Tropical splendor and busy urban life combine in Kingston. Green hills roll down to the Caribbean Sea, surrounding the beautiful capital of Jamaica. It's a big, bustling city that sprawls within an idyllic landscape, and is the cultural and economic center of the country.
Kingston lies on a natural harbor on the southeastern coast of the island of Jamaica. The city sits on a plain, protected on three sides by the Blue Mountains, Red Hills, and Long Mountain. The views are spectacular, and a side trip to the Blue Mountain area is worth adding to your agenda.
From classic reggae to thriving street markets, art galleries to street vendors, it's a city full of color and life. Add the genuine friendliness of your Jamaican hosts, and Kingston offers you an unforgettable experience.
Kingston is home to beautiful beaches with golden sands, including Hellshire Beach, where you are likely to find open air concerts, and the very popular Fort Clarence Beach. Expect to find amenities like lifeguards and washrooms, along with food and drink.
Jamaica is a green paradise, and the city's many parks let you explore the great outdoors without leaving town. Emancipation Park covers 35 acres, including the striking bronze statue by artist Laura Facey-Cooper. The Hope Gardens and Zoo lets you discover tropical plants and animals in a 200 acre park.
You surely can't go to Kingston without enjoying its iconic music, whether that means checking out the Bob Marley Museum or taking in a live roots reggae show at a downtown club. You can dance in one of the city's many classic dancehalls, and enjoy many outdoor concerts and celebrations in this music-rich city.
From spicy jerk chicken to iconic Red Stripe beer, Jamaican cuisine is flavorful and delicious. With influences from the African continent, Britain, India, and China, seafood and bounty from the land combine to create classic dishes like goat curries, fried plantain, and rice and peas.
You'll want to explore the city's many galleries and artisan shops to check out textiles, ceramics, jewelry, and other wares. Jubilee Market and Coronation Market, housed in a huge old hall in the old part of town, offer a staggering array of goods and food at bargain prices.
Most visitors come to Jamaica during the cooler, drier months between December and April. It's important to remember, though, that you may experience rains at any time. The wet season extends from May to November, which includes hurricane season.
Norman Manley International Airport (KIN) lies about 12 miles from Kingston, south of the island on the Palisadoes tombolo in the Caribbean Sea. A shared minibus shuttle to the city costs about J$1,300, while a private taxi will run about J$4,500.
Kingston connects to Lucea through the A2, to Annotto Bay through the A4, and to Saint Ann's Bay through the A3. All three major roads connect to St William Grant Park, which runs through downtown Kingston.
There is an extensive bus network throughout Jamaica, and it's a wonderfully scenic way to see the island. Buses typically stop at designated hubs in each village, town, and city, and then depart when they are full. Knutsford Express is one of the larger companies that offers connections to Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, and other destinations at very reasonable prices.
To stay in modern, elegant rooms with a vibrant decor, look to the upscale Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston. Just uphill, you can stay in stylish luxury with stunning views of the city at the Strawberry Hill Resort. Within walking distance of Emancipation Park, the Liguanea Club hotel offers you comfort in a whitewashed building with spacious rooms.
Historic Downtown - this is where you'll find streets with historic buildings and monuments like the Ward Theatre, dating from 1777, along with the Supreme Court, and Parliament buildings. King Street is the commercial heart of this neighborhood, where you'll find shops, street food, and a busy street scene.
New Kingston - this is the city's busy modern heart, teeming with office employees during the day and partygoers at night. Head to Knutsford Boulevard, lined with restaurants, bars, and nightclubs.
Port Royal - this historic neighborhood is where you can explore Fort Charles, the largest of the city's old fortresses, dating from the 17th century, along with the city's Old Gaol and many other period buildings. There are also a few restaurants and accommodations like Morgan's Harbour Hotel on the waterfront.
The Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) operates a network of buses throughout the city. Regular adult fares start at J$120.
Several taxi companies service the downtown areas, and you'll know licensed taxis by their red plates. A typical fare within town runs about J$1,300.
The streets of Kingston are often congested with traffic. There are limited free parking spots available on streets downtown, and a number of public parking lots and garages with rates that start at J$1 per hour. A compact rental starts at about J$5,000, and Budget and Avis are present in Kingston.
You'll find the fabulous Coronation Market and Jubilee Market in the area of St. William Grant Park in central Kingston, with locally produced goods, a produce market, and just about anything you can think of from clothing to housewares. For modern shopping malls like the Pavilion Mall, look to New Kingston, with many clustered along or near Maxfield Avenue.
House of Spice and Hi-Lo Supermarket are two of the chains you'll find in Kingston. Both offer a broad selection of grocery and household items. John R Wong supermarket adds an in-store restaurant and bakery. A quart of milk costs about J$270 and a dozen eggs will cost about J$332.
The best Jamaican patties in town come from the Devon House Bakery, starting at J$200. At the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel, you'll enjoy a fusion of Caribbean and European cuisine, including delectable grilled snapper and a delicious buffet Sunday brunch that starts at J$2,500. Scotchies Jerk Centre is one of many places you can enjoy genuine jerk cuisine, including chicken, pork, and sausage, with main dishes that start at J$550.