The capital city Kingston gets a bad rap. As a city girl “born and grow,” I hear all the time how much there’s nothing to do here. That is until we start looking. The truth is that there are lots of amazing things to do in Kingston Jamaica and I’m about to list all my favourites for you plus some that are on my to-do list.
Kingston is the cultural mecca of Jamaica. Everything you heard about Jamaica, you can find in Kingston. It’s the birthplace of reggae, where the greats like Alton Ellis, Bob Marley, Gregory Isaacs, and Dennis Brown finessed their musical skills.
In this small metropolis, you’ll find the rough and rugged streets Junior Gong describes in Welcome to Jamrock only minutes away from poui and poinsettia dotted suburbs with grandeur homes boasting ornamental pools and lavish landscaping inside their decorative electronic gates.
You’ve got to have your smarts about you to enjoy this city, no doubt about it. But if you’re brave enough to step outside and explore, you’ll find lots to enjoy. Ok, that’s a little dramatic. If you’ve been to New York City then Kingston is easy pickings. I’ve lived here all 30+ years of my life and I recommend it to everyone. Now let’s go do see!
Tourist Attractions in Kingston Jamaica
Let’s get the obvious things out the way first. These are the attractions in Kingston that locals have probably never been to but every tourist has seen because they’re on every top ten list in every travel magazine. Some of them are worth it so do go see if you’re here, but some of them have better options that locals will share with you (that’s me!)
Bob Marley Museum
You knew it was coming. This is where Bob Marley lived when he made it. It was his home until his death and displays his personal belongings like his grammies and one of his favourite guitars, kitchen items he used, his personal recording studio, stage clothing he wore at some humungous concerts and much more. The tour is fascinating and was definitely worth it but you should definitely also check out the Trench Town Culture Yard and the Tuff Gong tour if you’re a serious Bob Marley or reggae music fan.
Trench Town Culture Yard
I admittedly have not been here yet but it’s definitely on my to-do list. Why? Because Trench Town is one of those neighbourhoods you don’t venture into unless you know someone. But that’s all being changed as the years go by. The community has built up and preserved the spots that young Bob Marley grew up and wrote songs like No Woman No Cry. Now you’ll find the Trench Town Culture Yard, a flourishing recording studio and a whole culturally immersive experience to enjoy. The people who live here are welcoming and very protective of their name as the birthplace of reggae music.
Devon House Tour
I’ve been going to Devon House for ice-cream since I was a wee little child and I’ve still never taken the tour of the house for which it’s named. I tried to remedy that this summer but was heat beat by our afternoon at the National Heroes Park so it’s still sitting pretty on my list. Nevermind not actually taking the tour, Devon House is absolutely lovely.
It’s an oasis in a stony city with lush gardens, beautiful ponds alive with tropical golden fish, delightful epicurean eateries and the best ice-cream in the world. I may be biased but I encourage you to go and judge for yourself. Try the rum ‘n’ raisin, the stout or any of the tropical fruit flavours then tell me you’re not hooked. It’s the best.
Usain Bolt’s Tracks and Records
It’s weird to place a sports bar on a list of tourist attractions but if you’re a fan of the man or the sport then you must visit his flagship restaurant. Everything here is an ode to track and field and UB himself. I mean, the door handle is a replica of his shoe for crying out loud. The inside is built to mimic a stadium with stands watching over the race track with of course a random bar in the infield.
The dining area is lined with decor replicating a Kingston street dance with party flyers papering street lights and pepper lights hanging above. Try the Jerk Chicken Spring Rolls, the Red Stripe BBQ wings or my personal fave the Jerk Pork Platter when you go and grab yourself a t-shirt signed by the man himself from the gift shop.
Visit Port Royal Jamaica
Once dubbed “the wickedest city on earth” Port Royal is now a quiet fishing village that was destroyed by a terrible earthquake and accompanying tsunami that killed over 3000 people and left half of the city buried below the sea. It was a pirate’s hub before then and relics of a time long gone live on today. Our coast guard and defense forces use it as a training camp now and you can tour sections of the fort to learn about what was once a flourishing seaside town.
Snap pictures on the canons and inside the giddy house, left leaning after the quake. Then enjoy some of the best seafood you’ve ever had with glorious views of the Caribbean Sea. Go early and catch a boat over to Maiden Cay or Lime Cay and spend the day perfecting your tan on tiny deserted islands just off Kingston’s coast with sparkling white sandy beaches and not much else.
Go to the Beach!
There are a few beaches you can visit around the city of Kingston. One of my favourites is Helshire Beach. Kingstonians have a love-hate relationship with this beach, partly because it’s been eroded a lot and there’s not much beach left to actually swim in and partly because it’s always crowded and loud. I love this beach because it has the best fried fish this side of Jamaica and I love to people watch here. Read my tips on visiting Helshire Beach. Lime Cay and Fort Clarence Beach are also popular beaches in Kingston.
Fun Things to Do in Kingston
Ok so we’ve covered all the touristy things that you should check off your list. Now let me take you into my Kingston. These are the places you hang out when you live here. Wanna live like a Jamaican for a few days? Come roll with me.
Bar Hopping Kingston Nightlife
The nightlife in Kingston is definitely on and popping and in fact, you can find a party happening somewhere every single night of the week. From raunchy street dances that go until way past the crack of dawn to swanky parties inside fancy dance clubs with high-end bottle service to live music reggae sessions in the hills, there’s a party here for you to enjoy.
Want help with a specific itinerary? Start with dinner at your favorite restaurant on Friday then pregame at a sports bar. Most will have DJs on the weekends playing the latest tunes. From here, head to a party spot. This could be a club, a street dance or a specific event happening that weekend. This can be your final stop for the night but for extra excitement, head to a gentleman’s club as your last stop. Get you a Jamaican lap dance.
Go Kart Racing
Here’s another one I have on my to-do list. There are two spots that offer go-kart racing for thrilling weekend excitement, Palisadoes Go Kart Track and Rocket GoKarting Experience. If this is your thing, then have a go at it with your friends or other competitors there.
Try Blue Mountain Coffee at its Source
If you’re a coffee fiend then you must head up the Blue Mountains and reward yourself with a cup of one of the best coffees in the world. You can do this at the Mavis Bank Coffee Factory after their quick 45-minute tour of the facilities, giving you an inside look at coffee processing here in Jamaica, or at a number of coffee shops in the mountains or on the flat around the city.
Visit the National Heroes Park
If you’re into history and getting to know the real culture of where you’re visiting, then a stop at a museum is a must. At the National Heroes Park, monuments have been erected to honour Jamaica’s seven national heroes, some of whom are buried here in the park. One most famous hero buried here is Marcus Garvey, making this visit an essential. Other Jamaican leaders and cultural icons are also laid to rest here and the park is beautiful, an oasis in the surrounding concrete jungle. Try to get here for midday to see the changing of the guards, Jamaican style. A real treat if you’re visiting with kids.
National Gallery of Jamaica
Speaking of museums, the National Gallery of Jamaica is another excellent place to peek into the history and culture of Jamaica. There are roaming exhibitions as well as resident exhibits for you to enjoy here. You’ll get a look into the life of the Tainos, the first inhabitants of Jamaica, the history of our music with instruments used many years ago on display and relics from colonial times long gone. My little one enjoyed this tour immensely.
In the centre of the business hub New Kingston, close to where you may be staying if you’re here for business travel is Emancipation Park. It’s a beautiful park with gorgeous gardens, a jogging trail and outdoor gym equipment, an entertainment area where outdoor concerts and movies are occasionally held and it’s right next door to one of my favourite jerk spots making it a great treat to stroll after dinner. One of the entrances to the park is marked by a statue of two slaves baring all. It’s caused much controversy of course and is a revered spot for photographs.
Out in the neighbouring parish of St. Thomas you’ll find the Jamnesia Surf Club close to Bob Marley Beach. Surfing isn’t a popular sport in Jamaica by any stretch but here in St. Thomas the waves get high enough to learn and play.
It’s a great spot to go have fresh vegetarian meals and watch the surfers go at it if you’re not wanting to jump up on a board yourself. The beach here is rocky but gorgeous. The owners of the surf club are also musicians and host amazing reggae jam sessions every month right by the beach against the backdrop of a crackling bonfire.
Boston Bay Beach is another surfing spot in Jamaica.
Romantic Things to Do in Kingston
Lovers aren’t short of hot date spots in Kingston. The best restaurants, romantic sunset views and cute picnic areas can be found in the city providing endless entertainment for young lovers or longstanding pairs.
Dine at the Best Restaurants in Kingston
Date night is made easy in Kingston with so many restaurants to choose from. Pick one each weekend to try. The Courtyard at the Marketplace is a great place to start. Here you’ll find a plethora of restaurants serving up international cuisines in a semi-fine dining setting. My favourite Indian and Sushi spot can be found here as well as popular Chinese and Italian restaurants, a few bistros, delis and open-air eats.
People Watch on the Waterfront
This is one of my favourite things to do whether with my friends, lover, kiddo or by myself. It’s such a relaxing experience to sit on the waterfront and watch the little kids play. I like to head here to watch the sunset especially. There are a few spots here to eat, grab drinks or share an ice-cream cone and on Sundays it really comes alive with reggae music and a lively street vibe.
Head up to Holywell Park
Holywell Park is an awesome time. It’s nestled in the Blue Mountains and offers cabins, campsites and grill pits if you want to come here for a day or to stay over. You’ll enjoy an amazing view of the city on clear days and can hike several paths down into the valley to play in the stream below. There’s a small monkey bar play area for kids or big kids to enjoy and you may find a vendor or two offering fresh coffee berries or raspberries that grow wild in the mountainside. I love outdoorsy dates like these, tucked away in nature with nothing to do but chat, laugh and explore.
Get a Spa Treatment at Strawberry Hill
Strawberry Hill is a small boutique hotel nestled in the Blue Mountains that offers amazing views, delectable eats and lovely spa treatments to pamper you in nature. If you’re not a spa person then try them for Sunday brunch or a romantic dinner in the hills. You won’t regret it.