It normally takes me a couple of weeks to get around to creating a Travel Guide because I have so much to catch up on once I’m finally home, but this one couldn’t wait. I had the most amazing time in Jamaica. The people, the food, the vibe was all one of a kind. In actuality, my older sister Christian and her long time friends were planning a getaway. I was there when it was being discussed and included myself (just like the good ol’ days) so we ended up being a group of five.
We flew out on an 11 a.m. flight on a Friday morning with Southwest. All of our flights were relatively inexpensive (roughly $350) but I prefer Southwest for several reasons. They let you check multiple bags with no extra costs and they fly out of our smaller airport here in Houston, which saves you a lot of time. Getting through customs in Jamaica took a little over 30 minutes but when we walked out of the airport it was pouring rain. Not just a gloomy sky and some sprinkles, but hardcore tsunami rain. We instantly felt disappointed. We came to Jamaica for blue water and sunshine and after checking the weather, we saw there was a 90% chance of rain expected the entire time we’d planned to be there. I was already thinking of ways to get to the other side of the country hoping the sun would be out there.
We’d decided to rent a car, which ended up being a great idea but there were a couple of things we needed to do prior to heading to our rental home. For one, get gas since Sixt gave us a rental on empty. We were also all starving so we stopped at Jerky’s to eat. My sister got wings and fries and I got spicy shrimp with rice and peas and cabbage. The food was amazing and the restaurant was full of locals. Men and women fresh off of work enjoying a drink and children in their school uniforms eating with their parents. Mind you, people in Jamaica move slooooow. There’s not rushing to eat, serve you, or get anywhere so we waited over 30 minutes for food. By this time the rain had let up but we needed to begin heading to our Airbnb. It was high up in the mountains so our GPS wouldn’t direct us and because it had no physical address, we were reading step-by-step directions given to us by the hosts. We begin driving up into the jungle on dirt roads in a Mitsubishi Lancer packed with five women and their luggage trying to read off the directions listed. Finally after about 15 minutes of driving upward, we reach a point where we’re completely lost. The drive was steep and the hills were sharp and at one point our car began rolling backwards. The roadway was so narrow there was no option to turn around, only to reverse and we were losing the sun quickly. We sat in silence not wanting to panic one another but we were all scared as hell. Finally, a car drove up behind us and it was our host! We were so relieved because we had all started thinking worst case scenario. We followed her to the home that we were disturbingly close to LOL.
We chose to stay in this Airbnb because of the view and it was absolutely worth it. The home was so beautiful we really didn’t have to leave and our hosts James and his wife D were so welcoming. They had a fire going and we had some welcome drinks. We also met another James (we’ll call him Jamesy boy) who agreed to drive us back down the hill to go out later that night because we were terrified of trying it after dark. We got dressed and headed out to Pier One, which is where Stella got her groove back and now I know why LOL. We walked in, ordered rum by the bottle and danced till 3 a.m. in the same spot. We may or may not have even attracted a crowd. What I loved most was the healthy mix of locals and tourists. It was an authentic sweaty Jamaican party that had the perfect mix of classic reggae and turn-up which exactly what we wanted. Me and my sister loooooove reggae so we were in heaven when it wasn’t just the 15 minute mixes we get in Houston. On our way out we had smoked jerk chicken from off of the street and it was incredible. Throw out all cleanliness and health stigmas when eating here, you’ll be just fine.
The next morning we enjoyed a few hours out by the pool of our AirBNB. We had coffee and fresh juice while overlooking Montego Bay. It was gloomy, but still beautiful and to be honest, I was just glad it wasn’t raining. Our host was an incredible chef and he made us a breakfast of the best pancakes and bacon I’ve ever had. I’m not exaggerating, the best. I had them every morning. Rain was on the schedule so we decided to drive to Negril to see if we could escape it, and we did. Jamesy boy drove us through rain about an hour into Negril where the sun was indeed shining. We pulled into Margaritaville located on Seven Mile Beach which is easily one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve been to, where we found a DJ and dozens of people laying out. We found some chairs and enjoyed some drinks before deciding to pack up and head back to the house. Travel tip: do not eat at any franchises while in Jamaica. Pull into whatever hole in the wall you see and order food. You won’t regret it. We stopped into a tiny restaurant that felt like a relatives living room and I had the best beef tips. My only regret is not bringing my own hot sauce LOL.
That night we got dressed up and went to Margaritaville in Montego Bay, which turns into a huge night club. We were all drained from staying out late, being up early and then in the sun all day but forced it anyway. This particular Margaritaville seemed to be a tourist stop with tour buses lined up on the curb loading them inside. The music was top 40 from the 2000’s and the vibe was nothing like what we had encountered the night before at Pier One so we decided to head home early for some much needed sleep.
Sunday morning we woke up knowing that we wanted to head to the beach, but also knew to expect rain eventually. We enjoyed more pancakes at our house then drove about 20 minutes to Doctor’s Cave Beach. It’s a beautiful beach so they charge you $6 to enter and another $6 for a beach chair. Unfortunately it was too gloomy for us so of course Jamesy Boy agreed to drive us back to Negril. We stopped along the road about halfway there for more Red Stripe and some Rum Punches while we all took photos. Of course when we attempted to get back into the car the battery was dead LOL only us! James came to our rescue again (you see a theme here?) and found someone to jump our car. We made it to Negril and went to a bar called Woodstock that ended up being the highlight of our trip. There were only about 20 people there and the DJ played whatever we wanted. For $2 each, we kept the Red Stripe coming for hours and had an entire day party. It rained for about 45 minutes and we all hung out under the covered bar dancing until it cleared. It was the perfect day.
We had to head home around 6 pm because we had asked James to make us a big traditional Jamaican meal for our last night in Montego Bay. We all got dressed for dinner and were really blown away at what he prepared. It was by far the best food we had during our stay. Jack fish, jerk chicken, zucchini, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, festivals, cole slaw, green beans and carrots, chard and rice and peas. We asked both James’ and D to join us for dinner and we sat around enjoying wine and had a cigar in front of the fire before calling it an early night.
Meat patties, yes Lord!Showing Jamesy Boy how we do it in Texas
One of the girls we were with had to head to the airport at 5 a.m. Monday morning so I got up when she did. The sunrise was beyond words. I sat by the pool with a cup of coffee and watched it come over the top of the mountains. Sights like that make me so grateful that I’m in a position to even experience views like that, especially with my sister. Once the sun came up, I went for a swim, had my final order of pancakes (James if you’re reading this, send more) and enjoyed the last few hours of Jamaican sun before having to head to the airport. The hardest part was leaving Jamesy boy behind. We would not have had a good time if it wasn’t for him hosting us and showing us around. We had formed a little family, even with the pups Vybez and Cookie.
Everything in Jamaica is inexpensive. I used American money the entire time and outside of the food ordered at our house, I spent less than $150. Nonetheless, bargain everything. I talked down beers, cigars and souvenirs instead of giving in the first time. Call your banks prior to arriving and let them know you’ll be in Jamaica. You’re able to use the ATM’s there to pull out both American and Jamaican dollars but I suggest downloading a money conversion app onto your phone because the numbers do get tricky.
Sunrise from our Room
Had we not rented a car we would have spent a few hundred dollars getting around with drivers, so that saved us a lot of money. Being able to drive an hour to a different beach or make as many stops as we wanted was really helpful. Keep in mind that they drive on the opposite side of the road and the drivers seat is on the right hand side, so be up for the challenge. While there are so many beautiful things to do in Jamaica like jump off of the cliff at Rick’s Cafe, swim in a blue hole and see a waterfall, or float down the Martha Brae River, we didn’t get around to doing any tourist activities due to the weather which is honestly what I prefer. I hate that I waited so long to visit Jamaica but will definitely be back.
Things I Packed but Didn’t Get to Wear: