Before you head to what the natives call “Jamrock”, you will need to know the truth about winter in Jamaica. Spoiler alert; it is still the jam.
While is a time for warm fires and days avoiding frostbite for some, for others it is the prime time to bust out of hibernation to get a solar recharge. For those not quite buying the below-freezing fairy tale, you’ll want to look to warmer locales. Jamaica is frequently rated as a top winter escape, but what is really happing in the West Indies in Winter?
The Truth About Winter In Jamaica
The truth about this alluring destination in the winter is that it is peaking in all the best ways. The truth about winter in Jamaica is the water and weather are in perfect sync, the harvests are at their most abundance making for the best seasonal menus, and although the beaches can be busy there are always secluded and off-the-beaten-track options to explore.
Seasonal preference is truly in the eye of the beholder. In the wintertime, that probably comes down to whether you are more of a hot toddy connoisseur or a rum punch professional. We’ll let you decide for yourself as we break things down by what the weather is doing, tourism trends, seasonal eats, and what Jamaican festivals are all like in the winter.
As a professional Caribbean beachgoer, I know exactly what paradise metrics need to be considered and I will provide all the hot details you need to know.
What You Need To Know About Winter in Jamaica
The months of December through February are considered to be the dry season in Jamaica. Rainfall is at its lowest and the rainy season in June and hurricane season in October are well behind.
The weather is at its coldest during this time and is a perfectly accomodating 82-84 °F. The nighttime sees a dip down in the low 70s making it perfect weather to keep the windows open and let the tropical breeze blow through.
One of the best features of winter in Jamaica is the access to the azure waters that surround it. In the winter months, the water temperature averages at a comfortable 82 °F which is probably why most people who get in, stay in!
Of course, with this kind of ideal weather and water temperature, the beaches can get crowded. The peak season begins in mid-December and runs through Spring Break in April.
If you can visit at the beginning of winter between November and mid-December you’ll find that the crowds have not quite arrived and you can still enjoy these ideal conditions.
If you do decide that you want to experience a Christmas in Jamaica, consider booking at least six months to a year out, because many people have the same image of a Montego Bay Christmas Day!
Below we have listed some of the best beaches to visit during this time to enjoy the powdery sands and tranquil seashores without the crowds.
Half Moon Bay Beach
This secluded stretch is perfect for swimming, kayaking, or taking a bamboo raft out to float and forget about the hustle of life back home. There is also a convenient little bar and restaurant that will keep you fueled because relaxing is hard work.
Half Moon Bay, not to be confused with the resort of the same name, is located on the west side of the island near the town of Orange Bay off of the A1 highway.
Long Bay Beach Park
This public park is beloved by locals for its shady respite areas and long stretches of sandy shores. It is known to be relatively empty on weekdays. There is also a lifeguard making it perfect for families.
It is located right next to Beaches Negril Resort and Spa.
An adventure with a big payoff, this is a short boat ride away from the mother island. This tiny island is home to some of the most spectacular coral viewing by snorkeling or diving and is a perfect picnic spot.
There are many options to get to Booby Island (or “Gilligan’s Island as it is known by locals) including a ferry, catamaran, or private small boat. Also available: a glass-bottom boat that allows you to check out the reef without even getting your hair wet!
Jamaica has a very distinct personality in that it combines multinational heritage making it truly unique from the other Caribbean Islands. Having been colonized by the British until 1962, it created a special blend of culture, traditions, and culinary specialties.
It is probably best known as the musical birthplace of dancehall and reggae as well as the sparkling crystal blue seashores. However, Jamaica is also home to the Blue Mountains, a strong coffee-growing culture, an incredible ecosystem that supports over 250 species of birds alone, and a rich art scene.
In 2021, there were a reported 1.6 million visitors who all wanted to check out the truth about winter in Jamaica themselves. An astonishing 90% of all tourists came from North America with Europeans and Latin Americans accounting for the other 10% of arrivals.
While the winter season is the busiest time of the year for tourism, there are many places to explore from shore to mountain that will still give you a feeling of seclusion year-round.
They say good things come to those who wait and the seasonal produce in Jamaica is definitely one of them.
There are several local Jamaican dishes that wait all year before the perfect time to harvest. Arriving in wintertime in Jamaica you will be as delighted as the locals to know that these specialties are finally available!
Ackee and saltfish are actually Jamaica’s national dish, so you better believe that when this fruit from the soapberry family arrives it’s a celebration. Similar to lychee fruit, Ackee is commonly paired with salted cod and served around the island between January and March.
Most citrus crops in Jamaica bear fruit from November to April. In Jamaica, this means grapefruit, oranges, and tangerines are a common part of dishes on winter menus. Also, be on the lookout for the ortanique – a cross between a tangerine and an orange!
If you are in Jamaica over Christmas, you will surely encounter these brown pulses also known as “pigeon peas”. They are often mixed with rice and you would be hard-pressed to attend a Christmas celebration without spotting them.
Like any good host and in the spirit of putting their best foot forward, Jamaica offers plenty to see and do during the winter months for visitors. Check out just a few options below.
Bob Marley Week
Bob Marley Week happens annually from February 1st to the 6th every year culminating in a celebration of Bob Marley’s birthday. What better way to experience Jamaica’s pride in their national hero than to celebrate the godfather of reggae and his contributions.
In the spirit of honoring the musical soundtrack that is Jamaica, the Rebel Salute music festival pays perfect homage to all things reggae and conscious music. This is a massive two-day festival that has been founded in 1994 by hometown reggae legend, Tony Rebel.
Each December, Negril hosts the Reggae Marathon. In the land of rhythm and vibes, you know this is no ordinary run. In addition to the long run, there are also 10K and half marathons offered. Even if you aren’t a runner, the vibes are contagious, the street food is on point, and the upbeat jams can’t be beaten.