ONE: The Ganja
If you're reading this I assume you follow me on Instagram and therefore I assume you smoke weed, so I'll get right to the point. There's no shortage of cannabis! Jamaica is one place in the world where you don't need to arrange a link before you get there. You will be offered ganja as soon as you get off the plane, but don't buy that airport shit. It might look good, but it's going to be exponentially more expensive! Ask your driver or someone at your hotel where you can find weed and they will direct you to someone within minutes. There's a huge range of quality so make sure you smell and look at it before you buy. It might not be as kushy as you're used to, there's a lot more sativa-dominant genetics there but you can always find nice hash if you're looking for a more indica effect. Due to the high humidity and lack of resources to properly dry & cure the bud, most of what you'll find is much more fresh & sticky than is sold elsewhere in the world. Because of this, it can be tricky to break up & it might not smoke that well, so make sure you store it in a cool, dark place & try to dry it out as much as possible. Even a few days of curing will make a difference. I would highly recommend bringing a brand new grinder (no residue when crossing borders is key!) or even a little cheap little coffee grinder to make your weed smoking much easier given the humidity and freshness of the bud.
Also, depending where you are, you might see a few signs asking you not to smoke, but for the most part it’s tolerated if not encouraged. You will smell the sweet smell of ganja everywhere you go & as long as you're respectful, you can light up in most places outdoors and even some bars & restaurants. It's glorious.
TWO: The people
So many beautiful, smiling, people! Everyone is super friendly & helpful and I didn’t encounter any rude Jamaicans the whole week! Of course, it's in their best interest to be nice to tourists as it's one of their main industries, but it's more than that. We met so many genuinely kind people & could feel the true sense of community in a way that I don’t always feel here in the city. People seemed to know all of their neighbors and there was a deep sense of kinship between them. Most people we passed on the street made eye contact, nodded, and said hello. It’ such a simple thing but I enjoy that fleeting moment when you greet a stranger and share a smile as you pass each other going in opposite directions. It’s a beautiful human experience that so many people miss out on.
THREE: The vibe
It's hard to describe, but the laid back, chill vibes are almost palpable. There’s a still, quiet, peace in the air. The term "island time" applies to islands all over the world, but Jamaica embodies it. Everything gets done at a relaxed pace, for better or worse. There’s no point in getting upset if your food takes forever to come or if your shuttle is late, just kick back, take a deep breath and know that it'll happen eventually. Freaking out won't make it go faster, in fact you'll probably just needlessly have a bad time. Get into the spirit of the island and relax. Soon come.
FOUR: The music
Everywhere you go in Jamaica, you hear reggae music. Loud. Sound systems fade in and out as you drive down the road, even in the countryside, and there are few places you can go where you don’t hear at least faint bass booming in the distance. Reggae is truly the soundtrack to Jamaica & it helps maintain the irie vibes.
FIVE: The food
Oh, the food. We didn’t have a single bad meal. Even the tiniest shack on the beach or side of the road cooked up the juiciest Jerk Chicken you've ever had, usually for about $5 USD per portion. For a few dollars more you can usually get a selection of sides, which are all UNREAL! Be adventurous and try as many local dishes from independent restaurants as possible - I bet you will be impressed with the quality, freshness, & flavors! Jamaican food is known to be spicy but it doesn’t have to be, there are plenty of mild options if you can’t handle the heat!
SIX: The Beauty
As a photographer and lover of beauty, I couldn't help but be fall in love with the colors of Jamaica. The roads are lined with lush, green, jungle & dotted with vibrant tropical flowers & brightly painted buildings. I wish I had taken more photos of the colorful houses, but I have no shortage of the crazy flowers!
SEVEN: The Sun
As a Canadian who is cold over six months of the year, the Jamaican sun deserves a shout out. Be warned it is hot as actual fuck and you will burn in no time, so don't hold back with the sunscreen. Trust me! Just look at my back!
There were also stunning sunsets every night & the stars were incredible!
EIGHT: The Cost
I know affordable is relative, not everyone can afford a week away but if you can save a $100 US per month for the next year you could enjoy a week in Paradise next Spring. From North America you can get pretty cheap flights, especially if you book in advance. For example, if you're in the Toronto area you can fly on the new Budget Airline swoop from Hamilton for $300 round trip. Even on a standard Airline you can usually find tickets for about $500 Canadian round trip. Before swoop you couldn't even fly across Canada for this price so Jamaica is a hell of a deal. Once you get there I'm not going to say it's cheap. Most things are priced in us or Jamaican dollars and I would say the prices of things are comparable to here. That said you absolutely could do Jamaica on a budget, if you're down for amazing jerk chicken cooked on the side of the road or on the beach you can get it for about $5 a generous portion & beautiful, fresh, tropical fruit is also plentiful at a fraction of the price we pay here.. and its SO MUCH BETTER. There is also plenty of opportunity to ball out if you have money to spend. I recently talked to a woman who spent $1,200 a night on her hotel but I'm pretty sure we had a better time for a fraction of the price and actually got a more authentic experience of the culture and Country.
NINE: The Options
You can pretty much have any kind of vacation you want in Jamaica - it’s all there. This was actually my second trip and it was a totally different experience than the first. You could pick anywhere & just lay on the beach, smoke weed, read books, & just soak it all in. There are also countless activities & attractions all over the island, so no matter where you stay you could pack your trip full of adventures. If you're looking to party you’ll probably want to check out Ocho Rios or Negril’s Seven Mile Beach - this is where I went the first time and it was full of tourists but also a really fun vibe with lots of late nights of partying every single night. Of course you don't have to participate in that every night but if you're going there don't complain about the noise & party vibes! This trip we went to Treasure Beach, on the Southwest coast and it was one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever visited. I’ve heard from many people that Kingston is a beautiful & lively city, full of live music & culture. Previous to this trip I would have never considered going there as most of what I’ve seen of the city is that it’s dangerous.. but now I understand that it’s a whole big, vibrant city with safe parts & not safe parts - just like any other city with a thriving underground drug trade. I mean, you wouldn’t land in Toronto and drive straight into tent city just to check it out, and it’s obviously not recommended to wander through Kingston’s slums. Just because these areas exist doesn’t mean the whole city is unsafe as long as you do your research, take safety precautions, and ideally find a local guide that you can trust to show you around or travel with you through any potentially dangerous areas. All of that said, I truly felt very safe throughout the whole trip.
TEN: Bob Marley
If you're a fan of Bob Marley I guarantee you will have a deeper appreciation for him after visiting Jamaica. There is a Bob Marley Museum that you can visit, I have not been there but I believe it is a few hours drive inland from Ocho Rios. Even without visiting the museum you will feel the spirit of Bob Marley all over the island. He truly is a National Treasure and it is amazing to think of the impact he has had all over the world, bringing the Rastafari culture to the mainstream. It is clear that he his music and legacy are a source of pride for the Jamaican people.