Because most vacationers avoid renting cars for safety and cost reasons, guided tours with hotel pickup are popular options for exploring. Jamaica's size and slow interior roads mean that you can't expect to see the entire island on one trip; even full-day tours concentrate on one part of the island. Most tours are similar in both content and price. From Montego Bay, tours often include one of the area's plantation houses. Several Negril-based companies offer tours to Y.S. Falls on the South Coast. Tours from Ocho Rios might include top attractions such as Dunn's River Falls or Kingston. In almost all cases, you arrange the tour through your resort.
Most of the large resorts have tour desks where you can book a number of excursions and activities. Guided plantation and countryside visits are popular. Almost all tour operators will pick you up if you are staying at a large resort.
Croydon Plantation Tour. Tour the birthplace of the Jamaican hero Sam Sharpe, who led the rebellion that helped put an end to slavery on the island. The tour ($70), run on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, visits the plantation, an hour and a half from Montego Bay, where pineapples, sugarcane, and citrus fruits are grown in the foothills of the Catadupa mountains. Pickup is available from hotels around Montego Bay and the Grand Palladium Resort in Hanover. St. James. 876/979–8267; www.croydonplantation.com.
Glamour Destination Management. One of the island's large tour operators, this company offers a wide selection of guided visits to Rose Hall and Greenwood Great House. 1225 Providence Dr., Montego Bay, St. James. 876/953–3810; www.glamourtoursdmc.com.
Island Routes Caribbean Adventures. Run by Sandals, this company provides a host of luxury group and private guided tours (with certified partners) to guests and nonguests. Guests can book via the website or at an Island Routes tour desk at participating resorts. Queens Dr., Montego Bay, St. James. 888/768–8370; 888/429–5478; www.islandroutes.com.
John's Hall Adventure Tours. This company offers several tours, but the most popular is the City and Culture Tour, which takes visitors to the historic sites of Montego Bay, including churches and a school where guests can interact with the children. The tour then goes to John's Hall Plantation, a working farm around 15 minutes from Montego Bay where a huge variety of fruit is grown. Lunch is included. The City and Culture Tour runs on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. 26 Hobbs Ave., Montego Bay, St. James. 876/971–6958; 876/952–7218; 876/971–6938.
JUTA. The island's largest tour operator offers a great house tour and a rafting tour, as well as tours to other parts of the island like Black River, Negril, and Ocho Rios. 876/952–0813; www.jutatoursltd.com.
Falmouth Heritage Walks. This leisurely paced walk takes you through Falmouth’s commercial and residential streets while your guide shares the little-known history of the town and what made it a rich and significant port in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Your guide will also explain how the movement to abolish slavery was essentially founded in Falmouth when you visit the former home and grave of the famous abolitionist William Knibb. The full tour takes about 2 hours 15 minutes. Falmouth, Trelawny, Trelawny. 876/407–2245; www.falmouthheritagewalks.com. From $25.
Historic Trolley Tours. The easiest way to see the historic sites of Falmouth is on this covered trolley with a guide who offers a lively commentary about the town and its many historical buildings. The majority of these are Georgian in style and date to the 18th century. The one-hour tours leave regularly from inside the cruise port and include attractions such as Falmouth Court House, the market, Water Square, and several churches. Trams—though not motorized ones—were the mode of transport in Jamaica 300 years ago when Falmouth was in its heyday as a busy sugar port. Falmouth cruise port, Falmouth, Trelawny, Trelawny. 876/509–0454; www.falmouthtoursbytrolley.com. From $15.
Half-day and full-day tours can be arranged with many taxi drivers. Be sure to agree on a price before heading out on the tour.
Chukka Caribbean Zion Bus Tour. A country-style bus painted in bright colors travels inland to the village of Nine Mile and the simple house where Bob Marley was born and is now buried. The five-hour tour ($104, including lunch at a jerk stand) is for those 18 and older. Ocho Rios, St. Ann. 876/619–1441; 876/656–8026; 877/424–8552; chukka.com. $104 .
Jamaica Tours Limited. This operator offers several tours with stops that include gardens and Dunn's River Falls. 876/974–6447; www.jamaicatoursltd.com.
Along with hiking, birding, and river-rafting tours, guided sightseeing tours are a good way to get the lay of the land in Port Antonio, especially for first-time visitors.
Tours in Port Antonio. Joanna Hart leads an in-depth cultural and historical tour of the Port Antonio area, incorporating the history of the Maroons. Port Antonio, Portland. 876/859–3758; www.toursinportantonio.com.
Numerous operators offer tours of the Kingston area, as well as excursions into the Blue Mountains. Professional tour operators provide a valuable service, as neither destination is particularly suited to exploration without a guide. In Kingston, certain areas can be dangerous; an organized tour provides a measure of security. Think twice before roaming in the Blue Mountains, as roads are narrow or in poor condition and signs are few and far between.
Typical city tours include a city overview with stops at Devon House, the Bob Marley Museum, and Port Royal. Niche operators such as Olde Jamaica Tours provide theme tours, including a tour of churches and museums and one that visits the athletic grounds where Usain Bolt and other sprinters have trained.
Jam Venture Tours and Services. Jam Venture is a quality, full-service tour agency that offers travel arrangements, sightseeing and excursions, and incentive groups support. Northside Plaza, Suite 3A, Haughton Ave., Kingston, Kingston. 876/927–4736; http://preview12.awardspace.com/jamventuretours.com.
Jessa Tours, Ltd.. Tours visit the Bob Marley Museum, National Gallery, craft market, and other heritage sites. 19 Herb McKenley Dr., Kingston, Kingston. 876/978–2259; www.jessatours.com.
Olde Jamaica Tours. This company runs heritage and cultural tours—churches, great houses, and the like—as well as visits to a cricket field and the training ground where Usain Bolt and others have developed their sporting prowess. Though island-wide trips are offered, the focus is on Kingston. 5 Cowper Dr., Kingston, Kingston. 876/371–3613; 876/328–1385; www.oldejamaicatours.com.
Sun Island Executive Tours & Services Ltd.. This company offers tours to places of interest around Jamaica and can work with you to design an itinerary. 8 Bower Bank Ave. , Kingston, Kingston. 876/931–8826.
Sun Venture Tours. A tour company offering many packages covering the island to meet different interests. 30 Balmoral Ave., Kingston, Kingston. 876/960–6685; www.sunventuretours.com.
Tourmarks. 7 Leighton Rd., Kingston, Kingston. 876/929–5078; www.tourmarks.com.
Countrystyle Community Experiences Tours. Combining your choice of accommodation—whether homestay or hotel—with your interests, these tour packages match you with residents to showcase rural community lifestyles, helping you enjoy Jamaican culture, heritage, cuisine, and music. Additional experiences such as the Jamaica Roots Experience, Jamaica Taste Experience, and Jamaica Nature Experience are offered in Kingston and Montego Bay. 62 Ward Ave., Mandeville, Manchester. 876/507–6326; 876/488–7207; www.jamaica-no-problem.com/community-tours.html .
Jakes Biking Tour. Jakes offers various area bike tours. In one three-hour tour ($60), a guide leads the way to the gorgeous stretch of sand at Fort Charles or Great Bay, and since Treasure Beach is flat, almost all fitness levels can participate. Jakes also runs hiking tours. Treasure Beach, St. Elizabeth. 876/965–3000; www.jakeshotel.com.
In addition to tours from Montego Bay that give day-trippers a chance to experience Negril, there are several tours available to those who are staying here, including trips to the waterfalls.
The North Coast is known for Dunn's River Falls, and the South Coast for Y.S. Falls (both accessible from Negril on a day tour), but the Negril area is home to some impressive waterfalls of its own. A top activity for travelers tired of the beach, Mayfield Falls is tucked into the Dolphin Head Mountains near Glenbrook. These falls have been the stuff of legend since the 1700s, when locals swore a mermaid lived in these mineral-rich pools. Today the "mermaids" are tourists from Negril and Montego Bay who come to enjoy the waterfalls and underwater caves. Fifty-two varieties of fern are found here, as well as many types of tropical flowers. A visit here includes a guided hike up the river with a stop at a bar and grill along the way. Several operators offer tours, usually with transportation from nearby hotels and lunch included.
Rhodes Hall Eco Tours. Just 15 minutes from Negril, this former sugar plantation offers ecotours in a nature reserve with a crocodile lake and bird sanctuary. Other adventures include horseback riding, snorkeling and scuba diving, glass-bottom boating, and bathing in Rhodes Hall's Magic Blue Mud Mineral Spring Bath. Help arranging transportation from Negril area hotels is provided. Green Island, Hanover. 876/957–6422; www.rhodesresort.com. from $25.
Tropical Tours. One tour takes in the lighthouse and shopping, another Rick's Cafe. Tours leave from Club Riu at 2 for the former, at 4 for the latter. Norman Manley Blvd., Negril, Westmoreland. 876/957–4110; www.tropicaltours-ja.com.