Are you thinking of traveling Jamaica with kids? We recently went on a two-week trip Jamaica family vacation and absolutely loved it. Here’s why.
For the longest time, Alberto and I dreamt of traveling Jamaica. He’s always been a reggae fan, and I’ve wanted to be a Rastafarian hippie since high school. On one of our first dates, we danced to Bob Marley’s music in a bar and talked about going to Jamaica someday.
Fast forward to 10 years later, we’ve finally made it to Jamaica after traveling to more than 100 countries together! Now that we have a 16-month-old baby, it seemed like the perfect time to travel Jamaica. After all, it’s one of the best Caribbean islands for kids, thanks to its postcard-perfect beaches and lush rainforests.
Table of Contents
- Jamaica with Kids
- Perfect Place for Travel with Kids
- How to Get Around Jamaica with Kids
- Where to Stay in Jamaica with Kids
- Check the Latest Rates Here
- Check the Latest Rates Here
- Things to Do in Jamaica with Kids
- Is it Safe to Travel Jamaica with Kids?
- How to Get Travel Insurance for Kids
- What to Pack for Jamaica with Kids
- Packing List for Dominican Republic with Kids:
- Inspired? Pin it!
Jamaica with Kids
Smooth like rum and hot like a spicy plate of jerk, Jamaica got me hooked almost right from the start. The media might call it dangerous but the worst crime you’re likely to encounter is having your heart stolen.
The calm, luscious island is blanketed in endless rainforests and coffee plantations. It boasts hundreds of waterfalls hidden amidst the verdant greenery (just how many waterfalls can one country have???). Let’s not forget its miles and miles of coastlines that are fringed by crystalline waters and sandy beaches.
Plus Jamaica is affordable, so you don’t need to break the bank to go on a Jamaica family vacation. There are lots of beautiful family-friendly resorts all over Jamaica and local food is cheap and ridiculously good.
Perfect Place for Travel with Kids
Sadly Jamaica’s long been discovered by mass tourism and there’s no shortage of all-inclusive resorts here. But as we found out, you just need to venture a little off the tourist trail to find quiet, empty beaches and get authentic, local experiences.
Beaches here are safe and plenty of fun for kids, while the waterfalls are like a natural playground for them. Animals like dragonflies and lizards are always skittering around (you know how much kids love animals!). The tropical jungles make for the perfect outdoor classroom for them.
Traveling Jamaica with kids is easy and enjoyable. You can drive all over the island in two weeks, exploring every nook and cranny, stopping at empty beaches, eating street-side jerk chicken, and watching the sun set over the mountains. Kaleya loves the outdoors and animals, and Jamaica has both in abundance.
How to Get Around Jamaica with Kids
Jamaica is a great place to explore by car, which makes traveling with kids so much easier. We rented a car for the entire time we were in Jamaica and spent two weeks driving from the tourist hub of Montego Bay to the western edge and hippie town of Negril. Then we headed all the way to the eastern corner of Port Antonio, where few tourists venture to.
Jamaica’s roads don’t have the best reputation but we didn’t think they were all that bad. While some roads in Jamaica are in desperate need for repairs, most of the main roads are pretty smooth and easy to navigate. There are even new highways connecting the bigger cities.
However, it isn’t cheap to rent a car in Jamaica. The minimum cost is US$40 a day and there’s often some extra fees that are mandatory. Our car rental (along with baby car seat) came up a total cost of US$750 for the two weeks. After some research this was the best deal we could find and we found it on Discover Cars.
Where to Stay in Jamaica with Kids
There are plenty of family resorts in Jamaica to choose from, thanks to the developed tourism infrastructure in the country. In general, the west coast (Montego Bay and Negril) have the best family resorts in Jamaica, but it’s also the most touristy part of the island.
I recommend heading to the eastern part instead (Ocho Rios and Port Antonio) where development has been slower and contained. This makes for a more authentic experience with smaller hotels and local-owned restaurants and shops.
During our two-week trip, we stayed at a variety of accommodations. They ranged from basic budget hotel and rainforest lodge to average all-inclusive resort and exclusive boutique villa. If you’re traveling Jamaica with kids, I recommend opting for a resort that’s family-friendly and has a kids pool at least.
Ocho Rios: Moon Palace Jamaica Grande
We had a blast at Moon Palace Jamaica Grande, one of the best all-inclusive family resorts in Jamaica. It’s ultra high end, modern, stylish and tastefully designed. With 705 rooms (most of them ocean view), four restaurants and six bars, four pools, a FlowRider simulator (which Alberto loved), a teen’s lounge and an enormous kids playroom, there’s a heck of a lot going on here.
To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of all-inclusive resorts. Spending an entire vacation within the confines of a resort is not my idea of fun. But this resort actually changed our perception. It’s very tastefully created with beautiful beach and pool areas and awesome dining options. I loved that it’s located at the edge of Ocho Rios’ town so you can easily walk out to stroll around the city.
Montego Bay: Riu Hotel Montego Bay
Another all-inclusive resort we stayed at was Riu Hotel Montego Bay. This is a lot more affordable (rooms starting at US$183/night). The standard of accommodation and food is decent and it’s not a bad option for a Jamaica family vacation. It’s also very near the airport, making for a great base for your first stop. Although the sand at the resort’s beaches isn’t ideal for making sand castles or playing sports, its pools make up for the shortcoming.
Negril: The Cliff Hotel
By contrast, The Cliff Hotel offers a far more intimate experience (prices start from US$260 per night). The chic and stylish boutique hotel is perched on the cliffs of Negril and sprawls over an extensive area of green gardens. But with only 33 suites and villas, it has a small and intimate feel.
One of its best features of the hotel is the natural pool entrenched within the cliffs — it’s one of a kind and you’ll never find something like that in another resort. There weren’t many other guests during our stay, so we felt like we had the place to ourselves. If you’re looking for privacy, this is it!
Things to Do in Jamaica with Kids
1. Visit the Stunning Beaches
We’ve been to many amazing islands — from Maldives to Mauritius, Fiji to Hawaii — and can safely say that Jamaica has some of the best beaches we’ve ever been to. Despite the high volume of tourists it receives, Jamaica has managed to keep some of its beaches a secret!
You’ll find all sorts of beaches here: small coves with calm, shallow waters perfect for kids; wide beaches with big waves; and stunning bays where you can snorkel off coral reefs. According to locals (and we agree), the best beaches are in the Port Antonio area on the eastern end of the island.
Some of our favorite beaches are:
- Frenchman’s Cove, Port Antonio – where many famous movies have been filmed (and a shallow estuary great for kids)
- Seven-Mile Beach, Negril – absolutely stunning public beach with pristine waters
- Boston Bay – best known for their jerk chicken (definitely the best we had on the island!)
- Long Bay – with big waves and wide sandy banks
But many of the beaches in Jamaica are private, that means they either belong to a resort or the government. Resort beaches are only accessible by guests staying at the resort. Government-run beaches require a small fee to enter. All of these private beaches have showers, toilets and other amenities that are useful for families.
We stumbled upon an absolutely stunning section of Negril’s famous Seven-Mile Beach that was completely empty the whole time we were there. The water at Long Bay Beach was warm and crystal clear, the powdery sand on the beach was gorgeous and we had the whole beach to ourselves. It cost us only US$1.50 to use the beach all day.
2. Explore the Lush Rainforests
Flying into Jamaica, you’ll see that almost the whole island is covered in emerald green forests. It’s funny how everyone just heads straight for the beaches and completely forget about the massive rainforests that cover this island. To immerse in this lush greenery, we recommend heading inland up to the Blue Mountains, the biggest mountain range in Jamaica.
This area is home to some quaint mountain villages, coffee plantations and some of the island’s best hiking trails. It’s where the famous Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee is cultivated, so you’ll be sure to find some great coffee here.
Families with bigger kids can also attempt to hike to the top of Blue Mountain Peak. It’s the island’s highest point at 2256m (7402 ft). On a clear day, the outline of the island Cuba, 210 km (130 mi) away, can be seen from the summit.
We stayed in the Portland area and it was so simple yet idyllic. The mountain lodge was run by a Jamaican-English family who’s moved back to Jamaica in search of a quieter life in nature.
I loved being surrounded by banana trees, palm trees and hibiscus plants; while Kaleya adored the hummingbird, dragonflies and lizards that lived there. It felt like we were sleeping in a jungle, being surrounded by the sounds of insects and birds chirping outside. Getting there wasn’t easy by the narrow and rocky road, but the owners made sure we found our way.
3. Visit the Adventure Parks
It comes to a surprise to many that there’s a lot more to Jamaica than the beach. The hinterland is crying out to be explored – underwater, on hikes, river-bound with a raft, underground with a lamp strapped to your head, or on mountain bike.
There are plenty of adventure activities to do in Jamaica with kids: try bobsledding at the Kool Runnings Adventure Park, go rafting on Rio Grande and zipline through the rainforest. The best part is that many of these outdoor activities in Jamaica can be enjoyed by kids from the age of five onwards and hardly require any physical fitness.
Here are some of the best active things to do in Jamaica:
- Four Wheel ATV Safari: Journey up to 2200 feet on an adventure
- River Rafting on Martha Brae: A three-mile journey on a bamboo raft
- Horseback Ride ‘N Swim: Ride a horse in the Caribbean Sea
- River Tubing Down the Great River: Gush down the rapids of the Great River
4. See Jamaica’s Numerous Waterfalls
The highlight of our Jamaica family vacation was climbing and swimming in many of the waterfalls dotted around the island. The biggest and most spectacular one is Dunns River Falls just a few km outside Ocho Rios. At 180 feet (55 m) high and 600 feet (180 m) long, the waterfalls are terraced like giant natural stairs with small lagoons interspersed among them.
We were glad that we got there early (before 9am) and had the falls to ourselves. The crowds started pouring in just as we were leaving and you really don’t want to be part of the human chain!
We also really enjoyed the Mayfield Falls, just an hour from Negril. Hiking up the slippery slopes with a baby wasn’t the best idea but we felt like we could completely trust our awesome guide (the entrance fee came with a local guide) who held her tightly while climbing the falls.
5. Relax at the Blue Lagoon
One of the best places to visit in Jamaica with kids is the famous Blue Lagoon (where the Brooke Shields’ movie of the same name was filmed). The water in Blue Lagoon is a mix of fresh water and salt water. Swimming in the lagoon, you’ll find alternating temperatures (the warmth of the Caribbean Sea and the icy cold waters of the underground streams) in the water, which is quite an experience.
6. Dance to Reggae Music
Jamaica gave us Bob Marley, one the greatest musicians of all time. He not only introduced the world to reggae music, he also put Jamaica on the world map. But he didn’t spring from nowhere – this tiny island has musical roots that reach back to the folk songs of West Africa and forward to the electronic beats of contemporary dancehall.
Music is life in Jamaica, and you’ll soon find yourself swaying along with it. There’s plenty of live music on the beach in the evenings, especially in Negril. One of the best places in Jamaica to hear good reggae music is the famous Rick’s Cafe – voted as one of the world’s best bars. It can be rather touristy especially in the evenings when people flock there for the sunset. But kids are welcome — don’t let the crowds stop you because it’s well worth it!
Is it Safe to Travel Jamaica with Kids?
Before our Jamaica family vacation, we did some research and we were surprised to find that some people don’t think of Jamaica as a suitable place for kids.
Reggae and Rastafarians don’t have the best reputation and media reports of serious crime, particularly around the capital of Kingston, make matters worse. In reality, Jamaica is relatively safe and easy to travel with kids. As compared to other Caribbean Islands that we’ve been, Jamaica has very laidback vibes and most beach towns are relaxed, calm and safe.
We didn’t feel unsafe in Jamaica at any point on our trip. Everyone’s very friendly and welcoming outside of the city and there’s a laidback vibe everywhere you go. Just avoid Kingston and you’ll be absolutely fine.
How to Get Travel Insurance for Kids
I highly recommend getting travel insurance as well as it covers personal loss, theft, and medical on top of damages that may incur on your vehicle in Jamaica. Read my travel insurance guide for details.
Many travel insurance providers offer free travel insurance to cover kids who are traveling with their parents, or even grandparents. Travel insurance plans usually have a minimum (around 6 months) and a maximum age (17 to 20s) for traveling kids to qualify for the free coverage.
Safety Wing is the most popular travel insurance company for COVID19-coverage. I use their Nomad Insurance plan, which covers COVID-19 as any other illness as long as it was not contracted before your coverage start date.
What to Pack for Jamaica with Kids
My mantra has always been, “the less you pack, the happier you’ll be.” Packing light makes it easier to move around, and allows you to explore more without the extra weight. Especially for a beach destination like Jamaica, you really don’t need anything more than a few sundresses, bathing suits and flip-flops.
For your kids, remember their floaties and waterproof t-shirts. If you plan to go hiking in the jungles, then pack hiking shoes. I always bring my KEEN covered sandals as they’re waterproof so great for kayaking and jungle hikes.
In terms of food for babies, you might want to bring a few jars of puree and yogurt for the flight and stock up at the supermarkets. Other baby necessities like diapers and formula are pretty affordable here and cheaper than in US or Europe.
Packing List for Dominican Republic with Kids:
- SPF 70 Sunscreen for kids
- Mosquito repellent with DEET
- Dry bag for snorkeling/kayaking
- Quick-dry towels
- Sun hat that covers the neck
- UV protection swimsuit for kids
- KEEN covered sandals
- Floaties if your kid can’t swim
- SteriPen to sterilize water
Inspired? Pin it!
Disclaimer: Many thanks to the hotels mentioned above for hosting us during our stay! Besides accommodation, we funded the rest of our trip ourselves. As always, all opinions above are our own.