Rosheda Stephenson calls NYC and the Caribbean home. Her travel articles are meant to inspire passion, adventure and curiosity.
Ode to the Jamaican Beach
When I think of Jamaica, the first thing I think of are the extraordinary beaches on the island.
Quick confession: not only am I a beach junkie, I also grew up in Jamaica so forgive me in advance for any overexcitement in this article. I have yet to find a beach that I do not like. From the cold beaches of America's northeastern Atlantic coast to the pebbled beaches of the Philippines, if its a beach and its clean, chances are I will enjoy it.
But Jamaica's beaches are different. In Jamaica, the beach is more than a beach. It has a life of its own. It's a place where the island's culture is intertwined with the physical beach. It's the warmest, clearest, blue water lapping at fine white sand; passionate conversations conducted in the fast patois of the Jamaican people; the equally fast-paced reggae in the background. In one word, it's magic.
This list of the best beaches in Jamaica is based on more than natural beauty. The beaches on this list are the ones that have distinguishing features or atmospheres that elevate them into the extraordinary. A certain je n'ais se quoi if you will. Touches that make the physical beach seem more magical and out of the ordinary.
1. Frenchman's Cove Beach
Frenchman's Cove Beach must have followed the blueprint to paradise. With white sand so fine one could easily mistake it for powder and truly turquoise water, the beach has all the traditional elements beautiful beaches have. However unlike other pretty beaches, Frenchman's Cove is blessed with a rainforest enclosed river that flows slowly into the ocean to form an exquisite mix of fresh and salt water that bathers find invigorating.
Since the river flows right into the ocean, many beachgoers float leisurely down the cool water anticipating the moment when the cool water will meet the warm ocean for a rare experience. Those who want to make like Tarzan, can climb the swings that hang over the river and swing carefreely while trying to spot the elusive source of the melodic chirps coming from the trees. The lucky ones sometimes spot rainbow hued birds or winged species only found in Jamaica.
The magic of Frenchman's Cove is the feel of two experiences in one. After one has explored the river and its tangles of wild rainforest, then it's on to a beach that is immaculate and perfectly beautiful. The powder fine beach is spotted with stocky palm trees that provide shade for those gazing out at an ocean the most vivid shade of turquoise ever created. Speaking of the ocean, Frenchman's Cove is distinct among beaches in Jamaica because of its two dramatic peninsulas that jut into the ocean on both sides as if intentionally making a picture frame for the sea.
The rainforest enclosed river, the powder sand, the green palm trees and the gorgeous blue ocean all combine to make a beach so exotic that for decades Frenchman's Cove has been the go to beach for Hollywood producers seeking an exotic beach setting for a project. It's been featured in movies like Knight and Day (2010 blockbuster starring Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise), Lord of the Flies and The Mighty Quinn. For its exquisite beauty, Frenchman's Cove ranks first on my list.
Frenchman's Cove is in Portland on Jamaica's eastern coast. A trip from Montego Bay will take upwards of three hours. Tours can also be arranged through most hotels.
2. Dunn's River Falls and Beach
Dunn's River Falls and Beach, located in the town of Ocho Rios is a must for any one who truly loves nature. Dunn's River is more than just a beach. This is a beach that is popular worldwide for the grand waterfall that forms part of the beach and flows into the ocean. Now, I don't mean a small, cute man-made waterfall like many resorts have. The waterfalls at Dunn's River are a whopping 180 feet high feat of nature that flow over limestone rock to meet a cerulean ocean down below.
As if the presence of a picturesque waterfall isn't magical enough, visitors to this beach get to actually explore the waterfalls by joining guided hikes up into the waterfall. A hike takes you past naturally formed cool pools before encountering the more powerful sections of the waterfall.
The beach itself is a pretty brown sanded strip of sand along a coast with water that remains pretty calm and attracts many local families on the weekend.
For its unique natural waterfall and local vibes, Dunn's River is number two on my list.
3. Negril's Seven Mile Beach
Negril's Seven Miles Beach always finds a place on Best Beaches in the World lists*. With a five mile stretch of white sand, glistening turquoise waters, superb watersports and amazing sunsets, this is truly a beach for everyone -from the romantic to the freespirit. Negril is where the freespirit can hop from thatch bar to thatch bar and just enjoy the laid back vibe of Jamaica.This is also the beach where the adventurous can scuba dive or indulge their most extreme need for watersports. For the romantic, Negril offers the most beautiful sunsets. Fiery shades of red, orange and pink cast a romantic spell on the whole area come evening. Negril's sunsets are legendary and a must for anyone visiting Jamaica.
While Negril can be enjoyed by everyone, true beach bums will especially appreciate the beach culture that prevails. In Negril, it's all about the beach and nothing else. In fact, the beach never closes. So what if it's midnight and every other beach is closed? Put on your dancing shoes for night-time is when Negril really shines.
Under the clear, starry Caribbean sky Negril comes alive with live reggae music and nightly parties. If you have never danced to live music, sand between your toes, the sound of the waves crashing on the shore and a Jamaican Red Stripe beer in hand, then you've never experienced perfect bliss. Negril may just be the place to start. For its great atmosphere, and inimitable entertainment while maintaining its relaxed vibe, Negril rates third on my list.
Negril is an easy hour's drive away from Montego Bay and is easily accessible from almost anywhere in the island.
4. Treasure Beach
I thought long and hard about including this treasure on my list: not for any sordid reasons other than Treasure Beach is one of those places that those who know like to keep to themselves.
Located in a hard to reach rural town on Jamaica's south coast, the beach is a wide expanse of untouched coastline that isn't surrounded by many hotels or tourist attractions. The result is an untouched, rugged beach so quiet that it isn't unusual to see dolphins swimming close to the shore confidently and without care. This is the only beach in Jamaica that I have fallen asleep on, and woken up to see a pod of Dolphins just going slowly by. In an island where many of the beaches have become crowded tourist attractions, Treasure Beach's unspoilt feel and secluded location make it one of the best beaches in Jamaica
Since the beach is located in a rural part of Jamaica, expect to get a rare glimpse of Jamaican culture. Some parts of the beach are popular with local fishermen, while other parts are frequented by a few local musicians who come to their little quiet piece of paradise to write music or just to reflect.
For the true beach lover who loves a secluded beach and unobstructed views of the ocean, this beach is a must. For these reasons, Treasure Beach ranks fourth on my list.
To get to Treasure Beach, be sure to enlist the help of your hotel as the beach can only be reached by an unmarked, pot holed road.
5. Doctor's Cave Beach
Doctor's Cave beach is Jamaica's oldest established beach, and one of its prettiest. With none of the frills of the other beaches mentioned before, Doctors Cave is the beach for the purist. Beautiful, with the clearest, bluest water imaginable, this is the beach to go to for a pure beach experience. With its calm, warm waters and the most perfect waves,this is the beach for swimming, and just sunbathing under the Caribbean sun.
Located in Montego Bay, the hub of Jamaica's tourist activities, Doctor's Cave beach boasts white sands and the calmest waters of all the beaches on this list. Another bonus to Doctor's Cave beach is the snorkeling on the reef, where beautiful tropical sea life is sure to please the snorkeler. Doctor's Cave beach also features two huge water trampolines that are sure to be a hit with children. Another great feature right on the beach, is a restaurant that will serve delicious foods and drinks right to you on the beach.
6. Walter Fletcher Beach
Also in Montego Bay, Walter Fletcher beach must be mentioned because of its amusements right on the beach. Go karts, waterslides and other family attractions make a day at the beach fun for those with kids. Owing to its kid friendly atmosphere. Walter Fletcher is popular with local families on weekends and holidays. This makes for a flavorful beach experience where passionate voices and good music energize the beautiful natural surroundings.
Walter Fletcher is located in the middle of Montego Bay.
The Caribbean is home to some of the most beautiful beaches imaginable. All have clear blue water and white sands or brown sand. The six beaches on this list have more than the traditional Caribbean beach has. They each have an extra magic touch that make them some of the best beaches in Jamaica and worth exploring.
* Ranked #17 on TripAdvisor's 2017 Travelers Choice Award Best 25 Beaches in the World ; Ranked #41 on CNN's Top 100 Beaches Around The World, 2013-2017
© 2009 Rosheda Stephenson
Patrick Beckford on April 23, 2018:
What’s your criteria for this?
Have you ever checked out the public beach ? I guess not cause all you list here are commercial.
Dunn’s river. - water cold, not clear and mostly for swimmers.
Doctors cave is private and not safe. I could go on, but this is not a good list IMO
Rosheda Stephenson (author) on March 12, 2016:
I am happy that someone appreciated Dunns River Falls and its great Jamaican food as much as I do.
eva on June 28, 2009:
Great to be reminded about the wonderful vacation possibilities in Jamaica, I can almost feel Dunns river cascading waterfalls descending on me. I also love the Jamaican foods. The ackee and saltfish with the roasted breadfruit and some Ice cold lemonade or some curry run down chicken served with white rice, potatoe salad and sour sop juice,I cannot forget the red peas soup cook down with coconut milk and having big chunks of pig's tail and corn beef, yeah mon.