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Lonely Planet's top 5 things to do in Jamaica

Lonely Planet's top 5 things to do in Jamaica

Posted by Shanelle Weir on October 07, 2014

Jamaica has long been a jewel in the Caribbean tourism industry crown, but there's far more to discover than just beaches and all-inclusive resorts.


If there's any cultural trend that defines Jamaica to the rest of the world, it's reggae music – quite literally the soundtrack of the island. The reggae calendar is dominated by two huge events that celebrate the country's love of 'riddims,' both worth planning your trip around – Rebel Salute held every January in St Ann, and then Reggae Sumfest, held in Montego Bay in the middle of the broiling Jamaican summer. Break out a sweat amid the throbbing mass of bodies and the nonstop dancing.


Jamaica's beach experiences are as varied as the island's topography. The tiny, delicate Lime Cay, only reachable by boat from Port Royal, is perfect for snorkelling and picnics. Hellshire Beach heaves with Kingstonians and reverberates with loud music, its wooden shacks doing a roaring trade in fried fish. The north coast's Winnifred Beach draws the locals with its azure waters and weekend parties, while Negril's Seven Mile Beach is criss-crossed by jet-ski riders, and its long crescent of white sand lined with the bodies of sun worshippers.


On Jamaica's east coast, past stretches of jungle and beach that are completely off the radar of most tourists, you'll find, up in the hills, one of Jamaica's most beautiful waterfalls – and this is an island with a lot of beautiful waterfalls. Hire a guide (you'll need one, trust us) and clamber up slippery rocks, over neon-green moss and into cool mountain pools of the freshest spring water. In some areas you can dive under watery tunnels and through blizzards of snowy-white cascading foam.


A night hike to reach Jamaica's highest point by sunrise, your path lit by the sparks of myriad fireflies, is an experience unlike any other. As you climb, the vegetation becomes less and less tropical, until you're hiking amid stunted trees draped with old man's beard (lichen) and giant ferns. In the pre-dawn cold at the summit, you wait in rapt silence as the first rays of the sun wash over the densely forested mountain peaks all around you, illuminating the distant coffee plantations and Cuba beyond.


Whether you're attending a nightclub or a street dance, expect a sweaty, lively, no-holds-barred event. Dress up to the nines and follow the locals' lead. At a street dance, two giant speakers are placed facing each other, the street pounding with the bass, while nightclubs provide a similar indoor experience. Expect to be pulled into the melee as the locals will want to see how well you can dance, and bump and grind the best you can; the dancing will be some of the most explicit you'll ever see.

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