Real Jamaica: Outside the All-Inclusive Hotels

© 2016 YaninaTravels

In this blog post, you will find suggestions for best things to do in two Jamaican cities – Kingston and Port Antonio. Also, you will be introduced to the most important tips for exploring the beautiful island of Jamaica.

Map Data © 2018 Google Earth


Read my other post Traveling with Less: Travel Gear Guide

Hellshire Beach near Kingston

I got a chance to visit this fascinating Caribbean island for about 3 weeks. I went there as a traveling Bikram Yoga Teacher. Bikram Yoga Jamaica is located in Kingston and it’s the first and only Bikram Yoga studio in the Caribbean. All I heard about Jamaica before was entirely about Montego Bay, beaches packed with tourists and all-inclusive hotel chains. With the help of the people around me, I was lucky to discover so much more on this island! The apartment where I stayed was provided by the Bikram Yoga Studio, which was really nice. It was in a quiet and pretty neighborhood. A driver was provided by the yoga studio and he made getting around Kingston easy and convenient. I appreciated him even more, when later on I was on my own without a driver in Port Antonio. Thank you Yolande and Jimmy!

Bikram Yoga Jamaica crew in Kingston

My first steps in exploring Kingston were entirely organized by two of the Bikram Yoga Jamaica students. Jamaica is exciting and beautiful but it can also be intense and confusing if you are new and completely unfamiliar with the local habits and culture. Therefore, having two local women introducing me to it in the beginning, was extremely helpful and gave me a chance for a smoother transition in Jamaica. Thank you Trudy and Carol!

Trudy and I on a day trip in Ocho Rios


If you want to experience real Jamaica like I did, then you should stay at a local guesthouse- get a lodging through AirBnb with local hosts. With their help you can organize the rest of your activities on the island. Also you should use local transportation and eat at local restaurants.

The apartment where I stayed in Kingston
Local Restaurant in Kingston

Five Tips for Smoother Exploring of Jamaica

1. Be patient. Nothing in Jamaica happens as fast as you are used to back home. Don’t get angry. Breath. Joke about it. Remember that after all you are that lucky person who is visiting Jamaica- a dream for many people, who (for various reasons) can’t visit it. Appreciate the opportunity life has given you.

2. Learn to say ‘No’. Politely refuse offers from street vendors, which you are not interested in.

3. Learn to negotiate. Always ask for the price before you commit to anything. If you are interested in a product or service, learn to bargain without being rude and without getting offended. It’s never personal.

4. Be cautious. If somebody is trying to rip you off, don’t let this experience to ruin your trip. For some people this is just a way of surviving in an environment where earning decent money is an issue. Don’t take it personally. It’s your responsibility to do your own research as an independent traveler, which lowers the chance of ending in such situation. You should be prepared what to expect at every new place and activity and ready to handle it appropriately.

5. Stay open. Stay open for people and situations, but be smart about it at the same time. Learn to recognize things for what they are and then just move on. If you fail at some moments, you should be thankful for the lessons.

Enjoying my daily coconut water in Jamaica

This is not your all-inclusive trip where everything happens easy breezy. However, in the end you will be rewarded for getting out of your comfort zone. You will see and do things which the majority of tourists visiting Jamaica never experience. You will meet interesting independent travelers and get inspired by their life stories.

My AirBnb housemates in Port Antonio

If you’ve never used AirBnb before, you can accept my invite to join and get $40 off towards your first trip.


Fly to Kingston (KIN) and then move to exploring Port Antonio. Port Antonio is about 2 hours drive from Kingston. You can hire a private driver and negotiate a price to get you there or go by bus, which is more complicated way to do it. Going by bus to Port Antonio requires first getting on a bus from Kingston to Ocho Rios, then transferring to another bus from Ocho Rios to Port Antonio, which makes the traveling time much longer. I did it and wouldn’t recommend it, unless you plan your time differently and decide to spend a few days exploring Ocho Rios!

Ocho Rios


1. Hellshire Beach This is my favorite place around Kingston. I had a chance to visit it twice. Don’t miss it! Enjoy the view of beautiful turquoise sea water with mountains in the back and eat fresh fish and lobster at Screechie’s Seafood and Bar! Such a unique spot!

Hellshire Beach
Catch of the day options at Screechie’s Seafood and Bar
Locals enjoying Hellshire Beach

2. Waterfront Downtown Take a walk along the Kingston’s coastline and enjoy the view of the Caribbean sea and the sea port!

Kingston Waterfront

3. National Heroes Park It’s a botanical garden and a burial site for many of Jamaica’s national heroes. I got a chance to see a daily change of guard ceremony while I was visiting this park.

Change of guard ceremony

4. Emancipation Park Sit at a bench and enjoy the view of the beautiful garden and the pleasant birds chirping.

Emancipation Park

5. Bob Marley Museum tour What a life changing tour! Even if you are not a Bob Marley fan, you will find this tour absolutely inspiring! Besides on providing you with interesting facts about Bob Marley’s life and music, this tour teaches you and reminds you how to be a better human being on our planet.

Bob Marley Museum
Bob Marley Museum Tour
Kathryn (visiting Bikram Yoga Teacher) and I in front of the Bob Marley museum in Kingston

6. Devon House Their ice cream was voted the 3rd most popular ice cream in the world. This place is really busy in the weekends and on holidays with a long waiting line. You should definitely give it a try!

Devon House

7. Hot Pot in New Kingston You should go there to try the Jamaica’s National Dish- Ackee and Saltfish with fried dumpling, yam, fried plantain and boiled green bananas!

Jamaica’s National Dish


1. Frenchman’s Cove Beach $8 entrance fee. It was my favorite beach in that area. It’s clean and safe, offers excellent food and good WiFi to make arrangements for the rest of your trip in Port Antonio. Make sure you carry enough cash with you since you can’t pay with a credit card. The ‘cash rule’ applies for the majority of places in Port Antonio.

Frenchman’s Cove

2. Winnifred Beach This beach has calm waters and it’s good for snorkeling. Not a great idea to leave your belongings unattended. Don’t bring any valuables with you but only your snorkel gear and beach towel. This tip applies for all public beaches in the area besides Frenchman’s Cove Beach, which is a guarded private beach.

Winnifred Beach

3. Boston Beach You will see lots of surfers on that beach. It’s a cool place to get a Red Stripe and jerk chicken with bread fruit from the Jerk Center at Boston Bay and to chill and enjoy the sea view! (Always inquire about pricing.)

A surfer at Boston Beach
Jerk Chicken

4. Blue Lagoon It is known as the backdrop for movies like The Blue Lagoon, Cocktail and Club Paradise. Swim in a mixture of sea warm and spring cold water! Take a bamboo raft tour to Monkey Island and snorkel there. Hire any of the guides hanging around the Blue Lagoon. Expect to pay about $25/pp for the raft tour. Watch out not get ripped off. Most likely you will need to bargain there. Refer back to the 5 Tips, I pointed out earlier in this post.

Monkey Island

5. Reach Falls This was my favorite outdoor tour in Jamaica! Wear hiking clothes and hiking shoes. In addition, bring a bathing suit and water shoes for hike up through waterfalls! It’s a wet hike. The guide will be hiking along the way, instructing you what to do and carrying your back pack (to keep it dry). Bring a microfiber towel to dry yourself at the end of the tour. Get ready for a unique once in a lifetime experience! Contact the guide Leonard at +1 (876) 488-0661 He will explain to you how to get to Reach Falls by bus or taxi and where exactly you will meet him. He is absolutely awesome and has fair tour pricing!

Enjoying the water at Reach Falls
My guide at Reach Falls

6. Rio Grande river rafting If I have to describe this tour in just one word, it would be ‘Meditation’. It feels like the time has stopped and you are more than ever connected with nature. You are incapable to think of anything else but the unity with the present moment. Contact the guide Desmond at +1 (876) 558-5710 or at +1 (876) 481-3563 He is friendly and easy going! This tour is kind of expensive but absolutely worth it. After you see the amount of physical labor your guide has to do (getting you through the river on a raft for 3-5 hours), then the price starts to make total sense.

Rio Grande River
My guide at Rio Grande River

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *