There are several reasons to take a vacation. Sometimes, it’s solely about R&R: The week flies by as you sit in the sun with a daytime cocktail and a book that’s so bad it’s good, moving only to make your spa appointment and seaside dinner. But other times, vacations are all about refilling your tanks with adventure and cultural experiences.
Jamaica, while also a great place to soak in the rays and relax, is a spectacular country when it comes to getting out and having fun. We’re talking live reggae music, natural springs you can leap down into, horseback riding on the beach (just like in that aforementioned bad/good book) and golfing galore.
Here are 11 reasons to get off the resort on your Jamaican getaway this winter.
1. Visit Bob Marley’s hometown
Everybody likes at least a few Bob Marley tunes. And even if you don’t, the story of the reggae legend’s life is one worth revisiting. Take a trip to Nine Mile, the town where Marley was born and buried, and, if you’re a real fan, take a Rastafarian-lead tour of the Bob Marley Mausoleum.
2. Take a leap of faith into the Blue Hole Mineral Spring
Want to impress your social media following with a daring dive? Head to Blue Hole Mineral Spring outside the community of Little Bay and leap 22-feet into the waters below. Oh, and don’t forget to give your camera to someone to capture the moment. If freefalling isn’t your jam, you can take the ladder down to swim in the waters, which, purportedly, have therapeutic properties, as does the mud that lines the spring.
3. Visit Appleton Estate. Drink rum.
You haven’t drank rum until you’ve drank rum in the Caribbean. There’s something about being in the tropics that just lends itself to the spirit. And on the island of Jamaica, one rum reigns supreme: Appleton Estate. Take a tour of the beautiful grounds and do an on-site tasting with one of their savvy staff. How many bottles are we allowed to take home again?
4. Ride a horse along the beach in Montego Bay
Cliché? Sure, but what the heck? You’re on vacation and you’ve always wanted to do it. Horseback riding doesn’t get more majestic than this, so get on your pony and trot for miles along the white sandy beaches. Bonus points if you head out around sunset—we can almost guarantee it’ll be one for the books.
5. Dance in the sand to a live reggae band
Three nights a week (Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays) Alfred’s Seaside Guesthouse Restaurant & Beach Bar in Negril puts on a show, with local and national roots, rock and reggae bands playing right on the beach. Kick off your flip-flops and find your groove right there in the sand.
6. Crush all sorts of Jamaican street food in Faith’s Pen
There’s a little strip of vendors in the interior’s Faith’s Pen that sell some of the most delectable Jamaican eats, including plenty of takes on the renowned jerk chicken. Can’t decide where to spend your Jamaican dollars? You’re in good hands with Miss Cherry of Cherry’s One Stop, who has been cooking lunch there pretty much every day for 25 years.
7. Get your art fix and find all kind of serenity at Ahhh…Ras Natango Gallery and Gardens
When a business has the word “Ahhh” in its name, you know it’s gonna be chill. Ahhh…Ras Natango Gallery and Gardens is a unique space nestled cliffside 11 minutes outside of Montego Bay; complimentary shuttles pick up and drop off visitors staying within the area. Featuring works by Ras Natango, his son, as well as other local artists at the gallery inside, and pristine gardens to wander through outside, the space is a paradise for the culturally minded.
8. Float in the Blue Lagoon
Two words that are just so enticing: blue lagoon. Sitting pretty on the northeastern part of the island in Portland is Jamaica’s very own Blue Lagoon. The turquoise waters are a mix of fresh and salt water that makes for a unique swimming experience. Bring your camera to this one, for sure.
9. Feel like a James Bond villain in the Green Grotto Caves
A wander through the naturally carved caverns of the Green Grotto Caves is a must. Unless you’re scared of bats—loads of them live in here, but they likely won’t bother you. Oh, and the 1973 Bond flick Live and Let Die was filmed in here, which is pretty cool, too.
10. Charter a catamaran and snorkel the afternoon away
Not only is sailing along the island’s edge on a catamaran an epic way to get a different perspective of Jamaica’s coastline, it gives you the chance to make some new pals, too. Various tour operators offer day-long excursions, many with the option to snorkel right off the back of the vessel.
11. Hit the links (oceanside, of course)
The panoramic views of Jamaica’s azure sea, swaying palm trees and clear skies at Cinnamon Hill Golf Course are like a dream. Except it won’t be a dream, so bring your A-game and shoot for par at the seriously pristine 18-hole course.