Top Cultural Events in Jamaica

From great music to great eats, with some local fishing and culture are thrown in between, Jamaica has all sorts of events and celebrations to offer of travellers of all interests—especially if that interest includes having a great time. Below are the top cultural events that happen in Jamaica.

Bob Marley Week

Entrance to the Bob Marley museum in New Kingston.

Christina Xu / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Feb. 6 is the birthday of legendary reggae singer and activist Bob Marley, and residents of his home country of Jamaica welcome fans from around the world to celebrate his life and work during Bob Marley Week in early February. Events vary from year to year, but in the past have included the Smile Jamaica concert, lectures, karaoke contests, and more. It’s a great time to visit the ​Bob Marley Museum in Kingston or to pay respects at Marley’s mausoleum in Ocho Rios. It is one of the most famous and top cultural events in Jamaica.

Trelawny Yam Festival

A stack of yellow yam at a farmers market in Jamacia.

David Neil Madden / Getty Images

The yam may be a terrific tuber, but a whole festival? Jamaica’s Trelawny Parish — located in the Cockpit Country region — manages to make this much more fun than it sounds, drawing in more than 10,000 attendees each year to feast on yam dishes, honor a yam king and queen, gawk at giant yams, and play yam-related games. And of course, there is a concert at the end of Yam Festival Day, featuring the best of Jamaican music.

Ocho Rios Jazz Festival

Kingsley Etienne at Turtle River Park, Ocho Rios.

Ocho Rios Jazz Festival

The Ocho Rios Jazz Festival is known as the best mainstream jazz festival not just in Jamaica but the entire Caribbean. In addition to the main festival in Ocho Rios there are a number of free jazz concerts across the island during “Jazz Week” in June.

Portland Jerk Festival

Vendors preparing meat at the annual Portland Jerk Festival.

Jamaica Tourist Board

Jerk Lobster, Jerk Conch, Jerk Sausage, Jerk Pork, and Jerk Chicken are some of the spicy variants on traditional Jamaican cooking that you can enjoy at the annual Portland Jerk Festival, served alongside traditional side dishes such as rice and peas, festival, breadfruit, and yams. Held in the Port Antonio resort area, the festival includes a Kiddies Fun Village, live music (including a big concert at the Folly Mansion ruins), and dozens of stalls selling jerk food (seasoned meat spiced with pepper and smoked on pimento sticks).

Reggae Sumfest

Reggae Sumfest In Jamaica

Shelby Soblick / Contributor / Getty Images

The summer’s hottest reggae festival is appropriately held each July in Jamaica’s Montego Bay. The fun starts with a Friday night beach party and continues with three nights of high-energy performances.

International Marlin Tournaments

Blue Marlin

© Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery via Getty Images

 Both Port Antonio — the birthplace of blue marlin sports fishing — and Montego Bay host international marlin tournaments during the month of October. Both cities have held their respective fishing tournaments for more than 40 years, and the Port Antonio contest is the oldest in the Caribbean. In addition to fishing by local and international competitors, there are parties and receptions that make these tournaments a heritage highlight.

Kingston Restaurant Week
Top Cultural Events in Jamaica

Restaurant Week Jamaica

One week each November, many of Kingston’s top restaurants offer deep discounts to introduce their offerings to tourists and locals alike. Fine dining at a fraction of the usual cost lures many to the Jamaican capital.

Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival

Top Cultural Events in Jamaica

Anthony Pidgeon / Contributor / Getty Images

Up to 30,000 people flock to Montego Bay each year for the annual Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival, which features dozens of local and international acts performing over three days. The venue includes a special Art of Music stage where emerging stars are spotlighted. Over the years, the festival has moved from the lawn of the Rose Hall Plantation House, to James Bond Beach, to the Aqueduct at Rose Hall, and now the Greenfield Stadium in Trelawny. Headliners have ranged from Kenny Rogers to Maroon 5 to Celene Dion and John Legend.

Bacchanal Jamaica Carnival

Top Cultural Events in Jamaica

Bacchanal Jamaica

 Be one of 100,000 expected guests at Jamaica’s Bacchanal Carnival! Beginning in mid-February and running up until April, the Carnival is host to live reggae performances, costumes exploding with color, all-day dancing, authentic Jamaican cuisine, Caribbean DJs, and more. Kingston is host to local events that include “Bacchanal Fridays” every Friday, and “Socacise” classes every Monday and Tuesday. The Carnival closes with a Bacchanal Road March, featuring dancing and costumes, parading through Kingston.