Kingston

JAMAICA
Kingston Itinerary

Caribbean Paradiese & Culture Hub

Duration: at least one week

Budget: $ 75 per day

Stay:  Belleh23 or Raggamuffin

The reactions were very mixed when I told people I was headed to Kingston. While some proclaimed I would love it, most told me it was too dangerous and ugly. However, after some calm beach days on the West Coast, I was ready for some action anyhow and couldn’t wait to head to Kingston. The location of Jamaica’s capital is picturesque, nestled between the blue mountains and the Caribbean sea. While the city itself wouldn’t be considered a beauty by its looks, it is full of vibes, culture, and amazing people. Even though most travel guides don’t make Kingston sound like the most attractive destination, it will reward those who look and feel behind the obvious and are willing to give it some time. To me Kingston is Jamaica at its best!

Whenever the city gets too much, the Blue Mountains, Bull Bay, or one of the many chill river spots is the perfect getaway for a day.

  • Party 100% 100%
  • Daytrips 70% 70%
  • Culture 95% 95%
  • Activities 100% 100%

Travel Kingston and leave room for magic

The city of Kingston isn’t known for its architectural beauty, famous landmarks, or beautiful parks, but rather for the vibes, parties, and cultural events. Fortunately, Kingston never sleeps (not even during covid curfew), and there is always something to do or discover. Kingston’s cool spots are not so obvious and, therefore, best located with local friends. Belleh23, world-famous dancehall heaven, is the place to place yourself to find an inspiring crowd to find the best parties and tastiest restaurants.

Follow the footsteps of Bob Marley

Bob Marley Museum 

After Bob Marley passed, his wife Rita turned the former Marly residence on Road into a Museum. After I read her biography (which I highly recommend!) during my trip and was curious to see the house for myself, it’s only possible to visit the site within a 90-minute tour, which was pretty cool but also expensive ($3000) and very touristy. Bob Marley museum is located in the posh neighborhood of New Kingston, where they moved from their first home in Trenchtown.

Trench Town Culture Yard Museum

I liked the Trench Town Culture Yard tour better as it gives a more in-depth look into the history of Kingston. Initially built in the 1940s by Central Housing Authority between 6 & 8 Lower First Street in Trench Town, the site has been restored and hosts a small museum, a cafe, and an artisan shop

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Kingston 3

Take Dancehall classes

Kingston is the world’s dancehall hub, and the famous parties attract dancers from around the world. So naturally, finding a dancehall teacher is easy to get your groove going!

If you are really into dancing, you’ll love staying at Belleh23 or Rocksteady. There you’ll find somebody dancing any time of the day, and you can connect with other dancers.

Aside from staying at Belleh23, you can arrange for private dance classes or join other dance events. Another place to check out is Xpression. 

Kingston's legendary nightlife

Kingston’s nightlife is legendary (even during curfew). There is no party strip, but some regular Parties are taking place weekly, like Uptown Monday, Boom Box Friday, etc. Try to make it to Dub Club on Sunday! The vibes and views are amazing. Make sure to connect with locals to know what’s going on!

You’ll find anything from very cool live events to wild dancehall parties. After curfew, the parties move to the streets, and you’ll have to be well connected to find the afterparties. 

General advice: no matter where you choose to party, it’s best to arrange for a taxi or know a driver who will take you home. Finding a cab driver during nighttime is difficult, especially after curfew.

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Downtown Kingston, Jamaica

Downtown Kingston

Kingston, Jamaica, is much more than just the birthplace of reggae music. The vibrant downtown area is a cultural mecca and home to countless attractions highlighting its rich musical heritage and dynamic modern culture. 

After sampling some of the delicious local cuisines, be sure to check out Kingston’s fantastic nightlife! And, no visit to downtown Kingston would be complete without experiencing its legendary nightlife! There’s always something exciting going on downtown Kingston, from nightclubs and dance halls to street parties and soundclashes.

The 1960s saw the rise of the dancehall culture, fueled by several large outdoor spaces, so-called lawns where dances and sound clashes were held. West Kingston’s Inner-city Unity Lawn and Chocomo Lawn were the early stages of many prominent musicians to come. Even though many of these spaces are gone, the vibe still lives on. During times of covid restrictions, downtown became the place for some of the hottest (illegal) parties.

Downtown Kingston is a place of history. It was founded in 1692 after an earthquake devastated Port Royal, Jamaica’s virtual capital in the 17th century. The survivors moved to what is now Kingston and were able to plan a new city from scratch. Downtown Kingston became the capital in 1872, and considerable rebuilding was needed after an earthquake and fire on 14 January 1907 that killed almost 1,500 people. Today, downtown Kingston is a bustling center of commerce and culture, with plenty of things to see and do. If you’re looking for a taste of Jamaican history, downtown Kingston is the perfect place to start your exploration.

My favorite things to do downtown

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Coronation Market 

Home to the famous Coronation Market, downtown Kingston is always bustling with activity. The market is filled with stalls selling everything from fresh produce to handicrafts, and bargain hunters can find great deals on everything from clothing to souvenirs. So head downtown for an authentic Jamaican experience next time you’re in Kingston.

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Water Lane – Street Art

As part of the “Paint the city” street art project, downtown’s water lane has been transformed from a dull street into an hommage to Jamaica’s culture and artisanship. Along with some of the murals, a QR Code is attached. You can scan and access a detailed history of the piece and the artists involved. It’s a super interesting little street where you could linger for hours reading up, interpreting, and admiring the street art. Of course, today, many music videos are shot on Water Lane, too. 

The Downtown Kingston area is not super safe and best visited with friends. Just be aware that there is some pickpocketing etc. Even though it sounds contradictory: while you shouldn’t walk around in Kingston at night, the parties downtown feel very safe!

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Foodie Tour

A truely wonderful way to discover what’s happening downtown, including the best food is by going on a food and culture tour with my dear friend Birgitta from @streetsofjamaica!

Blue Mountains Jamaica

Explore the magical Blue Mountains

Whenever Kingston gets too hot or too much, the Blue Mountains are the place to go to breathe and relax. Just a 20-minute car ride outside Kingston, the scenery becomes lush, green, and fresh. You can either stay some days in the Blue Mountains, enjoy the view and catch some real Rasta vibes, or even head out, have some food or enjoy the view for a day. Shanty Man is by far my favorite restaurant up there. The ital food is fantastic and the view incredible!

Speak clearly and slowly as the Rasta welcoming you does lip reading. Following the mantra of” the journey is my destination,” I went on a day tour through the Blue Mountains to get to Port Antonio. I loved riding around the small roads stopping now and then to get some food and enjoy the view or cool off in one of the many river spots. 

A guide to Kingston’s beaches

Even though I LOVE to be by the water, I took a second visit to Kingston to go and see the beaches. Why? Kingston has so many things to do and discover that I never made it. Still, I also found that the beaches around Kingston are unjustly not as famous. However, I think that while the beaches surrounding Kingston may not be the prettiest in all of Jamaica, they are worth a visit! It is nice to get out of the city to relax and catch a different vibe. So, I decided to write a guide on Kingston’s beaches. There are several of them with very distinct vibes. So, if you feel like chilling a bit, check out my guide to Kingston’s beaches here!

Get ready to travel Jamaica

Public Transport in Kingston

Route Taxis are the way to move around Jamaica. Official route taxis have a red license plate.  In MoBay, you’ll see the route they are catering to written on the doors. Route taxis are the cheapest and most flexible way to move around. Just be careful to enter/exit on the route. Otherwise, you’ll be charged as a charter taxi. In Kingston, the Route Taxis are not as obvious, but they drive the most prominent streets and honk to let you know they are available. 

Public Bus: The stop for buses to leave from downtown. I couldn’t find a schedule. They seem to go more frequently than the Knutsford.
Knutsford: Leaving from from the downtown station, Jamaica’s luxury bus connects more significant destinations. Be aware that the time stated refers to calculated driving time and not the actual time to reach a destination. Adding to the driving time are stops and bus switches which are not apparent when buying the ticket. Due to Covid, there are fewer buses than usual, so buying the ticket online is better.

Is Kingston, Jamaica safe for travelers?

Downtown Kingston is not the place to just stroll around without knowing anybody. Uptown Kingston is much safer and easier to move around. Generally speaking, Kingston is not the place for walking anywhere after dark, and its best to move around with a driver you know.

Best Time to Travel

The climate stays pleasant all year round. It might rain a bit more during hurricane season from June to September, but you still won’t get bored on rainy days!

Tap water

Even though Jamaica is considered a third-world country, it provides the best water quality in the region. You are, therefore, safe to drink tap water. This is especially true in the cities. However, if it makes you feel uneasy, bring your Lifestraw pro. It will keep your drinks cold for 24 hrs, too!

Biggest challenge for the responsible traveler

Trash

Make sure to bring a foldable food container and cutlery with you! The amount of waste caused by food sold on the street is incredible.

Sunscreen

Make sure to protect Jamaica’s marine life and bring reef-friendly sunscreen!

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Packing List Jamaica

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Traveling Jamaica?

Jamaica Itinerary

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No matter how many times you return to Jamaica, you will never get bored!