After the sun sets, the Jamaican nightlife experience can either be a slow jam or a throbbing beat, depending on what you’re looking for and where you are on the island. Either way, you can have it all; the real question is: how much time do you have?
Night Life in Kingston or Montego Bay?
The nocturnal entertainment landscape in Jamaica spreads across every parish, but the two largest cities take the lion’s share in offerings for the nightlife fun seeker. While eastbound Kingston is the cultural capital, Montego Bay in the northwest is the tourist mecca. And if you veer further west, Negril’s laid back atmosphere awaits with its fun spots along seven miles of beach, opening up even more possibilities. In between, there are many bars and hangout spots, from Portland in the East to West End, Negril.
Across the length and breadth of Jamaica, however, you won’t be able to escape the pervasive reggae and dancehall beats the island is famous for. You will hear it at almost every hangout spot and even while on the road; in a bar, club, at the beach, at a restaurant, everywhere. Not to worry if you desire some amount of variety within it all, you can find a little of that too, such as the Glistening Waters in Falmouth, which offers incredibly beautiful sights that you can only see in two other locations around the world after dark.
So, where will you begin? Let’s help you decide.
Night Spots in Kingston
To begin with, there are several hotels in the Kingston area to rest your head if you plan on passing through. Many of these establishments have their own bit of nightlife fun, like the Blend Bar at the Pegasus, which pairs a variety of drink choices and food with jamming beats from early evening to midnight.
There is way more to see and enjoy if you want to paint the town red, if you decide to widen your search for nightly fun in Kingston. Granted, you don’t have to go too far between spots. Looking for more bar experiences? The choices are many, from Escape Bar & Grill on Knutsford Boulevard to Usain Bolt’s Tracks and Records, only a mere 15 minutes away at Marketplace. Chris Gayle’s Triple Century is also a good hangout spot to enjoy some good vibes while listening to the latest reggae beats and indulging in liquor and finger-licking culinary treats.
Depending on the nights you visit these bars, you may even be able to partake in karaoke or some theme-night activities that could loosen you up.
For a more relaxed vibe, you can check out Redbones Blues Café on the outskirts of New Kingston, which offers live music each night, along with great food and drinks. As the name suggests, jazz and blues are its primary musical offerings, but there are also art exhibitions for art lovers from time to time. Another laidback venue is Kingston’s Dub Club up in the heights of Skyline Drive. Here, you can hear some of the best local reggae and dub tracks while enjoying a stunning view of Kingston and sipping on your favorite brew.
There is still more on the Jamaican nightlife circuit, whether you just want to kick back with a few drinks while indulging in light conversation, watch a movie at the Carib Cinema, or want to get caught up in some excitement. As it relates to the excitement factor, if that’s what you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it at one of the many sound system parties that can be found on any given day of the week. For your info, a sound system is an arrangement of speaker boxes out of which songs are blared (often at mind-boggling decibels) by selectors (also called DJs).
Stone Love, one of the island’s oldest and most well-known sound systems, keeps Weddy Weddy on Wednesdays, which has stood the test of time. There is also Uptown Mondays, held at Savannah Plaza, a bit closer to Halfway Tree Square, which is somewhat of a transportation landmark.
These and other street parties are where you go to see not only the latest dance moves out of dancehall but also some of the most daring and risqué fashion pieces. Be prepared to see lots of flesh, eye-popping twerk fests that make Miley Cyrus’s gyrations seem tame, and a jumping party atmosphere like no other. Apart from the weekly staples (Weddy Weddy and Uptown Mondays) posters planted on many walls and street corners will tell you where the next street party or bash will be happening.
Apart from the weekly staples (Weddy Weddy and Uptown Mondays) posters planted on many walls and street corners will tell you where the next street party or bash will be happening.
Also, there are many events that you should look out for depending on when you’re in Jamaica. Bob Marley’s birthday is enmeshed with several activities, including celebrations in Trench Town and other parts of Kingston. There are also carnival-associated parties happening at Mas Camp and other locations across Kingston between January and April each year.
Just in case you just want a cool spot to chill out and enjoy the night air, you can do just that at the beautiful Emancipation Park which stays open until 11 pm most nights. It’s a place for the entire family and provides opportunities to just lie on the grass or burn off some calories on the jogging trail.
Nightspots in Montego Bay
Montego Bay may not have the broad range of nightlife activities available in Kingston, but it still offers a whole lot. The hotels here, many of which are all-inclusive, provide nightly entertainment for guests in the form of theme parties and live music, among other happenings. The famous Hip Strip, located on Gloucester Avenue, is also well-stocked with bars and hangout spots, including the world-famous Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville.
There is also Pier One, a vibrant restaurant, and entertainment center, which offers a stunning view of the city’s shoreline while dishing out the best in food, drinks, and music available in the island. It’s one of the most popular night spots in Montego Bay, to the point that they even recommend reservations when certain events are taking place.
For a more club-like feel, you can check out Blue Beat Ultra Lounge. This hangout spot offers various cocktails, as well as pulsating musical selections from Jamaican and international acts.
Of course, like Kingston, you’ll probably find a few hot spots like Taboo (a strip club), Moods and the Zinc Shack.
Further West – Looking at Negril
Staying out west? There are quite a few nightspots to check out in Negril and its environs. One of the first, to be mentioned by anyone who has ever passed through, is the Jungle Nightclub. Whether you want just to enjoy a few drinks or make waves on the dancefloor, the Jungle is a great nightlife spot to pass the time.
You can also get great music and food while sipping on a Red Stripe (or other brews of your choice) at places such as Rick’s Café (famous for stunning sunsets and diving by day) and Drifter’s Bar, which is well-known for its variety of old hits and musically interactive nights.
Nighttime Events of Note
Want to spend your nights at a major festival while on vacation? There are quite a few to look forward to at different times of the year, which you can match with your itinerary. Fashion Week in Kingston usually features some fashion shows and after-parties. There is also Rebel Salute, a two-day reggae festival held in cool St. Ann in January, Reggae Sumfest in Montego Bay in July, and the hedonistic Dream Weekend party series in Negril, which is the highlight of summer for many local and international party-goers.
Enjoying the best in Jamaican nightlife is pretty easy despite the picture of crime and violence that is often painted by news media. Of course, you need to take safety precautions, but having fun in Jamaica is far from risky. In addition to the many tour companies, a lot of the places that offer accommodation are only too willing to point you in the right direction, so that you enjoy all your nights (and days) to the fullest.
Be sure to check out the hotel list for places you can stay or don’t be afraid to send me a message.