Jamaica—the spiritual home of Rastafarianism and reggae—gave the world Bob Marley, dreadlocks, and a legitimate excuse to toke up, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that it has a lot to offer to the surf community as well. Although not the first spot that might pop into your head when dreaming of Caribbean barrels, Jamaica has always offered more than one way to get irie.
The Surf: Mostly reef breaks, although there are a few points and river mouths as well. Jamaica has hollow waves, but isn’t really known as a heavy water destination, making this area appropriate for beginner through advanced surfers.
Five Waves Worth Surfing:
- Boston Bay: Jamaica’s most famous wave, Boston Bay is a left and right reef peak tucked away in a beautiful little cove.
- Lighthouse: A righthand reef barrel in Kingston that is one of Jamaica’s best barrels when it’s on.
- The Zoo: The best wave in Jamaica—and one of the best in the world—until Hurricane Ivan destroyed it in 2004. In its glory days, The Zoo was a perfect barreling peak breaking over reef. Although the wave is now little more than a has-been, there are many who dream of the day its cobblestone boulders find their way back to their proper settings.
- Makka: A lefthand point break that can be fun but somewhat gutless.
- Copa: A righthand reef in Bull Bay that can handle size.
The Water: Outside of Kingston you are looking at water that is beautiful, clean, and Caribbean blue—and warm to boot. Surface temps ranges from 81–84 F (27–29 C).
The Season: Summer (May through August) has consistent trade wind swell, but is also quite windy, while winter (November through February) has great conditions and relatively consistent longer interval swell. Autumn and spring are typically pretty flat.
The Vibe: Jamaica is the epitome of mellow, and the small local surf scene is pretty welcoming of visitors. Still, you’d do well to respect the locals and come with a good attitude—and watch your back while wandering the streets of Kingston.
Things To Do: This is the land of the Rasta, so relax, unwind, enjoy quality music, and meet some of the Caribbean’s most mellow people.
Where To Stay: There are a handful of surf camps in Jamaica that are affordable and convenient. Although it is possible to do a trip independently, local knowledge comes in handy.
What To Bring: A standard shortboard. Surf accessories to use and leave with the locals when your trip is over. A good attitude and a mellow vibe. Rolling papers.
Getting There: Sangster International in Montego and Norman Manley International near Kingston are your two main gateways to the island. Tourist visas not requires for citizens of many countries. For most others, visas are available upon arrival. Airport codes: MBJ (Sangster) and KIN (Norman Manley).