Kingston is a progressive city that is the capital of Jamaica, known as the “Land of Springs” and one of the most beautiful islands in the West Indies. Settled between the big harbor and the imposing landscape of the Blue Mountains, Kingston will welcome you to its limestone highlands and overwhelm you with its total size and variety of things to do. To begin with, you must be aware of its history and learn how Spain conquered this island in 1494. The Spanish treated the native Arawak people so badly that most of them died. In the 1600s, the British arrived, seized control, and turned Jamaica into a huge slave market.
Slavery was abolished in 1838, but friction grew between workers and plantation owners. British troops stopped a revolt in 1865 and Jamaica was made a British colony. By the 1940s, the island had won some independence and it became fully independent in 1962. Since then, Jamaica has set up its own parliament and everyone over the age of 18 can vote.
When To Go:
The months of October through December are the perfect time to visit Kingston Town. It is during this time when the excellent climate is most pleasant, and good hotel and flight arrangements are easy to find. Most of the rates are cheaper when the summer months arrive (July-September,) however you’ll risk the rage of tropical storm season. Travel is not advisable in these critical months — even shops and major attractions close around this time because of low tourist arrivals. The only thing that can spoil this image of paradise is the occasional hurricane, which can cause terrible damage. The spring season months of January through March are also an ideal time to explore and enjoy the beaches of the island because the possibility of a hurricane is no longer high.
Below are the
things to do
and important attractions to see in Kingston Town:
A trip to the
is a culturally valuable experience in Kingston. It is a winding road through a typical landscape of rural life in Jamaica. You can see plantations, but also local homes, schools and small towns. Some plantations are part of a bike ride version of this trip. You can always do a little climbing to tour the coffee plantations and fruit farms, but you need to pay admission fees for every visit. If you need to buy snacks, you can eat right on the corner of the road. The climate here is slightly cooler and drier than at sea level. The area is full of lush greenery and vegetation and it is ideal for group excursions.
It is a rather challenging journey by bus, since the road is quite twisted and narrow. You will discover the dwellings, vegetation, and many people on the island in their small remote villages, far from the sea, and far from the beautiful tourist hotels. It’s a way to delve deeper into the daily lives of the hard-working Jamaicans. The view is wonderful and the panorama of Kingston and the mountains is a treat. But be careful, you must hold on tight as you climb up the mountain. When driving, the curvy roads are not necessarily in good condition and you must pay attention to other cars. Do not miss this adventure in the Blue Mountains.
Bob Marley Museum
The former home of Bob Marley is now a museum and top attraction in Kingston. It has preserved most of his albums and works right up to his death in 1981 This tour gives an insight into the daily life of Bob Marley through photos, objects, and documents. Even if you’re not a great fan of the reggae superstar this place is a must during a stay or a visit to Kingston. The cost of this tour is $20 per person and it includes a 45-minute video about his life and times. The
Bob Marley Museum
is very detailed and comprehensive. Picture taking is not allowed inside.
This museum was his home, and everything is still in original condition including his bedroom, kitchen, studio etc. All his gold records are displayed here; newspaper clippings pasted on the wall showing where he has performed, with concert posters and pictures; his old Jeep is here; and his own statue in the adjacent “Rasta garden.” Every year on his birthday (February 6), his reggae fans and lots of Rastafarians (Jamaicans who look to Africa as their homeland, most of them wear their hair in long dreadlocks) gather and celebrate their local hometown hero and show their “One Love” for Bob — proudly wearing his trademark reggae colors and symbols of peace. It is very much worth a visit!
is a haven of peace in the urban area of Kingston town. It is a safe place and conducive to strolling or jogging in the early morning or late afternoon. The tropical flora is well maintained. If you are lucky, you can watch a concert or other public event. For example, Damian Marley organizes yearly concerts, in memory of his renowned father. Just within the center of the park stand two naked monuments of a man and a woman symbolizing freedom and a tribute to the emancipation of the slaves. It is an escape from the excessive heat of the city and offers a good background for beautiful photos, especially beside the two huge sculptures with the fountain area in front of it. There are lots of different and interesting plants and flowers.
The park is so neat and there are numerous areas where guests can just sit back and rest. It is an emblematic park, especially if you go in February when it is full of reggae concerts, Rastafarians, and peace-loving Jamaicans. It is very nice and well guarded, spotless, and the best place to go and unwind after a busy day from work. A visit is a must if you are in the capital city.
is a lovely place with a huge influence of English style. It is surrounded by greenery and gardens. They used predominately wood and stone in the construction of their facilities. They provide excellent service and the food is delicious. It is a quiet place to go for ice cream and sit on the benches people-watching. It has well-maintained gardens and quaint shops that offer diverse shopping options. Here you can find the best ice cream of Jamaica, and they also have the best chocolates and burger patties. The colonial-style house is very interesting both from outside and inside; in addition it contains all English furniture and fixtures which makes it more fancy and eye-catching.
There are restaurants, cafes, pastry, snacks etc. and the place is shady, but quite crowded during peak hours especially during meal times. The ice cream is just one of the main attractions here; even the line of people with numbers on their hands waiting for their turns is interesting. The line moves slowly but the reward is so sweet, and you get to experience the tastiest ice cream in Jamaica. Afterwards, you can walk around with your ice cream in one hand under the large beautiful trees and enter a small shopping mall with luxury goods. All in all, it is a very pleasant place to relax a little with the gazebos and embankments. A visit here is mandatory when you’re in Kingston.
is ideal for anyone who loves history, conquests, etc. The guide (English) welcomes you right away and leads you to the 2 small museums that have old dishes and everyday objects. Another guide comes in once you are inside the museum and explains what life was like in Port Royal and relates its colorful history. It is located near the airport and traces of the famous earthquake can still be seen on its structure. This ancient port is steeped in history and many fights between the Spanish and English occurred here. Port Royal became the first British fortress of importance in this territory where the pirates or buccaneers once battled with the local defenders.
From the center of Kingston, the journey takes about 30 minutes by car or taxi. The cost of the ticket to the territory of the fort is not more than $8. You will see a small, fortified wall filled with cannons, guns and huge ramparts. On the grounds there are toilets and a small museum building, where the guide will tell you about the pirate Morgan and the big flood of Port Royal that happened in the 17th century. After that you will see defensive weapons that are at some distance from the fort. Basically, it is an excursion that takes a full 40 minutes. Unfortunately, there are no souvenirs or gift shops located within the area but you can take lots of personal photos all around the historic fort.
formerly called Mount Edge, offers a nice place for small walks, picnics, and good family fun. From this point, the view of the entire city and the Blue Mountains is gorgeous. It is not that far from Kingston and you can spend more than two hours to explore its interesting features. There is a possibility to stay there because there are lodging houses located near the nature trail.
In short, it is a nice excursion from Kingston; you need to wear a pair of good walking shoes and bring a camera to have a memorable tour of this gorgeous place. Then respect the quiet, listen and watch the birds, scan the horizon, and simply admire the idyllic views from the top. It may be a winding road full of “potholes” but it is worth the effort. Do not hesitate to cross the gates of the military camp of Newcastle and continue the walk for another mile or two — you will have the best views of the town from its observation platform.
Trench Town Culture Yard
Trench Town Culture Yard
is an essential place to understand the music of Bob Marley and a must when visiting Kingston. Trench Town tries to preserve the cultural birthplace of many Jamaican musicians, including Bob Marley. You can satisfy a thirst for cultural preservation with a collection that is relatively well maintained, in a slum where you can see rooms (now disabled) where Bob grew up and graduated as a musician. Trench Town designed Bob for the world, but it was not he who built this place as the cradle of music in Jamaica. It was the opposite: he discovered his talent when he lived in the slum and learned about the music that already existed there.
There are two or three options for your Trench Town tour: you can opt for seeing the house where Bob once lived, or to have a tour in the slums — to look for what is possible to see of how he left it. This tour is only highly recommended if the traveler is an admirer of Bob and knows a bit of his origins already. The slum is safe in this guided tour; the locals are kind and fairly receptive. It is advisable to tip the inhabitants of Bob’s former home, since the place survives on donations given by guests. It is not just an attraction; it is an experience of getting to know the acclaimed musician who gained fame and accolade by means of hip and patriotic reggae songs about Jamaica.
is one of the wonderful beaches of Kingston town that is almost paradise-like because of its tranquil and secluded setting. It is a long beach designed for couples on a honeymoon, or for people who just want to spend some quiet time alone with nature and the ocean. There’s nobody there, and you can go there from Port Royal in Kingston — every fisherman will take you and come back to get you.
The price is low and you have to visit it because it is so clean and has no crowds, only fine sandy beaches. It is important to bring your own provisions — food, drinks, coolers, and your own beach chair if possible — as the place totally lacks beach infrastructure. There are no merchants or sellers who will bother your stay as you relax and spend quiet time on this uninhabited part of Kingston town. It is a cool place and worth braving the waves to get to its natural beauty.
National Heroes Park
National Heroes Park
there are seven monuments that are dedicated to the folk heroes of Jamaica. The monuments are nice to see, but the rest is just a typical park. The place is located in Kingston on the border between the Uptown and Downtown areas. The highlight is of course the changing of the guard that always takes place on the hour 24/7.
The official guards must remain one hour motionless in their “cottage” (like in London). They have no ammunition in their guns — but are therefore guarded by two more soldiers who do have live ammunition! Be sure to watch and take pictures while the ceremony is ongoing as well as taking pictures beside the monuments of the heroes. Take a guided tour to understand the story of the slavery and the road to independence from Great Britain.
Kingston National Gallery
Kingston National Gallery
highlights the beauty of art from a Jamaican’s perspective. It may not have a huge selection of works to see or works from the masters, but the history of art in Kingston is illustrated quite well. It is advisable to get the services of the guide who will explain the meaning of each artwork for you. The works that they feature here are mostly by authentic Jamaican artist Edna Manley. All of the works exhibited inside this art gallery are older pieces; some of them date back as far as the 1920s. The staff is very accommodating and they will inform you right away that part of the proceeds of the entrance fee are dedicated to the poor communities in Kingston, especially the children. In general this art gallery is worth a visit and for a worthy cause too. Be sure to include this gallery when you travel to Kingston Town.
Kingston town has been the inspiration for many songs, with most of them describing how beautiful and enchanting this island is. This is not surprising because the island is indeed rich with natural beauty that inspires songwriters to put into music and lyrics their love and admiration for Jamaica and Kingston Town. With its preserved forts, the island gives an idea how it was ruled by its colonizers, how slavery started and how it was eventually emancipated and freed from bondage in 1962.
The Caribbean is lined with beautiful islands and dependent governorate islands but Jamaica and Kingston stand out for the many unique features listed here, and for its fun-loving and kind-hearted people. Do include Kingston in your travel plans when you embark on your adventure to the Caribbean. You will not regret the time and effort to see a magical island and will treasure the travel memories you can make when you come to Kingston.