After a two-year hiatus, Jamaica’s popular summer festivals are back this year showcasing some of the country’s hottest local talents. Visitors can take part in a series of authentic Jamaican festivals featuring dance parties, live music and unforgettable culinary experiences. This year also marks Jamaica’s 60th anniversary of independence, and so the events circuit promises to be even more exciting than usual.
Jamaica Rum Festival (June 25): Jamaica’s festival season kicks off with the return of the Jamaica Rum Festival in Montego Bay. This event will showcase the country’s excellence in rum-making and participants will discover the flavours and traditions that make this island favourite so special. Alongside world-class rum tastings, the Jamaica Rum Festival offers delicious food options, great music and entertainment. The festival will also be offered virtually for those who can't attend in person.
Carnival in Jamaica (July 1 to 10): The island’s iconic Carnival celebration is back with a special edition music lovers won’t want to miss. While Carnival is typically held in April each year, this year’s unique summertime event is expected to attract thousands of locals and international visitors who will converge for a week of festive parades, colourful costumes, and high-energy beach parties featuring soca, dancehall, calypso and reggae performances. Carnival events and road marches are planned for both Ocho Rios and Kingston.
Reggae Sumfest (July 18 to 23): One of Jamaica’s most anticipated events of the summer returns to Montego Bay in July with the staging of the legendary Reggae Sumfest music festival. Reggae and dancehall fans can take part in a slew of activities over the long weekend, including the popular Blitz party and stage performances featuring big-name reggae artists such as Koffee, Shenseea, Dexta Dapps, Spice, Sizzla and many more.
Dream Wknd (July 29 to August 1): This annual summer party brings a high-energy vibe to the typically chill white sand beaches of Negril. Headlined by Jamaica’s most popular DJs and entertainers, Dream Wknd attracts a young bikini-clad crowd with a series of live concerts and beach parties that start during the day and continue long after the sun goes down.
MoBay Jerk Festival (August 1): Hosted annually on Emancipation Day, this sizzling summertime festival in Montego Bay gives foodies the opportunity to sample some of the island’s best jerk cuisine. In addition to spicy jerk fare, the family-friendly event includes cooking demonstrations, cultural performances, a dedicated children’s village and a live stage concert featuring some of Jamaica’s top reggae acts.
Hidden Gems for Authentic Seaside Eats Surrounded by the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea, Jamaica is the perfect locale to enjoy freshly caught seafood and fish dishes prepared with local flavours. Chart a course for these off-the-beaten-path eateries to sample authentic coastal cuisine on the water’s edge. Nyam!
Sharkies Seafood Restaurant: Gracing Jamaica’s north coast in enchanting Ocho Rios, the spirited and entertaining Sharkies Seafood Restaurant plays host to live music nights and boasts a sizeable menu of delicious local, organic and eco-friendly seafood, like mouth-watering lobster scampi (seasonal), lemon-garlic mahi-mahi and shrimp pasta in cream sauce. Primarily a seafood-lover’s paradise, Sharkies also offers options for other palates, ensuring that there is something for everyone at this charming seaside eatery.
Fireman’s Lobster Pit: Negril’s expansive white sand beaches make it a seafood-lover’s paradise, and Fireman’s Lobster Pit stands out as one of the top spots for locally caught lobster. Visitors choose their own just-caught lobsters from the sandy traps on the shore then watch as they’re cooked fresh on the beachfront grill. The beloved Boardwalk Village eatery also serves up coconut shrimp, curry shrimp, grilled snapper and many more seafood dishes. Evening meals here are enjoyed under spectacular sunsets over the western edge of the island.
Jack Sprat Bar and Restaurant: Nestled in Jakes Hotel on the South Coast and hailed as “the headquarters of eating and drinking in Treasure Beach,” Jack Sprat Restaurant is the stomping grounds for locals and tourists alike. The smell of fresh grilled seafood and pizza with toppings like jerk chicken and lobster fill the air as patrons gaze at the ocean from the outdoor deck, play a leisurely game of dominoes, enjoy great music and lean into the alluring and laid-back vibe of this beloved bar and eatery.
Gloria’s Seafood: Despite its urban setting, the historic village of Port Royal at the tip of Kingston Harbour is home to some of Jamaica’s best seafood; the seafaring area was once home to swashbuckling pirates, after all. Gloria’s has earned a following among locals and visitors alike for its contemporary menu of fresh coastal seafood. Signature dishes like honey jerk shrimp, saltfish fritters and conch soup are coupled with picturesque waterfront views, making it a scenic spot to relax after a day of exploring the bustling capital.
New Development Projects Position St. Thomas Parish as New Tourism Destination Jamaica’s tourism sector is set to invest $200 million (USD) into infrastructure upgrades and new product development in the burgeoning parish of St. Thomas, located on the southeast coast of the island. Tourism officials recently announced plans for a large-scale revitalization project intended to position the parish as a new prime tourism destination. Plans for enhancing the region’s lifestyle tourism attractions include developing Rocky Point Beach and heritage sites such as Fort Rocky and the Morant Bay Monument, establishing way-finding stations in Yallahs and rehabilitating the road to the Bath Fountain Hotel and Spa - a popular wellness resort renowned for its healing mineral waters.
Construction Underway on Jamaica’s Newest RIU Resort Construction has started on the island’s seventh RIU property, Hotel Riu Palace Aquarelle, in Falmouth, Trelawny. The 700-plus room resort will have 24-hour all-inclusive service and feature its own exclusive waterpark. The brand's first hotel in Trelawny is set in historic Coopers Pen - an area full of culture, nature and stunning beaches. It’s also home to Glistening Waters, considered to be one of the most luminous lagoons in the world for witnessing bioluminescence, and is just five minutes away from the Martha Brae River rafting descent in the rainforest. Falmouth is now the fastest growing tourism area in Jamaica, and the resort will be a short 35-minute drive from Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport. Photo credit: RIU.com