Jamaica gets millions of tourists annually and I’m just so fortunate to #livewhereyouvacation. However, that doesn’t mean us locals take advantage of all the sights to see and things to do around our own island. Many Jamaicans (& visitors too) only associate the resort towns of Jamaica with adventure and enjoyment– Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and Negril– which usually means big bucks and a lot of travelling for the nearly 700,000 inhabitants of Kingston, the capital city on the eastern end of the island and far from these tourism centres. However, I’m about to show you how to enjoy the city that’s right under your noses. Set aside three days and let’s enjoy Kingston as I know it!
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Day ONE: The Birthplace of Reggae (5 places, US$72, J$7,300 for locals)
First, let’s stop by the Bob Marley Museum for 90 minutes and learn about the rise to fame of Jamaica’s most famous reggae legend. Grab breakfast at the One Love Cafe and enjoy some of Bob’s favourite ital dishes. (Save JM$2,000 with a local student ID).
Just down the road is the Peter Tosh Museum which pays tribute to another reggae superstar. The tour lasts approximately an hour and costs US$20 or JA$2,000. (Save JM$1,500 with a local student ID in groups of 10).
Next up is the Trench Town Culture Yard which sheds light on the humble beginnings which made Bob Marley the man he was, and served as inspiration for his empowering lyrics. The tour lasts an hour and right after you can grab lunch at the Casbah Café and Bar on its premises.
After your crash course in all things Bob Marley, why not see the studio where it all began? The Tuff Gong Studio at 220 Marcus Garvey Drive offers a 2 hour long Making of the Music Tour which gives you an engaging behind the scenes look at the record-making process from rehearsal to album. It also boasts one of the world’s last few remaining vinyl record manufacturing plants. (Save JM$1,500 with a local student ID).
You’re now saturated with knowledge of reggae music’s origin in Kingston, Jamaica. Find a night concert or performance happening nearby and enjoy modern-day reggae. Or retire early. You have another packed day tomorrow.
Day TWO: Kingston Kaleidoscope (5 places, US$15, J$1,100 for locals)
The National Gallery of Jamaica in Downtown, Kingston is an exciting place for art lovers. It is the oldest and largest public art museum in the English-speaking Caribbean, and was borne out of a need to showcase the excellent talent and beauty of the Jamaican art scene. Spend 90 minutes here and grab some coffee afterwards.
Stroll to the Negro Aroused Statue* on the Kingston Waterfront. Sculpted by Edna Manley in 1935, you would have seen the original piece in the National Gallery which was posthumously scaled up in 1991.
Our third landmark is the Fleet Street art murals. Stroll around the community and enjoy the art work by Paint Jamaica. Grab lunch afterwards at the Life Yard Restaurant on the same street, which serves up delicious inexpensive ital food such as the bean stew and seasoned rice pictured above.
Emancipation Park is an oasis in bustling New Kingston, a popular place for joggers in the mornings and evenings and a good place to unwind throughout the day. Take in the beauty of the Redemption Song statues pictured above, a symbol of our freedom and empowerment of the Black race.
Devon House was home to Jamaica’s first coloured millionaire, built in 1881. Today, the mansion and its furnishings are well-preserved and attest to the beauty of 19th century Georgian architecture. Tour the mansion then grab an ice cream cone from its world-famous ice cream parlour afterwards. If you’d like to spend a bit longer and explore the grounds some more, this article will serve as a handy guide.
***Bonus to travellers: Purchase souvenirs at the Kingston Craft Market in Down Town or the Olympia Art Gallery in Papine.
Day THREE: Oasis from the City (4 places, cost variable, budget US$40/J$4,000)
Nature is my weakness so you can bet day three was my favourite to compile. If you can’t get around to all three days of this itinerary, make sure to at least complete this one. 😍 You’ll thank me later.
Jamaica is home to the Blue Mountains, the recognized growing region of Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee which is one of the world’s most prized and sought after coffees. Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee is a globally protected trademark, and grown at an elevation of 3,500 to 5,500 ft. (between 910 and 1,700m). Enjoy it at the source! I promise it’s an experience unlike none other. One place you can get a bean-to-cup experience is the Lime Tree Coffee Farm.
On your way back down, take a wash off at the Gordon Town Falls. The water is invigoratingly cold and the beauty of the Penfield community simply magnetic.
Now that we’re back on the plains, let’s visit the Hope Botanical Gardens. Stroll around and admire the plants. The garden is free, but an additional JM$150 will allow you to check out its newest addition of a chinese garden.
Wrap up your day and my three day itinerary with a visit to a free Kingston beach. You have a few to choose from such as Carib Beach, Bob Marley Beach or even out to Lime and Maiden Cays*, but these two will require negotiating a boat price with a local fisherman in Port Royal (usually JM$1,500 round trip per person). Stay for a mesmerizing sunset.
And just like that you still haven’t seen or eaten your way through all of Kingston but you really didn’t think you could get it all done in three days, did you? Here are some spots for a next time.
- Rockfort Mineral Bath
- The Port Royal community & Fort Charles
- Hope Zoo
- Jamnesia Surf Camp (visited but didn’t surf. This is located along the Carib Beach/Copacabana/Wickie Wackie Bull Bay beach strip).
- Cane River Falls
- Bowden Hill Falls
- River side dining at the Kingston Reggae Garden in Golden Spring and Pretty Close in Gordon Town
- Olympia Art Gallery
- Explore the Jamaican Blue Mountains
- An indigenous Rasta village*
- One One Cacao Chocolate Tour*
- Other smaller museums such as Liberty Hall*, the National Museum and National History Museum.
Prices only include admission per adult to the different venues if one is charged. Food and transport are not included. Asterisked places are those I’ve still yet to visit myself at the time of writing this post but eventually I’ll get around to everywhere. For the purposes of writing I generalized “Kingston” to mean all places within the parishes of Kingston & St. Andrew since for administrative purposes both parishes are often linked. Note however that Kingston parish refers only to Downtown and Port Royal, while Kingston city proper is bounded by Six Miles to the west, Stony Hill to the north, Papine to the northeast and Harbour View to the east. Communities in rural St. Andrew such as Gordon Town, Mavis Bank, Lawrence Tavern, Mt. Airy and Bull Bay are not typically described as being in Kingston city.
So, Kingstonians. Have I given you any new activities to do?
And foreigners, if you’re just passing through this side of the island, spend three days before rushing off to the resort towns. I promise you’ll see a totally different but just as entertaining side of Jamaica. Learn how to get around on Kingston’s public transport here.
Get any additional details you’d like on each place by clicking the pictures and links.
‘Til next time, walk good. 👣