The majority of tourists in Jamaica head for established tourist resorts, such as Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, and Negril. Few visitors tend to spend much time in the capital city, Kingston.
This is a great shame, because although it’s true that you have to plan ahead and tap into local knowledge to enjoy this bold and bustling city of 1 million inhabitants responsibly, Kingston boasts plenty of naturally beautiful areas, terrific tourist attractions, and brilliant bars and restaurants.
It’s also the nation’s cultural capital and a musical melting pot where artists continue to innovate endlessly and to inspire the world. So if you appreciate good vibes and heavy basslines, there’s nowhere better to head to for soulful entertainment and exciting city life in Jamaica.
Ready to get a feel for Funky Kingston? Let’s dip into some of our favourite hotspots here.
Perched on the end of the Palisadoes tombolo near Kingston’s Norman Manley International Airport, former pirate capital Port Royal was once dubbed ‘the world’s wickedest city’. This was before much of it ended up in Kingston harbour after a devastating earthquake in 1692.
A chilled-out fishing village remains at Port Royal today, and you can still tour the military ruins at Fort Charles, find out more about privateers like Henry Morgan in the small visitor centre, and charter a boat with loosecannontours.com to tour the idyllic deserted cays nearby.
Bob Marley Museum
If you’re a fan of the late, great musical visionary reggae artist (and probably Jamaica's most famous national), taking a tour of Bob Marley’s former home at 56 Hope Road in uptown Kingston is a must.
This is the spot where ‘three little birds’ fluttered past Bob’s window and inspired him to write his optimistic anthem. You will also see the yard where he played football and reasoned with his brethren under the mango tree, and the site where he survived an assassination attempt in 1976. It’s truly inspirational ̶ book a tour at bobmarleymuseum.com.
Public transport in Kingston consists of a bright yellow fleet of official municipal buses and a myriad of unofficial and informal taxis (which you take at your own risk!). Therefore, to make the most of a trip to Jamaica, hire a car from enjoytravel.com and head up into the interior to beauty spots like Strawberry Hill.
A laid-back whitewashed colonial style hotel near Irish Town in the verdant hills above Kingston, this luxury bolthole owned by Island Records impresario Chris Blackwell is one of the world’s most romantic spots.
Mighty Emperor Sound
Not so much a hotspot as a moveable musical feast, Emperor Sound is an authentic Jamaican sound system that has been making crowds in Jamaica and the US move with heavy basslines and heady vocals since way back when.
Set up by pioneers Freddy Dred and Daddy Laston in 1971 with nothing more than two 12” speakers, a mixer and a Kenwood amplifier, this is dynamic DIY dancehall at its best. Keep an eye on the Mighty Emperor Facebook page for upcoming dances in Kingston and get ready for a night to remember as you wind your waistline like a born Jamaican!
That’s our list of the sites and attractions we enjoyed the most on our trip to Jamaica's capital! Are there other places you love to visit in Kingston? Let us know if we’ve missed your favourite Kingstonian hotspot in a comment - we'll be happy to check it out next time we travel to this vibrant city!