Jamaica has a huge amount of choice when it comes to accommodation, including some of the world’s finest luxury hotels, but it’s extremely rare to find anywhere to stay for less than US$50 per night in the resorts (Treasure Beach and Port Antonio being notable exceptions), and you’ll usually pay triple that for anything approaching luxury. If you haven’t booked a flight package that includes accommodation, it’s worth reserving a room for your first night or two to save hassle on arrival, and to satisfy immigration requirements. The rates included in this guide are for the cheapest available double or twin room during the high season – normally mid-November to mid-April – but are liable to change. During the low season, rates often decrease by up to forty percent (though this is rare at the cheaper hotels), and proprietors may be more amenable to bargaining. Many of the all-inclusive hotels have a minimum-stay requirement – where this is the case, we have mentioned it in the text – and rates are quoted per person per night based on double occupancy. Although the law requires prices to be quoted in Jamaican dollars, most hotels give their rates in US dollars; payment can be made in either currency.
Finally note that hotels often add a service charge (up to fifteen percent) as well as a fifteen-percent government tax (GCT) to your bill; before you agree on anything, check whether taxes are included in quoted rates.
Jamaica has a handful of youth hostels (in Kingston, Treasure Beach and Montego Bay), which offer a combination of dorm and private rooms and basic facilities; expect to pay around US$20 for a dorm room, and upwards of US$40 for a private room. A step up from this are small, family-run guesthouses, most of which offer cheap and cheerful – but clean – fan-only rooms, with prices from US$50. Around US$150 is likely to get you a room in a small hotel with cable TV, a/c and on-site facilities like a pool, bar and restaurant; US$200 and upwards will see your options widen to chic, creatively-decorated boutique hotels and modern chain-style behemoths. In Jamaica’s most luxurious hotels, you can expect notable architectural design, lavish artwork in the rooms and lobby, impeccably dressed staff, excellent facilities and fabulous cuisine, with prices starting around US$250.
Jamaica was the birthplace of the all-inclusive hotel, where a single price (expect to pay upwards of US$270/night) covers your room, all meals, drinks and watersports too. Sandals (sandals.com) remains the largest and best known of the all-inclusive chains, with seven in Jamaica alone, while other popular Jamaican all-inclusive resorts include the boutiquey Couples (couples.com) chain and raunchy Hedonism (hedonism.com).
In recent years, several Spanish chains – including Riu (riujamaica.com), Grand Bahia Principe (bahia-principe.com), Iberostar (iberostar.com) and the Grand Palladium Jamaica (grandpalladiumjamaicaresort.com) – have constructed sprawling thousand-plus room properties on the north coast, offering a cheaper (prices start around US$110/night), if more generic, experience.
There are hundreds of villas available for visitors to rent throughout Jamaica, normally by the week. Ranging from small beachside chalets to grand mansions, these are typically self-catering places, often with maid service (occasionally with a cook and a security guard), and can make a reasonably priced alternative to hotels if you are travelling as a family or in a group, as well as offering a wonderful level of privacy. We’ve listed individual properties throughout the Guide, but the Jamaica Association of Villas and Apartments (JAVA), PO Box 298, Ocho Rios (1 800 845 527 6974 or 1 800 845 527 2508, villasinjamaica.com) represents three hundred or so places, and a quick internet search will turn up a host of other options.
Taking up huge chunks of pristine coastline and privatizing access to large sections of the island’s beautiful beaches, all-inclusives have taken a battering from critics questioning (primarily) their environmental impact and sustainability. In addition, their rock-bottom, hard to compete with rates make it hard for Jamaica to escape the image of a cheap holiday destination and subsequently, and perhaps most importantly, to increase the amount of money spent and spread beyond the resort walls. Nevertheless, for better or worse, it is undeniable that these all-inclusives have become one of the country’s largest employers and, as such, shouldn’t be overlooked for the vital role they play in the local economy.
On a side note, perhaps because of their reputation, some all-inclusives have started foundations that aim to contribute in positive ways to the local communities in which they operate. Most notable is the Sandals Foundation (sandalsfoundation.org), which has done some incredible work across the island in the areas of sports, education and health.