While Jamaica has restaurants in its five-star hotels and fine dining establishments, the overriding food scene in Montego Bay, Negril and Ocho Rios is casual. There’s no need to tip at the big resorts, but 10 percent elsewhere like at the jerk stands is standard. Montego Bay’s “Hip Strip” is pumping and the sounds of calypso, soca and reggae can be heard island-wide.
Bars and Pubbing in Jamaica
Nightlife in Jamaica ranges from reggae dens in Kingston to high society shindigs in some of the posh, all-inclusive resorts where non-guests are either not allowed or charged a significant entry fee. Hedonism II (Negril) is one of these; a fun fancy affair with drinks and food included.
Montego Bay is where the most nighttime fun can be had in Jamaica, with the “Hip Strip” (Gloucester Avenue) home to quality entertainment and restaurants. There are some huge clubs here along with beach bars, sports bars, and open-air reggae joints. Margaritaville Sports Bar (Gloucester Avenue, Montego Bay) is one of the most well-known places and boasts sea views, great margaritas, sports on TV, and great burgers.
Just east of Montego Bay is Falmouth; a less dynamic, though still happening place. Time ‘n’ Place (Trelawny, Falmouth) is about the coolest beach hut/bar there is, while over in Port Antonio is the rowdy Roof Club (11 West Street, Port Antonio), which is a local hangout.
Kingston has some of the best nightclubs in Jamaica, such as QUAD (20-22 Trinidad Terrace, New Kingston), a large place with jazz, reggae and soca beats, and Mingles (Courtleigh Hotel, Kingston) is good for meeting young Jamaicans.
Dancing can be found pretty much everywhere with steel bands and street parties in every resort town. The Jamaica Carnival in February is a good time to see the best of it, while the Ocho Rios Jazz Festival kicks off in June. Be aware that there are no licensing hours and places can stay open as long as they like, so you can get a drink virtually at any time.
Dining and Cuisine in Jamaica
All towns and resorts have great dining at reasonable prices. You will have everything catered to you if staying at one of the all-inclusive resorts in Montego Bay, Ocho Rios or Negril, but it’s nice to head out to a beachside stall for a taste of authentic jerk chicken or fresh seafood.
Montego Bay and Negril both have casual spots along the strips where you can gorge on salt fish and ackee fruit. Jamaican cuisine is typically spicy, though there are mild dishes for sensitive palates. Red Stripe is the local beer, but Jamaican rum is usually preferred and served everywhere.
Seafood joints are more visible than anything else, with Montego Bay renowned for the open-air Pier One Seafood (Howard Cooke Boulevard, Montego Bay) and the White House (Sandals, Montego Bay), which is actually on the beach. Jimmy Buffets Margaritaville (Gloucester Avenue, Montego Bay) has the best jerk chicken, while the Sugar Mill Restaurant (Saint James, Half Moon, Montego Bay) is good for high-end dining.
In Negril, look to Norma’s (Sea Splash Hotel, Negril) for great local and international food on Seven Mile Beach. Farther inland overlooking the rocky shore is the Rockhouse Restaurant (West End, Negril). Evita’s Italian Restaurant (Eden Bower Road, Ocho Rios) has some of the best Italian food in Jamaica, while Kingston has the Redbones the Blues Café (1 Argyle Road, Kingston) with elegant local dining.