Deciding on the best time to visit Jamaica is not such a simple question. While I love travelling to the island in the summer, others swear by the winter, spring and even fall. The answer really depends on what your personal preferences are regarding things like weather, crowds, events, and budget. Read on to learn about what Jamaica is like in the high and low season and find out which season is right for you.
What is the Weather Usually Like in Jamaica?
In terms of year-round temperature in Jamaica, the island sees annual highs of 85 degrees F (29 Celsius) and average lows of 73 degrees F (23 degrees C), with annual rainfall of 82 inches. Hot and sunny is the norm, and even in the rainy season, you’ll still have stretches of beautiful sunshine, especially in the morning. More mountainous areas like Port Antonio and Ocho Rios tend to be rainier and chillier at night compared to sunny Negril or Montego Bay. And if you’re wondering when is rainy season in Jamaica, it starts in May-June, with Hurricane season lasting from August-October.
Visiting Jamaica: Low vs High Season
Ultimately, one of the first big decisions to make is whether to visit Jamaica in low vs high season. From there it will be a lot easier to choose an individual month.
When is Jamaica’s Off-Season?
Off-season in Jamaica is from mid-April to mid-December. From villas to dining, rates shoot down across the board. This lets you enjoy significant savings, as well as an added degree of luxury, than you would otherwise find for the same price in the high season.
Another big advantage of low season vs high season in Jamaica is the smaller crowds. While things can still be busy in June and July, there are overall way less crowds than in high-season. This makes things like booking reservations for restaurants and golf courses much easier. Beaches also have more space, and the island will have a quieter, more peaceful vibe overall. One of my favorite times to visit Jamaica is in June for exactly this reason.
Temperatures are also not that much hotter in the low season compared to the high season. Average highs are only 2-4 degrees higher Fahrenheit, and there’s a nice cooling breeze in the evening.
Of course, the main thing to consider is that low season in Jamaica is rainy season, with August -October considered hurricane season. Starting with the prior, while there may be rain here and there in the afternoons, it is usually brief and buttressed by plenty of sunshine. Often these rainy breaks give a nice chance to relax back at the villa anyways, and usually clear up in time to enjoy a late afternoon stroll or swim at the beach. Mornings in general still tend to be full of the beautiful sunshine Jamaica is known for.
As for hurricane season, it’s somewhat of a misnomer. In reality, the odds of being hit by a hurricane are very low, especially if you’re only visiting for a short period of time. Purchasing travel insurance is a great way to cover one’s bases, and with the savings you end up getting for travelling at that time, you’ll still be coming out on top.
When is Jamaica’s High Season?
High season in Jamaica lasts from mid-December to mid-April. This time coincides with the most stable overall weather, as well as the highest overall rates. For many, high season also represents with their only time off, be it for work or from school (for the kids). For that reason, the peak of high season can be considered to be the Christmas-New Year’s break, as well as, to a lesser extent, Spring Break.
Despite the higher prices and bigger crowds, though, there are some definite advantages to high season that should be considered. For one, you can be sure that everything is open and operating at peak capacity. While some restaurants and attractions may have reduced hours and staff during off-season, high-season sees everything in full swing. You’re also less likely to run into any sort of construction, and can generally be assured that full staff will be available everywhere.
High season is also the driest season, seeing the lowest average rainfalls and the mildest temperatures of the year. Though the variation in temperature is slight, this can nonetheless be a big plus for those wanting to avoid the heat as much as possible. And less chance of rain means greater certainty and flexibility when planning things like excursions and other fun activities.
Visiting Jamaica: Season by Season
For many Jamaicans, there are really only two seasons – rainy season and dry season. That said, for travelers, there are certainly differences in each of the four seasons to consider, especially in terms of weather, rates, crowds and activities.
Summer in Jamaica is my favorite time to visit. Because of the low variance in temperature, it’s only a few degrees hotter than in the winter. Jamaica weather in July, for example, features average highs of 91 degrees F (33 degrees C), and average lows of 75 degrees F (24 degrees C). While the chance of rain is significantly higher, I find it creates a nice, relaxing break, and allows for an even greater appreciation of the sunshine. Mornings are generally always sunny, and July and August have the most sunshine of the whole year. Showers tend to be scattered and mostly happen in the afternoon, often clearing up to reveal yet more sunshine and a beautiful sunset.
Restaurants and resorts are also usually operational, though with less staff and reduced hours. The trade-off, though, is that it much easier to secure a reservation or tee time.
Rates also tend to be lower, both in terms of accommodations and flights, as well as excursions and activities.
Summer is festival time in Jamaica. Caribbean Fashion Week is in June in Kingston and brings out major international stars in film, music and fashion from across the Caribbean. June also sees Jazz Week in Ocho Rios. Montego Bay’s Reggae Sumfest in July, meanwhile, is the island’s largest outdoor music festival and features the biggest stars in reggae and dancehall. Black River Day is a huge street festival at the beginning of August in Black River on the South Coast – perfect if you’re visiting Negril. This coincides with the general Independence Day celebrations across the island on August 6.
Fall is considered the peak of both rainy and hurricane season in Jamaica, though you can still expect a good eight hours of sunshine per day. Jamaica weather in September sees high temperatures, with average highs at 90 degrees F (32 degrees C), and October is considered the wettest month. That said, November starts to see beautiful, balmy weather return and is a favorite for many deal hunters, as it signals the end of the Hurricane Season but is just before the start of high season, with many still unable to travel due to work and school obligations.
September and October are the best times to fish in Jamaica. September sees the Falmouth Blue Marlin Tournament, which is a major event in the game fishing world, while October also sees marlin fishing tournaments in Port Antonio and Montego Bay. Even if you don’t fish, there are plenty of accompanying parties to make sure the island stays lively during this time. The sea’s bounty is really on offer in November though with Kingston Restaurant Week, allowing visitors to sample the very best cuisine the island has to offer. It’s also considered prime time for scuba diving.
Winter in Jamaica is the heart of peak season. It starts right around Christmas time, and the island lights up with Christmas and New Years celebrations. Winter is also the mildest time of the year in Jamaica. Jamaica weather in December sees average highs at 86 degrees F (30 degrees C), while average lows are 70 degrees F (21 degrees C). And even though it never really gets cold in Jamaica, visitors may want to pack a small sweater for the evenings just in case, especially in Ocho Rios. Interest is at its peak at this time, too, so it’s essential to book airfare and accommodation as soon as possible, especially if you’re looking to travel over the Christmas / New Year’s break.
Winter is all about culture in Jamaica. Christmas Gran Market features seasonal decorations, street bands and vendors all congregating in the largest outdoor market the island sees all year. It’s a great way to experience Jamaican culture and meet locals. January also hosts an essential part of Jamaican culture in the Accompong Maroon Festival in Accompong Village, which celebrates the peace treaty between the Maroons and the British and features traditional Jamaican music and dancing. February also sees Bob Marley Week, which coincides with the reggae legend’s birthday on February 6 and has the whole island celebrating his music, life, and message.
Spring in Jamaica is the driest, most balmy time of year. End of March sees Spring Break celebrations, which can either be a big plus or minus depending on your travel preferences. Either way, it is very easy to either avoid or participate in Spring Break festivities by simply asking if nearby resorts will be having Spring Break events. Jamaica weather in April is also especially pleasant, with average highs of 88 degrees F (31 degrees C), and average lows of 73 degrees F (23 degrees C). April also sees Carnival Week celebrations for Easter, and like in the rest of the Caribbean, it features great music and lots of amazing costumes and dancing.
The Bacchanal Carnival from mid-February to April features the grand costumes, parades and music that Caribbean Carnivals are known for. Carnival Week itself officially kicks off Easter Sunday. April also sees the Montego Bay Yacht Club’s famous Easter Regatta, and is one of the biggest sailing events in the Caribbean.
When is Hurricane Season in Jamaica?
Jamaica Hurricane Season is from June 1 – November 30. While your chances of actually encountering a hurricane are highest in September, they’re quite low overall. Though Jamaica is in the Atlantic basin, many of the named tropical storms which pass through the area avoid Jamaica. In fact, hurricanes usually only ever hit Jamaica once every 11 years and only come close every 4 years or so, and there have been just 16 tropical systems overall (which includes tropical storms) hitting the island since 1944. The chance of encountering a hurricane is less than 2% across the entire month of August and September when they are at their peak, and with satellite weather tracking, there is ample warning and time to avoid any such encounter. Travel insurance really helps to avoid any risk involved with a cancellation, though, and the lower fees on airfare and transportation at that time more than makes up for the cost.
Where are the Best Places to Eat in Jamaica?
While you consider the best time for you to visit, be sure to check out our recent post on the best restaurants in Jamaica. Jamaica is one of the best food destinations in the Caribbean, and each of its three main destinations – Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, and Negril – has its own flavor. Montego Bay is home to some of the best fine dining in the Caribbean, with the Sugar Mill Restaurant in the Half Moon Resort being a real standout thanks to its exceptional service and ambiance. In Ocho Rios, places like the Almond Tree Restaurant represent the destination’s laid-back, family-friendly atmosphere perfectly. And a personal favorite of mine can be found in Negril, where the Rockhouse offers a perfect blend of sophistication, freshness and atmosphere, the latter thanks to its dramatic location atop the Negril cliffs.
Where are the Best Places to Stay While in Jamaica?
If you’re deciding where to stay in Jamaica, then our post about the top 10 staffed Jamaica luxury villas is sure to help inspire. Staying in a private villa over an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica will allow you to experience the best of the island, year-round. Places like Villa Twin Palms in Montego Bay offer some of the best architecture on the island, along with world-class private service. Promiseas in Ocho Rios, meanwhile, features private beach access with a private dock, spectacular views and a man-made underground cave. The world-famous Silent Waters Villa, in the Tryall Club, lastly, features two tennis courts and a private helicopter pad. While these may be some of the most high-end options, choosing a villa can make your Jamaican vacation truly magical regardless of your budget.
Let Rental Escapes Help You Decide When to Visit Jamaica
If you’re still torn about the best time to visit Jamaica, let one of the friendly villa experts at Rental Escapes help you decide. Your reservation specialist will be happy to go over the availability of different Jamaican villa options with you, as well as discuss some of our amazing concierge options. Rental Escapes specializes in bespoke holiday experiences, and that includes everything from choosing the right villa to finding the perfect dates for your Jamaican vacation.