Kingston Jamaica is famous for being an exciting travel destination, but to discover the simple pleasures the Caribbean Island capital has to offer, read our insider’s guide.
The Island’s tourist hub, Visit Jamaica describes Kingston Jamaica as “a beautiful chaos waiting to be explored … and bursting at the seams with spectacular sights”. Famous for giving the world Bob Marley, sandy white beaches and jerk chicken, Kingston Jamaica is a thrilling travel destination. However, if you are looking for a slower paced, yet memorable trip, then Kingston can do that too, as Louise Chandler discovered on a recent seven-day trip to the capital.
Read on for five simple pleasures to add to your itinerary for a trip to Kingston Jamaica.
One: prepare to tantalise your taste buds
Jerk chicken, the spicy, marinated dish, is famously linked to Jamaica (and West Indian culture in general). You’ll see the jerk BBQ pits and the side of streets selling the popular meal, but the island offers much more when it comes to delicious food.
I learned that there is a strong culinary influence of Chinese cuisine. Many Kingston-based restaurant menus offer chicken teriyaki and sweet and sour variations of dishes and supermarkets have a large selection of traditional Chinese and Japanese ingredients such as sushi rice, soya sauce and wasabi.
But when we talk about Jamaican food, ‘Ackee and Saltfish’ is Jamaica’s national dish. Ackee is a savoury fruit that is often served as a brunch dish along with salt cod. To level up to a hearty breakfast, ackee and saltfish can be paired with fried dumpling, Bammy (fried cassava flatbread) and plantain as a large protein and carb plate full of tastes and textures to keep you going until lunchtime.
As a sunshine island, Kingston Jamaica encourages plentiful growth of sumptuous seasonal fruits like watermelon, plums, melons, and papaya. Avocados as big as my hand, ground foods like yam, breadfruit and green bananas that are starchy and nourishing in equal measure are regularly served too.
The Jamaican people are resourceful when it comes to cooking and nothing goes to waste. Lunch and dinner can include deliciously grilled fish, lobster, crab. Oxtail stew, curry goat. Escovitch Fish, a dish where fried fish is topped with spicy scotch bonnet peppers sauce and pickled vegetable medley, is a spicy taste of the sea.
I really enjoyed Jamaican Saltfish Fritters aka Stamp and Go that uses fresh flakes of fish. ‘Jamaican Festivals’ are a simple deep fried sweet dough that accompany many savoury dishes. For nutrition, Callaloo is a popular local staple green leafy vegetable that reminds me of spinach and kale. For a sweet treat, try sweet potato pudding – a thick wedge of cake that has mixed spices, vanilla, coconut milk and yes sweet potatoes.
Two: Move to the island’s musical history
Kingston Jamaica is an island famous for giving the world reggae king and icon Bob Marley, so be sure to visit the former home and recording studio of Marley at 56 Hope Road.
As you wander around the corridors, rooms and floors of the home made of wood, visitors can visualise how the great musician was inspired to record his final three albums at the residence.
However, the back catalogue and present talent of the island continues to be rich and varied, including ska, dancehall and lover’s rock. Delve into the archives for Dennis Brown, Jimmy Cliff, Gregory Issacs and Toots and the Maytals for raw vocals and storytelling. New talent such as Serani are sitting on the shoulders of past great talents to bring modern flair and vibes. Listen to songs such as Lockdown and West Indies by Koffee for her take on modern Jamaican life.
Three: Taste an award-winning ice cream
Bet you didn’t know that a world famous, award-winning ice cream brand started on the island?
While in Kingston Jamaica, you can forget famous names such as Ben and Jerrys or Haagen-Dazs ice cream. Devon House Ice Cream (spelt on the island as I Scream) is the 4th best place to eat ice cream in the world according to National Geographic in 2011.
You’ll find many locations on the island where the sweet treat is sold but try to visit the original Parlour on the grounds of Devon House in Kingston. The palatial place once belonged to Jamaica’s first Black millionaire. There is something special about eating Devon House ice cream and walking about the property’s gorgeous grounds. It is almost like a Sunday afternoon ritual for some locals.
Flavours include mango, guava, rum and raisin, blue mountain coffee and coconut. Perfect to cool you down on a warm day!
Four: Explore the mountains … and a beach
Kingston Jamaica presents different terrains and landscapes, perfect for keen explorers and hikers.
Be sure to check out the lush green forests and steep hills as well as the tranquil sandy beaches that feel like velvet under your feet.
Start with a venture up into the blue mountains which can be seen from wherever you are in Kingston Jamaica. Driving up the steep and winding narrow tarmac roads requires steady patience and calm but once you get to the top… the views are incredible.
Check out Cafe Blue in Irish Town St Andrew for refreshments in a serene forest setting in the heart of the mountains.
Okay, so not quite an off the beaten path option, but I couldn’t not visit the famous Negril Beach. You’ll be sure to find a tranquil spot in the seven-mile stretch of the beach to enjoy the shallow crystal-clear warm waters and the subtle aroma of sea salt. The horizon looks like a green screen view of perfection. The shoreline is dotted with green leafy palm trees that droop down low enough to provide shade in the 30-degree heat.
Five: Check out the city’s street art that tells stories
A great deal of artistic creativity can be found on the streets of Downtown Kingston. Take a leisurely stroll to experience immersive street art that tells a story about Jamaican history, heritage and social culture in vivid colours. You can feel the creative expressions and perspectives that give a voice to the people.
Next, head to the two expansive floors of the nearby National Art Gallery to explore the history and identity of the island. Visual images of slavery and colonial history explain how the early beginnings of the island. The contemporary art gives rich insight into the past and present scenarios of what makes Jamaica and its people unique.