On Travel: 5 Reasons to Travel to Jamaica

Since 2007, I’ve visited Jamaica at least 15 times and I’ve spent three winters there – from December through March of each year.

Friends, colleagues and family often ask me – why Jamaica? Pretty beaches? Boyfriend?

I laugh. Because the truth is, Jamaica is the lover.  True, it’s known for its gorgeous beaches and is a favorite wedding or honeymoon destination, but Jamaica is so much more than that. I could give you many more reasons than five, believe me, but one must start somewhere.

Reason #1: The people are friendly and fun

Shopkeeper in Duncans, Jamaica

A hidden waterfall in Western Jamaica

The average Jamaican is friendly, hard working and spiritual. “Respect!” is  the reply one often gets when meeting and shaking hands with a Jamaican. Jamaicans are funny, full of energy, and hospitable. They welcome questions about their culture. They appreciate and know the value of a person visiting their country.  They won’t even laugh as you attempt to speak or learn patois. And most of all, people here say hello and appreciate being greeted.  Whether you are a solo traveler or a group, you will never feel out of place.

Reason #2:  The culture is diverse and fascinating ~ African pride resides

“Peter” – A Jamaican Rastafarian

When I pick a travel destination, I base it in part on how much culture there is for me to soak in and to capture.  I have a thirst for learning about others’ lifestyles and heritage. It’s in my blood. I come from a rich culture myself (Ethiopia) and I also grew up in another one, in West Africa.  Jamaica, the majority of which is of African ancestry, celebrates and acknowledges its African heritage, unlike many other Caribbean nations. And from the Maroons to the Rastafarians, there are different pockets of African culture within a culture and different viewpoints within one island. As the Jamaican motto says, “Out of Many, One People.”

Reason #3: The Reggae music is intoxicating

Legendary Reggae Artist Beres Hammond, Live at the annual “One Love Concert Series” in Negril, Jamaica

Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, Live in Negril

Live reggae on the beach every week with The Hiyah Grade Band at The Boat Bar, Negril

Reggae music was born here, as was Bob Marley. And it is well alive. You can listen to live, authentic reggae on almost any corner of the island. On the beach, at amazing all-day festivals such as Rebel Salute, or even at a bar in your neighborhood. Reggae melodies are constantly in the air, and the world’s top reggae artists are “at home” here and much more accessible to their fans. Like I always say, you haven’t listened to reggae until you’ve been to Jamaica – even if you don’t consider yourself a reggae fan, it’s worth the experience.

Reason #4:  Life is more than a beach

Silver Sands Beach in Trelawny, on the North Coast of Jamaica

Reach Falls, Portland

The Jamaican landscape has something for everyone – whether you’re a beach bum or an adventurous “interior” kind of person. From waterfalls to mountains and rivers, and coupled with the size of the island – one of the largest in the Caribbean – there is more than enough to  do. You couldn’t possibly see it all in one trip, or even two. And in addition to the popular attractions, there are many off-the-beaten path spots to explore and discover.  Just this last trip, I was led to a beautiful waterfall I didn’t know even existed (stay tuned for more on this!).

Reason #5:  The food is to die for ~ from jerk to ital

Curry goat with rice and peas, from Pilot’s Cafe in Negril, Jamaica

Rastafarian “Ital” cooking is both healthy and tasty, and perfect for vegetarians visiting the island.

Everyone knows – Jamaica is the birthplace of “jerk” cuisine. Aside from getting an true taste of it – from jerk chicken or pork to jerk lobster – there is much more to sample, such as curries, soups, “Ital” or vegetarian dishes, and lots of fresh fish. And all of it very affordable.

All right – and my sixth, completely selfish reason: it’s where I started my professional photography. So it holds an even more special place in my heart.

For more images of Jamaica, visit my portfolio.

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Lebawit Lily Girma

Lebawit Lily Girma is an award-winning, Ethiopian-American travel writer, photographer and author of several Caribbean guidebooks for Moon Travel Guides, including Moon Belize, Moon Belize Cayes, and Moon Dominican Republic (October 2016). Her work focuses on Caribbean culture and adventure, and has been published in AFAR, CNN Travel, BBC, Delta Sky, The Guardian, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, and Every Day With Rachael Ray, among many others. Lily is also the 2016 recipient of the Marcia Vickery Wallace Award for Excellence in Travel Journalism for her Caribbean coverage, from the Caribbean Tourism Organization. Lily calls herself a “culture-holic”–she speaks four languages fluently and has lived in Cote d’Ivoire, England, Jamaica, Belize, the Dominican Republic and traveled to some 30+ countries around the world. Last but not least, she is a former corporate attorney who ditched her Washington DC office for the road in 2009 to pursue her dream of becoming a storyteller. Lily holds a Bachelor of Arts in French and Spanish (summa cum laude) from the University of Maryland at College Park, and a Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia School of Law.

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14 Comments

  1. Seveen 16 April, 2011 at 10:34 PM #

    jamaica jamaica

    jamaica has given me many gifts

    beauty, relaxation, reflection, music floating on the air, the best food

    love, laughter, friends, water, challenge

    absolutely nothing like it

    and my dear friend lily captures it in her images

  2. lorraine 17 April, 2011 at 11:00 AM #

    Once you go, you know!
    There never was a more true statement about jamaica.
    Many of those reasons aptly pictured here. Great photos, lily!

  3. sandi 17 April, 2011 at 11:01 AM #

    For someone like I who lives here for 6 months a year, I think you captured sooo much. Wonderful Lily, I am now eager to share this site with friends. Great Job!!!!

  4. lilyg 17 April, 2011 at 7:33 PM #

    Thank you all for sharing! Please feel free to forward my site to friends and family and subscribe. Much more material to come 🙂

  5. Chyrisse Ahmed 18 April, 2011 at 10:37 PM #

    Jamaica! Lily has said it all! Her pictures say even more!

  6. Jamaica My Way 14 May, 2011 at 10:22 AM #

    I totally dig this post!! You covered every reason why I have moved to Jamaica. There is just so much to discover and uncover here and it never gets old or boring. Keep up the great work!

  7. lilyg 15 May, 2011 at 10:11 AM #

    Thank you Kristi! I’m glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for the kind words. Awesome that you made a move there. :-). I’m looking forward to following your stories as well!

  8. Jamaica My Way 6 February, 2012 at 8:28 PM #

    This is funny….almost a year after I moved the first time. I forgot I even posted a comment and read this before!

    Might be gearing up for a second “extended stay” with a possible job prospect.

  9. Diana 6 February, 2012 at 9:58 PM #

    I’m glad you dug this up. Makes me wanna hop on a plane a go right back. And I just came in from Kingston 4 hours ago. I miss it so.

  10. Lebawit Lily Girma 6 February, 2012 at 10:19 PM #

    Thanks for re-visiting this post ladies!! I sure hope to go back soon as well. 🙂

  11. Kaylya Zukofsky 11 March, 2012 at 11:51 PM #

    Nice perspective from a relatively new visitor to Jamaica! I too spend my winters there, in Negril – thus the name of my blog From the West County to the West End. I am enjoying the read – you travel differently than I do and that’s why I like it so much!

  12. Lebawit Lily Girma 13 March, 2012 at 7:32 PM #

    Thanks for stopping by, Kaylya! I wrote this piece way late – it’s more based on my first visit to Jamaica yet holds true to most who have never been here. I will check out your site also.

  13. Sandie 27 June, 2012 at 9:37 PM #

    I’ve been to Jamaica about a dozen times in the last 4 or 5 years… I’ve lost track. I get the same thing each and every trip… why Jamaica AGAIN? You must have a boyfriend there and it is so far from the truth. Your reasons above for frequenting this island paradise are the exact same reasons why I go. Next time someone says to me ‘Jamaica again?’ … I am sending them a link to this page!! 🙂

  14. Lebawit Lily Girma 28 June, 2012 at 9:33 AM #

    That’s funny. Great idea, Sandie. Feel free to start sending it around now, ha!

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