escaped slaves in the 1700s. Your kids will enjoy putting on hard hats and taking the 45-minute tour of the spooky-looking rock formations.
Meet the People: this great program, run through Visit Jamaica, connects visitors with local Jamaicans to help them know "the real Jamaica" outside their resort. Meet the People tries to match interests; families will probably meet other families, and get together for an activity such as a hike or visit to a swimming spot...
Countrystyle Community Tours: aims to take visitors out of their resorts and into the "real Jamaica". Customized tours can take you to interesting spots (waterfalls, underground caves, heritage towns), accompanied by a guide; outings typically have a delicious lunch and chance to meet some local people.
More Jamaica Tips
- Jamaica has longstanding crime issues, but if you stick to your resort and rely on hotel-sponsored sightseeing tours and guides, you'll likely experience nothing more than annoying beach vendors.
- For resorts and major attractions, always check recent visitor comments at a site such as TripAdvisor.com.