As some of you may know, I have a strong connection to Jamaica: it’s the home of my birth father. And while I didn’t get a chance to meet him on this trip, I was grateful for the opportunity to explore his homeland. Turns out, it’s an awesome country. And its capital, Kingston, is worth a lengthy, action-packed stay. Here is everything I saw, ate, and experienced in Jamaica’s vibrant capital.
Of course, one of my favorite things to do in Kingston was eat. While jerk-style dishes reign supreme here, there is plenty of other food to be had in Kingston’s diverse culinary scene. Here were some of my absolute favorites:
Summerhouse is certainly one of the most beautiful settings I’ve had the pleasure of dining in: located on the grounds of a former 19th-century estate (now a national monument) known as Harmony Hall. Serving food that matches the grandeur of such surroundings is certainly a challenge, but the culinary team at Summerhouse does exactly that. The restaurant’s inclusive, shareable menu represents the diverse people that call the Caribbean home, including the area’s many Indian immigrants (the roti here was especially on point). When I come back to Kingston (it’s def happening), I’ll be sure to hit up Sunday brunch, which I am told is one of the chicest events in Kingston.
Marianna’s Kitchen is one of Kingston’s most popular vegan restaurants, so of course I had to check it out. I certainly didn’t have to make two return visits, but I did anyway. Chef/owner Marianna Farag draws from various cuisines (her heritage is Syrian, Greek, and Egyptian), as well as her unique imagination, to craft her daily menus. Some of my favorite dishes included vegan meatballs and vegan fried chicken. This is the sort of fresh, whimsical vegan food I strive to cook at home, and I was so happy to find it in Kingston.
Devon House Bakery and Ice Cream
Along with jerk chicken, one of Jamaica’s signature dishes is the Jamaican Beef Patty (aka the Jamaican Meat Pie). This flaky, golden, handheld treat can be found all over Kingston. At Devon House, they’re filling their pies with all kinds of ingredients, from beef, to curried goat, to callaloo: a spicy, leafy steamed salad that warms my vegan soul. I’m told the ice cream is not to be missed either (rum raisin, anyone?).
I probably don’t have to tell you that nightlife in Kingston is all about the music. This is, after all, the birthplace of reggae, dub, ska, and dancehall. I tend to – awkwardly – dance the night away wherever I go, but I literally wore my dancing shoes out in Kingston (seriously, I’m looking for a new pair if anyone has any leads). Here were some of my fave spots.
Kingston Dub Club
Nestled into the hills just outside of Kingston, this crowded club is one of Kingston’s go-to spots for reggae. You can hear DJs spin current and classic reggae hits, and if you come on Wednesday night like I did, you can catch live reggae acts. This is a vibrant spot hidden from the hustle and bustle of the city.
No, not every nightclub in Kingston has “dub” in its name; it just so happens that some of my favorites do. As Dubwise Cafe’s website states, this hip, centrally located nightclub combines “food, music, and atmosphere”–my favorite combination! The food is fresh, flavorful bowls (I like the Buddha Bowl, with quinoa and blackened tofu), the music is reggae, and the atmosphere is laid back and funky, just the way I like it.
Fiction Nightlife and Entertainment
When talking about Jamaican music, we can’t forget dancehall. This louder, faster, heavily digitized offshoot of reggae is the perfect soundtrack to a night in Kingston. And one of the best clubs to enjoy dancehall in is Fiction Nightlife and Entertainment. And when I tell you that this was one of my favorite nightlife spots in all of Kingston, you can be sure it’s no fiction!
Sites and Attractions
Nights may be for dancing, but Kingston offers plenty to see and do in the daytime as well. These were some of my favorite sites and attractions:
The Bob Marley Museum
I came to Kingston a casual Bob Marley fan (“Jamming” has always been on my kitchen prep playlist), but this trip has deepened my fandom. My trip to the Bob Marley Museum is largely responsible for this deeper appreciation. The museum is located at Bob Marley’s former home, where he lived from 1975 until his death in 1981. Six years after his death, his wife Rita converted the home into the present-day museum, so you know it’s legit. In addition to Bob Marley memorabilia and photographs, the site also features an 80-seat theater. Several tour packages are available, but I recommend the appropriately named “One Love” tour, which takes you around the museum as well as his former recording studio, Tuff Gong International.
Not to be confused with our Key Lime, Lime Cay is an absolutely pristine islet, about a 15-minute boat ride from Kingston Harbour (you can catch a boat from Port Royal, near Kingston’s airport). This free, public beach is very popular with Kingstonians, especially on Sundays. That’s when seemingly half the city strolls the white sandy beaches, cooling off in the translucent blue waters. If you like a less crowded beach, come during the week, like I did. I could have spent the entire day at this peaceful beach, but as usual, I got hungry.
This urban park/garden in New Kingston is another free attraction worth checking out. It was founded in 2002, to commemorate the end of Caribbean slavery. This “tribute to freedom,” is perhaps best known for its 11-foot tall bronze sculpture, “Redemption Song,” named for the iconic Bob Marley tune. This beautiful greenspace is a popular gathering place for Kingstonians. And, bonus, it’s not too far from Sweetwood Jerk Center, one of the favorite spots that I mentioned in my jerk chicken article!
There’s a line from the song “Jamaica Farewell,” by the inimitable Harry Belafonte that goes, “I must declare, my heart is there/Though I’ve been from Maine to Mexico.” I’ve been to both those places – and way beyond – but like Mr. Belafonte, my heart is definitely still in Jamaica. I take comfort in knowing that my travels will one day take me back to this amazing island, and to Kingston in particular. I have never been prouder of my Jamaican roots.
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