Photo by Tomash Devenishek. cc

Photo by Tomash Devenishek. cc

“The official motto of Jamaica is ‘Out of many, one people,’” Lori-Ann Drecketts says, “and it is a nice saying, but it doesn’t capture real Jamaica. You want real? Then you say, ‘No problem, mon.’ If you are going to Jamaica, get that into your heart.”

A native of St. Captain, Jamaica, Drecketts laughs easily and goes with the flow. Most people cannot help but feel the same way when they visit the wide, noisy streets of Kingston or the pristine beaches of Montego Bay. Reggae music and a Caribbean breeze mix with the smell of jungle and frying fish as people call out to each other on the streets. Everyone lives to their own beat in Jamaica.

When most people imagine vacationing in Jamaica, they envision beautiful beaches—and for good reason. Jamaica’s white shores and gorgeous underwater scenery are as sun drenched, varied, and happy-go-lucky as the locals. But if you’re looking for Jamaica’s chill attitude, not just a beautiful beach, start exploring and you’ll discover that there’s a lot more than just salt water and sand.

Climb the Falls

Ocho Rios, near Dunn's River Falls, is a hot spot for Caribbean vacationers.

Ocho Rios, near Dunn’s River Falls, is a hot spot for Caribbean vacationers. Photo by Ricymar Photography. cc

Locals and tourists alike find reasons to wander inland—leaving the crystal-clear Caribbean sea behind them—to relax in Dunn’s River Falls. A natural staircase, the waterfall cascades down outcroppings of rock, roaring to the river below in the thick, steaming jungle of Ocho Rios. You might enjoy hiking the falls, which are an easy climb if you can find the rough, stable rocks with your toes. “Climb it barefoot,” Drecketts advises, “barefoot like the beach. Hiking Dunn’s Falls is like letting a liquid mountain fall on you.”

Fruit and Fish

Jamaica’s national dish, a combination of ackee (a fruit originating in East Africa) and fresh salt cod, is grilled with onions, tomatoes, and lots of spice—and then served with rice or dumplings. “Ackee,” says Drecketts, “is for your breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There is spice in Jamaican food, the way food is supposed to be.” When you try ackee and salt fish, you’ll find the taste of Jamaica.

Wake Up and Live

Jamaica’s music is a lot like its culture: easygoing. Reggae, child of the Jamaican 1960s, is part calypso, part jazz, part African, part R&B, and part everything else. The bass of a good reggae tune is the heartbeat of Jamaica.

Jamaican and international reggae artists congregate once a year for an enormous music festival called SumFest. Join thousands of people from around the world to dance on the beach, sing, and—as Bob Marley, father of reggae, recommended—“wake up and live.”

The beauty of Jamaica’s beaches, jungles, and waterfalls; the flavor of its food; and the music of its soul will leave you feeling, as Bob Marley would say, like “every little thing is gonna be all right.”

Full of flavor and passion, laughter and ease, Jamaica invites you to discover life through its rhythm, and if you stay for a while, you’ll say it right back: “No problem, mon.”

—Sarah Juchau