Jamaica: say the word and it conjures the sweet sound of reggae, taken in with a splash of rum on a white sandy beach. You will indeed find these things on this vibrant Caribbean jewel, but there’s much more to it than that.
So if you’re going to head to Jamaica for the cultural experience, try staying off of the resorts and submerge yourself in the culture. For example, there are many beachhouse and villas in Jamaica to rent, and these offer an excellent alternative to those crowded resorts that dot the country’s coastline.
Jamaican Cultural Events
Each year, Jamaica’s calendar is filled with colorful festivals that celebrate its unique cultural heritage. For a truly unforgettable experience, try and plan your next island trip around one of these events, broken down here into the general categories of culture, music, and food.
As happens throughout the Caribbean, Carnival tears through the whole island of Jamaica each year in the week leading up to Easter. It’s easily one of the highlights of the year: everywhere you go, there are costumed street parades, live music, and all sorts of entertainment.
Accompong Maroon Festival
Held each year on January 6, this festival commemorates the birthday of Captain Cudjoe, the man credited with defeating the English army. It is a celebration of Maroon culture and history, with traditional music, dance, great food, and playing of the Abeng horn and war drums.
National Festival of the Arts
This dazzling artistic showcase runs throughout the summer until Jamaican Independence Day. There are local arts and crafts available for sale, and competitions showcase indigenous music and dance, theater, painting, sculpture, and food.
Jamaican Music Festivals
Jamaica is probably known more for its music than any thing else. It’s no surprise, then, that this island nation boasts its fair share music festivals.
International Reggae Day
This massive festival is typically celebrated in July, showcasing local artists as well as holding a talent search, workshops, and a lecture on the life of reggae icon Bob Marley. Its main concert is broadcast live all over the world via satellite and the Internet.
The Rebel Salute Music Festival
Each January, this one-night roots reggae festival features major artists such as Jimmy Cliff, Buju Banton, and Ziggy Marley. The event draws a major international crowd, and is unique in not allowing onsite consumption of alcohol, drugs or meat.
Traditional African music and culture are honored each year in Montego Bay at Africa Jamfest. Showcasing African influence on Caribbean fashion, arts, and especially music, Jamfest features a mix of traditional and contemporary artists from genres like soca, zouk, reggae and hip hop.
Jamaican Food Festivals
The Trelawny Yam Festival
Albert Town’s main square celebrates the yam every year on Easter Monday. There are samples of various yam dishes as well as local entertainment, all honoring this humble and delicious root.
The All-Jamaican Grill-Off
Local grill masters take their craft very seriously, and each year in June they meet at Kingston’s Hope Gardens to compete head to head. Bring your appetite!
More Than Just Beaches
As you can see, there’s much more beyond the pearly white shores of this island paradise. Keep this in mind if you’re planning a trip, and you’ll be rewarded with a rich cultural experience.
This mindset also applies to where you choose to stay. Many who travel to the Caribbean never venture beyond the crafted walls of their all-inclusive resorts, and it’s nice to know there are options for those seeking a little more. So go ahead, do it your way!