Backpacking in Jamaica on a Gap Year

Countries  »  Jamaica

Welcome to Jamaica, a Caribbean country bursting with catchy music, colourful culture, lush landscapes, and delicious food! While Jamaica is mostly remembered as the home of the late, great Bob Marley and the origin of jerk chicken, it also holds potential for so many more adventures.

Should you choose to go backpacking, you’ll have the opportunity to experience the breathtaking beauty of the Reach Falls, explore the vibrant art scene in Lifeyard, and even embrace your inner animal lover by feeding hummingbirds at the Rocklands Bird Feeding Station. There’s no shortage of excitement and novelty to be had in a place like Jamaica!

Although it’s unlikely that you’ll have any problems, some areas within Jamaica have been known to have high crime rates, so make sure to follow government advice and take safety precautions when traveling.

Cities in Jamaica

Kingston, which encompasses much of Jamaica’s economy and culture, is a vital part of any gap year in Jamaica. Composed of two opposing halves—a historic Downtown and a stunningly modern Uptown, Kingston represents the full picture of Jamaica’s past and present. Kingston hosts the National Gallery of Jamaica, whose art captures not only the creativity of the nation, but also the entirety of its history, from slavery under the British and up through the modern, realist, and abstract styles of contemporary artists. If you’re not much of a visual art lover, the Trench Town Culture Yard is a historic spot for all music lovers. It’s been home to artists like Bob Marley and served as a party destination for the Rolling Stones. In addition, it’s often credited as the birthplace of genres like ska, reggae, and rocksteady.

Negril’s famous Seven Mile Beach is a buzzing center of bars, restaurants, and water sports. Although it’s actually only four miles long, the Seven Mile Beach is still beautiful and is a great stop for a night out. Montego Bay is also a great destination, home to the Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest, Jamaica’s largest reggae festival, as well as Houseboat Grill, a restaurant located on a converted houseboat, known to serve up an ever-changing, deliciously innovative fusion menu.

Countryside in Jamaica

Away from the city, Jamaica’s south coast and central highlands serve as a secluded respite from the clamor of the main beaches and attractions. Treasure Beach, located along Jamaica’s south coast, offers a resort-free environment that provides a laid-back, bohemian atmosphere that refuses the intensity and noise of the tourist areas. Unlike other Jamaican beaches, Treasure Beach is shielded from rain for most of the year, creating a more desert-like terrain, defined by rocky shorelines and private coves.

Lover’s Leap, where the Santa Cruz Mountains take a 500m dive into the ocean, is a perfect photo-taking opportunity, especially around sunset. For years, the site has been surrounded by a tragically romantic myth of star-crossed lovers, jumping to their deaths to escape separation. If you’re feeling brave, there’s a long trail that leads down to the beautiful, but rocky, Cutlass Bay down below.

Top Experiences in Jamaica

Blue Mountain Peak

The highest point of Blue Mountain Peak reaches 2256m above sea level, offering hikers a scenic view of Kingston, the north Jamaican coast, and Cuba (if it’s clear). Some of the towns surrounding Blue Mountain Peak, namely Hagley Gap and Mavis Banks, are famous for their coffee, and if you need a break from climbing, or just a little pick-me-up, you can stop for a tour of their plantations.

Bob Marley Museum

What’s a visit to Jamaica without paying homage to reggae king Bob Marley? On Kingston’s Hope Road, you can find Marley’s former home, now converted into a museum, complete with displays of his gold and platinum records, as well as his favorite star-shaped guitar. An hour-long tour will take you through the whole house, providing new perspectives and details on Marley’s life and legacy.

Rafting the Rio Grande

The Rio Grande River, located in Portland, is known as a peaceful break away from the city. For either a couple of hours or a full day, you can raft your way down the river with a guide. If you’re hungry or thirsty, there are floating concessions rafts, as well as a restaurant located along the way to buy food and drink. Make sure to bring a camera, as this is noted by many as an incredibly scenic and tranquil way to spend the day!

Greenwood Great House

Built in 1800, this preserved plantation house managed to survive a slave rebellion, and now serves as a historical site that gives great insight into the brutal history of slavery in Jamaica. Many of the original furnishings of the house are still present, and offer you an immersive look at Jamaica’s past.


Jamaica’s waters are famous not just for their crystalline beauty, but also for the wide variety of marine life they hold. Many of the most popular sites to find colourful creatures include Montego Bay, Coyaba Reef, and Doctor’s Cave Beach. Many accommodations, dive shops and private companies offer snorkeling opportunities, including tours and gear rentals. Make sure not to miss out on Jamaica’s warm waters and colorful underwater communities!