Kingston is the largest city and capital of Jamaica. In the southwest of the island, Kingston is between the world’s 7th largest natural harbor and the Blue Mountains. Bustling and soulful, the city of 662,426 people is a hub of tourism in Jamaica and the Caribbean. More than 1 million tourists visit Jamaica every year, with almost all of them coming to Kingston. Our Kingston travel guide looks at the city’s top attractions, how to reach, how to get around, the weather, and the best time to visit. We will also share travel tips for visiting Kingston.
With lush green hills in the north, a natural harbor in the south, and stunning beaches all around, Kingston is sure to delight you. It also has a vibrant party and food scene. Caribbean music, art, food, and natural delights… you will find everything here.
Jamaica is best known for its picturesque beaches and world-famous coffee. Kingston offers many historic sites and cultural experiences. Visit the colonial-era Devon House mansion to see period furnishings. The Botanical Gardens & Zoo is impressive for its native fauna and flora. There is also the Bob Marley Museum, the former house of the iconic musician. The Blue Mountains, north of Kingston, offer many scenic views, waterfalls, and hiking trails. This is a famous coffee-growing region.
Kingston is also a busy port and the economic heart of Jamaica. Once a small fishing village, it is now an important trading center. Conveniently connected to the world, Kingston is a good starting point to see the other attractions of Jamaica. It’s also the perfect gateway to visit the other Caribbean destinations.
UNESCO have termed Kingston a ‘Creative City of Music’ in 2015. Bob Marley, the famous reggae songwriter and singer used to live here.
Kingston – 10 Quick Facts
- Capital of Jamaica and the biggest city
- Population – 662,426
- Area – 190 miles or 480 square kilometers
- Established – 1692
- 7th largest natural harbor in the world
- Most popular language – English
- Kingston is the birthplace of the patty, Jamaica’s famous fast food
- Hosted the 1966 Commonwealth Games
- It is also a busy port and trading city
- Time zone – UTC−5 (EST)
Kingston Travel Guide – Top Reasons to Visit
|Architecture||The city has grand architecture, which you can see in the many colonial-era buildings.|
Don’t miss Devon House, the impressive 19th-century mansion. This is the Victorian Caribbean at its best. Appreciate the façade, and then go inside for the artifacts. See the period furnishings.
|Jamaican history||The small island country also has a rich history from the indigenous Taíno and Arawak people, to the days of Spanish and British rule. Visit Liberty Hall to learn about the Pan-African movement. See the exhibits and photographs.|
|Natural beauty||The city is surrounded by a stunning natural landscape. To the north is the Blue Mountain with forests, birds, beautiful waterfalls, and hiking trails. There are gorgeous beaches with the turquoise sea where you can swim, snorkel, and dive. Inland there are coconut and banana plantations.|
|Food, Drinks||Kingston, the capital city, is a delight for foodies. There are many good cafes, restaurants, and bars throughout the city. Don’t miss the famous patty, jerk chicken, coco bread, and callaloo, originally from West Africa. For drinks, go for rum, a favorite with the locals, ginger beer, and sorrel tea.|
|Music||Reggae is particularly popular. Bob Marley, after all, used to live here. There is also Jamaican folk music, dancehall, dub music, and reggae fusion. You will find many bars playing music and nightclubs in Kingston. The city’s nightlife is thriving.|
|Coffee||Blue Mountain makes some of the world’s best coffee. The country exports more than a million kilos of this coffee every year. It’s the cool hill temperature, volcanic soil, and unpolluted air, which makes the coffee so good. The Craighton Estate is famous. Mick Jagger was so impressed that he once wanted to buy this estate.|
|Crafts||Kingston Craft Market sells everything you will find throughout this island country. Go for handicrafts, Bob Marley t-shirts, and the famous basket bags that are shaped like a moon. There are street markets and modern malls too in the city.|
Kingston is the third capital of Jamaica after Spanish Town and Port Royal. Kingston became the capital city in 1692 after an earthquake devastated Port Royal.
How to Reach
Most tourists arrive at the Norman Manley International Airport. This is the country’s 2nd busiest airport after the Sangster Montego Bay airport of Montego Bay.
There are more than 150 international flights a week to London–Gatwick, Miami, New York–JFK, Atlanta, Panama City, Orlando, and many other places.
By Road – Many international tourists arrive from Montego Bay by road. Montego Bay on the other side of the island is 181.23 kilometers from Kingston. There are regular government and private bus services connecting the cities and regions. Taxis are also available on hire.
There are many ways to travel within Kingston.
Bus – There are now express and air-conditioned buses apart from the traditional unconditioned buses. However, the traditional buses are being phased out gradually.
Taxi – There are 2 types of taxis within the city –Route taxis – They work on set routes only. They will pick up many people during the journey, much like buses. You have to pay for each seat. These taxis are quicker and costlier than buses.
- Route taxis – They work on set routes only. They will pick up many people during the journey, much like buses. You have to pay for each seat. These taxis are quicker and costlier than buses.
- Charter taxis – Conventional taxis. But you have to negotiate the price before taking one.
The official taxis all have a red license plate. There are stands, and you will also be able to hail one down on the road.
Rental cars – You will find many car rental services in Kingston. Your hotel may also be able to arrange for a car.
Top 10 Places to Visit in Kingston
1. Blue Mountains – Just north of Kingston. The country’s longest mountain range. Good for hiking, camping, and outdoor activities. There are many hiking trails and waterfalls. Head to the Holywell Recreational Park or the Strawberry Hill Resorts for a breathtaking view. Try the famous Jamaican coffee that is grown here.
2. Devon House – One of Jamaica’s most famous historical sites. It belonged to the first black millionaire of the country. This beautiful Georgian-era mansion is now a museum. See the beautiful façade, artifacts, and the period furniture inside.
3. Port Royal – Presently the home of Fort Charles, it was one of the richest regions in the Caribbean. Listen to the stories of pirates and their colonial past. Sample the seafood.
4. Emancipation Park – Public park in Kingston opened in 2002, a day before Emancipation Day. The 6-acre park has many fountains and artworks. See the 11 feet Redemption Song sculpture of Bob Marley.
5. National Gallery – A public art museum opened in 1974. It is located in Kingston Mall and exhibits works by various international artists. Montego Bay has another branch of this museum.
6. National Heroes Park –This botanical garden is one of the largest in Kingston. It measures 50 acres. There are numerous monuments, as well as burial sites of cultural leaders, national heroes, and prime ministers.
7. Bob Marley Museum – A museum for the legendary reggae musician. This is also a former home of Marley. There was a failed murder attempt on Marley here in 1976. Take a tour of his home. Learn about his life and music.
8. Mavis Bank Coffee Factory – Some of the best mountain coffee you will find, available in the ‘Jablum’ brand. Drive-up a hill to visit the factory.
9. Hope Botanical Gardens – The Royal Botanical Gardens spread over 200 acres. The garden has many species of trees, flowers, and orchids, and attracts plenty of birds. Don’t miss the Cassia Siamea grove near the entrance. There are many lily ponds. Spot the National Flower of Jamaica – Hibiscus Elatus.
10. Lime Cay – Small island cay with beautiful beaches only 15 minutes from Port Royal by boat. It gets submerged in high tide. The cay is extremely popular with many locals and tourists visiting it during the weekends. Relax on the beach, swim, snorkel.
Kingston Travel Guide – Weather
|Month||Max/Min (Celsius)||Rainfall (Days)|
Best Time to Visit Kingston
The weather in Kingston is humid almost throughout the year. The hottest months are June, July, and August. January, February, and April are comparatively drier.
- The best time to visit Kingston is between March and April. It will be still hot but there will be more sunny days this time of the year. However, the room prices will be higher.
- For lower room rates, try May. It may be around $15 cheaper.
- Other good times are during the Independence week, which is July 29th to August 14th, and during the Christmas week.
May and December are the busiest months in Kingston.
Kingston Travel Guide – Tips For First Time Visitors
1. Try the food – Famous Jamaican foods like jerk chicken, ackee & salt fish, and patties are a must-try. Yes, it can be spicy, but you must still have it.
2. Seafood – Make sure that you have only local seafood. Many hotels will prepare seafood that is not local, such as tiger prawns and salmon to please their guests. Imported food won’t be fresh. Locally, you will get grouper, mackerel, shrimp, mahi-mahi, and snapper. Lobster is available between March and July. Try the shacks beside the beach. They are not fancy places but prepare some of the best seafood you will find.
3. Avoid walking too much – Kingston is not a very walking-friendly city. You will find everything spread out. Plus, some areas may not also be safe.
4. The carnival – Remember, the carnival is in the month of April here. Jamaica prefers the celebrations to stand out from elsewhere in the world.
5. Money – Jamaican dollar is the local currency, but the US dollar is accepted widely. Many places will also accept credit cards. But check with your bank first regarding the foreign currency fees.
6. Driving – Left side driving. Jamaica is a former colony of Britain.
7. Safety – Stay safe. Keep your possessions close to your body. Don’t travel with your passport or important documents. Only a photocopy. Use a theft-proof backpack or carry it in front. Have someone watch your things at the beach when you have gone for a swim.
8. Use mosquito spray – These little bugs can be a problem, especially after dark. Use a spray.
9. Punctuality – The locals are laid-back people. The popular saying is ‘irie’ and ‘ya mon’, which means ‘everything is ok’. Kingston’s laid-back vibe gives you a vacation spirit, but you will be disappointed if you are expecting punctuality. Restaurants may be slow in taking orders. Tour groups will sometimes depart later. Embrace Jamaica’s slower pace.