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Though justly famous for its beaches and its music, beautiful, brash Jamaica is so much more besides: turquoise seas and swaying palm trees, spectacular mountains and rivers, tumbling waterfalls and cactus-strewn savannah plains, and vibrant towns and cities make it a compelling spot for family holidays you'll never forget.
Travel up the coastline east of Port Antonio, where legendary beaches include Frenchmans Cove, Dragon Bay and the Blue Lagoon.
Climb up to Reach Falls, where your kids will have a ball scrambling through the hard, green cascade. If you're feeling fit, take them (with a guide) up into the rainforest afterwards.
Try the smaller, more bohemian area of Treasure Beach with its old fishing villages and abundant wildlife.
Explore Montego Bay Marine Park in a semi-submarine on an underwater tour or visit the Royal Palm Reserve, Negril's number one eco-tourism attraction, a natural habitat for 114 plant species and more than 300 animal species.
Introduce your children to reggae at any number of outdoor venues in Kingston. Visit the Bob Marley Museum to pay homage to the Hon. Robert Nesta Marley in his former Kingston home and recording studio, or plan a day-trip to Bob's birthplace and final resting place in Nine Mile village in the parish of St Ann.
Visit Reggae Explosion in the Island Village complex in Ocho Rios, owned by Chris Blackwell (founder of Island records). This evolving exhibit celebrates Jamaican music through images, videos and soundtracks from the 1950s to the present day, from ska through rock steady and reggae right up to dancehall, helped along by all-singing, all-dancing tour guides. Other entertainments on-site include a 30m waterslide, cinema and 12m-high stage overlooking the 'village green', which can hold up to 3000 people, beach sports, watersports, kayaking and boats and eateries for all ages.
Go to Hellshire beach, a quiet spot most of the week, with horse-riding and watersports on offer, but the place to come party with Jamaican families at weekends.
From fiery jerk meat to inventive seafood dishes and the ubiquitous rice and peas, the Jamaican diet is surprisingly varied. The Rasta preference for natural cooking means you can get good vegetarian food fairly easily. Snacks are good, too, especially the staples beef, vegetable or chicken patties, and there is a vast range of fresh fruit and vegetables.
The classic – and addictive – Jamaican breakfast is ackee fruit fried with saltfish cod), usually served with the delicious spinach-like callaloo, boiled green bananas and fried or boiled dumplings.
Outside Kingston and the north coast resorts, international eating options are limited, which may be an issue on family holidays with younger kids.
Jamaica enjoys its best weather during our winter. Family holidays in spring and summer will be cheaper but you'll need to be sure you and your kids can take the humidity.
Rainfall is highest in October when there is also a likelihood of hurricanes (book at the very last minute if you wish to travel at this time of year).
You can fly directly to Kingston or Montego Bay on a number of scheduled or charter airlines. Jamaica is just under 10hrs from the UK by plane, with a 5hr time difference – see our jetlag advice.
The cheapest hotel deals on Jamaica, including flights, start at around £500pppw at 2- and some 3-star hotels. Generally, expect family holidays to cost from £550 to £1,200 per adult for a week.
Expect to pay from only US$100/night for B&B accommodation (some including 2 meals) and £700–£4,500/wk for villas.
The most popular areas to stay on family holidays are Negril with its 11km sandy beach, Montego Bay, and Ocho Rios with its mountain backdrop and cascading waterfalls. Jamaica practically invented the all-inclusive resort, so it shouldn't be too much of surprise that there are many to choose from, although there are some good room-only options too.
Villas and B&Bs are also in abundance on the island. See also our feature Green Places to Stay: Americas.
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