Places to Visit While You're in Kingston, Jamaica

The sun, the sea, and the sand, Bob Marley, the “irie” vibes, Usain Bolt, dreadlocks, a cool drink of coconut water on a sunny day: these things all come to mind when you think of the little island of Jamaica. But behind the tourist scene and the Patois, outside of the typical areas like Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, there is a richness of culture, intelligence, and fantastic places to discover: especially in our capital, Kingston. I’ll never forget when an Italian woman I know was describing my home as a place of marijuana, of dancehall music and culture, and of Bob Marley. While I understood her limited knowledge of our country, I was extremely saddened as I realized that unless a person has lived here, it is easy to believe the stereotype of Jamaica and her people. What many fail to realize, is that we are so much more than our beaches and our resorts, that our capital is an emerging urban masterpiece and the hub for legal business, cultural exhibitions, and gems which only a Kingston native would know.

Local Eateries 

If you feel hungry and don’t know what to go for, it’s easy to gravitate toward the typical food chains like Kentucky Fried Chicken, Burger King, Pizza Hut or Subway. However, there is a myriad of different places to go, that’ll cater to any craving you may have.

Sora Japanese Cuisine

Tucked away on Phoenix Avenue, this Japanese restaurant combines authenticity with affordability, with its delicious offering of varying types of sushi, chicken and meat dishes, noodle dishes and soup dishes. It is in the medium-tire price range, with prices not passing 25 USD. I recommend the chicken katsudon, which is a breaded and fried chicken cutlet, served over rice with onion, egg, and a sweet sauce that is absolutely divine. There is something for everyone at this restaurant, from sushi connoisseurs, to those afraid of trying it, from authentic ramen enthusiasts, to those who play it safe with a salad. The drinks menu is nearly as broad as the food, with my personal favourite being the Long Island Iced Tea, and the gin and tonic. The former is quite strong, so always make sure you don’t have it on an empty stomach, especially since the drinks arrive to your table before the food does.

South Avenue Grill

This eatery is the ultimate combination Italian, American, and Jamaican grill restaurant. The menu features multiple types of pasta, with shrimp and lobster (seasonally), chicken, beef, pork, and vegetarian options; grilled meat, fish, and kebabs; sandwiches and burgers, salads and soups; as well as many desserts. My personal recommendation is the Chicken Parmigiana, which is a breaded and fried chicken breast stuffed with mozzarella cheese, on top of linguine pasta with their marinara and mushroom sauce.

Chilito’s JaMexican Food

This Jamaican and Mexican fusion restaurant is the perfect Friday night spot to chill with friends and enjoy good food. With a menu featuring quesadillas, enchiladas, burritos, tacos, and so much more: all with a very Jamaican flair. We see this flair through the use of jerked meats and the introduction of plantains and ackee. I personally recommend the jerked chicken quesadilla, which is stuffed to the brim with cheese and chicken; and the strawberry frozen margarita, which is positively divine. Prices are quite affordable for decent portion sizes, with the most expensive item not passing $25 USD. Also, there are specialty days such as Margarita Mondays (where margaritas are $350 JMD all day), Taco Tuesday (with $200 JMD tacos all day), and Burrito Fridays (where a burrito only costs $500 JMD all day).  

Museums, Historical Sites And More…

We have a rich history that extends so much further than dancehall culture and beach culture, from being a country solely inhabited by the Taino people, to being “discovered” and colonized by the Spanish Empire in 1494, to being re-colonized by the British in 1655 and formally becoming assimilated into the British Empire in 1670; from a colonization period of three hundred and seven years, ending in 1962 with formal independence of the nation. Along the way there have been many waves of cultural expression, repression, and assimilation, which all combine to form the tapestry of the Jamaica in today’s world.

The Giddy House

The Giddy House, a memorial of the old Port Royal, a reminder of the earthquake that shook the entire city in 1907. Once a Royal Artillery House, storing weapons and gunpowder for the nearby Victoria and Albert military battery; this house sunk partially after the earthquake that killed eight hundred persons and cost the country an estimated two million pounds. The building has stabilized in the forty-five degree angle it tilted in and is open for the public to visit, with the guided tour costing approximately three hundred Jamaican dollars. I can still remember what it was like to try to run around in the Giddy House in 2007, at age eight; and the overwhelming sense of being off balance and unable to walk upright.  

Royal Botanical Gardens

The Royal Botanical Gardens, known to us locals as Hope Gardens, is a vast expanse of nature that you can get lost in and spend the whole day exploring. It was named after a British commander named Richard Hope, upon whose estate the gardens was established. The gardens is home to the national zoo, which made up several of my memories as a young girl. I can still remember being in awe of the peacocks, being afraid of the lions and the rare albino snake, and trying to provoke a reaction of out the ostriches back then. There is so much to do at this beautiful expanse of land, which is also the site of the Military Band’s concerts, and the best part about it is: the entrance is free! It’s the best place to just hang out with friends without breaking the bank (so long as you budget thirty Jamaican dollars for every bathroom break you’ll need to take).      

Danielle Williams

I’m a 20-year-old college student at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus. I was born and raised in Jamaica, and have recently been bitten by the travel bug since travelling to Barbados three years ago, and Panama earlier this year. This newfound wanderlust has spurred me to take trips to various parts of my own country, and to share what I’ve learned with whoever wants to know more.