The best things to do in Kingston, Jamaica, a vibrant city with very few tourists!
Jamaica is a beautiful island nation in the Caribbean Sea, and Kingston is its capital city.
Though it’s the biggest city in Jamaica, Kingston is actually not very popular among tourists. Most travelers flock to the coastal cities of Montego Bay, Negril, or Ocho Rios.
I was attending my best friend’s wedding in Ocho Rios, and the most affordable flight I could find brought us into Kingston.
So we decided to spend a couple of days experiencing Kingston before heading up to our lavish beach resort on Jamaica’s north coast.
After a few days there, I have mixed reviews about Kingston, but I still wanted to write a post about it!
There are lots of fun things to do in Kingston, Jamaica, and it is worth checking out this city to see a more authentic side of the country.
I definitely felt like we were seeing the real Jamaica in Kingston, especially after spending some time at a resort afterward.
There is some delicious, authentic food, some cool landmarks, and the people are super nice and friendly.
But remember, Kingston is a big city in a developing country. It’s busy, loud, hot, and honestly, not that scenic.
As an outdoorsy traveler who loves nature, I didn’t love hanging out in Kingston and I definitely preferred being by the coast in Jamaica.
But there are some worthwhile things to do in Kingston and I’m happy I got to see Jamaica’s so called Cultural Capital.
15 Best Things To Do In Kingston, Jamaica
Here are the top things to do in Kingston, the capital city of Jamaica!
From eating local Jamaican food to checking out the top tourist attractions and museums, there are some fun ways to pass the time in Kingston.
1. Visit the National Gallery of Jamaica
Established in 1974 and located in the Kingston Mall, this public art museum is a great place to learn about the history, art, and culture of Jamaica.
Full of Jamaican and surrounding Caribbean art of both past and present, the National Gallery of Jamaica is a must-see for art lovers.
This gallery is even the largest and oldest art museum in the English-speaking Caribbean area!
- Address: Block 3, Kingston Mall, 12 Ocean Blvd, Kingston, Jamaica
- Hours: 10am – 4pm, closed Sunday and Monday
- Cost: 400 Jamaican Dollars (around 3 USD)
2. Venture To A Waterfall
The metropolis of Kingston is surrounded by forests, mountains, and waterfalls. So one of the best things to do in Kingston is head out of the city and see a waterfall!
There are lots of gorgeous cascades where you can swim and escape the Jamaican heat.
Cane River Falls, Falling Edge Waterfalls, and Cascade Falls are all relatively close to Kingston. But most waterfalls aren’t reachable by public transport.
You’ll have to either hire a car, travel with a local, or book a tour to visit most of the waterfalls near Kingston.
For example, Get Your Guide has a guided tour to Reach Falls from Kingston!
3. Tour the Bob Marley Museum
The Bob Marley Museum is probably the #1 attraction in Kingston. If you search for any lists of the best things to do in Kingston, this iconic museum most likely tops the list!
Located at Bob Marley’s former house, this interactive museum outlines and celebrates the life, career, and impact of the world’s most famous reggae musician.
There are a few things to see and do on the grounds of the Bob Marley Museum.
Step inside the home of Bob Marley, visit the gift shop, grab a drink at One Love Cafe, venture into the theatre and photo gallery, and admire the colorful murals and art.
- Address: 56 Hope Road, Kingston
- Hours: 10am – 4pm, Closed Sundays
- Cost: $25 for a tour, free to just walk around
4. Explore Hope Botanical Gardens
The Hope Botanical Gardens are a beautiful oasis of greenery in the big city. This garden is actually the biggest green space in Kingston!
In the 200 acres of land here, visitors can stroll through the landscaped gardens and relax or picnic in the shade.
There are also cool botanical collections where you can view native plants and flowers.
The Hope Zoo is right next to the Hope Botanical Gardens as well if you’re interested!
- Address: 231 Old Hope Road, Kingston, Jamaica
- Hours: 6am – 6pm
- Cost: Free
5. Go Hiking In The Blue Mountains
One of the best day trips from Kingston is venturing into the Blue Mountains.
This lush mountain range is located just east of the city. Because I love nature and hiking, I was so excited to tour the Blue Mountains with a local tour company.
Unfortunately, we learned the morning of our day trip that the tour was cancelled because not enough people from Kingston signed up!
I was super bummed, and this is part of the reason why I didn’t have the best time in Kingston.
BUT, for those who do get to visit, I’ve heard it’s a truly gorgeous part of Jamaica.
You can hike, bike, swim in waterfalls, tour coffee farms, and more. You can even wake up early to hike the Blue Mountain Peak at sunrise if you’re up for it!
6. Visit Coronation Market
Many international cities have their own central market hall. This is a place where locals come together to buy and sell produce and other goods.
Kingston is no exception!
Coronation Market is the largest market in Jamaica. It’s also the oldest market in the English-speaking Caribbean.
This bustling market hall is super busy and crowded, but it’s the best place to mingle with Jamaicans, buy some cheap produce, and taste local foods.
- Address: X6F2+2M9, Pechon St, Kingston, Jamaica
- Hours: 5:30am – 7pm, Closed Sundays
7. Explore Devon House
Another one of the best Kingston tourist attractions is Devon House.
This 19th Century mansion is the former residence of Jamaica’s first black millionaire, George Stiebel.
The building itself is majestic and surrounded by landscaped gardens, cafes, shops, and the famous Devon House Bakery.
Visit the Devon House website for more info about tours and attractions.
8. Get An Ice Cream At Devon House
Around the back of the Devon House mansion is another iconic Kingston spot: Devon House I-Scream.
This ice cream shop is often ranked as one of the best in the world. Our local Airbnb hosts raved about it as well, so of course we had to stop in.
After sightseeing in the hot Jamaican air, ice cream from Devon House felt like heaven.
But be prepared – it’s expensive! Matt and I each ordered a cup with two scoops and it cost 2599 Jamaican Dollars which is almost 20 USD.
9. Visit The Beach
Though Kingston is not the first place you’d go for a beach vacation in Jamaica, the city does have some nice beaches on its outskirts.
Fort Clarence Beach, Hellshire Beach, and Waves Beach are some of the nicest beaches for swimming.
Or you can take a 15-minute boat ride from Port Royal to the little sand island that hosts Lime Cay. This is one of Jamaica’s most beautiful beaches, with pristine white sand and turquoise water.
10. See Emancipation Park
Another popular landmark in Kingston is Emancipation Park.
This public park in New Kingston is a free green space with paths for running or jogging. There are also various fountains, statues, and sports facilities.
Redemption Song is the famous statue in the middle of Emancipation Park.
This giant bronze sculpture of a naked male and named female symbolizes the Jamaican people’s triumph over slavery. It’s a majestic sight!
11. Try The Local Foods
Jamaican cuisine is world-famous, so definitely indulge in some local delicacies while visiting Kingston.
Jerk chicken is a classic dish which you can find at most local restaurants, as is ackee and saltfish.
Sweetwood Jerk Joint near Emancipation Park is one of the top places to try some famous Jamaican jerk chicken.
Jamaicans also love patties, which are flaky, yellow, savory pastries filled with spices and meat or seafood.
Patties are a popular take away snack, with lobster patties and curry goat patties being the most popular flavors.
12. Experience The Nightlife and Music
As the birthplace of reggae music, Jamaica has a wide variety of fun venues to go out at night, party, and listen to music.
If you’re a fan of nightlife, indulge in the vibrant atmosphere of Kingston at night.
Dub Club and Fiction are two of Kingston’s most popular nightclubs. Stone Love HQ hosts fun events and dance parties all throughout the week.
Redbones Blues Cafe is another great place to hear live music.
13. Go Surfing in Bull Bay
Jamaica is also not super popular for surfing, but there is a cool surf spot just east of Kingston’s International Airport.
Bull Bay is a pretty remote and rugged location, but it’s one of the best places to surf in Jamaica.
I wouldn’t even have known about it if my boyfriend wasn’t so obsessed with surfing.
While in Kingston, he found this place through Youtube videos. We wish we had the time to get out there!
But if you do want to escape the crowds and surf uncrowded waves with some Jamaicans, head to Jamnesia Surf Club in Bull Bay.
14. Get To Know Some Locals
One of the main things you’ll take away from a visit to Jamaica is the kindness of the locals.
Tourists often avoid Kingston because they think it’s dangerous, but I never felt unsafe in Kingston and every person we talked to was extremely polite and friendly.
We stayed in a local home in New Kingston which we found on Airbnb.
Our host picked us up from the airport and told us all about the local way of life in Kingston. We also spent some time sitting on the front porch and chatting with our host’s brother and mother.
The chance to bond with locals was one of my favorite things about staying in Kingston.
15. Tour A Coffee Farm
Jamaica’s Blue Mountains are known for having some of the best coffee in the world.
I was so pumped to visit a coffee farm during our day trip to the Blue Mountains (the one that was unfortunately cancelled).
But if you have the chance to head into the mountains and taste some authentic coffee, do it!
I tried Blue Mountain coffee elsewhere in Jamaica and it was delicious.
Lime Tree Farm, Craighton Estate, Devon’s Coffee Tour and Ranch, Wallenford Coffee Farm, and Old Tavern Coffee Estate are some of the most popular coffee farms.
Read next: 50 Budget Travel Tips
Thanks for reading my list of the best things to do in Kingston, Jamaica!
Jamaica is a beautiful country. Even though I personally didn’t love hanging out in the city, I was glad I got to see the local side of Jamaica.
Not many tourists visit Kingston, and it’s not the most visually appealing city I’ve ever been to.
But the people are so nice, and there is some delicious food and cool landmarks to discover.
Just embrace the city vibes, plan your transport and tours well in advance to ensure they don’t get cancelled, and have fun!
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